Input\Output Audio Review: UA Apollo vs. World-Class Recording Studio

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In this installment of Input\Output, Geoff and Eli put the Universal Audio Apollo up against a vintage Neve 8068 console and classic Studer 827 tape machine, to see if the two could possibly compare.

How do they compare?

They A/B real tape to tape simulations, as well as converters and preamps to models of classic electrical circuits. Geoff and Eli conducted these tests at Stratosphere Sound in Chelsea.

To listen to the podcast, click here or right click below:

Download Input\Output: UA Apollo vs. World Class Studio

If you’d like to download the original test files in high-resolution WAV format to A/B and null-test for yourself, right-click the link below:

Apollo vs. World-Class Recording Studio Test Files

  • Ben

    So, what converters were used to get the tape recordings into Pro Tools…

  • Anonymous

    I think we said it, but in case it got cut, we used Digi 192’s.

  • guynoir

    So we’re going to A/B these two systems by listening to audio that has gone through a codec and into computer speakers??

  • Anonymous

    well sir, if you are implying that this is a waste of your time, why then, did you bother to post? or perhaps i am misreading your comment.

    so, mr. noir, if i might make two points:
    1-if you don’t have a proper audio system to listen on, then what do you listen to music on? how do you tell if it sounds good, bad or mediocre? i’d suggest that you download the clips and compare them yourself in the environment of your choice. or perhaps listen to the scintillating insights of our podcast in a higher fidelity environment. and if you don’t have access to one of those, then might i suggest that perhaps you are not the guy who is interested enough about sound quality to bother listening to a test like this in the first place?
    2-since so many people these days do have laptop speakers or ipods as their primary source of music, i would say that not only is this a good real world test, BUT if you can’t tell the difference, it probably doesn’t matter. but i think you will be able to tell the difference in some of our comparisons and perhaps not in other cases.

  • You forgot to mention that listeners can also hear the full resolution WAV clips, pre-codec. It’s right there in the 5th sentence I think. Maybe he didn’t get that far?

  • IraCord

    Confused: why would you do this test WITHOUT using the EQ on the 8068 or 31102? Also -trained by Studer-the A800 & 827 are NOT exactly alike! I have used an 8068 hundreds of times & an A800-have taken them apart, and love them! Most people set Studers up…wrong!
    I have an Apollo Quad & UAD2 Quad for addl mixing. I love the 31102 by UA, and do NOT love the A800 sim! I also use-Real-focusrite ISA 110s from the Forte console with Line Amps modified to my specs! The EQ on those are-imho-The Best! THAT & Apollo are…SWEET!!!!!! Bottom Line-no home studio will ever ever ever compare to Capitol, Ocean Way, Abbey Road, Record Plant, etc.
    One can only try to do your best! As the amazing Tom Dowd said ” A great singer and great song with an SM58 beats a 67, 49, withOUT substance, etc EVERY time!” Same goes for MCI vs NEVE!
    (Tho I do NOT like ManyConfusedIndividuals desks!)

  • Anonymous

    The reason we didn’t test the EQ on the 31102 is twofold.

    First we wanted to avoid having to control for so many additional variables. Just comparing those two elements alone would have been a pretty involved process. This is all the more so when you consider the simple fact of trying to pick the 4 channels that are most similar to one another would be a time consuming process alone. Its one of the main things that makes analog analog and digital digital, right?

    The second reason is that we were…tired. Setting this up took us longer than you would expect. Plus, Eli’s drum and piano performances, as admirable as they are, well, he’s not getting any younger! So making him play that much more after midnight? Nope. You can only get so much done in a day, and what you hear is what we could pull off. Sorry if it seems incomplete.

    Your assertion that the Studer 800 and 827’s are different, well the smart ass kid in me would like to respond that if you actually LISTEN to the podcast, that’s about the first thing I indicated. Its also the case that the weather can effect a tape alignment, RMG tape is now made in Holland not Germany and reflects the difference in humidity, UAD modelled the Studer A800 plug-in on 2 specific channels of a tape machine we didn’t have access to, and that the Neve at Stratosphere was recapped in 1999 with electrolytics not tantalums. In fact, I think we took great and tedious pains to point out exactly how our comparison is not apples to apples. The real point is to compare them in a “does it work way” not does it sound like the exact same thing?

    If you’ve ever had the nerve-wracking experience of recalling a mix month later you are well aware of the fact that even in the exact same studio, it’s never 100% the same when you come back a month later. Something is ALWAYS a little different. Maybe the line trim values on the console changed, maybe someone moved a module or fixed one. Maybe the outboard gear got upgraded. So doing a test to show what is possible and how things compare was our goal. Not proving that software and hardware are identical.

    As for your assertion that no home studio will ever compare to Ocean Way, well, meet the Borg…and prepare to be assimilated 🙂

  • These nay-sayers annoy me. I think it’s a very good/ reasonable comparison. Although to me there was no doubt that the UA will beat the hardware in every manner (price, value, maintenance, ease of use, etc etc) except for the two hardware stronghold (where it was sure to loose) – tactility (having actual knobs you can grab and turn) and sound quality (although that day will come). I know it’s subjective, but I think most people would agree in an abx that the hardware is still better in terms of sound.

  • David E

    The plugins sound AMAZING!! To all the doubters out there about plugins sound as good or indistinguishable from their hardware counterparts.. they’re full of it! People are acting like it’s 1985!! Technology in computers has grown exponentially thus allowing for computer plugins to sound as good and even better than the hardware. For some people that’s hard to believe, but hay..we can close we can close audio devices!! What??? did u think it wasn’t going to be possible?? Tape & analog hardware is great, but the price is just too much for most & the advancements in technology have made software that damn good in audio fidelity! Any audio device can be cloned/ emulated & I guarantee, these days u won’t be able to tell the difference!!
    And besides….. the public just wants to hear the end product..either it be music or sound for film…as long as it is something good!!

  • SoundsGoodMicah

    Hey guys, this is a lot of fun! Thanks for doing this. Its something I would do if I had the means, well I’ve actually compared the UAD LA2A and the 1176 to the real hardware and brought a couple engineers in the room to see if they could tell the difference and the could not hear anything worth mentioning, so similar. I love my apollo! The Neve 80series is my favorite console!! Hit Factory has a 8078 in thier Studio C and I always preferred it to the SSL. Once again, awesome work, thank you!

  • SuperAudioMan

    Hey guys! Comparing Analog to Digital Processing is not about the different sound, it’s about the different workflow (and knowledge needed)!

  • Joe V

    I don’t change the hybrid process is the best experience you can get, the digital will never replace the analog. UA sounds good but you notice the diference between mixer vs plugin is other thing.

  • Syncamorea

    Well done! Great discussion of the finicky details placed in the context of real world trade-offs.

  • This was a great test guys. Having some of the hardware emulated by UAD, Im blown away using both versions in the same session. I typically track with the hardware and mix with the plugs. With the right tweaking, they can be used interchangeably without anyone, including myself, being the wiser

  • John Snider

    I actually preferred the 2nd piano recording through the Apollo. It seemed to have more stereo width or something, and the lows and highs seemed to stand out a bit clearer.

  • jensomatic

    Having heard so many comparisons and having done quite a few myself I just can’t figure out how someobody who is in the Pro-audio business can NOT hear the difference?!! Ehm, seriously, the emulation sounds fragile and weak compared to the real deal, it’s a completely different feel. How long do we have to put up with these raves until people just accept digital for what it’s good for and stop that wannabe shit. Digital is cool and all that but it just doesn’t sound analog and that’s how this world was made folks, simple as that.

  • Hardware sounds better …

  • Mark pianist

    Been 4 years since your reply but I just found this podcast about 6months ago. I now own a black face because of this podcast. I Just got it. I don’t hear any difference on any of these podcast wav examples listening on my studio monitors Genelec 1030a. As far as other hardware, sometimes it has more depth but so dang close who cares?

  • Mark pianist

    I just got my black face 8p because of this podcast, so I totally agree with you. UAD is turning the audio world upside down!

  • Mark pianist

    Disagree. don’t know what your hearing! I don’t hear that much of a difference and I am listening in a tuned studio with Genelec 1030a’s. I know just bought a black face because of this.