Universal Audio Apollo MKII Desktop Interface
Function: Gets sounds in and out of your computer for recording
Price: $700 – $1300
Overview: It used to be that you needed an expensive studio filled with lots of gear to make a quality recording, but that has changed. Today, many of the top recordings in the world are done on devices such as the Apollo MKII. Which can be a bit hard to believe, but truly it’s just that good. There is a lot packed into one sleek and stylish box so let’s take a look at what all it does.
Specifics: First is the controller features. The buttons are straight forward, clearly labeled, and allow you to, as the name implies, ‘control’ important functions like volume and input level quickly.
Secondly, it makes the connections in and out of your computer. The Apollo MKII allows you to connect two inputs at a time, by using either the two connections on the back of the unit or by using the very convenient guitar/bass/instrument (Hi-Z) connection on the front to automatically take over input 1 without having to switch out cables. A handy ‘talkback’ microphone is also built into the unit. Sound can then be outputted to studio monitors, two auxiliary channels for use as an output to comparison studio monitors or as separate monitor mixes, and last but not least to a 1/4 inch headphone jack on the front with separate volume control.
Next, the conversion from Analog to Digital sound (or A/D conversion) is handled by software that will easily satisfy even the most demanding of audiophiles (sound nerds). Up to 24bit/196k.
Then, as you expect from one of the biggest names of industry standard recording gear the pre-amps are world class. Shockingly good.
Finally, what is less commonly understood about this unit is that it is also a Digital Signal Processor or DSP. Which simply means that it is also a computer that can take on some of the processing load necessary to run plugins (specialized software that extends the capabilities of your recording program). The difference in the number of DSP processors is what comprises the three different models available: Solo, Duo, or Quad. This feature, however, is limited to work only with UAD Plug-Ins which, as can be expected, are only available through Universal Audio. But as a bonus, a small pack of plug-ins is included in your purchase to help you get started.
Bottom Line: It’s just nice to work on projects knowing that you have the right gear. People who are doing any kind of recording or podcasting would be interested in this.
More: It’s a lot of high-quality features built into one box that is affordable, easy to use, small enough to be portable, and works on either PC or Mac.
Less: Installation is a bit tricky and the default mode of the software shows you every plugin that is available for sale and not just the ones you actually have. Annoying but not a deal breaker by any means. Also, a thunderbolt cable is not included.