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Apogee ONE audio interface for iPhone iPad and Mac review

Sections: iDevice Accessories, iDevice Apps, iPad, iPad Air, iPad mini, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad, Macintosh/Apple Hardware, Peripherals, Reviews

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The Apogee ONE is a portable audio interface with built-in microphone. Unlike other portable audio interfaces, the Apogee ONE has two inputs in addition to the built-in microphone. Plus, it has a very slick design and, most importantly, audio quality second to none amongst portable audio interfaces. Thanks to a recent product update, it now comes with a Lightning adapter cable, making it compatible with nearly all of your iOS devices. But does all of this justify the steep entry price of $349?

While the Apogee ONE for iPhone, iPad and Mac is an audio interface, the two inputs set it pretty far apart from the most similar offerings from other companies. (I know, the name makes it seem like there’s only one input. Perhaps they should have named it the Apogee SOLO.) The first input is an XLR connection for microphones, and the second is a standard instrument connection (1/4 inch) for guitars and the like. But even if you don’t have an instrument or microphone within arm’s reach, the ONE has a built in microphone, which makes it a very versatile accessory indeed.

one-ipad-mac-panel-tourIncluded with the Apogee ONE are the input adapter, USB cable, Lightning cable, 30-pin cable, microphone mount, and AC power adapter. If you want the One to be truly portable, you’ll have to supply two of your own AA batteries. It’s not a big deal really, but it might suggest the portability of this device isn’t really on the top of the feature list. More on that later.

To use the Apogee ONE, just power it (with batteries or an AC adapter, or it can also be bus powered when connected via USB to Mac) and connect it to your device (iPad, iPhone, or Mac) with one of the included adapter cables. When using the AC adapter, the ONE can also charge your iOS device, which is nice. Your device may prompt you to download the Apogee Maestro app. If it doesn’t, you’ll definitely want to download it on your own. It’s a free app that allows you to change settings on Apogee hardware like the One (there’s a Maestro app for Mac too). This is super useful for setting levels and mixing channels together. The app can also update the software on Apogee hardware when such updates are available. This app is actually required for use on Mac. While you can get away without it on iOS, why would you want to?

The Maestro app is great for setting levels and mixing things behind the scenes, but you can still fine tune levels with the large multi-function knob on the top of the One. This knob is also a button. Each time you press it, you advance through the three settings it can alter: built in microphone level, audio input levels, and overall sound level (volume). There are LEDs to indicate which you are controlling and LEDs for live sound levels too. All that’s left to do is to connect the audio input cable, plug in your instrument or mic and fire up your favorite audio app.

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The hardest part about using the Apogee ONE is just figuring out the channels. If you’ve used a similar audio interface on iOS before, you probably didn’t have to chose which channel to use as input since there probably wasn’t a choice. The ONE has two inputs, so you can choose which channel(s) you’d like to use. And if the first thing you plug in uses the 1/4 inch input (like a guitar) you might think there’s something wrong. Why’s that? The 1/4 inch input is channel 2 and there isn’t an app out there that defaults to channel 2. It’s as simple as changing the input channel, which is super easy to do if you already knew to do this.

Now that everything is up and running, you’re almost guaranteed to notice the sound quality. It’s noticeably better than other portable audio interfaces; that’s what you’re paying for with an Apogee product. While other portable audio interfaces for iOS are smaller or require less cables, they aren’t on equal footing when it comes to audio quality. I’m not saying others are necessarily bad, but you can definitely hear the difference in quality. That makes this device a better recording tool. Plus, you can easily throw it in a backpack. That’s a big deal.

Unfortunately, the Apogee ONE isn’t without flaws. While the device is aesthetically pleasing, the input adapter is not. It’s a cable that takes the 1/4 inch and XLR inputs and connects them to the ONE. The problem is that this cable connects to the top of the device and isn’t very long. I’m really not trying to nit-pick here, but I found the ONE trying to slide off my desk repeatedly when I connected an instrument to the input. I would have much preferred to see the inputs built-in to the body of the device. There are smaller audio adapters available that do this, so I’m confident it’s possible. Plus, built-in connectors are less likely to fail than ones that rely on external adapters with extra cabling. Ultiimately, this choice was made to avoid making the device significantly bigger. You can decide whether you agree that this is the preferable choice.

Overall, the Apogee ONE for iPad and Mac is a great portable audio interface and microphone that works with your iPad, iPhone or Mac. It isn’t the smallest or the most portable interface, but it easily wins in an audio quality comparison against similar interfaces. Plus, it definitely has more features, like the built in microphone. The Apogee ONE is a serious recording tool that’s small enough to bring anywhere. If audio quality is not something you’re willing to budge on and you want to be very portable, then this is the interface for you.

Appletell Rating:

Provides: Audio input to iPad, iPhone, and Mac
Developer: Apogee
Minimum Requirements: iPad, iPhone, or Mac
Price: $349
Availability: Now

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