The Apogee Quartet is a feature-packed desktop audio interface offering users a lot of flexibility in a simple & sleek design. The Quartet offers 4 analog inputs, expandable to 12 total inputs using the interface’s optical input. The desktop interface also offers 6 analog TRS outputs for up to 3 pairs of monitors, a 5.1 surround system, or for use with outboard equipment. Also included is a dedicated ¼” headphone output on the side of the unit.
Holding nothing back, Apogee continues to stack on the features with a dedicated word clock out (something many larger interfaces don’t even offer) allowing you to sync up any other digital outboard gear or converters with Apogee’s incredible clocking. Finally, as the Quartet is a USB interface, they’ve even accommodated MIDI users with a built-in USB input for MIDI controllers. No more fighting over available ports on the back or side of your Mac – just chain everything together and you’re up and running!
Apogee Quartet’s Hardware
One of the key things for any audio interface is answering the question “How easy is this to use?” Engineers and producers don’t want to spend time tweaking interface settings when they could be recording or mixing. They want something intuitive and accessible.
The Apogee Quartet, just like the rest of Apogee’s product line, checks these boxes with ease. Taking a similar “big, powerful knob” approach to the one they’ve used on the Apogee Duet 2, users are able to control just about anything with the large knob on the right side of the unit.
The Quartet’s black background and OLED screen makes it easy to see the information you’re looking for where other interfaces fall short. Tapping buttons on the screen to select an input, output, or one of the 3 assignable buttons instantly feels like a futuristic experience in audio production. As soon as you tap, all of the information from level to gain amount, phase settings, and phantom power are pulled up for quick reference.
The knob can be used to toggle through settings and dial in the features you want in just seconds. While many knobs on audio interfaces don’t give the same satisfaction as analog outboard gear, the team at Apogee has added a sense of weight and smooth movement to this interface that feels expensive. You’ll find yourself spending just a bit longer deciding between 44 & 45 dB of gain just a few seconds longer because of how great the knob moves back and forth between the two settings.
The Sound of Quartet
The first time I tried an Apogee interface, I was blown away by the clear and transparent sound of their microphone preamps. I had known for years of their reputation for great conversion and clocking, which may contribute to the perceived quality of the preamps, but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing it well.
The Quartet’s preamp worked seamlessly across a range of microphones – providing enough gain to power even my greediest dynamics. The Quartet really surprised me during testing with a ribbon microphone. While I’m usually one to like a dirtier preamp to add some color to a ribbon mic’s already colorful sound, the Quartet seemed to accentuate the best of what my ribbon already had to offer. Once again, I was struck with a sense of class that this interface added to my sound.
Is The Apogee Quartet Worth The Price?
The Apogee Quartet has a hefty price tag for a desktop interface, coming in at $1,495 at most retailers. For that price tag though, you’re getting one of the smallest devices that is capable of 5.1 surround without any additional hardware (besides the speakers). It’s also portable enough to be used as a mobile recording rig.
The Quartet doesn’t take any shortcuts under the hood either. Beneath the aluminum frame and OLED screens are ESS Sabre32 digital audio converters make to offer “unequalled dynamic range, ultra low distortion, and unmatched audio clarity free from input jitter”. I would expect nothing less from a company who’s reputation for professional quality conversion has spanned almost as long as digital recording itself.
The Quartet’s Soft Limit feature is just another piece of Apogee history that can be enabled through their Maestro control software. The Soft Limit essentially acts as a pad between the peak of your signal and digital clipping, saving a session if something happens to get a bit too loud before you catch it. While it’s a digital system, the Soft Limit acts much more like an analog preamp – saturation rather than digitally clipping.
At it’s price point, the Apogee has a lot of competition with rackmount solutions potentially offering more inputs, but lacking the style and quality of an Apogee product. For those looking to stick to a budget that don’t need to all of the features packed into this unit, the more affordable Duet 2 is a great solution punching above its price tag.
For those looking to mix in 5.1 or those with outboard gear they’re looking to integrate, the Quartet’s flexibility and additional input options make it an excellent choice. There are few other companies with a reputation or hardware as consistent as Apogee, and the Quartet adds a much-needed tier to their offerings for users that fall between the Duet 2 and some of the company’s more professional studio oriented products.