My New Fave Mobile Interface


Premier Guitar has posted my review of Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin interface. Short version: I love the thing.

A rackmount Apollo interface has been the core of my studio for two years, replacing both a Pro Tools HD rig and a complicated Apogee setup. I adore Apollo’s great-sounding preamps, lucid interface, and innovative software, which, among other things, lets you track through simulated preamps on your way into your DAW. Also, UA’s analog modeling is second to none. (You hear their reverbs and tape simulations on most of the stuff I’ve recorded for this site.)

The intensity of my Apollo love is rivaled only by my scorn for the crappy mobile interfaces I’ve previously used with my live laptop rig. The problem isn’t audio quality — even the cheapest ones can sound surprisingly decent — so much as lousy ergonomics and flimsy construction. I’ve burned through half a dozen interfaces in the last few years. They just aren’t built to last onstage. Or anywhere else.

That’s why I’m so stoked to have the small-format Apollo on my digital pedalboard. It’s built well. The UI is brilliant. There are no horrid breakout cable octopi. It has the same preamps and processors as the rackmount Apollo. And I have access to my favorite UA plug-ins, including the juicy EMT plate reverb simulations, the stellar tape echo models, and a suite of low-latency virtual preamps. It’s pricy for a mobile interface: $700 for the single-processor model and $900 for the dual-processor model. But I’d spent far more than that on self-destructing junk that I wound up giving away or recycling.

Anyone else tried Apollo in its various formats? Or any other cool converters? Your observations, please?

6 comments to My New Fave Mobile Interface

  • Stew

    Interesting timing Joe as I’m in the market for an interface to use for live looping with Ableton Live and a soon to be purchased 15″ MacBook Pro!

    I’d been looking at the Apollo but was leaning towards the RME Babyface as it offers both midi IO and digital IO (only digi in on the Apollo). Although the Apollo being TB means that I can leave USB for controllers (Push, MidiFighter Twister and maybe soon SoftStep 2).

    Is the RME one of the interfaces with “lousy ergonomics” you refer to? That’s probably my biggest concern about it.

    Apollo twin solo is about $100 more than the Babyface here in Aus … almost $1000!

    I guess at the end of the day I’ll just try them both out with my rig and see which one is the best fit at this stage, although I’m interested if anyone has experience with these two interfaces in a low-latency, high-cpu, live looping rig?

    • joe

      No, I’ve never tried an RME, though I’ve contemplated them. I’ve been running the Apollo with MainStage and an insane number of plug-ins at 64 samples, and it works great. Real fast, in other words!

  • NotSoFast

    There are sales from time to time that can get you free plug ins and its worth watching out for them. The thunderbolt card became free with the rack Apollo’s – that’s probably still going on (it used to be quite expensive).

    Peter Thorn has several demos of the Apollo on YouTube including some “standard” guitar rigs.

    • joe

      Yeah, I paid full pop for the Thunderbolt card on my two-year-old rackmount Apollo Quad. Actually, it’s probably worth checking out the sound (and prices!) of some of the UA plug-ins before committing to the platform, to determine whether they’re enough to sway the decision. They’re not cheap, and the Twin comes with a rather meager bundle.

  • Jay Quackenbush

    Ive been using a mackie blackjack for my laptop for a few years. Mostly becaus the thing is built to survive an earthquake during a hurricane. Its pretty no frills as interfaces go, but the preamps are quiet and flat and can feed a direct signal to the headphone monitor. Id be hard pressed to trade up, as much as i am a fan of ua dsp.

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