If you’re a recording guitarist who’s shopping for a quality desktop audio interface, Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin is worth a long look. This compact and solidly built unit is available in two Mac models featuring Thunderbolt connectivity, and in a USB 3 version for Windows, which should be shipping by the time you read this. According to UA, the performance for the Mac and Windows versions will be essentially the same as will the feature set. All the models give you access to the acclaimed UAD-2 plugins, and come with a small plug-in bundle. The rest are available for sale on an à la carte basis.
The Mac version of Apollo Twin comes in two models: DUO and SOLO. Both are the same, except the DUO has more onboard DSP for running UAD-2 plug-ins. The Windows version only comes in a DUO configuration. Apollo Twin offers a 2x6 configuration of analog I/O. Channels 1 and 2 each have mic/line combo jacks, and channel 1 also has a Unison-enabled DI instrument input that you can use instead of the mic/line input. Left and right monitor outputs, a pair of line outputs, and a stereo headphone out complete the back panel. It’s worth noting too that the unit’s I/O count can be expanded to 10 in and 6 out thanks to the optical digital input, which can handle up to eight inputs in the ADAT optical format or two via S/PDIF, if you have an external mic-pre unit with an optical port. Optical channels are integrated seamlessly into the included Console software. Tracking through the Console software allows you to take full advantage of the Apollo Twin’s impressive low-latency monitoring, which can cut latency down to under 1ms, which is basically imperceptible. For guitarists, especially, latency can be a huge distraction, so tracking through the Console and UAD’s extensive plug-in library lets you get the most from the Twin.
Apollo Twin’s hardware controls include a large Level knob and eight small function buttons. The unit is cleverly designed to let you switch between modes for controlling input and monitor functions, which keeps the top panel from being too cluttered. You get plenty of metering, including a round LED meter surrounding the Level Knob, which changes colors depending on whether it’s set for controlling input or monitor levels.
The preamps have a clean, transparent sound, but you can add coloration if you want, thanks to UA’s Unison Technology. A Unison-enabled plug-in adjusts the impedance and gain staging of the actual hardware preamp to match the characteristics of the device that the plugin is emulating. For example, if you had a Unison- enabled guitar amp model, such as UAD’s Marshall Plexi Super Lead (not included), and plugged your guitar into the Hi-Z input of the Apollo Twin, the impedance and gain staging of the Twin’s preamp would exactly match that of a real Marshall Plexi.
The included software bundle features two Unison plug-ins, the UA-610B mic preamp, and Raw Distortion, a model of the ProCo Rat. You can also insert non-Unison UAD plug-ins on input, which can either be printed to your track or just used for monitoring.
Although the majority of the UAD-2 plugins are emulations of classic analog studio hardware, a number of guitar-amp models, in addition to the Plexi Super Lead, are available for purchase. The recently released version 8.4 software added two additional Marshall models—Bluesbreaker 1962 and Silver Jubilee 2555—to supplement the existing collection, which features models of amps from ENGL, Friedman, Chandler, and more. The included software bundle does come with Softube’s Amp Room Essentials, however, which offers a good-sounding Marshall-stack model for guitar and an SVT-like model for bass (neither is Unison enabled). If you want to access any of the other guitar amp plug-ins (other than for a 14-day free trial period) you can purchase them directly from Universal Audio’s online store. Individual plug-ins range from $99 to $299.
Overall, my experience with the Apollo Twin was very positive. The preamps sounded great, latency was very low, and I was able to open over 20 plug-ins simultaneously without running out of DSP using the DUO version on my Mac- Book Pro (each plug-in uses a different amount of DSP, so that number could vary). The hardware controls and Console software integrate nicely to create an excellent workflow. Yes, the Apollo Twin is more expensive than many other interfaces with similar channel counts, but you definitely get your money’s worth. Between the excellent sound quality and access to the UAD-2 plug-in ecosystem, the Apollo Twin is one of the most capable desktop audio interfaces on the market.
PRICE Twin DUO (Mac) $899, Twin Solo (Mac) $699. Apollo Twin USB (Windows, scheduled for early 2016 release) $899
Software Included Console software, Real-Time Analog Classics plug-in bundle. UA 610B Tube Preamp and EQ, Raw Distortion Plug-In, Softube Amp Room Essentials, 1176LN Classic Limiting Amplifiers (Legacy), Pultec Pro Equalizers (Legacy), Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier (Legacy), Precision Mix Rack Collection, RealVerb Pro.
I/O Two high-grade mic/line preamps, monitor output plus two additional line outputs, frontpanel instrument input and headphone output. Up to eight channels of additional digital input via Optical connection. Two digitally controlled analog monitor outputs. Thunderbolt port (Thunderbolt 1 and 2 compatible, A/D – D/A Conversion).
KUDOS Excellent sound quality. Well designed user interface. Solidly built. Good integration with Console software. Low latency. Allows you to access UAD2 plugins. Unison technology allows for using included preamp plug-in to get alternative tones on input. Plug-in bundle included. Apollo Twin versions for both Mac and Windows (coming early 2016).
CONCERNS Pricey to buy additional UAD plug-ins.