Click below to jump to the topic:
- General Questions
- Zero-Ohm Headphone Output
- Apogee Alloy Mic Preamp Emulation
- Symphony ECS Channel Strip Plugin
Question - Is the software free?
Answer - The Symphony Desktop Control software is always free. The Symphony Desktop also comes with the Symphony ECS Channel Strip plugin, Clearmountain's Spaces, and Apogee Alloy Mic Preamp Emulation that is also free. All other plugins have a Trial period where you can test them out. Licenses for plugins you like can be purchased from your local Dealer or the Apogee webstore.
Many of these features will become available as we roll out new releases. You can see our Feature Release Schedule here: https://apogeedigital.com/support/symphony-desktop#schedule
Question - Which operating systems is Symphony Desktop compatible with?
Answer - The Symphony Desktop is compatible with macOS 10.13 and above, Windows 10 Anniversary Edition and above, and iOS 13 devices and above.
Question: What's the easiest way to get my Symphony Desktop completely set up on my Mac or Windows 10 computer?
Answer - Follow the Step by Step Setup guide at the Symphony Desktop support site here.
Question: What plugins come with it?
Answer - All Symphony Desktop units come with Apogee Alloy Mic Preamp emulation that run on the Symphony Desktop hardware, and an ECS channel strip plugin. All other plugins require a license that must be purchased separately from your local Dealer or the Apogee Webstore.
Question: Is the sound quality really the same as the Symphony I/O MkII?
Answer - Yes. The converter circuit that we use in the Symphony I/O MkII module cards are used in the Symphony Desktop. The specifications such as dynamic range and THD+N measure in the same range as these MkII cards.
Question: Can you control a Symphony MkII with the Symphony Desktop?
Answer - No. The Symphony Desktop is a completely separate interface and driver from Symphony I/O MkII. The two devices do not combine or control each other.
Question: Why are there two USB ports on Symphony Desktop’s rear panel?
Answer - The USB-C port labelled with the icon is for connecting Symphony Desktop to your Mac, Windows 10 or iOS device. The port labelled USB Host is for connecting the included USB thumb drive to update Touch Screen Control.
Question: Why are you using a USB thumb drive to update Touch Screen Control?
Answer: One of the main design goals of Symphony Desktop was platform independence, so customers had complete functionality even if they weren’t connecting to a computer. With that goal in mind, it was important that all users could update without using a computer. USB thumb drives are an easy and inexpensive way to distribute updates regardless of your platform.
Question: The Symphony Desktop DC power connection seems intermittent - how can I fix this?
Answer - The DC power connection on Desktop’s rear panel uses a locking mechanism, and if it’s not properly engaged, the power connection will indeed be intermittent.
Question: Can I connect Symphony Desktop directly to my USB-C equipped iPad Pro? How do I control settings?
Answer - Connect to an iPad Pro, using the supplied USB-C to USB-C cable. Make all settings including mic preamp emulation and direct mixing from Symphony Desktop’s Touch screen.
Question: Can I connect Symphony Desktop to a Lightning-equipped iPhone or iPad? How do I control settings?
Answer - Connect to a Lightning iPad or iPhone using the (included) USB-A cable along with the Apple Camera Connection Kit (purchased separately). Make all settings including mic preamp emulation and direct mixing from Symphony Desktop’s Touch screen.
Question: How can I get my guitar connected to the front panel Instrument input to work
Answer - To use the front panel Instrument Input, any connection to the rear panel Analog IN 2 Combi input (XLR or ¼”) must be removed. Once removed, Analog IN 2 Analog Level automatically switches to Instrument.
Question: Is Symphony Desktop Thunderbolt 3 or USB?
Answer - The Symphony Desktop is a USB interface. This is necessary to make it compatible with Windows 10, iOS devices, as well as Mac computers. In addition, the number of channels of Symphony Desktop do not require the additional bandwidth of Thunderbolt, and is well within the range that USB provides, even at 192k sample rate.
Question: Is it possible to completely bypass the preamps so signal goes straight to the converter?
Answer - Yes the preamp circuit in the Symphony Desktop can be completely bypassed, allowing you to use an external preamp or line-level device of your choice. Set the Input to +4dBu or -10dBV and signal to the XLR inputs go directly to the A/D converter.
Zero-Ohm Headphone Output
Question: What does “Zero-Ohm Headphone Outputs” mean?
Answer - “Zero-Ohm” refers to the impedance of the headphone output circuit, which is not exactly 0 ohms, but really close (0.5 ohms). More importantly, why is this an important feature?
The Zero-ohm headphone output is important for these two reasons;
- The performance of your headphones (even frequency response, maximum output level) is highly dependent on the ratio between its impedance and the source impedance of the headphone output.
- The impedance and sensitivity of headphones available today varies (maybe even wildly!).
The best way to ensure the ideal impedance ratio between your headphones and our headphone output, regardless of your headphone make and model, is to make the output impedance as low as possible. The only possible issue is with output power - if the headphone output is powerful enough to drive high impedance headphones, it could overload low impedance headphones and earbuds. What’s the solution for that? Well...
Question: What’s the difference between the front and rear panel headphone outputs
Answer - As described above, Symphony Desktop headphone outputs employ a zero-ohm driver design that ensures the best performance with any headphone available today, regardless of the headphone’s impedance. To best match the sensitivity of various headphones, Symphony Desktop offers two headphone outputs with different power capabilities:
- Connect higher impedance headphones (30 ohms and above) to the front panel headphone output. This output can drive virtually any pair of headphones.
- Connect lower impedance headphones to the rear panel headphone output to ensure the lowest noise and best power handling.
Apogee Alloy Mic Preamp Emulation
Question: What hardware preamp was the AP-66 modeled after?
Answer - The AP-66 is modeled after a vintage Neve 1066 with “round-can” Marinair input transformer. Does this version of the input transformer sound “better” than the later rectangular version in the 1073? We’re not making any claims here, but we tried a few different modules (1066s, 1073s) and we chose this one to model.
Question: What makes your Neve mic preamp emulation different?
Answer - The big differences start in the analog domain: First, the circuit architecture of our Advanced Stepped Gain mic preamp is quite similar to that of a Neve. A Neve has a big red gain switch while the Apogee mic pre has a digitally-controlled analog gain switching module, but they operate in a very similar way. This allowed us to more faithfully reproduce the 20 to 80 dB gain structure of the Neve without a -20dB pad or additional digital trims (like other emulations have), just a gain knob and an output fader. We even discovered that when we pushed our circuit to 80 dB of gain, it exhibited a gradual high-end rolloff very similar to the Neve.
Next, we took our decades of experience with Soft Limit (an Apogee feature first introduced with the AD-500 in 1986) to create an analog circuit that shapes transients as the circuit is pushed into an overdriven state.
Finally, we added a switchable impedance feature to match the input impedance of our mic preamp to the two impedance values available on a vintage Neve preamp.
With these three innovations, a significant part of the mic preamp emulation is done in the analog domain, for a richer and more authentic result.
Of course, after the A/D conversion stage, on-board DSP is applied to precisely refine the emulation throughout the entire gain range. That’s Apogee Alloy, the fusion of analog and digital processing for a result that’s stronger than the components.
Question: How do I get started with the AP-66 mic preamp emulation?
Answer - When you first open the AP-66, the Input Gain and Output level are set so you’ll experience some saturation with many typical input sources. Raise the Input gain for more saturation, then adjust the Output level for a proper recording level.
Here’s a way to easily experience the entire range of our Neve emulation from subtle warming to full-on distortion while maintaining a relatively consistent output level:
- Choose the AP-66 mic preamp emulation on the touch screen by tapping the IN1 button until the Settings view is displayed.
- Tap Preamp, then choose AP-66, then tap the “X”.
- Tap the IN1 button to display the Overview view.
- Set Output Level to 0.
- Input the signal to be recorded, and set Input Gain for a proper recording level. The meter should display an average level around -16 to -12 dBFs, with -6 dbFs peaks.
- Tap GL (Gain Link) - now, as the Input Gain is raised, the Output Level lowers to compensate.
- As you increase the Input Gain, you’ll hear more and more saturation, then an overdriven sound, and finally very audible distortion. Experience to discover the effect that best suits your creation!
Question: What does the IMPD button do on the AP-66 model?
Answer - The IMPD stands for impedance, and the button alters the input impedance of the physical mic preamp circuit, similar to the Impedance switch found on Neve modules. When Lo-Z is on, input impedance is 300 ohms; when Lo-Z is off, impedance is 1200 ohms.
The impedance setting usually has a pretty subtle effect on the audio, but can have the most pronounced effect when lower impedance ribbon mics are connected.
Question: What hardware preamp was the AP-57 modeled after?
Answer - The AP-57 is modeled after a highly modified Ampex 601 tube preamp, part of a suitcase recording system from the late 1950s. The specific hardware unit used for modeling included the optional input transformer, a custom input attenuator and other custom tweaks.
Our AP-57 mic preamp emulation reproduces the complete experience using a 50s tube mic preamp - the larger-than-life sound, the rich harmonics, and the rapid onset of distortion, especially when using high-output large diaphragm condenser microphones!
If you have a 50s tube mic pre, you probably have an in-line attenuator or two just to be able to record with a condenser mic without overloading the mic pre input. Then again, if you’re looking for a warm but present distortion, the 601 preamp gets you there quickly.
With our AP-57 emulation, you’ve got this choice as well - start with no pad, turn up the gain, and bask in the thick harmonics! If you’re barely cracking the Input gain but getting too much, engage the -20 dB pad - you’ll be able to increase the gain with less distortion.
Once you’ve determined the pad setting, tap GL (Gain Link) to couple the Input Gain and Output Level controls to work together. The AP-57 emulation offers more extreme sounds than the other mic preamp emulations, so approach it with a creative mindset!
Symphony ECS Channel Strip Plugin
Question: What does ECS stand for?
Answer - EQ, Compression, and Saturation are the three audio processing blocks offered in the plugin.
Question: Which piece of hardware is the graphical user interface based on?
Answer - The purple anodized knobs, the grey faceplate, the small toggle switches and the LEDs are all features of Apogee’s very first converter product, the AD-500, released in 1986.
Question: How do I completely eliminate distortion from the Saturation process?
Answer - When the ECS plugin is first opened, the Default preset is loaded, in which the Drive control is set to 0.10 for a very subtle amount of harmonic enhancement. It’s possible to set Drive to 0.00, at which point absolutely no harmonic content is added.
Question: What does the toggle switch HP>EQ, HP>SC do?
Answer - The switch toggles the high pass filter between two possible signal paths:
- HP > EQ - The high pass filter is inserted into the EQ signal chain, processing audio throughput.
- HP > SC - The high pass filter is inserted into the compressor side chain, making the compressor less sensitive to low frequencies.
Question: What’s the slope of the high pass filter?
Answer - 18 dB/octave, great for removing low end sludge without completely removing the guts of the sound.