apogee duet - sound card review part one

first off, let me explain a couple of things: my go-to software in the world of the digital audio workstations (daw) is digidesign's pro tools. while i use the HD version in my studio, mixomatique, i tend to use the 'lite' version LE on the go with the quite bulky interface mbox 2 pro. however, when i upgraded to mac osx snow leopard upon its release, i could kiss the digidesign drivers i needed to have protools running on the macbook pro goodbye. digidesign have no release date or precise info on when its users can expect pro tools to run under the new os. now, i could have postponed upgrading the os on the laptop, but seeing as the laptop is not the latest model i figured i could use the increased speed of the new cat from apple.

alas, welcome the apogee duet. in addition to using pro tools, i have been a longtime user of ableton live and i also know apple's own logic studio fairly well. they are both excellent daw's and they're also very mac-friendly. knowing that a quality maker of sound cards, apogee, teamed up with apple a couple of years back and started making sound cards that integrated perfectly with os x really helped me narrow the search for a product.

upon unpacking the duet, you clearly sense that it's a quality product. it has a kind of 'apple-feel' to it that fills you up with that 'child-like wonder' fake steve keeps talking about.

some hard facts about the duet:

- the housing is made of aluminum and feels very sturdy- it connects to your computer via firewire 400 or firewire 800 and the cables you need are included- it is bus-powered (yeah!)- it connects to your gear via a breakout cable, which is included- if you just need to listen back you can plug your headphones directly into the 1/4" jack on the duet- the duet has 2 channels in/out and is capable of professional sound quality (24/96)- the duet has two microphone preamps with 48 volt phantom power and over 70db gain- it's got leds that show you volume in/out as well as clipping and if you've got the phantom power engaged- the rubber feet on the back of the unit makes sure the unit doesn't slide around (or off) your table- the dial on top of the unit is pushable and let's you switch between volume in/out and also let's you mute the output- the dial also let's you control parameters in logic studio, garage band and soundtrack pro- it looks great (!)

after downloading and installing the latest drivers from apogee (drivers for snow leopard already on the site) i plugged the duet in for the first time and was immediately greeted by the leds. i jacked in a pair of sennheiser hd600 headphones and listened through parts of my reference list (don't know what a reference list is - just ask) to hear if there were things i immediately noticed about the sound. there were, in fact, two things i noticed: 1. it's really cool having an aluminum knob to turn when you want to change the volume and 2. this little unit sounds pretty good, and to my ears, extremely accurate. we're talking some really good converters at work here.

[photography by stereosaint©2009]