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Apogee Duet 2
Apogee Duet 3
AD/DA Dynamic Range
-106 dB/-113 dB
-103 dB/-110 dB
Price to Performance
Compared to the Duet 3, you can pick up an Apogee Duet 2 for quite a reasonable price. You’ll have to make peace with fewer I/O, but you still get incredibly clear and detailed converters, as well as a solid set of amps that can power even the most stubborn microphones. When it comes to features, the Duet 2’s OLED display is particularly impressive, and the Maestro software has a lot of useful tools as well. Looking past the USB-B connection, we score the interface a 9 in Price to Performance.
If you’re looking for a bargain, the Apogee Duet 3 might not be the better option. Sure, you get a few more inputs, and the DSP FX, ECS Channel Strip and add-on software sweeten the deal considerably. However, it is a slight step down in preamp gain from the Duet 2, and loses out on some of the more useful components such as the OLED display. The interface is absolutely worth it if you need better audio quality and clarity. That being said, we rate the Duet 3 an 8 in the category.
Input and Output connectivity on the Apogee Duet 2 depends on the given breakout cable. While you can invest in a dock for expansion, you only get two Mic/Line/Instrument combo inputs, two balanced outputs, as well as a ¼” stereo headphone out. If you have a bunch of different audio you need to get into your computer, the I/O situation can be limiting. Therefore, we score the interface 8.5 for its ports.
The Apogee Duet 3 boasts a substantial bump in I/O from its predecessor with twice the number of inputs split into two XLR and unbalanced TS connections on the breakout cable. The inputs are the same between both interfaces, however, the Duet 3 has a smaller ⅛” headphone output. Regardless, we rate the interface a 9 ahead of the Duet 2 for its wider port selection.
For an audio interface this small, the Duet 2 has remarkably detailed and transparent preamps and converters. We recorded our audio from a few sources (guitar, bass, voice) and the sound quality of recording and playback blew us away. The interface is well-equipped to deliver more clarity on the top end, and if you need more, you can always warm it up with an external pre. For its performance, we rate the Duet 2 a high 9 out of 10.
The Apogee Duet 3 does a lot right. The preamps on the interface feel like they can flatter any mic running through them. We used our DPA 2011C and an SE8, and got silky smooth sound on both counts. One surprising step back from the Duet 2 is the 10 fewer decibels of gain, however, the better dynamic range is a fine tradeoff. In addition, there’s hardly any latency, and the ECS Channel Strip tweaked our P-bass into producing some absolutely solid tones. For that, the Duet earns a 9.5 in the category.
The Apogee Duet 2 uses a fairly uncommon USB-B 2.0 connection. While it has good latency performance, our MacBook did have some issues recognizing it, so we can’t in good faith rate it any higher than 8.
In contrast, the newer Apogee Duet 3 sports a modern USB-C host connection that’s not only future-proof, but also far more convenient. We rate it a solid 9 over the Duet 2.
Features-wise, the Apogee Duet 2 has a very different setup from its successor. It’s most standout features include the onboard touchpads, which are configurable from the Apogee software, a digital soft limiter to prevent clipping, an OLED display, Maestro 2 software, as well as its 32-bit ESS Sabre32 DAC architecture for ultra-low distortion and latency. This earns it a respectable 8.5 in the category.
The Duet 3 has a lot more to offer in terms of software and plugins, including Ableton Live Lite, Neural DSP Tone King, along with SoundGym. As for hardware, it has a fantastic ECS Channel Strip, Apogee’s DSP FX to power it, as well as a handy zero ohm headphone output that can drive even the most demanding headphones. The reliance on software for Phantom power and other important controls is regretted, but we feel comfortable rating the interface 9.5 for its more practical features.
Based on the results of our scoring model, the Apogee Duet 3 is the winner by a clear margin, with a total average score of 9 points. The biggest contributor was arguably the fuller, warm-bodied, detailed audio, particularly at the top end, which let us hear the finer imperfections in our recordings. The extra inputs also provide considerably more headroom than the Duet 2, and with features such as the ECS Channel Strip and the onboard DSP, you get a more well-rounded product in the Duet 3. Coming off of the older model, connecting to MacBooks wasn’t exactly plug and play, which was something we appreciated in the new USB-C connector.
Of course, we had our reservations about the breakout cable and dependance on the control software initially. However, after some time with the interface, both issues felt like minor quibbles at best. Comparing the two, the few more decibels the Duet 2 has in preamp gain would have been useful here, but for a bit more dynamic range and awesome multi-purpose controls, the Apogee Duet 3 is more than worth it. Nonetheless, if you’re on a tighter budget, the Duet 2 is still a great choice.
All things considered, if you’ve been on the lookout for a compact audio interface with some fantastic controls for mixing and recording, a good number of features, and phenomenal sound quality, we’re confident you can stop looking. From what we’ve seen, you’ll have a fantastic companion in Apogee’s Duet 3!