Friday, July 15, 2011

Apogee Duet 2

NOTE: This post will be updated as new information arrives. 

Earlier this year Apogee eliminated their Firewire Duet from their line up. This is a tactical move for Apogee, to take advantage of Apple's recent Firmware update that increases the speed of USB2. Though we are talking milliseconds here, USB2 is now faster than Firewire. 

Apple also introduced  Thunderbolt© (TB) a very fast PCIe connection (twice as fast as Firewire), and begins Apples slow phase out of its once darling Firewire connection.  Thus seeing the writing on the wall, Apogee dropped the Duet (firewire) like a hot potato.    

Apogee now  has two USB interfaces the Apogee One, and the Duet2. Now the question on the minds of confused consumers is: What should I get?  Well that would be difficult to answer, but I believe the Apogee One will either get a small upgrade, or get dropped.  

The Apogee ONE was always priced as a good quality budget minded device, next to it's higher quality Firewire Duet sister.   The Apogee One at $250, sits near the middle of the $100 to $300 preamp/interface combo Pack. And at $500 and $600, the Duet and the Duet2,  both sit at the lower-middle tier of the $300 to $1000  preamp/interface combo group.                                                                   

The problem a lot of people had and have with the Apogee One, is that it can be a little noisy and not as refined as the Duet1. The ONE has  always been a good budget minded device.  When you take the time to read the the on-line literature regarding the ONE it says, "ONE features a world-class microphone preamp... Based on the award winning mic preamps in Apogee's Ensemble and Duet" The key word here is BASED. The Apogee One components are indeed different, and its price reflects that.

The talk from the hep kids on the streets, is that Apogee is developing a new device that will take advantage of Apple's new Thunderbolt© wire connection. This will in effect, make such a new Apogee device an external PCI sound card.

Though Duet1 is a fine device, and in some aspects Duet 2 is an upgrade, depending where you are coming from. The one problem that I and others had with the Duet1, was a headphone "Latency issues" that did pop up from time to time- but was always fixable. 

With Mac's Firmware update for USB2, speeds were greatly improved, so apogee is able to take advantage of that. 

Here are some (roundtrip) latency numbers:
FW duet
32 buffer @ 96kkHz = 4.6 ms
64 buffer @ 44.1kHz = 7.23 ms

USB2 duet
32 buffer @ 96kkHz = 3.6 ms
64 buffer @ 44.1kHz = 5.3 ms
(To take advantage of this you need to have a Mac with Core 2 Duo or later, and current Firmware and OS updates. If not you'll be getting around 8.7 ms.)

A Thunderbolt duet would conceivably be:
32 @ 96HZ = 1 ms -or something like that.

The D2 converters are on par with Apogee's Rosetta, this is an upgrade from D1, the preamps are improved also. The D2 sounds cleaner and more transparent than the D1.

You may need to use the external power supply when using power-hungry condenser mics. This tells me that the power supply will be a must in any at home home setup, and while on the road. If find this true with any USB interface, and you will get an improved dynamic range when using an external power supply with USB or Firewire devices. (Some folks are reporting a small hum for their D2 power supply units)

The new Maestro2 program that controls the Duet2, is a big improvement and adds more functionality and is easier to use.

Over all the D2 is a noticeable improvement from the D1, it has a pristine/clean sound over that of the D1, and this can be a problem for some people. Espeicly if your recording environment is less than perfect. 

The strength/problem with getting the best hi-end mics and pres ad/da convertors is that it will always magnify any flaws in the source - thereby making it harder to mask any weakness in the performance /audio chain. So in some cases, an inferior/more colored signal chain may suit a particular source better than a 100% pristine clean front end/signal path like the D2.
Clean audio isn't always best. Hence the need or love for vintage audio gear.

Digital is best at capturing the sound without color/distortion - pure sound is akin to "lifeless" "digital" "boring" in some cases. To best maximize the benefits of the Duet2 add a tube mic or a Golden Age Pre 73 preamp and you'll be rocking it.

No doubt there are better convertors and pres than Apogee, however, if you compare the price to quality ratio, Apogee seems to be a real winner here, especially for a bare bones VO set up.


I know these two videos have nothing to do with VO, but they do show off the Duet 2's clarity and bigger soundstage.

This first video compares the Duet 2 with the $1800 Apogee Rosetta 800:

Next the Duet 1 vs. Duet 2-- Bounce between the examples for a good side by side:

To be fair, do not read the following until you've heard the two videos for yourself, I do not want to color your judgment.::  

[ From the first note I heard a more open sound. For some people that don't have great treatment or isolation, this may not be a good thing when recording, but for mixing it is a must.]

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