What’s New: What can possibly be better than the Apogee Duet 2? How about a Duet with twice the inputs, twice the outputs, and upgraded hardware? Meet the Apogee Quartet. Apogee Quartet goes far beyond a two-channel upgrade from Duet 2: loaded with features, simple to use, charming to look at, this is our favorite Apogee interface yet. Bridging the gap between the Duet 2 and the Symphony, the Quartet runs off of an included power adapter and connects via USB 2.0, providing four XLR/1/4” inputs with selectable 48v, six outputs plus a dedicated headphone out, ADAT/SMUX in, word clock out to sync external AD units, and even provides a USB input for an external MIDI keyboard. Quartet keeps the touch-pads and individual LEDs like the Duet 2, but features individual pads for each input, master and headphone output, and three user assignable pads for functions such as dimming, sum to mono, output mute, or switching between outputs. In addition to seamless connectivity to Mac, Quartet also connects to iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch. We got to go hands on with the new Apogee Quartet and were thoroughly impressed on every level.
Build Quality: Apogee products have always been built like a tank, and Quartet is no exception with its aluminum exterior, slanted front, signature Apogee single big knob, and solid connectors on the back panel. As a rack mount aficionado, I was a bit surprised when I heard the Quartet would not be rackmountable, but after using it for a few weeks, it’s easy to see why the Quartet should sit on your desk. The single knob volume control is perfect for a desktop application, and the output switching makes you feel like you have a dedicated monitor control in addition to a pro interface. No dangly cords or breakout cable for Quartet; all the connectors are neatly positioned in the back of the unit with the exception of the headphone out, which is on the right side near the bottom.
Functionality: Quartet could not be simpler to use. Each of the four channels have their very own touch pad with color LED’s to indicate input type, metering, phantom power, grouping, phase, soft limit and clip data. The output section has three meters for each set of outputs and a dedicated headphone meter to see all the outputs individually. Maestro 2 provides settings for I/O routing, sample rate, and individual control all the ins and outs of the Quartet. The digital inputs provide an extra 8 channels for connecting an additional A/D converter. USB 2.0 works perfectly, and I don’t miss the firewire connection of the Ensemble at all.
Sound Quality: Sound quality is where Quartet really shines. The microphone preamps are clear, pristine, and quite transparent, a big upgrade from the Ensemble. For a clean, clear, full sound, Quartet pres beat out several vintage and high-end outboard pres that added a bit more color to the sound. Apogee pres sound fantastic on dynamic, ribbon, and condenser mics, and I was especially blown away by the sound quality of the direct ins. When tracking my Nord Electro 3, I found the pianos to be more focused and more three-dimensional than I’ve ever heard! My other favorite sounds were male vocals and acoustic guitars. Quartet pres also do a great job loading ribbon mics, and I loved the combo on drum overheads, acoustic instruments and room microphones. The Quartet’s clocking and AD/DA is terrific and provides a big, open, pristine sound quality that makes every outboard unit sound better than ever. Quartet’s latency was so low it was essentially a non-factor in my test, but if you’re using an older machine, Maestro 2 offers an even lower latency recording option. A longtime Apogee user, I ran the Quartet side by side with both an Ensemble and a Duet 2 and noticed marked improvements in sound quality from the Ensemble. The Duet 2 was closer in sound, but to my ears, the Quartet had a smoother top end and slightly more depth the to the music. Technically, the mic pres and conversion on the Duet 2 and Quartet are nearly identical, although I have a hunch that Quartet’s hefty, dedicated power supply might be the determining factor in my sound test between the two.
Value: Apogee Quartet blew away my expectations in both build and sound quality, and in ease of use and functionality. Using the Quartet feels like you have two devices built into one: a professional 4×8 interface and a monitor control device with fantastic digital to analog conversion. Quartet connects seamlessly to Mac, iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad but still has no Windows connectivity, so if you’re a Windows user you’re out of luck for now. Digital inputs increase the value of the Quartet as you can use Apogee’s clocking and conversion to expand to up to 8 more channels. At $1395, Quartet is not cheap, but its intuitive design, superior sound quality, and seamless, integrated iOS connection make it head and shoulders above any other interface in its class and well worth the money.
Bottom Line: The look, feel, and sound of the Apogee Quartet make it a perfect interface for serious musicians and producers in any recording situation.
For more information about the Quartet and other Apogee products visit apogeeditigal.com