Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo Review

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo Review

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Universal Audio has established itself as a reputable manufacturer of both hardware and software, and their Apollo range combines their knowledge of both into one product.

The Apollo range has been a mainstay of the products that Universal Audio offers, with each entry in the series being different from the next by the number of inputs and outputs they have.

They fuse analog front ends and can also process signals through multiple analog modeling plug-ins.

Today we’re reviewing the Apollo Twin MKII. It’s what we’d consider the entry-level product of the range, so you’re in the right place if you’re looking for a rundown of what interfaces like the MKII, and many others in the Apollo range, are capable of.

Here we’ll go through a brief description of the Apollo range before going into more depth on the Apollo Twin MKII in particular.

The Apollo Range

Universal Audio’s Apollo range differs from your standard audio interface by having not just the front-end audio panel, which is expected, but they also include DSP processing for the brand’s UAD-2 system that’s available in solo, duo, and quad.

They can also be used as external DSP systems to take the pressure off of your computer. Speaking of computers, they can also run Universal Audio’s exclusive plug-ins.

The ability to use plug-ins to this degree practically makes Apollo interface hybrids between analog front ends and the plug-ins you have. They call this Unison technology since it allows you to bring these multiple elements together while recording music.

The Unison plug-ins expand the compatibility of audio interfaces, combining the gain staging and impedance switches of an analog front-end with specific component circuit modeling via the accompanying software.

This seamlessly links the functionality of the interface and any connected preamps or amps, making the resulting sounds totally accurate.

The Apollo range, and the Twin MKII as the most accessible interface in that range, were made to record with modern methods and practices, hence the focus on software with their models.

With that said, let’s get on to the review.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo Review

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo (APLTWSII)

Universal Audio Apollo Twin MKII Solo (APLTWSII)

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Inputs and Outputs

The Apollo Twin MKII comes with two of those Unison mics and line preamps, two line outputs, a Hi-Z instrument input on the front panel as well as an output for headphone compatibility. There are also two digitally controlled monitor outputs.

This is a pretty light input but, as we said, the Twin MKII is the more accessible and simplistic interface on the Apollo range, and is perfect for those just getting into sound recording.

The lack of physical inputs is also remedied with eight digital inputs.

Control Interface

You control the Apollo Twin MKII with a large knob that controls the important details like preamp gain and monitoring levels. Then there are switches at the bottom which change preamp settings like bass roll-off.

Since this model is an MKII, it features some improvements in its design over the original Apollo Twin. Its studio workflow is improved over previous models with the addition of a talkback mic and a front panel that enables you to access the monitoring functions of not just the hardware, but the software too.

When you are monitoring, four option buttons that were all but missing in the MKI become more important, and the physical shape of the console has been amended to include them.

First, there’s the Talk button that’s used to activate that talkback mic located below the control knob, allowing for quick recordings. 

A Dim button lowers the monitor output level whilst the accompanying Mute switch stops it entirely. For playback system compatibility checking, there’s a Mono switch that changes between mono and stereo output.

Alt and FCN buttons are also used to switch or cascade the routing options this console affords you.

Software

So, what about the software that’s packed into the Apollo Twin MKII?

That’d be the Console 2.0 app, a software capable of routing, monitoring, and signal processing, adding a lot of functionality to the interface while still looking like the standard hardware interfaces that a lot of people are used to.

Plug-ins and Signal Processing

If you’re a first-time user, audio interface consoles can be quite confusing and the Apollo Twin MKII is no exception.

The Twin MKII rewards taking the time to learn it by offering a very high ceiling in terms of what you can do with the interface, both creatively and technically.

The primary function of the console is to apply signal processing through Unison plug-ins or standard processing inserts.

Since it has these different ways of signal processing, we’ll need to detail exactly what is or isn’t recorded by this interface. Using the Unison plug-ins interface directly with the preamp and the DAW, so the settings on the console itself have little bearing on this relationship.

However, if your plug-ins are inserted, they can be used to print straight to the DAW just like the Unison plug-ins or to monitor your interface. This allows you to have monitoring only option along with a saved plug-in setting in the DAW so you can carry on where you left off.

Those with engineering experience will like that you can print effects to the DAW.

Retail Bundle

When you buy the standard Apollo Twin MKII, it’ll come with the Realtime Analog Classics plug-in bundle, a mainstay plug-in kit from Universal Audio that includes fifteen essential plug-ins so you can get to work with your console.

Some of the Unison plug-ins that come with the standard console include a 610-B Tube Preamp/EQ and a Raw Distortion stompbox. If you have prior experience with Universal Audio, you may remember the 1176SE, Pultec EQP-1A, and Teletronix LA-21 signal processors, which have all since been updated to bring them to the Twin MKII’s level.

If these boilerplate features that come with the Twin MKII don’t appeal to you, you can use Universal Audio’s own platforms to seek out and add optional plug-ins.

Universal Audio will even let you have a two week demo period with plug-ins taken directly from their store.

Key Features

Before we get into our thoughts, let us outline exactly what you get with the Apollo Twin MKII console as well as its pros and cons so you can see what this console offers at a glance.

Features

  • The Apollo Twin MKII comes with two premium Unison mic/line preamps, two accompanying line outputs.
  • There’s a built-in talkback microphone along with a Hi-Z front-panel instrument input as well as a headphone output. 
  • It also has two digitally controlled analog monitor outputs, as many as eight channels of digital input to expand the versatility of this console.

Pros

  • Unison plug-ins allow tracking and monitoring in real-time.
  • UAD-2 plug-ins fill in the gaps that Unison plug-ins don’t cover.
  • The great audio quality for a two-input console.
  • Can monitor in cascaded Apollo systems.
  • Features built-in talkback and speaker switching.

Cons

  • One lone but glaring disadvantage of the Apollo Twin MKII is that it’s a Thunderbolt only console. So, where’s the problem? A Thunderbolt cable isn’t included, so make sure you have one handy if you’re buying this product.

Our Thoughts

One thing we have to get out of the way is the fact that the Twin MKII is definitely a premium option where two-input interfaces are concerned. 

This means they’re in a higher price bracket, so the question with this interface becomes “does it justify its price when compared to competitors?”

With all that it offers, we think it’s clear where your extra cash is going when you buy the product. For example, the Twin MKII comes with that freeform Unison processing and added plug-in functionality, including DSP plug-in hosting so you have more mixing or talkback options.

The Apollo Twin MKII is essentially the most robust two-input modern recording interface that’s perfect for desktop studios.

When used in professional environments, it may well still be your cheaper option since the flexibility of this interface allows it to do more than higher-input consoles that you may have otherwise considered.

It compares well with other two-channel audio interfaces that tend to be software-only, losing that classic feel of having physical inputs and outputs on the console. That and the compatible Unison tech nudges it over its competitors for us.

However, if you’re already working with an Apollo system then you may struggle to justify the upgrade since, while an improvement, the improvement is incremental, and the Apollo range already provides a great performance across the board.

If your studio is already based around having two mic preamps, it may not be worth upgrading to the Twin MKII to get additional talkback functionality.

It’s definitely an improvement on previous Apollo interfaces, despite being marketed as the simplest option in that catalog, and this is mostly down to the ever-expanding list of Unison plug-ins that allow your console to perform laterally.

With all that said, we’d recommend the console to those who aren’t sure if they’ll like it and need to get a new system.

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