First Look: Universal Audio's New Apollo Line

Thunderbolt connectors and increased audio quality are the new black
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With high-quality converters and onboard DSP that you can use in real time to track and mix, Universal Audio's line of Apollo interfaces have become favorites in both professional and personal studios.

This year, the company raised the bar by unveiling three Thunderbolt-only, Mac-only models—the Apollo 8 (shown-$1,899 with UAD-2 Duo; $2,499 with UAD-2 Quad) and Apollo 16 ($2,999 with UAD-2 Quad) providing similar I/O as the previous units, and a completely new product, the Apollo 8P ($2,999 with UAD-2 Quad). Easily identifiably by their all-black exterior, they include a number of important enhancements such as new A/D and D/A converters that provide increased resolution, with a 3dB improvement in signal-to-noise.

They also take advantage of the greater throughput that Thunderbolt connectivity provides. For example, you can cascade as many as four Apollo interfaces and six UAD devices together while retaining the system's exceptionally low latency (2 ms or less). The new Console 2.0 software not only provides intuitive control, but it helps you easily configure and manage the various interfaces and processors in your system to meet specific I/O requirements. If you own an Apollo Twin, add it into the setup and use its large volume knob as your main studio controller.

Answering the needs of many Apollo users, the Apollo 8P is an 18x20 interface equipped with eight mic preamps, all of which are Unison-enabled. (UA's software-controlled Unison technology is used to change the physical characteristics of the preamps, such as impedance and gain staging, to re-create the behavior of classic hardware products by API, Neve, and UA's own 610.)

Other important features on the Apollo 8P, as well as the 18x24 I/O Apollo 8, are front-panel buttons for monitoring-related functions—Dim, Mono reduction, and Alt Speakers. Guitarists will be excited to learn that the high-impedance instrument inputs on each unit are Unison-enabled. That allows them to provide the proper sound and impedance characteristics when paired with UA's new stompbox emulations in the Distortion Essentials Plug-in Bundle ($249)—Raw (based on the classic Rat pedal), Bermuda (based on the Big Muff Pi), and a model of the original (and highly coveted) Ibanez Tube Screamer. (Owners of the Apollo Twin will be happy to know that the high-Z inputs on their interface are also Unison-enable, allowing them to reap the benefits of these excellent stompbox models.)

The new Apollo 16 includes the same 16x16 analog I/O on DB25 connectors as the previous unit, but with the improved sound quality from the new converters. All of the Thunderbolt systems come with the Realtime Analog Classic Plug-in bundle that includes the 610-B Tube Preamp & EQ, Pultec EQs, Softube Amp Room, and legacy LA-2A, 1176, and Fairchild compressors. The UAD-2 system supports AU, VST, RTAS, and 64-bit AAX hosts.

Mac and Windows users with FireWire-based systems are also covered: The Apollo FireWire ($1,999 with UAD-2 Quad) provides four Unison-enabled mic preamps that can also use the API, Neve and UA emulations as well as other UAD-2 plug-ins. All that is missing on this unit is the Thunderbolt card.