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Apogee Duet 2 USB2 Audio Interface

Duet is a “must have” for those desiring Apogee-grade preamps and converters with USB2 connectivity in a small, portable package.

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 Apogee’s renowned digital converters.

The Duet 2 ostensibly offers similar features packaged in a nice, new aluminum casing that complements the Unibody Macbook Pros nicely and, like the original version, the interface only runs under OSX. There have been some significant upgrades and changes to the new Duet.

Features

The Duet 2 itself is a sturdy, palm-sized interface that slips easily into a bag or large pocket. It’s a pretty weighty device and has a nice rubber base that should keep it firmly on your desktop. The unit’s narrow depth is possible because all inputs and outputs are on a breakout cable that connects to the Duet 2 via a firm-fitting multi-pin connector. This might be a reason for some people to be put off the Duet 2, as the interface is rendered unusable should the connector be damaged or lost. Apogee does offer an optional breakout box.

The Duet 2’s inputs consist of a two Line/Microphone/Instrument balanced combi-connectors and two balanced line monitor outputs on quarter-inch jacks. The front panel of the Duet 2 is dominated by a large, clickable, multi-function knob and the “top” panel sports a quarter-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, a useful addition for those wanting to use their Duet 2s in an installed studio setting. 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 between the original and Duet 2 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 at 24-bit resolution, and has lower latency than the original Duet FW. The front face has been completely redesigned, with OLED displays and two touchsensitive configurable buttons (Touchpads) that control output parameters. The OLED displays provide clear metering and indications of polarity 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.

Maestro 2 Software

This is the same software used with Apogee’s other interfaces such as the Symphony I/O, and offers the user a subset of the features relevant to the more limited Duet 2. You can set and review input and output levels, sample rates and configure low-latency mixer settings, clocking details, mutes, input type, phantom power and polarity.

In Use

Once you’ve set the soft touch buttons and other parameters in Maestro 2, you��ll most likely use the central knob to control the day-to-day running of the interface. Comparing the preamps and conversion to the Duet 1 clearly shows the superior sound quality of the 2 over its predecessor (which was no slouch itself), and it definitely approaches the transparency, weight and detail of the Apogee Symphony I/O and my Metric Halo ULN-2.

Summary

It is unfortunate that there are no digital connections and, while four outputs is better than two, it still makes 5.1 mixing impossible. Apogee has taken a robust, high-quality interface and improved it in the areas that matter: sound quality, ease of use, metering and overall robustness.

Price: $595 list

Contact: Apogee Digital | apogeedigital.com

Stephen Bennett is an engineer, filmmaker and music technology educator at University of East Anglia’s School of Music, Norwich, U.K.

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