Focus on Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII
Taking your recordings to the next level
In an era when three-quarters of people in the UK that listen to music either download or stream it from the internet, people still expect quality. When you send somebody an mp3 or a link to your Soundcloud page they don’t expect to hear a “demo” – they expect a professional quality recording. But how do you make your tracks sound as good as your favourite records? The answer is to use professional quality tools when you are recording and mixing.
The Universal Audio Apollo Twin MkII is an audio interface that gives you a rack full of classic mic pre-amps to record with. It also boasts another rack full of classic compressors, EQs and many other effects and processors to use in your mixes. All this in a unit that fits comfortably on your desktop. The best part is that all of this processing power integrates seamlessly with your DAW software, but it doesn’t impose any additional burden on your computer’s processor. All the work is done by processors inside the interface.
Sounds good? Well read on; it’s even better than you think!
Unison Microphone Pre-Amps
Great recordings are made using great mic pre-amps. That much is clear. Each Apollo Twin interface comes equipped with two Unison pre-amps. These combine software modelling and electrical switching of the input impedance to perfectly replicate several classic pre-amps from legendary companies such as Neve, SSL, API, Manley and Universal Audio themselves.
Everything is controlled via the software too. This means you can sit at your computer and switch through thousands of pounds worth of audio gear to find the perfect sound for the instrument or voice, without having to unplug a single cable! The pre-amps that are recreated have been used on countless classic recordings, and continue to be used by the biggest artists recording today.
To hear how the Unison pre-amps compare to the original gear, you can watch a “shoot-out” video here.
When it’s time to mix your tracks you’re going to need EQs and compressors. These help the individual elements of your mix sit together and make your track sound like a record. The compressors and EQs included with your DAW software are perfectly usable, but they can feel a bit sterile and scientific. They often don’t have the sonic character or the musicality of the processors that are found in professional studios either.
Each Apollo Twin interface features either one, two or four UAD-2 audio processing cores, which allow you to run a whole range of plug-ins that can only be run on a UAD-2 core. The bundled plug-ins include incredible recreations of the Teletronix LA-2A and the Universal Audio 1176, two of the most widely used compressors in recording history.
The hardware versions of these compressors cost upwards of £2000 each, but you can run over 20 instances of the plug-in versions on a single UAD-2 core. The Pultec EQP-1A is an extremely musical EQ that has been around since the 1950s, and it is fantastic on everything – drums, vocals, guitars, synths and even on your whole mix! The plug-in version included with the Apollo Twin will bring the same magic to your mixes, and you can run 24 mono or 16 stereo instances on each UAD-2 core.
For guitarists, the Apollo Twin includes an official plug-in version of a Marshall Plexi amplifier to use when you are recording or mixing. It also boasts a modelled bass amp with a choice of three different speaker cabinets, which allows you to adjust the placement of the mic within the virtual recording room. There is also a plug-in recreation of the classic ProCo Rat distortion pedal, which can work in conjunction with the Unison pre-amp via the instrument input to recreate the input stage of the original pedal.
The Apollo Twin bundle includes several other plug-ins, including EQs, reverbs and delays, and there are over 90 additional UAD-2 plug-ins available to purchase from the Universal Audio website. These include emulations of EQs and compressors from Neve, SSL, Manley and API, and models of guitar and bass amplifiers from Fender, Marshall, Ampeg and Eden. Other highlights include plug-in versions of the classic Lexicon 224 reverb, the Eventide Harmonizer and the incredible (and incredibly expensive for the hardware version!) Shadow Hills Mastering Compressor.
The Apollo Twin MkII comes in three different flavours – SOLO, DUO and QUAD – which refers to the number of processor cores that are onboard each model. They connect to Mac’s via Thunderbolt or to newer USB-C equipped machines using a Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adapter. All feature pristine quality A/D and D/A converters derived from Universal Audio’s flagship Apollo 16 interface, with two Unison mic inputs and four balanced outputs. If you need additional processing power you can daisy-chain up to four “Apollo’s using Thunderbolt which gives you the potential for up to 16 processor cores and 8 Unison pre-amps.
The original USB version of the Apollo Twin is still available, for Windows users who don’t have USB-C ports and features dual processing cores and all of the audio connectivity of the MKII, including two Unison mic pre-amps. The USB version does not allow you to daisy-chain multiple units, and although the audio quality is absolutely superb, it has been further upgraded for the MkII version.
At first glance the UAD Apollo Twin MkII may seem to be a bit expensive for an audio interface, but when you realise that it gives you access to a range of world-class equipment that most of us have neither the space nor the budget to acquire, along with world-class audio quality and easy expandability, it seems like an absolute bargain!