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Anyone else less than thrilled with UA Apollo?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by JesterMasque, Jul 21, 2015.

  1. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    Here's my setup:

    Steinberg UR824
    Universal Audio Apollo 8p
    Presonus DIGIMAX FS (ADAT into UR824 or 8p)
    Audient MiCO (S/PDIF into UR824 or 8p)
    Chameleon Labs 7622 (TRS into the UR824 or 8p)
    MacBook Pro Retina 2.4GHz i7 Quad-core
    Cubase 5, 7.5, 8
    SMPro Passive 1 Source Box
    Event 20/20 bas V3 Monitors
    Better treated control room than most
    (Assume everything is properly connected with balanced Mogami cabling, as it is)

    Hokay, so, I seriously thought that the Universal Audio Apollo 8p was going to be a tremendous upgrade to my rig here at the studio, so yesterday I recorded one of my drum kits in the studio with the UR824. Then with the same mic setup and routing, I recorded it again (same song, same parts) with the Apollo 8p after hooking it all up. It sounds..identical..on the way in AND the way out. Monitoring from both units, both parts, there was no difference that I or either of my assistants could hear (one actually mentioned that the UR824 sounded beefier in the kick and toms on a blind listen, but I attribute it to my possibly hitting a little harder yesterday? I don't know..)

    Oh yeah, being on Cubase 7.5, the UAD plugins had the weirdest glitches and freezing issues. Turns out there are a ton of complaints about this since last summer, but you won't find those threads when reading reviews on the unit itself..

    I don't know, I feel it's a crap ton of hype when all of the internets are calling it one of the best interfaces short of a Symphony or Avid HD.. I get that the Thunderbolt destroys the USB 2.0 in terms of high mass data transfer (especially when running 16 channels of 96k), but I don't know if it is justifiable to spend $2,000 more just for that.

    I was truly expecting a world of a difference for that much pocket change, as I saved half of the year to get this thing, but in the end I just want to go back to my Steinberg and maybe buy another pair of MD421's or another C414 XLS to get some Blumlein action, maybe start building my Lunchbox with some 1073 or WA12 modules.. I don't know, man, maybe even build some more bass traps or something for my control room.

    Anyone else feel the same? Or am I the only one.. I saved a bunch of cash to spend on what I thought the weakest link in my rig was..
  2. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    First, be sure that you are not recording some dsp applied effects within the UA.
    What I would expect from a unit of that caliber is to have a transparent sound. You may not like that transparent sound but before throwing it away, make sure you are comparing the results with equal setups.
    1. It may depend on how hard you hit the preamps
    2. Are the levels matched? You can specify the input and output levels on those units (-10db or +4db) it will change the volumes greatly and louder is often perceived to sound better
    A well regarded unit that could be an alternative is the Antelope Zen studio, it is less expensive and have more preamps ;)
  3. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    Yeah, we matched the inputs going in and even made some very small gain changes in Cubase to match them as close as possible.

    The big thing is not that it sounded bad at all, but I was rather disappointed to hear a lack of difference for all the extra money it cost of my UR824. The A/B tests with all of my friends that have ears to hear were inconclusive at best, as everyone thought both recordings were done with the same interface.

    As for the plugins, I disregarded the UA console for al things other than routing and settings. I did try a bit of the unison technology, but the plugin was so buggy that I was getting framerate drops and some of the "switches" didn't even flip when you clicked them. Called UA, they blamed Cubase and said their dev team can't keep up, but I call BS because people have been complaining about these issues since last year.
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    I get you.. not enough difference for the $$$

    On last thing I thought of.. did you compare the files while using the D/A of the UR824 or the UA ? I say this because the converters may be coloring the sound the same way for the 2 recordings. UA should be more transparent..

    UA interfaces are not considered to have the best preamps out there and certainly not near any boutique preamps but I've heard good things about their converters.
    Shovelling problems to the neighbor is easy..

    Other things to consider is that on a wide production, not a lot of units gets as good as the prototype, but some get close. How many are better depends on their quality control.
    So you might be the owner of one of the exceptionnal built of the UR824. I would be very interested to know if that's the case or if they all sound good like that,...
    I'm planning to add some additionnal more affordable preamps to my settup for when I get a projects with extra musicians and I don't have 3k to buy more highend preamps. ;)
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I got them and passed them onto someone who could appreciate them more than me. The entire UAD thing is serious bloat. Its a great addition to Pro Tools.
    Some days I really miss a simple console and Tape Deck. :cool:
    Makzimia and pcrecord like this.
  6. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    @audiokid I was just thinking on pinging the young guy I gave my VS1880 to, I know he's not really using it... ahh the simple days. Not that a VS1880 is really simple, but, it's got great sounding fast work flow. And you got rid of the Apollos hey, interesting...
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    totally agree.
    Roland almost sent me their new rig. I wanted it so bad. I don't expect it to sound like our systems but the simplicity of it, I really like and miss.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    FWIW, here's SOS's Review on the VS1880:

  9. Makzimia

    Makzimia Active Member

    Actually owned one for a long time, it was sitting around now, gave it to a young guy who had no money and wanted to get into recording. He's not much of a go getter though, it's sat around mostly. I still think it was one of the best tools I have had. Getting into what I have has slowed me down more times than I can count still LOL. Simple can be so much more fun.

    pcrecord likes this.
  10. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    I hope this isn't taken wrong, but this could be the case of not looking at the full recording chain and thinking one part of it will make that big of a difference. I am sure the UAD has advantages, and is really great, but ... Not sure how will be appreciated if there are other "on going" issues.

    In other words, it is still about the total chain (player, performance, room, mic etc.). I would love to upgrade to this level, but before I would, there is much more work to be done to be ready for such a fine piece of equipment.
  11. JesterMasque

    JesterMasque Active Member

    Well, I'm certainly open to that idea, but the point that so very many people on different systems (and my own) found little to no difference at all just boggles my mind. In my defense, an audio interface is the point where all things meet and disperse again with the most complex sort of conversion in and out. I thought for sure there would be SOME kind of difference. I have been using the exact same rig for years through live room and control room upgrades. My studio is completely based on tracking the best sounding live drums I can afford to for my clients.

    Again, I think that getting some other microphone or starting my Lunchbox would provide a much more interesting change in workflow. My system is super stable right now, and I don't think adding the potential for a buggy interface is a good investment when I am so slammed up for work in the coming month.
  12. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    I couldn't say with 100% certainty, I think in the AD/DA conversion we've reached a level that it is what it is, regardless of price point. I think what you gain at the higher price points are, distributed load, lower latency, handling of more inputs (ADAT). Then you get into the pre-amps of a unit, this seems to be about the only place the front end of the chain is going to get the improvement, the amps out to the monitors would also be another place.

    Maybe somone will educate me as well.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'm not so sure about this. I find it difficult to believe that the converters in something like a $100 entry level Tascam i/o, are of the same quality as those that are considered to be pro models; like an Apogee Rosetta, Lynx Aurora, or an RME ADI, to name just a few.

    Unless your comment was directed more towards comparisons made between pro-level conversion systems only, at which point, I'd think that any of the top-notch systems would likely be very similar in their respective quality/fidelity.

    That being said, I think it's important to recognize that the converter - as important as this link is - is still only one link in the signal chain.

    If you have cheap mics, cheap preamps, or, even cheap monitors - while upgrading to a nicer converter will certainly help some - doing so won't be nearly as effective, or be able to work at its optimum, providing an audible improved difference, if you are still using other cheap stuff in the same gain chain. At that point, what you'll end up with is a fantastic conversion quality... of bad sound. LOL

    IMHO of course.
  14. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    Could be a few levels, just because of the price points. But these chips, once they get produced become so cheap, it becomes more of a commodity. It becomes a volume game once in full production. Kind of like Intel's chip sets. I can find i7's in $500 systems and $1500 systems. All things being equal on the chip, the price difference is on the MB, graphics, HD, screen, build, etc. But it is the same chip across all price points.

    Maybe there could be AD/DA grades, but since these chips are so focused, not sure if offering various grade levels would make business sense. Maybe based on certain measurements, they sell the chips at different levels. I remember when I worked in fiber optics, single process for the cable, but they sold the cable based on measurement results. Maybe that could be the difference. Grade A, B, C based on what each chip measured (it can be automated and sorted).
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's an intriguing notion... perhaps they do the same kind of grading, with things like THD, jitter, phase, and other pertinent parameters of the various components being tested and "ranked".

    It's a good question actually... I'm dubious that Lynx is using the same converters as that of which a Tascam or Behringer i/o would have built-in, but I would be interested in knowing what criteria is used when "rating" them for quality.
  16. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    (haven't we had this discussion a million times already?)

    the difference is in the implementation. better signal paths in and out of the chip. discreet or high quality op amps instead of a cheapo surface mount components, better design of the circuits. very similar to the difference between a Golden Age Neve clone and the real thing.
    pcrecord and audiokid like this.
  17. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    That would be my opinion as well.

    I am sure there are a few different chip manufacturers out there, just not that many as the volume just isn't there.
  18. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    That's why I don't look like Brad Pitt !! ;) Same parts but not the same quality (DNA)
  19. DM60

    DM60 Active Member

    How about same grade, you are built exactly to specification, which is how quality is measured. Grade on the other hand, is a bit different ;)
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    We need to come up with some comparisons where people relate.
    Chip = car motor?
    But you can't drive a car without the transmission, tires, gas, and all the other counterparts to actually move the damn thing .
    Is it a bus, car, 18 wheeler, Ferrari, Smart Car etc. That is the other parts to it.

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