The original Apollo [Tape Op #95] is a groundbreaking unit that combines real-time UAD plug-in processing, A/D and D/A conversion, and mic preamps in a single 1RU-height box. While the original unit was designed for a project or remote studio that requires an all-in-one device, the Apollo 16 is aimed at the production and professional studio market. More I/O channels have replaced the headphone outputs and mic preamps. Likewise, the UAD-2 Duo option isn't available here - only Quad processing is. Apollo 16 ships with Universal Audio's Analog Classics bundle, which features Legacy editions of classic gear emulations such as the LA-2A, 1176LN, Pultec EQP-1A, and more.
I/O in the back is more in line with a professional studio's needs. S/PDIF has been replaced with AES/EBU, and TRS monitor outs are now XLR. A MADI port is reserved for cascading two Apollo 16 units together. Thus, two Apollo 16s can provide 32×32 simultaneous analog I/O as well as the processing power of eight UAD-2 DSPs.
Inside are hardware and software updates too, especially in the area of conversion. I don't want to panic original Apollo owners into thinking there is something inferior with the original unit. The fact is, Universal Audio was ripping out the preamps for the Apollo 16. While they were there, it proved to be an opportunity to make small tweaks to the output side of things. Specifically, by direct-coupling the I/O, the DC blocking capacitors were removed. The result is slightly improved low- frequency response. Again, in a professional studio, this update is more important.
Meanwhile, Universal Audio continues to expand their plug- in line and improve upon the Apollo control software. During this review, a new feature called Flex Routing was released. This offers up to four assignable headphone cues, a special mode for insertion of outboard analog hardware when working in Pro Tools, and routing of any of Apollo's inputs (analog or digital) to any of the line or ADAT outputs. This latter feature makes it possible to process live instruments, like drums, vocals, strings, and such, through UAD plug-ins, and then feed the processed sound to cue mixes or PA systems.
In use, it is clear that the Apollo 16 can function as the centerpiece of a growing studio. 16 is a lot of inputs, but if your needs grow, you can shoot up to 32 with little fuss. As I mention in the review of the original Apollo, the converters are very solid. (A decade ago, we would have called these some of the best on the market, yet now, I'm here trying to pick at them. Jeez!) Drums have a nice depth and space about them, guitars are "what you put in is what you get," and vocals are clear and clean. If you desire a more colored recording, you can always choose to track through UAD plug-ins, such as a tape emulator (e.g., Studer A800), a console channel (Neve, API, or SSL), or even the new Fairchild Tube Limiter. No other interface can do that. And honestly, to get better converters would cost much more cash, and you would not have real-time UAD processing.
If you had some reservations about the original Apollo, either because you didn't need the preamps, or wanted more I/O options, the Apollo 16 could be your answer. Over the years, I've seen many music manufacturers release a flagship unit, then strip out features to sell junior versions of the same product. Universal Audio is aware of what goes on in a studio and production environment, and they took the opposite approach. They listened to users who wanted more I/O and already had their favorite preamps. The Apollo 16 could be a great foundation for your studio now and into the future.