Universal Audio Apollo

Oct 1, 2012 9:00 AM, Mix, By Chris Grainger



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Universal Audio Apollo front

Bill Putnam founded Universal Audio with the idea that his designs would be synonymous with technical and sonic quality, and the UA design team has forged Putnam’s ideas into their latest offering, the Apollo High Resolution Interface with UAD-2 processing. Apollo offers many features, including mic/line inputs, a range of outputs, monitoring, a software console and more. The QUAD version reviewed here has four processors, while the DUO has two. UA gear has been a part of my studio and projects since I started working, so I looked forward to recording and mixing with Apollo.

Inside and Out

The Apollo is a single-rackspace unit with an external global power supply (110 /240 volts, 50 /60 Hz) that connects via a multipin XLR connector, then an IEC cable into the wall. It comes with 32- and 64-bit device drivers for use with the latest DAW software. I loaded the software on both my Mac Pro tower and MacBook Pro laptop and was quickly up and running using the dual FireWire 800 ports on the back of the unit. Should you not have a FireWire 800 port, UA suggests several manufacturers that make affordable cards that integrate well with Apollo.

There are eight analog inputs (four XLR mic, eight TRS 1⁄4-inch line, the first four are shared), eight analog outs (TRS 1⁄4-inch) and eight digital optical I/Os via ADAT. S/MUX provides eight I/Os at sample rates up to 96 kHz and four I/Os at 176.4 and 192k. Two S/PDIF coaxial ins and outs will do automatic sample-rate conversion if the source isn’t matching. The Apollo has no MIDI connections.

The front panel controls the four XLR analog inputs: a simple push on the knob switches from one mic input to the next. The control knob will boost gain up to 65 dB, making it ribbon friendly, and the first two analog inputs can also be purposed for instruments. Other features include a highpass filter button, reverse polarity, phantom power and a linking option for the mic preamps. There is also monitor control for the stereo and headphone outs and 10-step LED meters for the eight analog inputs and stereo outs.

Looking inside Apollo QUAD reveals four SHARC processors, which are the same chips offered in the other UAD-2 products. Apollo can be combined with other UAD-2 devices for even more DSP. All plug-ins are available in RTAS, VST and Audio Units formats.

Apollo Software

Apollo is able to run all UAD-2 plug-ins that are authorized in your personal UA account—no iLoks or dongles are required. It comes with a software console that looks very similar to one of Putnam’s early designs. The console’s recall feature allows you to save favorite channel settings, tracking setups and monitoring situations and quickly pull them into a new session. You can then choose to commit to the sounds of the plug-ins or simply monitor them when recording with almost no recognizable latency. Yes, I said record through the plug-ins! After installing the software on the MacBook Pro, I pulled up a new session in Pro Tools and it quickly recognized the hardware unit. I opened the console and was ready to record.

Pro Tools has long been my DAW of choice, but Apollo worked well with Logic and Ableton Live. I asked two remixer/DJ friends how Apollo would help their workflow, and they both commented that they love the idea of having a stable, separate unit for processing and monitoring in a live setting that is not reliant on the computer. They also liked the idea of being able to process tracks in real-time and recall console settings in the studio or at a gig—all within in a single-space unit. Their only complaint was that the Apollo lacks MIDI connections.

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