EAST VILLAGE, MANHATTAN: It’s not everyday that a game-changing audio solution arrives on the scene. So it follows that after January’s NAMM announcement of the Universal Audio Apollo high resolution audio interface with realtime UAD processing, interest levels ran high.
With the first units just shipping now following an extremely high volume of pre-orders, the Universal Audio team paid a special visit to New York City this past week to satisfy the hunger for hands-on time with Apollo, holding a VIP Launch at FLUX Studios for the new product.
An elite contingent of NYC’s busiest producers, engineers, and mixers converged on the East Village studio, getting up close and personal with Apollo in the process.
Guests started out with a guided tour of Apollo’s features in FLUX’s airy “Fabulous” mixing and mastering suite. There UA’s Bruce MacPherson went deep inside Apollo’s attributes, including its 18 x 24 FireWire/Thunderbolt-ready audio interface (for Mac and PC – Thunderbolt will officially arrive this summer), realtime UAD Processing for low-latency (sub-2ms) tracking and mixing with UAD Powered Plug-Ins, and the workflow evolutions of its Console software interface.
Over in the Dangerous live room, FLUX founder Fab Dupont led a live demonstration of Apollo’s recording capabilities. A pair of NYC star artists — vocalist Liza Colby from The Liza Colby Sound and piano muse Ian Axel – provided plenty of source material, as Apollo showed the accuracy of its preamps for tracking, and the wide range of analog tones available on input from its realtime UAD processing.
For many in attendance, Apollo’s NYC VIP Launch represented a welcome opportunity to spend time with the unit, and they came away with some strong first impressions to share.
“I think it rocks and it fits a niche in the market that’s between several different products,” said the busy composer/sound designer and audio journalist Rich Tozzoli (“Pawn Stars“, “American Restoration“). “There’s a lot of well-thought-out ideas in [the Apollo] that will have their place in audio. And users will range from the laptop user all the way up to the full-blown HD rig, and anywhere in between.
“It’s going to fit right into my room,” Tozzoli continued. “I’ve gravitated towards the UAD-2 platform quite a bit because I’ve gotten spoiled with all their plug-ins, so now I want more of them in my rig…and this will let me have a DI on the front to plug a guitar in, it will let me use headphones if I want to (and it) gives me the options for FireWire, Thunderbolt — all the options on the ‘I’ and the ‘O.’”
Peter Moshay, engineer for Mariah Carey, Ian Hunter and “Live From Darryl’s House” to name just a few, traveled from upstate to see Apollo’s NYC landing. “They thought all the way through to give it eight channels at 96 kHz, which is the bleeding edge of what people are doing,” he observed. “I’m going to get one not only for the studio, but also for my travel rig — I want to have a duplicate setup for the road. I’ll be able to take this on the road, and then bring it into the studio, plug it in and everything’s the same. I don’t have to switch rigs.”
“I was pretty impressed,” said engineer Jay Messina, whose clients include Supertramp and Aerosmith, after putting Apollo through its paces. “Coming up from an analog world, I’m used to adding my processing – before recording and laying it onto tape – so to be able to do that so easily is a big plus for me. And I like the way the A-D converters sound: clean and transparent.”
Producer/engineer/mixer Ric Schnupp of Ric Schnupp Productions (The King’s Speech, “Boardwalk Empire,” “Gossip Girl”) also reported being impressed with the sonic quality of what he heard. “It sounds incredible, and adds an analog element of what I’ve been missing,” he said.
Many engineers noted that the Apollo represented a new tracking/mixing system alternative for their studios. “If it proves to be really high-quality, the Apollo will replace a lot of ‘prosumer’ things out there,” added Allen Farmelo, the decidedly analog-minded Brooklyn engineer/mixer (The Cinematic Orchestra, The Loom, Cucu Diamantes). “I personally wouldn’t use the plugins a lot, but I like knowing that I’m getting a really clean sound in.”
Engineer Jeremy Siegel was scouting the unit for NYC’s Pro Sound Effects. “This is for people like me,” he said, after checking out a demo. “I can print FX ‘to tape’ with Apollo, which is something I can’t do with anything else.”
Dave Fraser, co-founder of the NYC original music house Heavy Melody that created Heavyocity’s Evolve and Damage virtual instruments, summed things up succinctly. “There’s a certain musicality that Apollo’s got,” he said. “It turns up the power of what you produce.”
— David Weiss