Universal Audio Apollo Twin DUO USB by hyperstate
Retailing at upwards of £650, this audio interface certainly isn't the cheapest model around. But when we factor in the dual SHARC UAD chips included, it becomes clear that it's actually pretty good value. Considering most decent AIs retail for 150-300, and the price of two solo pci dsp cards would be around £700... AND the free plugins you get, it's great value for money.
Now, onto the interface itself. It's made of sleek, brushed metal; it's often warm to the touch, so try not to worry about that even if it gets hot (although if it becomes too hot to touch, then yes there's a problem). I contacted support to confirm and was told it's a very common question, and unless it's physically too hot to touch it's operating under normal conditions. Perhaps something to be aware of though if your studio gets hot.
At the front, we have line in for guitar; at the back we have an optical in, and two XLR ins that are both dual line / mic.
Again at the front, we find a port for the headphones. Incidentally, the Apollo features a dedicated headphone channel which is very useful if you want to put correction software on only the headphone bus. At the back, there are two stereo line outs, and the necessary USB / power cables go here.
I really can't fault the build quality; it's very sturdy being made of metal, and has a comforting weight which implies luxury. Not that you'd ever want to chuck an expensive bit of kit like this around, but it feels like it would survive a bashing.
The apollo comes with a fairly deep and complex 'Console' app. This lets you perform feats such as recording through the wide array of UAD plugins in realtime, allowing you to emulate expensive recording gear; and route channels through virtual channels for situations where you need more complicated routing.
Let's be real, this is probably the most important factor when buying a soundcard. As you'd expect from UA, the ins / outs are pristine and the ASIO driver takes a lot of heat off your processor; plus once you start utilising some of the incredible UAD plugins, your mixes will thank you
All in all, I have no regrets about buying this interface. Highly recommended.