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Universal Audio Apollo 8p

Digital Audio Interface

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Best Audio Interface For Recording a Whole Band

Universal Audio Apollo 8p

  • Don Makoviney
  • Last Updated: November 22, 2016

If I needed to record a full band live, I would easily pick the brand new Universal Audio Apollo 8p. With a Thunderbolt connection, it's super fast. It has 8 of the spectacular Unity preamps for which UA is known. The front panel is completely easy to understand. If you already have any UA interfaces, those will work with this interface as well. In short, it's a professional grade interface that you can grow with as you gain experience and knowledge in your home studio. As of November 2016, it also has Windows 10 drivers, making it the interface to get, no matter which computer platform you use.


The majority of home studio folks want the ability to record a full band – or at the very least get the main instruments recorded at the same time in the same take.

Since there are a million likely scenarios any given band may want to record their music, we’ll hit on some of the most common:

In a typical recording studio environment, each player will be isolated in a booth or room (or sometimes simply with walls they move around in a giant room). In the picture below, notice how the keyboard player, guitarist, and horns are all in separate isolated rooms:

recording-whole-band-isolation-booth

 

The problem, of course, is that most of us don’t have this sort of luxury in our home studios. This article over at Sonicbids basically says the same thing:

Recording a full band at home can be a struggle for many due to limitations such as space, equipment, and environment. Unlike professional recording studios where different instruments can be isolated and recorded together, home recordings are often done in your bedroom, basement, or living room. While these spaces are hardly ideal for a simultaneous recording of your band, there are ways around it.

Since this guide is not a tutorial on how to record a full band (there’s plenty of those), we’ll be focusing on the most likely scenarios for home studios, and recommend gear based on those. You’ll have to simply move up or down the scale depending on your unique needs.

Most of my friends, as well as those on audio forums, who record whole bands at home will record all the core instruments (drums, bass, guitars, and vocals), then overdub flourishes and details later.

We’ll be focusing on this approach as we choose our audio interfaces.

Why would I want to record a whole band at once?

You may be wondering this, since you’ve had some success with overdubbing each part in your home studio.

The biggest benefit? You’ll capture the live energy of your songs this way.

One of the drawbacks of overdubbing everything is that some of the raw live feel, the human energy, is missing. Some complain that songs completely recorded via overdubs can sound a little sterile, a little too clean. When you’re recording a whole band, you’ll invariably get some bleed-over from the other instruments. You might hear the snare bleed over into the guitar mic a bit. Or, you might hear some of the kick drum in the keyboard mics, or whatever. Everything mashing together in a sort of controlled chaos ends up creating an energy you can’t get by overdubbing every single instrument in isolation. Sometimes you’ll also get some really great happy accidents, like feedback at just the right time, or a mistake that turns out to be awesome.

There are a lot more variables, and room for error, but if you can pull it off, it’s pretty great.

One of my favorite bands as a kid, The Black Crowes, did this very well when they recorded Southern Harmony and Musical Companion in the early 1990’s. They wanted to capture the live sound and energy of the band, and they recorded pretty much all the songs on the album live, in a room, together. After they got the core of the songs done, they went back through and added some more guitars here and there, some keyboards, shakers, rattles, and overdubbed a considerable amount of vocals.

First, figure out how many channels you will need

Grab a pen and sketch out your instruments and the mics/inputs they will need. It doesn’t need to be as fancy as the picture below, but this is the general idea:
whole-band-recording-studio-diagram

 

Our pick: The best audio interface for recording everything

Apollo FW Hardware Callouts

The Apollo 8p is our pick because the software is flawless, the hardware is intuitive, the preamps are the best you can get in a digital device, and you can grow with it.

The other reason it’s great is you can cascade Apollo interfaces.

What does that mean?

So let’s say you started out with an Apollo Twin (which is actually our pick for best Thunderbolt digital audio interface, and now your requirements require more inputs for recording a full band at once. Now you get the Apollo 8p, and you can chain it together with your Twin for even more inputs, outputs, and flexibility.

When you can grow with the gear in which you’ve already invested, you’ve made the right gear choice. Ask Audio noticed the same thing:

The ability to cascade interfaces and unify them at the driver level only solidifies the idea that the Apollo 8p can be your first interface or your third interface and still be a worthy addition to your studio.

 

Plugin partners

Universal Audio has partnered with a whole bunch of companies to provide some pretty bad-ass plugins. Check it out:

Universal Audio Plugin Partners

Expert reviews

Ask Audio put the Apollo 8p through it’s paces, and had this to say:

The Apollo 8p is a logical addition to the Apollo lineup. The Unison technology is proven and solid, and to have the ability to utilize it on 8 analog inputs is simply wonderful. The Apollo 8p is an improvement both sonically and ergonomically to an already fantastic interface. The ability to cascade interfaces and unify them at the driver level only solidifies the idea that the Apollo 8p can be your first interface or your third interface and still be a worthy addition to your studio.

 

Mac and PC (Windows 10)

apollo 8p for home_recordingIn November 2016, UA announced their interfaces are now all Windows 10 compatible. You can view details about each interface here.

 

 

Conclusion

This isn’t one of those guides where you just pick the thing and go. You’ll need to do a little research, and tailor your digital audio interface choice to your situation.

Happy recording!


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Best Audio Interface For Recording a Whole Band

Universal Audio Apollo 8p

Best Audio Interface For Recording a Whole Band

Important Specs

Computer Connectivity Thunderbolt
Simultaneous I/O 18x24
A/D Resolution 24-bit/192kHz
Analog Inputs 8 x XLR, 2 x 1/4" (Hi-Z)
Analog Outputs 2 x 1/4" (monitor), 6 x 1/4" (line/alt out), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
Digital Inputs 2 x Optical
Digital Outputs 2 x Optical
Number of Preamps 8 x mic, 2 x instrument
Phantom Power? Yes
more specs

Synopsis:

The UA Apollo 8p is lightning fast, with 8 preamps and 18x20 IO connectivity. Load up your plugins on the Apollo inputs and it will handle all the processing, so your computer doesn't have to. Reviews from critics and users alike are overwhelmingly positive. If you are looking to expand beyond recording one track at a time, the Universal Audio Apollo 8p is the one to get.

- M

Sources

  1. Mike Metlay, Recording Magazine, 20110501
    Roland OCTA-CAPTURE Review
  2. Future Music, Music Radar, 20110128
    Roland Octa-Capture review
  3. Matt Vanacoro, Ask Audio, 20150803
    Review: Universal Audio Apollo 8p Audio Interface
  4. Computer Music, Music Radar, 20150613
    Universal Audio Apollo Thunderbolt 8p
Originally published: January 1st, 2016

Important Specs

Computer Connectivity Thunderbolt
Simultaneous I/O 18x24
A/D Resolution 24-bit/192kHz
Analog Inputs 8 x XLR, 2 x 1/4" (Hi-Z)
Analog Outputs 2 x 1/4" (monitor), 6 x 1/4" (line/alt out), 2 x 1/4" (headphones)
Digital Inputs 2 x Optical
Digital Outputs 2 x Optical
Number of Preamps 8 x mic, 2 x instrument
Phantom Power? Yes
more specs


“It’s not so much the equipment as how you use it. I’ve heard people with really cheap studios do great recordings.” —Frank Gambale


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