Universal Audio Apollo

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

AUDIO INTERFACE WITH A TWIST, REAL-TIME DSP

Polls


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Universal Audio Apollo rear

Recording With Apollo

My first session involved recording and mixing everything on a laptop. I recently started a new record with Nashville’s Kyle Andrews where we wanted to blend live performance and retro sounds with modern synths and production. We recorded drums, bass, acoustic and nylon string guitars, organ, percussion and vocals all through the Apollo’s preamps with stunning results. The quieter sound sources were no problem for Apollo’s preamps, which offered plenty of clean gain. Kyle commented that he loved being able to set up his own mix against what I was hearing, using the aux sends on the console.

We recorded the tracks once with no processing, then a second time with plug-ins for comparison. I have access to all of UA’s plug-ins, but users can also demo any of them for a short time to find favorites. Decisions, decisions: Drums through a Neve 1073, Harrison 32 or Helios 69 pre? An 1176 on every channel? SSL processors to mix? The EMT 140 and 250 plates are easily my favorite reverb replications, and Kyle was going bananas tinkering with the Roland Space Echo. We even did some processing of the drums through a Fairchild and sent them back into two channels through the TRS outputs and inputs on the back of the unit. I found myself wishing for a quick command to drag and drop a plug-in or setting, which would be a real time-saver. The recording went quickly and flawlessly, and we were inspired to start mixing right away. Monitoring through the Apollo was very accurate and I was able to quickly put together a concise mix. The only thing I felt was missing was a master bus insert to get the mix exactly the way I wanted, but UA points out that this would add latency to the output so the company recommends using a master plug-in in the DAW.

I then used Apollo with my Pro Tools|HD system and Mac Pro tower rig, which increased my processing power. I mixed a project for Dave Matthews Band saxophonist Jeff Coffin, who wanted it to sound “analog,” like an old ’50s or ’60s Blue Note recording. I employed several tape machine emulation plug-ins across different parts of the mix and the EMT 140 plate on his sax. Jeff responded with, “Sounds great, print it!” Even the mastering engineer commented on how the mixes sounded very warm and analog.

Next, I mixed a project for legendary songsmith JD Souther. This was a live project, and JD wanted to feel like he was sitting in the room while listening back. He loved the flexibility of Apollo and being able to compare plug-ins’ effects on the overall mix.

The Apollo compared nicely to my UA 2192 converters when recording drums, percussion, and electric guitars at different sample rates. At higher sampling rates I heard bit of a difference in vocals and top-end transients from instruments, and preferred the 2192. When converting audio through Apollo, it sounded great, but when bouncing mixes, the 2192 still felt a little bigger, wider and punchier.

Complete Package

My expectations for Apollo were very high, but after recording, mixing and monitoring through the unit, UA’s introduction to the audio interface market proved worthy of the brand. The unit is powerful and flexible, and it sounds fantastic. It allows the user to get up and running quickly and focus on making inspired recordings. That’s what I look for in any piece of gear, and Apollo offers that and more. If you’re looking to expand your processing power, simplify your workflow or have a super portable interface that sounds great, look no further than Apollo. n

Chris Grainger (itsgrainger.com) is a producer/mixer/engineer and owner of Undertow Studio in Nashville, Tenn.

TRY THIS

Record a drum set through Apollo’s mic pre’s alone or through various plug-ins to get the sound you desire. Then send a stereo mix of the tracks out of the Apollo using the TRS ¼-inch I/O on the back, then back into Apollo to re-record them onto two new tracks. Apply an 1176 of your choice to the new tracks and set it to an aggressive setting from the presets. Mix this new track into your original kit to achieve a bigger sound than you had before.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

COMPANY: Universal Audio

PRODUCT: Apollo

WEBSITE: uaudio.com

PRICE: QUAD $2,999; DUO $2,499

PROS: Real-time processing. Easy-to-use console interface.

CONS: No MIDI input.






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