Using the Apogee Duet for iPad & Mac as an external sound recorder

If you’re shooting video with a dSLR, a small semi-pro cam or a consumer level video camera, chances are your sound is not as good as you’d hope. And even if you have provided for an external prosumer audio recorder like the Zoom H4n, the quality of your audio will depend on the quality of the device’s microphone pre-amps. Those of the affordable recorders are good, but not exceptional. But those of the Apogee Duet for iPad & Mac are, so why not using an Apogee Duet as an external audio recorder?

The Apogee Duet for iPad & Mac is an award-winning audio interface, headphone amplifier and MIDI interface. The Apogee DAC/ADC technology inside sounds absolutely brilliant, and it has two near-perfect microphone pre-amplifiers. The Duet for iPad & Mac makes it easy to create professional recordings anywhere on an iPod touch, iPhone, iPad or the Mac. The Duet was conceived to record music, but having quite a lot of experience with it myself, I can vouch for its quality when recording interviews and voice-overs.

The Apogee Duet for iPad and Mac

Inside the Duet you will find the same core components as those found in Apogee’s Symphony device. Unlike the Symphony, though, the Duet can charge any iOS device when powered from AC power itself. In addition, it has two analogue inputs with world-class mic preamps and selectable 48v phantom power for connecting microphones, instruments or line-level devices. The latest models come with Lightning and 30-pin cables for connecting to iOS (7 compatible) devices (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) and a 2 metre USB cable for low latency recording on the Mac.

The Apogee Maestro (OS X Mavericks Compatible) app is available free for download both for iOS and Mac. Maestro offers software control of hardware parameters including input selection and low latency monitoring.

The Duet on the road

The Duet looks great, so it would be a shame if it would get damaged from taking it with you. That’s why I recommend a B&W or Pelican case with plucking foam inside. The foam allows you to make room for the Duet and for an iPad. On the iPad, you should be running any audio recording app capable of recording up to 24-bit 192kHz audio. For video, 24-bit 48kHz is good enough, but higher is always better.

The Duet can power an iPad but only when it’s plugged into an AC power outlet itself, obviously. What you can do, however, is either power your iPad independently from the Duet and use a Power Gorilla or two Powermonkey Extreme battery systems — or similar. It’s more efficient to use a device like the Power Gorilla as that one has plenty of amps to deliver.

The Duet can power 48v phantom-powered microphones such as my two trusted sE Electronics’ se2200A’s, but you can also use battery-powered mics. The best sound quality for an interview, however, comes from microphones that are up to the job. Usually, those are phantom-powered. Here as well, the external battery system comes in handy.

Duet breakout box

The B&W or Pelican case should have room to hold all this equipment, and if you arrange yours well, you can leave everything inside except for the microphones. Apogee sells a breakout box to more neatly arrange the audio cables, but when recording on the road, I think you’re better off with the supplied breakout cable. It’s also cheaper to replace that one if you break yours.