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Apogee Ensemble Personal Thoughts
Old 18th May 2006
  #1
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Apogee Ensemble Personal Thoughts

I spoke with Max earlier this week and promised I'd finally take the time to try out the Apogee Ensemble and give my thoughts, so here it is. Keep in mind, these are my personal thoughts, I don't represent anyone or have any agenda (other than the fact that I just ordered an Apogee Rosetta 200 - will explain later why).

First of all, the unit itself looks beautiful. Brushed metal with the calm blue LEDs that are both useful and visually appealing. In short, the box looks great.

Setting up the unit was easy. One quick driver install with gives you a control app that allows you to control all the Ensemble's settings quick and easily.

The Ensemble was tested with Logic Pro 7.2 and A/B'ed it against a dual G5 2.0 ghz's digital out to a digital receiver and the analog out as well as vs. an M-Audio Audiophile Firewire interface's analog outputs.

So the big question is, how does it sound, and how does it compare to other Apogees?

Just to qualify, I have experience with the following converters: Apogee PSX-100 SE, Apogee AD-8000 SE, Digidesign 192, Digidesign 96, Metric Halo, but I'll compare the Ensemble directly to the Apogee PSX-100 SE and AD-8000 SE.

There are three things I think of when it comes to the "classic Apogee sound".

First of all, rock solid timing, which can especially be heard in rhythm heavy audio,

Second the tight focused bass.

Third, there's a special something in the midrange that I like to call "The Avril Lavigne"/Matrix sound, it's that radio friendliness that works great for rock/pop. People tend to either love it or hate it. The classical folks and the ruler flat crowd tend to not be as thrilled. Anyone who has used the classic Apogee units know what I mean.

So does the Ensemble deliver like the classic Apogee that we know and love?

1. Timing - The rock solid timing is definitely here. What sounded pretty tight and solid with Logic Pro running without the Apogee ended up sounding stiff. Coming out of the Ensemble, the rhythm tracks got their groove back. You could really feel the swing. It just felt "right". So check on #1.

2. Tight Focused Bass - What sounded a muddy and unfocused in the lows and mid lows without the Apogee all of a sudden tightened up coming out of the Ensemble.

3. The Apogee Midrange - Here on this board, I read a lot about folks who love open airy converters with rule flat response, criticize Apogee for not sounding as open and airy and rave about the Lavrys. I think for these people, they will definitely approve of the Ensemble. Sound from the Ensemble feels very open, wide, airy, transparent and bright without sounding shrill. If someone asked me to describe it in terms of subjective qualities, I would describe the sound as clear as air and pure as water.

So what is my final conclusion? In short, I'm jealous. Completely and utterly jealous. Why? I remember back in the day when Apogee Rosetta converters one way (ie, A/D or D/A) for two channels cost as much if not more than the Apogee Ensemble which gives you many more channels. For the folks out there now, never has getting great converters are an even greater price been easier. For anyone starting out and running Logic (the integration with Logic btw is rock solid and beatiful), all they need is a MacBook and the Ensemble and they have a portable rig that rivals the sound of systems costing tens of thousands of dollars. Apogee is one of the Holy Grails of A/D/A conversion. Never has The Holy Grail been more attainable.

So if the Apogee Ensemble is so great, then why am I getting a Rosetta 200? Different people have different needs. For me, I also run Pro Tools M-Powered and from what I understand, there's no way to just interface with the converter directly as a pass-thru box. I only require 2 channels with one golden channel. As well, while the clear and transparent ruler flat eq no color crowd are going to love the Ensemble, I grew up on the classic Apogee sound and i want to continue that tradition, the Apogee sound has become a part of my own sound.

In short, if you want a killer bang-for-the-buck converter with multiple-in's and outs to run a Core Audio-based setup that's got tight clear focused bass, rock solid timing and a clear transparent pure as water and light as air sound, then definitely check out the Apogee Ensemble.
Old 18th May 2006
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
Hurra!

Hurra! (danish for hurray).
Finally a review and a very very good one.
I can see your point about the Rosetta, but for me, i don´t know the classic apogee sound (okay worked on AD16) and I really dont like the sound of Avril Lavigne!...
And what you decribe seems right down my street.
I´ll get my ensemble when it comes out - I first in line here.

Thanks
Soebx
Old 18th May 2006
  #3
Gear Head
 
monkeyspanker's Avatar
 

Kestral. Thanks for taking the time out to write a very useful interesting opinion on the Apogee Ensemble. Sounds very promising - I am also weighing up the toss between the Rosetta 200 and the Ensemble. I must admit I am swayed by the headphone outputs and the instant integration with Logic in relation to the Ensemble. Hmmm...
Old 18th May 2006
  #4
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DrDeltaM's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
First of all, rock solid timing, which can especially be heard in rhythm heavy audio,
Solid clock doesn't show itself better or worse on rythmical stuff.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
1. Timing - The rock solid timing is definitely here. What sounded pretty tight and solid with Logic Pro running without the Apogee ended up sounding stiff. Coming out of the Ensemble, the rhythm tracks got their groove back. You could really feel the swing. It just felt "right".
You're basically saying here that the Ensemble makes bad drummers sound good
No clock will do that.
Old 18th May 2006
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Thanks for the write-up. However, these are only words summarizing something rather subjective. Ideally, if you could bounce short clips of these "rythmic" sections you've referred to with both the Ensemble and the FW Audiophile, we could all see better where you are coming from.

Also, I would've liked to hear about comparisons to the hardware which is most competitive to the Ensemble, such as a ULN2/2882, or Fireface 800.

Nonetheless, any sound-clip comparo's would be appreciated.
Old 18th May 2006
  #6
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+1 for the comparo with the Metric Halo stuff. Just out of curiosity. I'm not parting with my 2882 anytime soon but wonder how they differ subjectively.
Old 18th May 2006
  #7
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Thanks for the feedback everyone. The main reason I had the chance to test drive the Ensemble was because I was getting the Mac and Ensemble set up for an event. The Ensemble was shipped out today for the event but when it gets back eaerly next week I'll see if I can find the time to do some bounces for you all to check out.
Old 18th May 2006
  #8
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
more feedback is welcome

sounds good. We need it and we love it!
soebx
Old 18th May 2006
  #9
Here for the gear
 

Thank You!

Kestral,

This is the FIRST review I've read that wasn't mar/comm copy NTTIAWWT . I really appreciate your posting it dude.

I'm feeling way better about my decision to wait for an ensemble.


-mousdrvr
Old 19th May 2006
  #10
MDM
Gear Addict
 
MDM's Avatar
So, this thing make bad tracks sound good ??

just kiddin --- So it sounds great - that is good news and was expected from Apogee --

I'd like to hear experiences of RECORDINGS-SESSIONS with that thing as well...

And what does it come with ? Are there pre-amps build in?

Also, can you connect your active monitors straight to the Ensemble, or do you need something like a board in between ?
Old 19th May 2006
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
connections

straight to ensemble. My dealer told me balanced jacks out. (check apogee´s website)
soebx
Old 1st June 2006
  #12
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
any new tests?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Thanks for the feedback everyone. The main reason I had the chance to test drive the Ensemble was because I was getting the Mac and Ensemble set up for an event. The Ensemble was shipped out today for the event but when it gets back eaerly next week I'll see if I can find the time to do some bounces for you all to check out.
Hi Kestral
Have you had time time to do some more tests?
compared to your new rosetta 200?
or other stuff?

Mainly because I´m getting more and more frustrated waiting for Ensemble I´ve been looking into Mytek (checked their website - listened to the samples - sounded very good indeed). Do you have any experience?

On the mic pre side:
Any experience with other mic pres than the mentioned earlier on - compared to your experience with the micpres in Ensemble?
In looking into DAV - products

looking forward.

soebx
Old 1st June 2006
  #13
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dussel's Avatar
 

I keep telling the same thing over and over - converters should only be tesed in blind test setups!

Did you do any blind tests?

best
Dussel
Old 1st June 2006
  #14
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goldphinga's Avatar
 

the launch of this product is a farce. really. there are so many other options out there. its not worth waiting this amount of time for something that is probably good but maybe just be ok.people who are serious about making music dont have this much time on there hands to wait for a soundcard thats not really offering anything new. if you dont need the pres just buy a rosetta 800 with firewire card. itll sound better anyway. and if you dont want apogee buy a metric halo or rme.

.
Old 1st June 2006
  #15
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Ziggy!!'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeltaM
Solid clock doesn't show itself better or worse on rythmical stuff.



You're basically saying here that the Ensemble makes bad drummers sound good
No clock will do that.

yeah...

I don't mean to question anyones credibility but...

Sounds like something you'd hear out of a mix magazine review...
Old 1st June 2006
  #16
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dussel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ziggy!!
yeah...

I don't mean to question anyones credibility but...

Sounds like something you'd hear out of a mix magazine review...
But its exactly! what happens if you listen to the unit knowing that it should sound better. If you just suspect it could improve the "timing", it is possible that your brain tells you there is a "clear" difference. Only a well designed blind test will tell you the truth. There are still so many reviews, even by professionals which do not take this into account. We are talking about quite small differences here (I know some golden ears will tell me that the differences are huge, but relate it to something like a SM7 vs. a U87 on the same source to get the picture). I do not say there are no differences and it is proably easy to distinguish the units in a blind test. But to work out the differences you have to take your expectations out of the equation.

best
Dussel
Old 1st June 2006
  #17
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeltaM
Solid clock doesn't show itself better or worse on rythmical stuff.

You're basically saying here that the Ensemble makes bad drummers sound good
No clock will do that.
Clock = timing = rhythm

The Ensemble makes bad drummers sound bad and good drummers sound good, because it plays back far more accurately than lower end clock/converters.
Old 1st June 2006
  #18
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Dussel, if you like A/B tests so much you can do one yourself. I was in the midst of setting up for an event and given that there are ZERO reviews for this unit, I decided to run it through MY paces and post MY own subjective thoughts on it. Notice the subject like says "Personal Thoughts", not "Blind A/B Scientific Tests With Sound Clips and Oscilloscope Readings"? In fact, I put in "Personal Thoughts" expressly for the reason of avoiding ****** comments like yours, guess you're an even bigger ****** than most. Beggars can't be choosers, if you want a blind A/B test, then do one yourself.
Old 1st June 2006
  #19
Gear Head
 
ObnoxiousTyrant's Avatar
 

Originally Posted by Ziggy!!
yeah...

I don't mean to question anyones credibility but...

Sounds like something you'd hear out of a mix magazine review...

Puff review. "Rock Solid Timing", Yeah, just like the "Rock Solid timing" in the Rosetta Line.
Old 1st June 2006
  #20
Gear Nut
 
dussel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Dussel, if you like A/B tests so much you can do one yourself. I was in the midst of setting up for an event and given that there are ZERO reviews for this unit, I decided to run it through MY paces and post MY own subjective thoughts on it. Notice the subject like says "Personal Thoughts", not "Blind A/B Scientific Tests With Sound Clips and Oscilloscope Readings"? In fact, I put in "Personal Thoughts" expressly for the reason of avoiding ****** comments like yours, guess you're an even bigger ****** than most. Beggars can't be choosers, if you want a blind A/B test, then do one yourself.
Sorry Kestral,

I did not mean to offend you. It is very difficult in the virtual space of a forum to say something critical without being offensive - I obviously did not manage. Sorry for that!

What I want to say is that even if you do a test just for yourself, it would be very clever to do it blindfolded. Just my humble 2Cts. I am not too much interested in doing a test myself since I own a Rosetta 200 which should (according to apogee) sound even better than the ensemble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Clock = timing = rhythm

The Ensemble makes bad drummers sound bad and good drummers sound good, because it plays back far more accurately than lower end clock/converters.
only if you can hear timing Problems in the order of magnitude of a fraction of a 1/44000s :-)
(I guess we can hear that but we perceive it as jitter and not timing or rhythmic problems. All the phenomena quoted as MPC swing or unstable timing are not related to converter clocks.)

best
Dussel
Old 1st June 2006
  #21
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
ensemble ?

Hi all
Kestral - I think you did a fine job. Everybody prefers blindfloldtests but that wasn´t what you where up, to as you said.
We would like to know more...!

Everybody: Is it possible to use the Apogee DAC 1 as an audiointerface? (using usb).
The frustration is growing on me and I´m looking for alternative solutions.
I need a audiointerface but could go without mic pres for a while.

Suggestions are welcome!

Everybody: re: testing gear: In my area no shops has Mytek, Lavry, Apogee etc etc.
My studiofriends have Apogee 16AD (not the "X")+ motu or Digidesign (before HD) + loads of preamps (mainly from the MIdas or TL Audio stuff - so your my sources!

I did make good sense to me going to Myteks website listening to hig quality samples comparing Mytek with Lavry and Prism.

soebx
Old 1st June 2006
  #22
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Hi Dussel, glad we cleared up our misunderstanding. I ordered an Apogee Rosetta 200 so I'm in the same boat as you.

I do not own any stock in Apogee (since they're not a publically traded company), I am not a reseller, I do not work for Apogee, and I ordered a Rosetta 200. So simply put, I don't have a vested interest in whether or not the Ensemble is any good. Doesn't matter to me one bit.

So from my point of view, all I've done is take a product that a lot of people were curious about, checked it out and offered my thoughts.

Dussel, you'll be surprised how sensitive humans are. Look at plugin delay compensation (or should I say lack of), the timing is off by samples, which is very minute and theoretically should not be heard but you know what? Even the average person can notice the difference. Because the off time causes phasing and that is clearly noticeable so even if they don't notice the actual timing difference they notice the more pronounced effects of the timing difference. And that's why drums sound more rock solid with a good clock even if the difference is minute.
Old 1st June 2006
  #23
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Kestral's Avatar
 

Speak of the Devil, my Apogee Rosetta 200 just arrived! Sitting behind me as I type this, can't wait to set it up tonight!
Old 1st June 2006
  #24
Gear Maniac
 
Søren Bendixen's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Speak of the Devil, my Apogee Rosetta 200 just arrived! Sitting behind me as I type this, can't wait to set it up tonight!
Stay up all night and tell us more!

soebx
Old 1st June 2006
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
I keep telling the same thing over and over - converters should only be tesed in blind test setups!
Sure, that's always ideal, but not always practical, and in some cases the differences are not subtle.

Quote:
its not worth waiting this amount of time for something that is probably good but maybe just be ok.
Interesting assumption to make.

Quote:
people who are serious about making music dont have this much time on there hands to wait for a soundcard thats not really offering anything new.
I think that most of the people who are seious about making music but are waiting for this do already have something they're using in the meantime, and are just waiting for a possible upgrade.

Quote:
if you dont need the pres just buy a rosetta 800 with firewire card. itll sound better anyway.
Sure, but there's still a big price difference there...

I'm always fascinated by people who prounounce things to be "nothing new" or, now, a "farce" when they don't have any experience with them yet (although I'm just as fascinated by people who laud something as the greatest thing since sliced bread when, again, they have no experience with them yet).

Personally, I already have a Rosetta 800 but am considering an Ensemble for a possible mobile rig. I'm very interested, but I'm not putting off any music-making waiting for it.

-Duardo
Old 2nd June 2006
  #26
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Tibbon's Avatar
I'm really glad to see that people are liking these. I sold my Digi 002R at the beginning of this month, and have been without an interface since (waiting for the Ensemble).

The good thing from my POV, is that when it comes out, i'll be in a much better money situation (some stuff coming through).
Old 2nd June 2006
  #27
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Ziggy!!'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kestral
Look at plugin delay compensation (or should I say lack of), the timing is off by samples, which is very minute and theoretically should not be heard but you know what? Even the average person can notice the difference. Because the off time causes phasing and that is clearly noticeable so even if they don't notice the actual timing difference they notice the more pronounced effects of the timing difference. And that's why drums sound more rock solid with a good clock even if the difference is minute.

But PDC and ADC effect single tracks within the whole mix. It is these individual tracks that slip out of time on a sample level that cause the phasing issues... a converter's clock effects everything as a whole. A converters clock won't cause just the drum tracks to slip out of phase while retaining the rest of the mix. It will effect everything that is played in and out of the AD/DA in the same way. An improved clock might increase clarity and depth of the stereo image but it won't make anything sound more in time. Converter clocks have nothing to do with the physical rhythm of the music.

Analog reel to reels never playback or record at the same consistant speed. That is why you have to dump all the tracks to digital at the same time to prevent timing discrepencies. Even with this inconsistency it doesn't effect the groove of anything...

Don't get me wrong, Im glad you enjoyed the ensemble and found a unit that suits your needs...
Old 2nd June 2006
  #28
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ripper's Avatar
 

scratching my head here...

ziggy, why do you bother reading about converters when in the last thread about upgrading converters you jumped on everyone (well ME anyways!) who said the felt they were a crucial part of their chain?!

you harped on about "it's all about the music, maaaan!" when i mention to someone considering upgrading that i'd found MAJOR sonic differences between 888/24's, AD8000's, Myteks and Hedds..... as if anyone who does distinguish between crap converters and good ones is some yuppie bourgoise engineer who doesn't know the value of truthful artistic expression over technical levels of quality.

i found it quite insulting and ridiculous.

now you explain how clocking works!!!!

aw, gs really IS more about entertainment than discussion!!! fuuck
Old 2nd June 2006
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tibbon
I'm really glad to see that people are liking these. I sold my Digi 002R at the beginning of this month, and have been without an interface since (waiting for the Ensemble).

The good thing from my POV, is that when it comes out, i'll be in a much better money situation (some stuff coming through).
Same as that mate....

Accept i'm down to my m-box as my primary interface at the moment....
Old 2nd June 2006
  #30
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Ziggy!!'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ripper
scratching my head here...

ziggy, why do you bother reading about converters when in the last thread about upgrading converters you jumped on everyone (well ME anyways!) who said the felt they were a crucial part of their chain?!

you harped on about "it's all about the music, maaaan!" when i mention to someone considering upgrading that i'd found MAJOR sonic differences between 888/24's, AD8000's, Myteks and Hedds..... as if anyone who does distinguish between crap converters and good ones is some yuppie bourgoise engineer who doesn't know the value of truthful artistic expression over technical levels of quality.

i found it quite insulting and ridiculous.

now you explain how clocking works!!!!

aw, gs really IS more about entertainment than discussion!!! fuuck

you find it insulting? Weren't you the one that couldn't wrap your head around the idea that some people just prefer to make music instead of scrutinizing gear? Weren't you the one constantly dfegad dfegad dfegad on everyone else's opinion?


You find it insulting? right... I think its about time you took yourself and your jar of vaseline to another website...
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