When i made my first post in this thread, the Apollo was new, and there was a lot of talk about it being just that, a new product and that the RME ff800 was a proven product. I can concede why last year, that may have been the consensus, but i have been using the Apollo every day for a year now.
In the studio setting, I did buy the Thunderbolt expansion so i know that is a big expense for the interface and the expansion card, however, it made performance of the interface, console app, and DAW session completely hassle free. Even when i used firewire 800 (that'd be a more appropriate comparison to FF800), i rarely got an error message that people sometimes get with any interface via firewire. Even with just the Duo (I use quad now), the DSP limit was still very reasonable.
It's very convenient to have the console app store settings from recording sessions so that you may revisit a specific session to re-track something, without the hassle of finding the right plugin settings again. it's a great time saver. the monitoring options, headphone mixing options, and 2 aux channels make routing options so convenient, it has become my main unit for live sound as well.
In live sound/recording situations, this is a very stable, well performing unit with quality sound. I'm able to use very accurate emulations of Say the SSL or Neve 88RS
across the entire board on the console app, and have high quality reverb sends to either the EMT 140 or Lexicon 224
. The quality of the sound has dramatically improved. my employers, as well as regular bands who play there noticed.
I can concede that it is quite a cost to incur to buy this interface and invest in the better plugins, especially if you want to use thunderbolt. However, this unit is truly innovative, and allows smaller project and home studios to have access to much higher quality DAW recordings. I didn't think the realtime processing would be a big deal until i really experimented with the endless possibilities of amazing tones. It saves a lot of time and memory for editing and post production within the DAW as well.
There are many variables to consider when trying to get clear, studio quality results from your firewire/thunderbolt based DAW studio. This interface won't do everything for you, but in my opinion, as the owner of 2 Apollo's, RME UFX, FF800 and the M-audio profire 2626, this interface will get you a lot closer to that 'perfect sound' than the other interfaces i own if you really know how to utilize the full capabilities of this interface. this is true for both live and studio situations.
just as a quick direct comparison to the FF800, i feel these preamps on the Apollo are more neutral, as well as full. this is especially apparent to me when tracking acoustic guitars and heavily layered vocals. and i'm comparing them with no plugins. The low end on things like drums, and heavily tuned down guitars is also tighter and more neutral when tracking with the apollo, where as the FF800 can't seem to capture them as tightly.