It turns out there was yet another dimension for Universal Audio to occupy.
The latest breakout from UA puts their ideas onto the desktop, via the Apollo Twin High-Resolution Desktop Interface with Realtime UAD Processing.
An eye-catching 2×6 Thunderbolt audio interface for Mac, it’s a full-featured unit that puts the 24/192 kHz audio conversion of Universal Audio’s Apollo series of interfaces together with onboard Realtime UAD SOLO or DUO Processing.
On the outside, users will experience an ergonomic design, rugged aluminum construction, and front panel headphone and instrument connections. From there, the Apollo Twin allows Mac users (no word yet on PC) to record in real time (at near-zero latency) through the full range of UAD Powered Plug-Ins available in the UA Online Store, including titles from Neve, Studer, Manley, Lexicon, API and more.
But it goes much deeper than that. Apollo Twin is the vehicle for UA’s rollout of its new Unison technology (which will be available for Apollo DUO and Apollo QUAD in early 2014.) According to UA, Unison is built on an integration between Apollo’s mic preamps and its onboard UAD plug-in processing, allowing it to unlock “the authentic tone of the most sought-after tube and solid state mic preamps — including their all-important impedance, gain stage ‘sweet spots,’ and component-level circuit behaviors.”
All these characteristics are adjusted in real time prior to analog-to-digital conversion to accurately emulate the target mic preamp model. Furthermore, every Apollo mic preamp is already Unison-ready, with the UA 610-B Tube Preamp and EQ standing as the first of many Unison-enabled plug-ins for the UAD Powered Plug-Ins platform. In addition to being included with the Apollo Twin, it will be available for all Apollo customers in Q1. It’s a development that sounds appealing to recordists of all types, to say the least.
Apollo Twin ships with Universal Audio’s “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle. That bundle features legacy editions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, the all-new 610-B Tube Preamp plug-in, and more.
The Apollo Twin is available in both SOLO and DUO models (with either one or two Analog Devices SHARC processors, respectively). It is now shipping, with estimated street prices of $699 (SOLO) and $899 (DUO).
Here are more specifics on the Apollo Twin, followed by details on Unison, from Universal Audio:
● Desktop 2×6 Thunderbolt audio interface with world-class 24-bit/192 kHz audio conversion
● Realtime UAD Processing for tracking through vintage Compressors, EQs, Tape Machines, Mic Preamps, and Guitar Amp plug-ins with near-zero (sub-2ms) latency
● Thunderbolt connection for blazing-fast PCIe speed and rock-solid performance on modern Macs
● New Unison technology offers stunning models of classic tube and transformer-based mic preamps
● 2 premium mic/line preamps; 2 line outputs; front-panel Hi-Z instrument input and headphone output
● 2 digitally controlled analog monitor outputs for full resolution at all listening levels
● Up to 8 channels of additional digital input via Optical connection
● Includes “Realtime Analog Classics” UAD plug-in bundle, featuring Legacy editions of the LA-2A Classic Audio Leveler, 1176LN Limiting Amplifier, and Pultec EQP-1A Program Equalizer, plus Softube Amp Room Essentials, 610-B Tube Preamp, and more
● Runs UAD Powered Plug-Ins via Audio Units, VST, RTAS & AAX 64
● Available with either UAD-2 SOLO or UAD-2 DUO DSP processing onboard
Unison Key Features:
- An exclusive analog/digital integration system that’s already built into every Apollo mic preamp
- Enables Apollo mic preamps to sound and behave like the world’s most sought-after tube and solid state preamps — including their all-important impedance, gain stage sweet spots, and component-level circuit behaviors.
- Continuous, realtime, bi-directional control and interplay between Apollo’s physical hardware and UAD software preamp model.
- Requires an Apollo Interface.
Universal Audio has announced the new “Fairchild Tube Limiter Plugin Collection“, featuring new and improved modeling of the Fairchild 660 and 670 studio classics.
According to the press announcement:
“In 2004, Universal Audio released the Fairchild 670 Legacy plug-in, which was quickly heralded as the best Fairchild 670 emulation available. Today, UA’s team of DSP experts have improved the original time constants and gain reduction curves while modeling — for the first time ever — the complete tube-powered amplifier and transformer sections of their hardware counterparts. Only the new UAD Fairchild Limiter Collection is based on an accurate circuit model of Ocean Way’s ‘golden-reference’ units.”
The Fairchild Tube Limiter Collection ($299) also offers modern workflow features like sidechain filtering, dry/wet parallel blend, and headroom controls.
Click for more details, videos, audio, and to demo or purchase.
Universal Audio has created a huge impact with their 1:1 modeling process for their UAD plug-in platform since its launch back in 2002. The experts of analog and digital realms have added to their UAD line with release of the API Vision Channel Strip plug-in. The channel strip itself is composed of five unique API modules that contain tons of artist presets to get started.
The API Vision Channel Strip is available now for $299 MSRP for UAD 7.3 platform and Apollo audio interfaces.
Here are more specs from Universal Audio:
The Classic Color and Punch of API’s Flagship Analog Console.
A longtime leader in analog console design, API desks have shaped hits from the Foo Fighters to Fleetwood Mac’s classic, Rumours. Introduced in 2003, API’s flagship Vision Console was crafted to uphold the company’s soulful sonic tradition while providing flexibility and features for modern workflows.
For the first time, you can have a complete channel strip of classic API punch, presence, and color with the API Vision Channel Strip plug-in — exclusively for UAD-2 DSP hardware and Apollo interfaces.
Now you can:
- Track and mix through a stunning emulation of API’s flagship analog console
- Warm up signals through the API 212L preamp with famed 2520 API op-amp
- Reshape envelopes and create dramatic dynamic effects with the 235L Gate/Expander
- Tame transients and craft wild new textures with API’s legendary 225L compression circuit
UA’s Most Colorful Channel Strip Plug-In
Comprised of five classic API modules, the API Vision Channel Strip plug-in transforms your DAW into a high-end analog mixing desk, injecting your tracks with the sonic color and personality that has made API legendary.
My assistant recently left the rotation in the studio here to begin as a freelancer after three-and-a-half years of faithful service. We were both bummed but it was the right thing to do for his career.
A big complication about graduating into freelancing these days is the unspoken covenant that most of the actively working young engineers in New York are also almost always studio owners. Unless you have managed to find your way into one of the very few large format rooms that remain somehow or have long since passed into the freelance realm from the previous era of big budgets, you will most likely find yourself making records for your scene because you are the person that has the gear.
So, in honest acknowledgment of that fact, our conversation inevitably turned toward gear. He would either A) need to clear budgets that could support his rate as a freelancer and an additional studio rental fee or B) build a scenario that he could make work within a slightly more guerilla capacity. At home, remotely, in the van, in other people’s rooms, etc etc etc.
No news here, but if you are a young engineer, producer, or band, the democratization of recording in the digital era is endlessly rad. For less than 10 grand, you can pretty easily put together a highly workable situation for mixing and overdubs that would provide equivalent facility to an amount of analog kit that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars historically. A good computer, an interface, a couple of decent input channels, some cans and away you go.
So then, how do you set out to build a multitrack studio in this era that is competitive (read: can cover the monthly nut sustainably, keep you sane, and still expand), sounds good, and is malleable?
This was our particular entry point for checking out the Universal Audio Apollo 16, a 24-bit/192 kHz audio interface that’s billed as a solid centerpiece for the modern professional studio.
UNBOXING THE APOLLO 16
This past spring, on the wings of their first Apollo series interface and hugely successful and widely-loved UAD plugin platform, Universal Audio introduced this new box, a purpose built big brother to the original Apollo.
At the core of the Apollo 16, you’ll find 16 channels of digital conversion in both directions as well as a UAD|2 Quad Core DSP card to authorize and run their rad plugins.
Unboxing the interface, I was immediately struck by how tough it looks. The chassis is super rugged and the whole thing feels very well put together. On the front, you’re greeted by 16 large 10 segment LED bargraph meters, a slick, illuminated monitor volume knob, a meter switch which determines whether your metering the input or output, and power.
On the rear, you’ll of course find all the salient connectors. Audio I/O on female DB25 connectors (Tascam standard for those of you who intend to wire the multipair snakes), Monitor outputs on XLR, AES/EBU on XLR, and Clock I/O on BNC terminals (with a latching switch to provide a 75 ohm load to terminate the clock signal happily). Additionally, the data ports are found back there. There are two FireWire 800 ports, MADI and even an optional expansion card with thunderbolt for a little future proofing. The power supply is external and it runs voltage into the Apollo 16 via a 4 pin XLR.
Having the audio I/O on DB25 is a good move, in my humble opinion, as it easily interfaces with a number of standard-use boxes you may want to add to this Apollo to complete your system. Many, if not most, summing boxes take audio input on DB25. Also, many patchbays these days are wired to Tascam standard if you need additional routing capabilities in analog.
INSIDE THE BOX
On the software side, the Apollo offers a few more tricks than most convertors.
You’re probably well aware of the UAD thing if you’re reading this, but allow me to add to the growing litany of folks who believe they are some of the best plugs in the game these days. There’s the usual host of digital clones, modeling coveted metal boxes, but there are some really unexpected and hip plugs too. The Little Labs emulations, for example, or the heavily modeled Ocean Way live room verb. Neato.
Moreover, there’s a standalone console app that allows you to track through any of the UAD plugins you have installed in the machine. The outputs from the software console can then be routed into the channel ins on your preferred DAW. There are two ways to go about this, as well. You can monitor through the plug in (MON on the insert effect on the console channel) or actually record through it (REC on the insert effects switch). REC is a destructive choice, mind. The audio is actually rendered through the plug-in in real time.
This is a fucking really neat thing that I have slightly mixed feelings about. On the one hand, the production process in this era is so mired by the infinite undo, infinitely revisionist mentality that it’s incredibly refreshing to have the ability to ignore that in favor of making strong decisions on the way into the recorder. This also serves to narrow the functionality gap created by the inability of RTAS plugins to function in input monitor mode.
Moreover, speaking towards my own process, I almost always find the most inspiration by the sound design itself in part writing. It can be difficult to envision how the mellotron part will sound in context when it’s represented by a cheap MIDI piano sound, for example. So, this real time rendering option allows you to crush/distort/paisley any source on the way in and be inspired by all those colors.
In application, the real time processing had a pretty simple learning curve and, once the internal routing was all set up, functioned pretty beautifully. I tried it on a few sources and the latency was negligible in my set up. I’m most primarily a bass player, so the obvious choice for heavy scrutiny was to compress a DI on the way in. This is a particularly sensitive instrument to be dealing with latency issues (note duration and pocket being the two primary differences between passable bassists and transcendental bassists, of course) and even fast passages of grace notes found their way into the pouch where I meant for them to be.
Contrarily, I could see the ability to permanently modify audio on the way in being badly and accidentally abused. Freelance mixers getting tracks that have been compressed to the recorder with poor time constants, for example. A client being really into a smashy/distorty vocal sound until they really aren’t… Obviously, mileage will vary but these are a couple considerations that come easily to mind.
It’s also worth mentioning here that the street price of the Apollo 16 ($2,999) is competitive with the larger market of professional 16 channel interfaces, and none of them have any of the plugin capability that the Apollo 16 does. I see the plugin capability of this interface as a huge selling point as you’re getting your thing started or as a significant bonus to someone looking to upgrade to a new convertor.
I’m not the guy to lace you with superlatives (here’s the only punchy you’re gonna get in this whole article and only in a parenthetical aside) so I’ll leave the qualitative valuations of the colors this box imparts to your own adventures. Suffice it to say the sound of the conversion is useful and hi-fi and that the plugins follow suit. I’m producing a record that’s being mixed by a very high profile engineer right now and the UAD plugins are very much in a starring role in his mixes.
BEYOND THE BOX
There are a couple of disinclusions from the baby bro Apollo that are worth mentioning as well.
For example, there is no dedicated headphone out on the Apollo 16, which presupposes certain factors about how you’re going to employ the Apollo 16. In my test rig, for example, I had to connect a cheap and cheerful little Rolls headphone box or connect it to my main rig via a DB25 to bantam breakout to get the I/O into my own summing situation here.
Also, there are no dedicated mic pres on the Apollo 16, which really informs certain aspects of how the designers see this box. Removing some of those functions that the all-in-one interfaces all tout imply that they intend for it to be the center of a more realized studio situation. Why add in mic pres of questionable usefulness if you’re going to always patch around them for your Neve’s, for example?
Also, UA’s inclusion of the ability to daisy-chain two Apollo 16’s on one CPU in order to double the audio throughput and also the plug-in firepower further speaks to the way they see it fitting into the already crowded landscape of interfaces. Whereas an all-in-one interface may easily become insufficient when you want to do drums or bigger full-band dates, the Apollo 16 provides the end user with a platform to grow as necessary and tons of options for usable colors in the box.
There really isn’t anything else that covers quite the territory that the Apollo 16 does, for that reason alone. Nothing sucks worse than buying some gear you know you will outgrow and I just don’t get that vibe off of this box.
And really, the whole design speaks to the zeitgeist in a very important way. There is a gap in this particular aspect of the market that UA has correctly identified and is offering this product as a result: The need for a high quality interface that isn’t the prosumer all-in-one box and isn’t cost prohibitive when compared to the highest end stuff of forum fanboy speculation, though can create a similar level of quality.
In conclusion, I would never tell anyone to purchase a piece of gear without having heard it, but if this is something you could see fitting into your vision of your workflow, there’s a good chance it’s exactly the thing. Well built, expandable, malleable. A worthy inclusion to the already deep legacy of Universal Audio.
Brian Bender is a producer/engineer and owner of The Motherbrain Brooklyn, where he’s recently produced albums with Gabriel Gordon, Jose James, Takuya Kuroda, and Bing and Ruth.
Audio engineers can officially add amp lust into their list of professional obsessions.
The impetus is the latest plugins for Universal Audio’s UAD Powered Plugins platform and Apollo Audio interface: a pair of ENGL Amps developed by Brainworx in the form of the E765 RT and the E646 VS amplifiers, as well as the Brainworx bx_tuner.
The E765 RT emulates an EL34-powered, two-channel 100-watt tube amp. Meanwhile, the E646 VS emulates ENGL’s four-channel, 100-watt, 6L6-powered, high-gain tube amp.
As Universal Audio points out, the ENGL Amps Bundle allows owners of UAD-2 DSP Accelerator hardware to re-amp their tracks with these amp models, while Apollo Audio Interface users can re-amp as well as track in real time with near-zero latency.
Based in Germany, ENGL Amps has built up voracious following among rock and metal mavens for their high-end tube amps. Now users can get their hands on these highly desirable amp sounds, with no waiting and for a considerably lower tariff from the UA Online Store.
RT and ENGL E646 VS are $149; the Brainworx bx_tuner is $19; while all three are bundled together for $249.
Both amp models contain an onboard FX Rack with a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay. Also included is a unique Recording Chains feature that allows the user to audition their tones through 64 different high-end mics, ENGL cabinets, and outboard gear, including hardware emulations from Millennia, SPL, and elysia.
See more of the heavy-duty specs from UA:
ENGL E765 RT Plug-In — $149
• Perfect emulation of a two-channel, EL34-powered, 100-watt tube amp for UAD-2 or Apollo
• Craft old school clean tones, gritty chunk textures, and aggressive distortions easily and intuitively with extensive EQ functionality — before or after mixdown
• Audition 64 different Recording Chains to match the perfect tone to the part
• Fine-tune your sounds with an onboard FX Rack that includes a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay
ENGL E646 VS Plug-In — $149
• Exacting emulation of a four-channel, 100-watt, 6L6-powered, high-gain tube amp
• Perfectly sculpt clean tones, muscular chunk, and high-gain textures with remarkable string-to-string definition
• Audition 64 different high-end Recording Chains for unmatched flexibility when tracking or mixing
• Fine-tune your sounds with an onboard FX Rack that includes a noise gate, EQ filter controls, and host-syncable lo-fi delay
Brainworx bx_tuner — $19
• Tune guitar or bass easily and accurately inside your UAD-2 or Apollo-equipped workstation
• Customize the tuning LED’s tracking with the Ballistics feature
• Quickly tune with reduced volume using the unique Output Dim feature
• Instantiate on multiple inputs to avoid plugging and unplugging of instruments
ENGL Amplifier Plug-Ins Bundle — $249
• ENGL E765 RT Plug-In: Perfect emulation of a two-channel, EL34-powered, 100-watt tube amp
• ENGL E646 VS Plug-In: Exacting emulation of a four-channel, 100-watt, 6L6-powered, high-gain tube amp
• Brainworx bx_tuner: Tune guitar or bass easily and accurately inside your UAD-2 or Apollo-equipped workstation