About Me

My photo
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.


Anonymous said...

Radical post, I've been trying to decide between the two soundcards and this definately helps me make an informed decisions. Well done.

Anonymous said...

nice review thanks, I'd like a DUet but money a little tght so for now I'll go ONE, wish DUET had a bulit in mic.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking the time to do this.

Anonymous said...

have you seen the sturdy duet breakout box?

mercenary audio sells them- I can't remember the exact name,
but there's two models, (balanced or unbalanced) and they start
at us$100. a nice replacement for the breakout cable.

Anonymous said...

Why the hell would they have different track counts? Do you actually believe any processing is done at all by these little boxes?


Anonymous said...

Each audio track introduces an IO bandwidth. But it is true that for Audio instuments it is mostly about the CPU power.

Tom said...

Great post, thanks for the effort.

Tony said...

Hi Tom, thanks for taking the trouble to write this. I actually use the Duet and love it, but was thinking of 'downgrading' to a One to free up the firewire bus on my iMac. Based on your review I think I'll look for another solution.

Cheers, Tony

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the comparison review. I think I'll go with the Duet.

Anonymous said...

You must have gotten the latency thing wrong. With a buffer size of 1024, the latency has to be HORRIBLE. Think about it, at 44100 samples per second 1024 samples equals 23ms (in theory, the actual latency will be higher depending on driver efficiency). That's one way, if you want to monitor an input, you'd have 46ms.

Anonymous said...

Really appreciate this research, i just have to go with the duet,big boi style. Hope you have success.

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is a very helpful review. Thanks for taking the time.

George said...

Excellent review - thanks. I bought the 'One' because it's handy for 'one' person: I can pack what I need in a laptop case, and make scratch recordings anywhere. I don't think it's intended for more than that. You get what you pay for.

Peanut said...

Good post!

I've just purchased a One and although I'm enjoying using it I do have a few small gripes -

I can't understand why they'd mandate the use of their 'Maestro' software to change between inputs.... surely there's a way I can select which input I want to use from right there in my DAW without having to load up this other program every time?

Also, whats the deal with the non-standard USB connector.... the only advantage I can see here is to Apogee, that they make more money in replacement cable sales when users invariably lose theirs. Would it have been so crazy to have just used a normal mini-USB connector??!

Another gripe (although I'm sure there's more likely to be a good, technical reason why this isn't possible) is that for a unit with three separate inputs, it'd be nice to be able to record from all three at once, or at least two.....

Other than that, I'm sold. It's about a gazillion times more expensive than I'd like it to be but it's small, extremely portable, very easy to use and sounds fantastic.

Here endeth today's essay.

Anonymous said...

You were totally right! It's defective by design. I broke cable connector of my One in two weeks. Then I put all into a self-made durable metal casing, with 1/4 input and output connectors directly in case, now it works great and seems to be strong enough.

Thanks for the comparison. I regret that I did not listen

Min Tran said...

Thanks so much for your review. I think I will get a ONE. How does the playback quality of ONE compare to Duet?

Male Voice Talent - Dave Pettitt said...

Frederick... can't tell you how much I appreciate the review. I'm on my way out the door to buy one of the other and I think you've swayed me to spend a few more bucks on higher quality.
Many Thanks

Anonymous said...

Very good article!


Anonymous said...

Frederick, thank you so much. Such a great review. Still, may I ask you a question in regard to Sound Quality? What exactly do you mean by "very close"? What is the main difference between the two sound samples you recorded, in case there's any.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post! Cool gear, too.

Paul Abrahams said...

The Apogee ONE is USB 1.1 not USB 2 thats why there's latency compared to firewire. You might want to edit your post to cover this error. The new ONE which is out in MAY 2013 will be USB 2.

steven davies said...

Great review. I'm a bit of a dunderhead when it comes to the tech stuff - I'm not sure about whether I need stereo? But if I simply want to record guitar and vocals (seperately) using garageband then upload song to iTunes/Soundcloud/YouTube will the ONE be good enough or is the Duet better choice?

Charles Jones said...

A great help - thanks a lot for your "hands on" advice!