Apogee Duet 3 VS Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO (Compared!)

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  • Apogee Duet 3 vs Apollo Twin X DUO: how do these two popular interfaces compare?
  • What plugins and software do they come with?
  • Which one is best for you?

Choosing the right audio interface is a serious endeavor. You’ll likely be spending hundreds of dollars, and it is imperative to get one that fits your needs.

Two of the most popular premium interfaces in the market are the Apogee Duet 3 and the Apollo Twin X DUO. Both feature fantastic features, sound, construction, and overall value. 

Apogee Duet 3 vs Universal Audio Apollo Twin X Duo: Which is Better?

Although both of these interfaces are sturdy and reliable, they also have their differences. The main one being that the Apollo Twin is significantly more expensive than the Duet 3.

At the same time, the Apollo Twin series gives you access to a comprehensive ecosystem of fantastic software emulations and more, thanks to the powerful Universal Audio platform. 

On the other hand, the Duet 3 is easier to use, and you’ll be recording in no time compared to the Apollo Twin X.

Where They Differ

  • The UA Apollo Twin series is more expensive
  • The Duet 3 is more convenient and more to the point
  • The Apollo Twin offers more inputs, outputs, and access to the vast Universal Audio ecosystem of plug-ins, sounds, etc.

Who Are They For?

If you want quality, convenience, and to stay under the $1000 mark, I’d go with the Apogee Duet 3. This interface is fantastic for songwriters that want to lay down ideas and do some serious pre-production.

On the other hand, if you want to throw down a few hundred dollars more for (slightly) better sound, and a seemingly endless amount of plug-ins, effects, and features, then the Apollo Twin X DUO is the way to go. For those who want even more on-board processing power, there’s the Apollo Twin X QUAD.

Specs

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO Features

  • 10-in/6-out Thunderbolt 3 audio interface for Mac or PC, with onboard UAD-2 DUO Core processing
  • Upgraded AD/DA conversion, an ultra-pristine signal path with 127 dB dynamic range
  • 2 Unison preamps allow you to track through digital models of the industry’s most legendary hardware
  • Ultra-fast Thunderbolt 3 connectivity with less than 2ms of latency 
  • Backward-compatible with Thunderbolt 1 and 2 Macs (does not support Thunderbolt 1 or 2 on Windows – adapter sold separately)

Apogee Duet 3 Features

  • Top-quality Apogee AD/DA conversion and digital clocking
  • 2 world-class mic preamps with +65dB of gain, +48V phantom power, and Apogee’s Advanced Stepped Gain Architecture
  • Redesigned breakout cable with 2 instrument inputs, 2 mic/line inputs, and 2 balanced outputs
  • Onboard hardware DSP enables you to shape your sound right at the input stage with zero latency
  • Includes a hardware-accelerated version of Apogee’s ECS Channel Strip

IO

The Apollo Twin X DUO is a 10-in 6-out, 24-bit/192kHz, Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface with 2 Unison Preamps, LUNA Compatibility, Premium Plug-in Suite, and Realtime Analog Classics Plug-in Package.

Apollo interfaces come in different models. You can get a 2 x 4 Apollo Solo for your project studio, and go all the way up to an 18 x 20 Apollo 16, which is for larger studios running several mics at once. Naturally, the price will also increase as you get more I/O options and features.

On the other hand, the Apogee Duet 3 is strictly a 2-in/4-out USB-C Audio Interface with 2 microphone preamps and hardware DSP. In other words, you cannot pick a Duet 3 with more I/O options like you can with the Apollo.

That said, the Duet has been one of the most popular and best interfaces for songwriters for years. This is partly because songwriters typically do not require more than a 2-in/4 out interface.

Ultimately the Apollo Twin offers more IO options than the Duet 3 as it is a 10-in 6-out interface.

Look, Feel, and Portability

Both interfaces look similar enough, clearly gunning for the same basic look that Apogee pioneered with the original Duet. Most notably, both feature a big circular dial very prominently in the middle, along with LEDs to indicate the level of the input and output.

The Apollo series interfaces offer much more in the way of buttons and signal meters and are ultimately more impressive. This is an interface you want to show off, whereas the Duet 3 is more humble, sleek, and minimalist.

For those who are considering a small interface for traveling, the Duet 3 ships with a travel case that protects it, fits it snugly, and allows for easy and safe transportation. 

Sample Rate, Connectivity and Sound

Despite their obvious differences in I/O options, it is fair to say that both the Apollo Twin series and Apogee Duet 3 are comparable when it comes to sample rate and connectivity. As far as the sample rate and resolution, both offer a 24-bit/192kH.

The Apogee Duet 3’s mic preamps are built with the company’s Advanced Stepped Gain Architecture. This is an analog circuit that dynamically optimizes across a 0–65 dB gain range to provide exceptional bandwidth with the lowest possible distortion.

Contrast this with the Apollo’s fantastic A/D resolution of 24-bit and sample rate of 192 kHz which ensures optimum sound quality. You also have a pristine signal path with 127 dB of dynamic range, plus Unison technology for the preamps.

Regarding connectivity, the Twin is a Thunderbolt 3 audio interface. Thunderbolt 3 also happens to be the most notable upgrade for version three of the Duet.

(If you want to learn more about sample rate and bit depth, you can read our guide What Sample Rate Should You Use? (Myths and Misconceptions))

Software

When it comes to software, the differences between the two become more noticeable as the Apollo Twin series absolutely has the Duet 3 beat when it comes to extra digital goodies.

It is well known that one of the main calling cards of Apollo interfaces is the superior UAD analog emulation plugin collection that transforms these interfaces into full-blown production stations.

Universal Audio Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition (Thunderbolt 3)
$1,199.00

The Apollo Twin X DUO Heritage Edition is a special edition of Universal Audio’s Desktop 10 x 6 Thunderbolt 3 Audio Interface with Realtime UAD DUO Core Processing and two Unison Mic Preamps for Mac and Windows.

Why We Love It:
  • Seemingly endless amount of features
  • Come with the Realtime Analog Classic Plus
  • World-class 24-bit/192kHz audio conversion
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UAD Powered plug-ins are regarded as some of the best and most accurate emulations of analog audio equipment. The UAD Powered plug-in library now features more than 100 plug-ins, co-created with some of the biggest brands in audio.

This is a massive feat, as you can incorporate legendary sounds in your mix with authenticity. This allows you to work with tools that are not only iconic and very useful, but also quite expensive in their original hardware form factor.

Not to mention, you would need much more than just ‘desktop space’ to stack the analog gear that the UAD plug-ins accurately emulate.

Apollo interfaces come with the Realtime Analog Classic Plus bundle which includes the following:

  • UA 610-B Tube Preamp and EQ 
  • Marshall Plexi Classic Amplifier
  • Fairchild 670 (Legacy)
  • Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier (Legacy)
  • 1176SE Classic Limiting Amplifiers (Legacy)
  • 1176 LN Classic Limiting Amplifiers (Legacy)
  • Pultec Pro Equalizers (Legacy)
  • Ampeg SVT-VR Classic Bass Amp
  • Precision Mix Rack Collection
  • UA Precision Enhancer Hz
  • Raw Distortion
  • RealVerb Pro

UAD interfaces also offer astonishing processing power that effectively free your computer from having to handle all the hard work. So you get not only the tools but the processing power to handle these tools. Impressive!

LUNA Compatibility 
LUNA Recording System

Analog sound at the speed of light, LUNA transforms Apollo interfaces into the most inspiring and fully integrated Mac‑based recording systems on the planet.

Why We Love It:
  • Free if you're a Mac or Thunderbolt Apollo user
  • Essentially unlimited undos
  • Extremely unique DAW
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LUNA is Universal Audio’s free DAW software that allows you to track, edit and mix. Naturally, all Universal Audio’s interfaces are compatible with the LUNA software and offer tight hardware/software integration.

LUNA features what UA calls Accelerated Real-time Monitoring. This supplies fast analog-style tracking and overdubbing through the use of the onboard DSP acceleration in your Apollo interface.

Additionally, the LUNA software comes with a virtual instrument named Shape Creative Toolkit that features modern and vintage keyboards, guitars and basses, drums and percussion instruments, orchestral content, and real-time synthesis.

Although LUNA might appeal to some that are just starting out, chances are most folks will stay with their tried and true software DAW, and the Apollo will work just fine here as well.

One significant drawback for the LUNA software is that it is Mac only. Naturally, that will turn a lot of folks off, and will severely limit UA’s audience for their flagship DAW. Additionally, LUNA requires a Thunderbolt-equipped Apollo or Arrow interface and will not work with any other interface.

(Check out our full review of LUNA here!)

What About The Duet 3??

You may have noticed we haven’t yet mentioned the Duet in this section at all. It’s not that the Duet 3’s bundled software is bad, it’s just that it comes with relatively little in this area, especially compared to the Apollo’s gigantic offering of emulations alongside the LUNA DAW.

Additionally, the Duet 3 comes with Apogee’s ECS Channel Strip, which contains superb-sounding EQ, compression, and saturation – all adjusted to perfection by Bob Clearmountain.

Apogee Duet 3 - 2 Channel USB Audio Interface
$649.00

Tailor-made for music production, voice recording, streaming, gaming, and more, the Duet 3 is great for studios and on-the-go content creators alike.

Why We Love It:
  • Offers zero-latency sound shaping
  • Simple, yet futuristic touch design
  • Easy to use
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On top of that, you also get Apogee Control 2 software for complete control of all of the Duet 3’s functions and features, including the ECS Channel Strip, along with the Apogee Channel FX plug-in that allows you to adjust preamp gain, turn on phantom power, set monitor levels, and control and print ECS Channel Strip effects straight from your DAW.

Regardless of the Apollo model in question, the quality and amount of features you get is quite impressive, whereas the Duet 3 is a more limited interface (albeit a high quality one, just like the Twin).

In other words, the Duet’s bundled software is fantastic, but the Twin’s are more comprehensive, expandable, and of such incredible quality that there is no room for competition in this area.

Wrapping Up

When comparing the two, it is genuinely hard to pick one over the other. Both interfaces are fantastic for recording enthusiasts and offer premium quality features.

Their price differences, ease of use, and functionality indicate that each model would have a specific user in mind. For the musician or bedroom producer that wants to lay down ideas easily without having to pay $1000, the Apogee Duet 3 is a fantastic choice.

On the other hand, if you want the absolute best sound for your music production, endless features, high-quality software emulations, and are willing to pay for it, then the Apollo Twin X DUO is your best option.