PRO AUDIO
Chris

Chris
June 22, 2012

Apogee Duet 2 Overview

The Duet 2 by Apogee is a portable audio interface renowned for its sound quality. Hook it up to your Mac, and you’ve got the ability to make a professional recording anywhere you can take your computer. And not only does it offer pristine sound, but also advanced features that you don’t see on other interfaces in its range.

When Jeff dropped by our production studio to give me the Apogee Duet 2 for review, he couldn’t stop raving about the digital-to-analog converters in the unit.  A while back, he decided he wanted to sweeten his digitally mastered tracks by dumping them onto tape, and he got a 1st generation Duet to make that conversion happen. He only had good things to say about the results. I was excited to get the new and improved Duet 2 fired up for inspection.  The sound was amazing. Jeff was impressed. The sound from the 2nd generation was even smoother and richer than his 1st generation.  I too was dazzled by the quality.  I could hear every detail clearly, and I could distinguish where everything was in the mix.  Apogee has redesigned the mic preamps and updated their converters for the Duet 2 and it sounds fantastic.

I’m very pleased with the internal features. There are four separate channels of digital-to-analog conversion and each channel’s volume can be adjusted separately. I can link channels 1-2 or 3-4 if I want stereo out for my headphones, or my left and right balanced outs. Each channel can also be set to mono, dim, or mute mode.  

They also added some physical features and improved its look. The new design is minimal and sleek. It’s got a solid metal body and a thick rubber bumper on the bottom. There’s a large multifunction control knob on the middle of the unit. The face is plastic and there are a pair of top panel assignable touchpads right next to the control knob. On the top panel there is a high resolution OLED screen on the front and you can toggle between a graphic display of your audio levels or a numeric readout of your recording level. This device is USB bus powered and has an option for DC power. It’s got a breakout cable with four prongs – two XLR and ¼” combination ins and two ¼” balanced outs. And there is a ¼” headphone jack on the device itself. You can also purchase a breakout box separately, which has two XLR ins, two ¼” ins, and two balanced XLR outs.

You have incredibly precise control of the volume on this unit as well. You can adjust your levels in 1 db increments from 0 to 75 db. Since Mac’s speaker controls are limited – only letting you adjust your volume in 3 db increments over a 48 db range – it’s wonderful that the Duet lets you dial in the volume to the exact place you need it to be. And the big control knob lets you find that volume quickly. You can also assign output functions to the two touch sensitive pads. For example, some of the functions could be to mute, to dim, to sum to mono, or to toggle headphone source for easy access. I tested the gain at different levels and was pleased to find that even when I cranked volume all the way up to 75 db the Duet 2, if I wasn’t playing anything I heard nothing but dead silence. Another feature worth noting is the Duet’s safety mechanism, called Soft Limit. It rounds off transient peaks before they ever get to the analog-to-digital converters preventing digital clipping and distortion.

Imagine what you could do with the ability to set your headphones at one level and your monitors at another. A DJ could monitor a one mix in headphones while sending another house mix to the club. A live performer can send a click track to an in-ear monitor while sending a backing track to the front of house. An engineer could send a headphone mix to a performer while dedicating the main outputs to studio monitors.

The Duet 2 comes with their new Maestro 2 software, which gives you quick computer access to the device and its system settings. The program is very simple and easy to use. You can use the application to assign functions to your two touchpads, toggle the Soft Limit selection, choose output assignments, dim and mute output selections, and select your desired sample rate. There is a low latency graphic mixer available in the software as well.

It is important to note that Apogee only makes products for Mac computers. They’ve even gone so far as to design their products to match Apple’s products. The Duet 2 has the exact same color scheme and look as a MacBook Pro. Some may wonder why they wouldn’t want to provide PC users with the same high quality line of products. It’s because Apogee operates under the same principles that have made Apple the powerhouse that it has become. They don’t sacrifice quality for compatibility. They don’t spend their time trying to design products that work on multiple platforms with every possible software one might use. They spend their resources perfecting the performance of the product above all else. That is why Apogee and Apple work so well together and also why they’re joined in an exclusive relationship. When the Duet 2 comes together with a Mac computer it is a beautiful thing.

I was hard pressed to find anything negative about the Duet 2. At first, I was a little wary of the quality of the breakout cables, but ultimately I didn’t feel like it affected the performance of the unit at all. Having more inputs would have also been nice, but I understand why there are only two. Apogee invested everything into the guts of the Duet 2. I mean you can get an interface with eight inputs that is at a lower price than what you’d pay for the Duet 2. And an interface like that is great for recording practice sessions or maybe even for recording demos. But you would still have to pay for time in a studio if you wanted to record anything to be officially released.

If you are a Do-It-Yourself type of person and you own a Mac computer, the Duet 2 could save you a lot of money. A one time investment of $595 is a lot less money than hours of studio time. And chances are that you’d be using Apogee’s digital-to-analog converters during the studio time that you are paying for. Obviously, you need more more than the Duet 2 to get a professional sounding track. The Duet 2 is only a tool for facilitating one part of the process. But if you’ve got the skills to produce music or if you’re willing put in the time to learn, the Duet 2 is a great investment.


Transciption:

Hello, Chris Showalter here with uniquesquared.com. Today we are taking a look at the Duet 2 by Apogee, which is a high quality audio interface for your mac computers. Let’s get into some details.

The duet 2 has two inputs and those can either be xlr or quarter inch. You also has an option for phantom power on that if you want to hook a condenser microphone up to it. You have two quarter inch out, which are going to be balanced, and you also have a headphone out right here on the device itself, quarter inch. Now the Duet has four channels of analog-to-digital conversion, and the great thing about that is that you can adjust the levels for each channel separately. So like if you wanted to have your monitors at one level and your headphones at another level you can do that which is very cool. So the Duet 2 has very solid construction. It’s got a metal body and a really good weight to it. All your functionality is going to be controlled with this endless rotary knob, as well as two touch sensitive buttons on the front. And you can monitor your levels with this OLED display conveniently located right here on the front.

So Apogee is known for it’s analog to digital and digital to analog converters. A lot of people would argue that they have the best in the market. They’re used in the production of a lot of famous artists, to name a few names Mumford and Sons, Maroon 5, Rhianna, Bruno Mars and the list goes on. And you have those converters right here in this tiny box. This thing can crank up to 75 decibels and if you’re not sending a signal through it you’re not gonna hear any amp noise, just dead silence. It records at 192 khz at 24 bits so you’ve got studio quality sound in a portable solution. The Duet 2 only works with mac computers, and it was specifically designed to work with their DAW’s like logic and Garageband. But it also works flawlessly with Core Audio applications like Pro Tools, Cubase, and Ableton Live just to name a few. So there you have it, the Duet 2 by Apogee. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments below or you can call, email, or live chat us. Till then, I’m Chris. Be you, be unique at uniquesquared.com.

Comments

  1. [...] to see the results. Recently, we’ve been reviewing a lot of Apogee products like the One, the Duet 2, and the GiO so we’ve come to expect a certain level of quality from anything Apogee. I’m [...]

  2. [...] stand out from the competition.  You can listen to our Podcast which we record through the Apogee Duet 2 or check out our reviews of the Apogee MiC  and Apogee Jam. You can add other Apogee interfaces to [...]