Universal Audio have been making professional studio equipment for over 50 years and if their new Apollo line of interfaces is anything to go by, the future of Universal Audio is looking very bright indeed!
Universal Audio is the legacy of recording engineer, studio designer, and inventor, Bill Putnam Sr. who famously engineered for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Nat King Cole. Putnam invented the modern recording console, multi-band EQ, the vocal booth, and was the first to use artificial reverb in commercial recording. Over his lengthy career, Putnam created three audio product companies: Studio Electronics, UREI, and Universal audio. These companies manufactured some of the most revered studio equipment of all time, including the ubiquitous 1176 compressor, LA-2A leveling amplifier, and 610 tube recording console.
Today, Universal Audio is owned and operated by Bill Putnam Jr. and James Putnam, who still produce the traditional units their father was famous for, as well as developing new and innovative products such as DSP (digital signal processing) systems, hybrid preamps, and now…audio interfaces.
Upon taking my Apollo Duo out of the box, I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality. I must have flicked the on/off switch twenty times before plugging it in. My experience until now had been to expect subtle but welcome improvements when upgrading audio hardware, but the Apollo changed my perceptions completely. When I first played music through it (it was a rough mix of a track I had been working on), I was blown away. The sound was so much clearer and the stereo image so much wider, that my jaw almost touched my knees. I was so happy with my purchase that I chose to overlook the price of the UAD plugins. OK, the plugins are expensive, but they’re the best I’ve heard by a country mile. The frugal me was quickly silenced when the impulsive me played back a soloed kick drum track with a Fairchild 660 and a Pultec EQP-1A on it. For a moment, I couldn’t tell if war had broken out or my kick drum was playing.
About 2 years after the release of the first Apollo units, UA announced their new Unison technology – preamp modelling for Apollo that hands control of the preamps over to a UAD plugin instance of a famous preamp. It’s not just a post EQ – it physically changes the impedance, analog gain structure, and behaviour of the Apollo preamp. Needless to say, I was very, very pleased to find that my original unit had been built with the future in mind and already had Unison capability built-in. If you’ve ever heard a Neve 1073 preamp, you’ll just have experienced that warm feeling you get whenever anyone mentions it. Neve 1073. Now, we’ve all heard 1073 replicants and let’s face it, they don’t sound like Neve 1073s. Fortunately, UA don’t mess around. Neve and UA produced the 1073 unison preamp together and it sounds EXACTLY like the real thing. Currently, you have a choice of Neve 1073, UA610 A/B, and the API Vision channel strip, with more yet to come.
If you’re looking for a high-end audio interface, I implore you to look at the Apollo units. There are five Apollo units in the line, so you’re bound to find one that suits your specific needs: