The Apogee company is known for their high-end converters and audio interfaces. In the recent times, though, Apogee has put more focus into the world of mobile musicians who make music on their Macs. In the following discussion, we will discuss two audio interfaces that are specifically designed for Macs, which are Apogee One vs Duet 2.
After reading this article, you will understand better about:
- The design and build quality of each model
- The software that comes with each audio interface here
- The connectivity options available on each model
- The performance and sound quality of Apogee One vs Duet 2
- The reasons why Apogee Duet 2 is generally more recommended than Apogee One
Apogee One: First Impression
Apogee One is the little brother of the two-channel Apogee Duet 2. It is a single-channel audio interface that is packed in a very compact yet stylish housing. Apogee One is bus-powered through the USB connection, and it comes with a mono input, built-in microphone, and stereo output. Apogee One offers 24-bit audio resolution at sample rates of up to 48kHz and is equipped with a mic preamp with 48V phantom power. See also: Alesis IO2 Express Vs Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
The driver DVD is included, and the installation is very simple. You will need to reboot your device to complete the installation, though. The USB cable is rather short, but this shouldn’t be a problem for the majority of users.
Once Apogee One is connected to your Mac, you can launch the Maestro software and see the Maestro Mixer and Maestro Control pages. On the Mixer page, there are the meter, fader, and mute/solo buttons along with a slightly bigger meter showing the overall output level. On the Control page, there are gain controls for the input and output levels, along with the option to switch the input between Internal Mic, Instrument, External Mic, and External 48V Mic.
The internal mic and the instrument level can offer 45dB of gain, whereas the external mic offers a gain range of 10–63dB. You can switch on the 48V phantom power if you are working with a condenser mic, but this will drain more of your laptop’s battery.
Apogee One: Features & Connectivity
When choosing between Apogee One vs Duet 2, you need to consider how many inputs that you need. Apogee One has an XLR input and a 1/4-inch input, provided through a breakout cable. This has become a common solution for compact audio interface units. The break-out cable has a locking connector, so it won’t get detached just because of a slight tug.
The output is a 3.5mm stereo mini jack at the bottom of the unit. Meanwhile, the big silver knob on the top can be used for controlling the level of an input and output. Simply press the knob to cycle through the available connections, and twist the knob to adjust the level. A display will appear to show the current level. However, if you keep the knob pressed down for one second, it will mute the output.
Finally, Apogee One features an LED indicator for the 48V phantom power. There is also a three-segment LED which indicates the current level of the selected input or output.
However, Apogee One only supports a maximum sample rate of 48kHz. Since this model is mostly targeted at mobile users, the limited sample rates won’t be a problem, as the system itself wouldn’t have enough processing power to work at higher sample rates. Apogee One is very simple and straightforward to set-up, but it offers the option for live low-latency monitoring.
Apogee One: Performance
If we compare the sound quality against the built-in Mac soundcard, the differences are obvious right away. The tracks have a wider stereo image with significantly more depth. The dry sounds are closer more immediate, whereas the wet sounds are much further back.
However, the performance of Apogee One vs Duet 2 also has some notable differences. While the sound of Apogee One is definitely good, it is still inferior compared to the clarity and detail offered by Apogee Duet 2. This is to be expected, as Apogee Duet 2 supports much higher sample rates.
Still, Apogee One is a usable and reliable audio interface. The internal mic is particularly good. It gives very clean results, which is really impressive. The gain level is healthy, and you can easily get accurate vocals with good depth and very minimal noise. Acoustic guitars also sound snappy and nice.
Apogee Duet 2: First Impression
The original Apogee Duet was introduced a few years ago. Then, the company invented Apogee One as a smaller, lighter alternative. Now, the company has impressed the market again with the greatly upgraded Apogee Duet 2.
Apogee Duet 2 appears much more premium than its predecessor, featuring a cool OLED display on the top panel. It also comes with improvements in the features and specs, including the supported sample rates of up to 192kHz. The installation is very simple and painless. After about ten minutes and a reboot, the audio interface can work right away.
The control knob on the top will enable you to adjust the gains and levels of the inputs and outputs. But you can also access these settings along with many other functions through the Maestro 2 software.
On the Input tab, you can select line-level or instrument-level individually for each channel. You can also adjust the mic gain, phantom power, Soft Limit, and Group switching. The Soft Limit is a special process for taming transients in the analog section so that you can maximize the level before conversion, whereas the Group function is for pairing the two mic gains together while keeping the gain offset between them.
On the Output tab, there are pre-conversion levels for the four software outputs. You can select which outputs that are sent to the headphones and loudspeakers. Here, you can also enable the Mono, Dim, or Mute functions for the outputs.
The Mixer tab allows you to perform low-latency monitoring. You can configure the mix balance of the two inputs and the stereo return. Finally, the System Settings tab is where you can select the sample rate and how the Peak Hold meter behaves.
Apogee Duet 2: Features & Connectivity
The original Apogee Duet’s design incorporated elements from the contemporary Macs of its era, including the Firewire connectivity. Apogee Duet 2 now comes with a cool black/aluminum chassis with a USB 2.0 connector in order to fit perfectly into today’s Mac environment.
In addition to the familiar large control knob that also serves as an encoder and select switch, Apogee One vs Duet 2 also comes with two assignable touch-pads and a color OLED display. Inside the unit, there are all-new mic preamps and A-D/D-A converters. The mic preamps have switchable 48V phantom power and offer very useful gain levels ranging from 0–75dB. The A-D/D-A converters are matched with the latest components to ensure the best possible audio performance.
The physical inputs and outputs are sparse. There is a 1/4-inch headphone output on the front. On the rear, you can find the power port, the USB 2.0 port, and the slim port for the breakout cable. On the breakout cable, you can find two analog combo inputs and two balanced line-level outputs.
Apogee Duet 2: Performance
In terms of performance, Apogee Duet 2 is really impressive. It offers astonishing width, depth, and detail on the sounds. The mic preamps are also exemplary, and definitely very viable for serious recording projects. However, there is a minor quirk; if you use high input gains, you may here slight zipper noise when adjusting the gain levels. But you probably won’t need to set the input gains that high.
With the instrument-level input, you can get 65dB of gain, which is really good. With the line-level input, the gain option is removed completely.
The USB connection actually has a very low latency. You can perform software monitoring without any significant delay. However, if you really don’t want to work with some latency, live monitoring via the headphone output is always available.
Most of the time, the USB connection is sufficient for powering the Apogee Duet 2 unit. However, the inclusion of a power port can be useful when high current draw is needed; for example, when you need to switch on the phantom power for condenser mics while working with high-impedance headphones.
Apogee Duet 2 also has a built-in power management system which automatically lowers the headphone level to ensure optimum phantom power performance in the case of excessive current draw. This is definitely useful, but you should just use the power port instead of relying on the bus power when working with phantom power.
Apogee One vs Duet 2
In general, Apogee Duet 2 is more recommended. It has two input channels, so it can be more versatile. It supports sample rates of up to 192kHz, and the overall performance is much better. The sound has better width, depth, and detail. The mic preamps also have better gain levels. Apogee Duet 2 can be bus-powered, but a power port is available when high current draw is needed.