Universal Audio Apollo 8 Interface Review
The Universal Audio company was founded in 1958 by the “Father of Modern Recording” Bill Putnam. Since its creation, Universal Audio has embedded itself into the DNA of the recording industry. Over sixty years, Universal Audio gear such as LA 610 and the 1176 have been used on countless classic records, and it is difficult to find a recording studio that does not have at least one piece of UA gear. The UA family continues the Bill Putnam tradition of providing us with consistently high quality products, and it is no different with their first venture into the digital domain with the Universal Audio Apollo interfaces.
Before I start to dig in to the actual review of the Apollo, I have to admit that I am biased towards this specific piece of gear. I purchased my Apollo not too long after Universal Audio released it back in 2012 and I have not looked back. I have been an avid fan of all things UA even prior to me having access to their incredible plug-ins, and it was rare when I did not use at least one piece of Universal Audio gear during recording and mixing. My Apollo system is now the engine behind my recording and mixing process, and with it, I have the confidence to provide my clients with a high quality finished product all from in-the-box.
Prior to the Apollo interface, it was necessary to have a UAD2 satellite to run the UAD plug-ins. Now, with the Apollo, you have the combination of both a Satellite and an audio interface. The Apollo allows sample rates up to 192 Khz and features 18×24 I/O which includes:
- 8 channels of analog to digital conversion via mic, line, or high impedance inputs.
- 8 channels of ADAT
- 2 channels of S/PDIF.
- 8 mono line outputs
- Stereo monitor outputs
- 2 Stereo headphone outputs
The Apollo includes four high quality microphone pre-amps. These pres do not add color to the sound and are incredibly transparent. I have had a shoot-out with several other of my go to microphone pres such as the API 512 and the Neve 511 and have found that the Apollo pres hold up very well. With the introduction of the Unison technology, which gives you the ability to use the UAD microphone pre-amps on the front end and to control it via the interface, you now have access to other classic microphone pre-amps such as the API Vision, LA-610, Neve 1073, Neve 88R, and the UA 610. All of which sound amazingly close to their analog counter-parts.
The Console Application:
The console application, which is part of the software included with the Apollo and Apollo 16, is the virtual mixer for the Apollo systems. The mixer is what allows you to track and monitor plug-ins in real-time. I have found that if you are somewhat familiar with how a mixing console generally work, that the Console Application is incredibly intuitive and user-friendly. The console allows for flexible routing, including setting up separate headphones mixes and aux sends for FXs. To make life just a little easier, Universal Audio provides in-depth tutorials on their YouTube.com channel on how to effectively use the console application.
If there could only be one reason for you to purchase the Apollo, it would be to be able to use their incredible plug-ins for both front-end recording and mixing. Over the years I have used hundreds of different plug-ins, mostly emulators, and the overall quality of the UAD plug-ins and how they compare to their analog counter parts is simply incredible. I find myself consistently using the API Vision Channel for recording vocals, guitars, and anything in between. As a self-proclaimed compressor junkie, I use the different models 1176 on almost anything that needs to by dynamically tamed, especially the electric guitar mix bus. For my stereo bus, I almost always use the SSL Bus Compressor and the Studer A800. Although I have been recording & mixing for almost 10 years and consider myself to be a pretty decent engineer, the UAD plug-ins have elevated my mixes to higher standards. There are only two downsides to using these plug-ins, and it is that they take a lot of processing power and the plug-ins are on the expensive side. If you plan on using a lot of plug-ins for either recording or mixing, and I promise you that you will, I suggest that you avoid buying the Apollo Duo and opt for the Apollo Quad. When it comes to the price of the plug-ins, they might seem pricey at the time, but you should consider them as an investment, like a lot of purchases for your studio, and that they are still a lot cheaper than actually buying their analog counterparts.
Although the price-tag may deter some users, I would highly suggest getting an Apollo if you can afford it. There are plenty of other great audio interfaces for much cheaper, but the over quality and flexibility of the Apollo is by far a better investment for your studio as it slowly grows. With the Apollo you get great microphone pres, up to 192 Khz sample, high-quality AD/DA, plug-ins to use in real-time with no latency, and an incredible support and customer service from the Universal Audio family.
What is it that you love or hate about the Apollo? I would love to hear your feedback concerning this product.
For System Requirements Specification, please visit the uaudio.com website.