chips as used in the orpheus
and UFX sound quite nice coupled with good quality poly caps, decent op-amps
, and careful design. Those chips are about $20 a piece (less in quantity) and are digitally controlled. My guess is that's what the Apollo is using.
Design aside, and obviously sharing a PCB and PSU with the rest of the kit good PGA2500
based pres could probably be done in quantity for $30-$40 per channel, bringing the cost of 4 pres to less that $200 easily, and with quite usable quality well above what Mackie boards provide.
The SHARC chips can be had for about $35 (cheaper in quantity) making the DSP section about $140 or less.
Good converter chips can be had for $20 or less per chip in quantity. CS5381 stereo ADs are $20 in quantity. $80 for 8 AD CS4398
DA chips are about $7 in quantity so $35 for 10 DA. To be safe, figure $120 for converter chips.
We're at $460 for 4 good pres, 4 DSP chips, and the same converter chips as used in the Prism Orpheus
Figure about $700 more for the psu, chassis, connectors, FW/USB system and of course some nice clean BB op amps, poly caps...knobs, etc and I'll bet they can still make a hell of a box for about $1200 a piece. That's $1300 margin for UA and Sweetwater to make their cut before a single plugin is bought. Heck, even if it's another $1000 in parts there's still a grand left over for the margin.
Never underestimate manufacturing might and the mass-production discounts.
Now will we see PGA2500 based pres or cheaper THAT or BB designs? My guess is they go with the PGA2500
to run even with Apogee, RME and Prism. Plus, the fact they are digitally controlled almost gives that away.
Will we see those very same converter chips? Probably not. They'll probably go with a slightly lower spec quad AD pair and Quad DA pair, which won't matter much if the op amps and design around them is done right. BB or AD op amps is my guess...this thing will not quite match the Orpheus
, but will match the Lynx or RME. The 118db quoted specs are probably from the chip data sheets, not the actual box, so measured results will be lower (unweighted will for sure be lower). It won't matter much. We're talking a difference of 3-4 dB of dynamic range...and we'll still be well in the 110's.
I'm betting a quad box costs them less than $1500, and for that price, they "CAN" make a damn fine sounding unit for sure. Whether they did or not remains to be seen. It certainly isn't impossible to expect the quality that's being speculated.
I doubt SQ will be less than the RME UFX that many people are already thinking of ditching for this device.
Drivers? Won't even come close. Not even this time next year or two years from now. How good they are, and can get will determine how well this box does against the competition it will be up against.
Lynx, Apogee, RME, even MH and Prism are all just as capable as each other as far as how good of a record can be made on them. All other things equal, I doubt most ears could tell the difference between a production made on any of them.
My guess is that the Apollo will sit somewhere in that mix as well. UA has never been a lower-end market company anyway.