Apogee’s original Duet interface provided two channels of high-quality Microphone, Line and Instrument inputs and a combined stereo headphone and speaker output alongside the company’s renowned digital converters. The palm-sized Duet 2 offers similar features packaged in a nice, new, aluminum casing with significant upgrades and changes while, like the Mk.1 version, the interface only runs under OSX.
The narrow depth of the Duet 2 ($595) is possible because all inputs and outputs are on a breakout cable that connects to the Duet 2 via a firmly fitting multi-pin connector. This design feature will probably be the reason some people are put off the Duet 2, as the interface is rendered unusable should the connector be damaged or lost, although Apogee does offer an optional breakout box as an alternative.
The Duet 2’s inputs consist of a two Line/Microphone/Instrument balanced combi connectors and two balanced line monitor outputs on 1/4-inch jacks. The front panel of the Duet 2 is dominated by a large, clickable, multi-function knob and the “top” panel sports a 1/4-inch stereo headphone output that drove everything I plugged into it at an extremely healthy, yet crystal-clear, volume.
The microphone preamps and converters are new and based on those found in Apogee’s Symphony I/O, and the unit now provides four separate outputs via either the line outs and headphone outs or the optional breakout box, which also acts as an extender for the inputs and outputs (not the headphone out—the panel HP out is always active). The mic preamps provide up to 75 dB of gain, and the Duet 2 worked beautifully with my inexpensive ribbon mics, which normally prove noisy through preamps designed for condensers and dynamics.
The most obvious change, apart from the casing, between the Mk.1 and 2 Duet is the move from FireWire to USB2 for connectivity. The Duet 2 has no issues with stereo input and quadraphonic output at sample rates of up to 192 kHz and at 24-bit resolution, and the Duet 2 has lower latency than the original Duet FW. The front face has been completely redesigned, with OLED displays and two touch-sensitive configurable buttons (“Touchpads”) that control output parameters such as mute, dim, sum to mono, and toggling the headphone source. The OLED displays provide clear metering and indications of phase setting, phantom power and soft limit status – the latter being Apogee’s analog limiter, which works surprisingly well at coping with digital overloads.
An international power supply is provided for those occasions when USB power is unavailable. The Maestro 2 control software allows you to set and review input and output levels, sample rates, input type, phantom power, phase settings, clocking source, speaker and headphone mutes and configure low-latency mixer settings.
Comparing the preamps and conversion to the original Duet clearly shows the superior sound quality of the 2 over its predecessor (which was no slouch itself), and it’s definitely approaching the transparency, weight and detail of the Apogee Symphony I/O and my Metric Halo ULN-2. While I still have some reservations about the mini-loom arrangement for connections, I use Duets on a daily basis and have had no problems at all with them. As with the original Duet, there are no digital connections. With the Duet 2, Apogee has taken a highquality interface and improved it in the areas that matter—sound quality, ease of use, metering and overall robustness.