Universal Audio Apollo Twin USB
Published: Friday, 11 March 2016 11:32
Written by Andrew Townsend
I've mentioned before that it was my intention to move from my old legacy UAD1 DSP card to the newer UAD2 at some point. The UAD Apollo USB seemed to be the right choice here and with its eventual release it seemed to be the right time to go ahead. The other benefit with the Apollo devices is that they are also audio interfaces in their own right, so in my case it will replace my Focusrite Pro DSP on my latest DAW. I might sell the Pro DSP but I'm not sure just yet - we'll see. I ordered my unit from DV247 on Tuesday 8th March and was pleased to find out that the delivery was made the following morning - all the way from Germany.
Prior to this I had to sort out the cabling in the studio as I did not have a USB 3.0 cable fed from the DAW (outside the studio) to the studio itself. This always posed a problem because the cable lengths need to be in the region of 5m to feed under the wall and below the laminate flooring. I was concerned that a cable of such length would cause issues with the Apollo so I contacted UA support a couple of weeks back and was assured that this should work. Good news - or so it seemed. After actually ordering the device I started reading the extensive information regarding the system requirements and specification and noticed that USB 3.0 cables should be no longer than 2m...what! Okay, having just ordered the Apollo I was a little put out as you can imagine. I have so far not taken this up with the UA support contact but I intend to follow this up once I have tried the unit out with my setup.
I read a little more about the USB 3.0 specification and although they do not give a maximum cable length it appears that a longer cable could affect performance. It was suggested in such situations that an active repeater cable could be used to overcome such issues. So before going home that evening I bought a 3m USB 3.0 repeater in Maplins near to where I work. The intention was to test first the basic 5m cable then compare with the repeater in place along with the 2m USB 3.0 cable supplied with the Apollo. Having un-boxed the Apollo I was very impressed with the general quality of the device, it really feels solid and well made which I would expect from UA.
The moment of truth. Things went pretty straight forward with the installation of the software and drivers and fairly soon the device appeared and was connected without any issues. The Apollo firmware got updated as expected and everything down to the authorisation of the plugins included with the Apollo to the processing of order for my free Helios Type 69 EQ plugin.
This was all completed with the Apollo connected to the 5m USB 3.0 cable - positive! Over the following days I tested out various aspects of the interface and I have to say that this is a fantastic piece of gear and I'm looking forward to getting into some recording with it. As a note, because I already owned one of the plugins that were included in the bundle I was issued with a coupon to the equivalent value (£149) to spend on my choice of plugs from the store. After a bit of reading I decided to buy the API Vision channel strip using vouchers that I had been issued in the store - so this cost me nothing too!
Okay, so back to the issue of the cable length. Over the coming weekend I intend to compare the performance using the active 3m repeater against the standard 5m cable and further by connecting the device directly using the supplied 2m cable. This should be interesting and will determine how I proceed. However, so far, in terms of the features and usability of the Apollo I cannot fault it and this means I'm finally moved over to the UAD2 64bit platform and I do not rely on the UAD1 (32bit) plugs being bridged within Cubase Pro 64bit and Mixbus 3.1.
Also, during the brief time I've had with the Apollo USB so far I have to say that the sound is far better than I had imagined and using the supplied pre-amp emulations on the Unison inputs is going to improve the recording quality no end. I also had this configured to utilise the inputs from my Focusrite OctoPre MKII with absolutely no issues!
You can read about the Apollo USB here: