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Apogee Goes Native

Two new audio interfaces can be controlled by Macs, one natively through Core Audio By Frank Moldstad
Apogee Ensemble
Ensemble units with Logic Pro 7 at Apogee's NAMM booth
With a new generation of powerful Intel-based Macs around the corner, and Apple readying its Logic Pro 7.2 update, Apogee Electronics picked the right time to unveil two slick new multi-channel audio interfaces that are designed specifically for Apples PowerMac.

Called Ensemble and Symphony, they can be controlled directly through software on the Mac, Ensemble natively from within Logic Pro 7.2. Together, they bring exciting new possibilities for self-contained audio production on the Mac, including professional sessions with extremely high-track counts. Both products debuted at the Winter NAMM convention, and are scheduled to be available in February.

Ensemble ($1,995 list) is an external rackmountable unit offering eight channels of 24-bit/192k AD/DA conversion, while Symphony ($795 list), is a 24-bit/192k PCI Express card that provides 32 channels of digital I/O. Ensemble can be controlled both natively from within Logic Pro 7, or in the box with any CoreAudio application using Apogees included Maestro application -- a software interface between OS X applications (OS 10.4 and above) and Apogee hardware. Most user interactions with Ensemble and Logic will be from directly in Logic's Apogee Control Panel, a feature in the coming Logic Pro 7.2 Universal Crossgrade. The Apogee Control Panel has all the same functionality as Maestro with the exception of the low-latency mixer. Users will need to run Maestro for controlling Ensemble in other CoreAudio-compatible software (Apple or third-party). And Symphony can be controlled only with Maestro. 


There's a deep range of on-screen controls with Ensemble, for I/O routing and functions such as levels, phase inversion and phantom power. Plus, the control panel can enable built-in Apogee processes such as Soft Limit for preventing digital overs, UV22HR dithering from 24-bit to 16-bit, and SRC (sample rate conversion). Apogees Intelliclock is also built in, providing dual-stage jitter reduction for digital signal stability.

Ensemble is designed for integrated hardware and software audio production. It includes
four mic preamps with two balanced inserts on each channel. It also has four Hi-Z inputs for guitars, keyboards and other instruments, and there are two independent headphone outputs. Connectivity includes eight channels of ADAT I/O, FireWire 400 I/O, and two channels of S/PDIF I/O. All eight analog outputs can be used at once, and between the eight analog, eight ADAT, and two S/PDIF jacks, a total of 36 channels of I/O is possible 18 channels in and out simultaneously. The main outputs can be configured for two-channel stereo, 5.1 surround and 7.1 surround.

As a digitally controlled interface with built-in mic pres for under $2,000, Ensemble doesnt compare directly to the other straight converters in Apogees line, which start at $2,995 for a comparable number of channels with the Rosetta 800, says Apogee Marketing Manager Sean McArthur. ?
Ensemble is designed to be best-in-class in the digital interface category and will compare favorably to any multi-channel box within $1,000 of its price point, he says. ?The Rosetta series is a step up converter-wise. And the AD/DA-16X is a step up from that.

Symphony, Apogees other new Mac-centric product, is a 192kHz digital interface designed for the PCI Express architecture in PowerMacs. It is a scalable solution that can  accommodate demanding production situations where track counts escalate quickly such as film or TV scoring.

Each Symphony card is capable of 32 inputs and 32 outputs simultaneously, and up to three Symphony cards can be installed in one Mac. This makes it possible to have an incredible 192 total channels of I/O natively in a single PowerMac (96 simultaneous inputs and outputs).

A 192-channel I/O setup would require a corresponding number of converter channels -- six each of Apogees 16-channel AD16X and DA16X interfaces, or 12 of the eight-channel Rosetta 800 AD/DA interfaces. Each converter unit would need to have one of the new optional X-Symphony cards ($195 list) installed. Unified control of the entire setup is provided by Apogees Maestro software, including routing and patchbay functions. Maestro's flexibility will also allow it to control an AD and DA-16X connected to a Symphony card and an Ensemble connected via FireWire.

Optional X-Symphony card

For those with more modest needs, a variety of configurations are possible that would still provide Symphonys control of outboard converters. One Symphony card and a Rosetta 800 would enable eight channels of simultaneous I/O, which is fine if no more than eight tracks need to be recorded at once, with outputs submixed to eight busses. Another Rosetta 800 or an AD16X and a DA16X could be added for more simultaneous tracks, still without exceeding the Symphonys 32-channel capacity.

The other option, of course, is an Ensemble. Apogees covered all the bases, and in the process it has created radical new possibilities for native Mac audio production with Logic Pro 7, Soundtrack Pro, Final Cut Pro or other CoreAudio applications.

More information can be found on Apogee's web site here and Apple's web site here.

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Related Keywords:Apogee, NAMM , Ensemble, Symphony, Logic Pro, Apple, PowerMac, CoreAudio, Intel-Macs

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