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I own a little home recording studio. I am working on a new album that combines Latin, South African, and Pop influences. Gear: Logic Audio Pro 8, Macbook Pro Dual 2.5 Ghz, Apogee Duet, Modified American Fender Strat (Scalloped and EMG Active Pickups), Flamenco Guitar

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Apogee One Vs Duet

Direct Quote from Apogee regarding the sound quality:
If you don't need stereo inputs, then ONE will be fine for you. It has the same sound quality as Duet. ONE is USB so it can not record at sample rates higher than 48 kHz and will have slightly more latency than the FireWire Duet, but sound quality is equal.
Where it all Started

I recently went mobile with my music studio and purchased a Macbook Pro (Dual 2.5ghz). I did a lot of research and found that the Apogee Duet came highly recommended by many folks in the music industry for professional recording on Mac, especially with Logic Pro. I've been wanting to buy a Duet for quite some time, but the price tag ($500+) is a little high. So I tried ebay. The lowest I've seen the Duet go on Ebay was for $380, so I figured it is best just to save up and buy a brand new one.

Last week my friend told me about the Apogee One that had been recently released at the nice price tag of $249. I was definitely interested, but wanted to make sure it could deliver what I needed. My friend suggested I purchase the One and then compare it under the same conditions to his Duet. I ran over to Guitar Center and purchase the One and these are my findings:

The Apogee One (Just removed from the box):



My Findings

The major difference between the One and the Duet is that the Duet can record two channels at the same time and the One only one, hence the name. I can get around not needing two channels, but what about the sound quality, the longevity, latency, and laptop interface options?

Sound Quality (Duet winner, but not by much)

The One's sound is very close to the Duet's. I asked Apogee support if they used the same DAC, and this is was their' response:

If you don't need stereo inputs, then ONE will be fine for you. It has the same sound quality as Duet. ONE is USB so it can not record at sample rates higher than 48 kHz and will have slightly more latency than the FireWire Duet, but sound quality is equal.

So Duet can record and playback at 96kHz and the one at 48 kHz. In my opinion, I did notice a difference in the sound quality. Enough to pay more for the Duet? Maybe, but probably not. So off to the next issue, Latency.

Latency (Duet winner, but not by much)

One major difference between the One and the Duet, is the interface they use with a computer. The One uses USB 2 (Running at 480MB/s) and the Duet uses a Firewire 400 (Running at 400 MB/s). You would think USB is actually faster than Firewire, but due to the architecture, the management of Firewire is much better than USB. You can get speeds of 70% faster than USB 2 on Firewire 4o0. You can read further about USB vs Firewire here. That is why the Apogee support person was correct in stating a higher latency (a bad thing) when using One. In my opinion, I could detect the latency, but it was not that bad. I had my IO buffer set to 1024 (the highest, causing the greatest possible latency and putting less load on the CPU so you can use the CPU better for other elements in your song) and I could detect I very slight Latency, but not bad enough to mess me up when using my Midi Keyboard. So I was still choosing One over Duet due to the price tag.

Computer Interface (DUET definite winner)

The One uses a USB connector and the Duet a Firewire 400 connector. I really do not like the USB connector, where it plugs into the One. It is a very small and I get the feeling like it is going to break soon. If you move the One around, it is possible that it will come loose. You can actually see the connecor going at a slight angle to the One as you move it. I much more prefer the Firewire 400 connector. It is more firm and stable in my opinion. I am now starting to lean towards paying more for the Duet.
The back view of the One:


The USB connector to the One:

Input and Output Connectors (Duet Winner)

The One uses a click-connector for the inputs and outputs. It is very tiny, and just like the USB connector, I have the feeling that it might break after a year or two. The Duet on the other hand uses something that looks like a midi-joystic controller with two screws to make a really secure connection. I am not scared at all to move my Duet around when producing music, but I have to take great caution with the One to keep it still.

The small click-connector on the One:


The break-out cable of the One:


Casing (Duet Definite Winner)

The One has plastic casing and the Duet has a strong durable metal casing. I love the feel of the Duet. I'm not 100% sure of this, but I think the metal casing will also help with signal interference. Due to the heavier weight, the Duet will also not move on it's own as easy as the One when working with the input and output cables.

Controller (Duet Definite Winner)

The controller of the One is basically a smaller version of the Duet's, except that it is also made of plastic so it is less durable. The size of the Duet controller also made it feel more comfortable.

I did notice something that really put me off. When adjusting the Volume levels of the One's output, there was speaker noise in between when turning the Controller. The Duet was extremely stable and did not produce any speaker noise. This could of course also be due to the USB VS Firewire interface, so not sure, but it was a major factor that made me forgo the One and exchange it for a Duet.

Track Count (Neck to Neck)

I have not done extensive testing on the track count yet, but so far they seem to go neck to neck. I have a hunch that due to the better performance of Firewire, you might be able to run higher track counts with the Duet.

Sound Monitoring (Duet Definite Winner)

The One only has an 1/8 inch stereo jack to monitor. So it works well for hooking up earphones. If you want to listen thru studio monitors (speakers), you have to buy a 1/8 inch to two 1/4 inch splitter. I used it and it worked ok. The Duet has a 1/4 inch earphone jack and two 1/4 inch output jacks. I could plug each studio monitor directly into the output jacks with no splitter needed. The 1/4 inch jacks are also more sturdy in my opinion. I believe in using less wiring where possible, so introducing another splitter to use my studio monitors is not a best option for me.

Why wait? Go Pro today with the Duet or One from Amazon.com:









Final Word

I will choose the One if:
  • If you really don't have $500 and will have to wait a year to save that money, I would go for the One.
  • If you need a pretty good built in mike, I would go for the One
I will choose the Duet if:
  • If you will be travling a lot, I will actually go for the Duet, contrary to what most people are saying. Why...the Duet is much more durable and the connectors are more secure. When you are recording in tight spaces, moving things around a lot, you need secure connections and durable devices.
  • You want something that will last you longer
  • You want lower latency
  • You want slightly better sound
  • You need to record two channels at the same time
  • You want something built with better parts in the US. (The Duet says "Made in the USA" on the back. The One says "Designed in the USA" on the back)
  • You need more secure connector

    Check out some cool recording gear at my pro home recording store.