The Duet 2 is one of the easiest interfaces to operate, making it the perfect solution for home recording enthusiasts looking for a portable interface with amazing clarity. The built-in LED display and multifunction knob make controlling your inputs and outputs a breeze, without ever needing to open the included Apogee Maestro software. If however, you want to customize the operation of your Duet 2, the Maestro software gives the user the ability to define nearly every control offered by the devices 2 touch pads. The Duet 2 has features that make home recording easy, using streamlined workflows available from the convenience of your desktop.
Ins & Outs of The Duet 2
The unit comes with a 4 connector breakout cable, allowing 2 combination (XLR/Instrument) inputs which is becoming more and more common for interfaces today. Each of these can be assigned 48v Phantom Power or polarity flip through the Maestro software, and both inputs can also be linked into a single group, allowing you to keep the same relative levels while adjusting up or down. The truly unique option available to these inputs lies in the AD converters that Apogee utilized. Users can assign a Soft Limiter to each input, which rounds off peaks before they reach the point of digital clipping. This is extremely useful for more dynamic recording, giving the performer flexibility to push themselves without as much worry of clipping. While I wouldn’t rely solely on the Soft Limiter for transient peak control, it is comforting to know that a recording might not need to be scrapped because the AD converter was clipping.
As far as outputs, the Duet 2 has two TRS Outputs and one 1/4″ headphone output which can be configured as separate mixes within the Maestro 2 software. This comes in useful, making then headphone output a potential cue send to your artist so you can each listen to what you want to hear. While there isn’t much versatility in the TRS outputs, they help keep the Duet 2 a smaller, more discrete interface and they function well with most studio monitors.
The knob that takes up most of the interface’s front actually provides one of the easiest methods of setting levels for any recording interface. It rotates in clicks, controlling the level of whatever is selected (options including: either input, the monitor output, and the headphone volume.) To bank through these options quickly, you only need to give the knob a quick press, and it rotates through everything, allowing a quick adjustment. This is much easier than trying to get levels using a rackmount unit where you’d need to move over to the rack to turn a knob with less accuracy than this unit provides. In addition to the knob, the LED screen shows users exactly what level they are choosing, saving the time and effort of looking back and forth between different software and interfaces. The Duet 2 gives you nearly all controls built right into it’s design, making it simple enough to operate independently from your DAW.
Assignable Touch Buttons
There are two buttons on the front of the Duet 2 between the LED screen and the multifunction knob that can control parameters from mutes to meter clearing. While settings such as Dim and Sum to Mono may be useful in a mixing environment, for the recording process we set ours to clear peak and speaker mute. This made it easy to silence out speakers while recording a take (to avoid feedback since we were in the same room as the artist) and to catch any peaks on the fly, clear them, and fix the section. The other setting that can be handy is the Toggle Headphone Source assignment, which can allow your artist to record using their preferred mix, then listen back to the full mix with you, simply with a single finger tap. Everyone has their own preferred workflow methods, but they’re likely to find settings they’d utilize within the Touch Button Assignments.
For the price of the Duet 2, you really are getting a great home recording interface, allowing enough inputs for a singer-songwriter or a group that wishes to track one instrument at a time. While drums could be tracked with the unit, I’d still recommend something larger for a professional production. With that being said, for demos and home recordings use decent mics with the unit and you will get a usable drum sound. The key to this unit is the crystal clear AD/DA converter made by Apogee that hasn’t been made available on a home enthusiast level in the past. For under $1,000, the Duet 2 will give you a cleaner sounding recording than any other interface we’ve used yet.