MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

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fu22ba55
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MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:54 am

I'm diving into the world of non-integrated preamps, trying to get MORE MODULAR re: mic pre's & A-to-D. (Mic Pre's that do their thing well... A-to-D that does it's thing well.)

Assuming I have 16 outboard preamps, (that's in the works), I'm looking at the MOTU 16A or the Apollo x16 for conversion:

1) MOTU 16A (about $1500)

2) Apollo x16 (about $3000, largely because of the real-time UAD processing onboard, I imagine)

To be 100% frank, I'd rather not go down the UAD rabbit hole. I feel like I'd rather invest in hardware, not software that can be outdated / deprecated on a vendor's whim. (An API 3124 theoretically holds it's value longer than a hardware-bound plugin.) I don't like vendor lock-in. (I'm talking to you Avid, Adobe, Sony, etc...)

My (very limited) understanding is that the acutal A-to-D part of conversion hasn't changed in 20 years... it's just all the bells and whistles, and pre & post processing that happens BEFORE and AFTER the actual A-to-D that you're paying more for. (Please correct me if this is a misconception).

Are the MOTU and Apollo still too "consumer-y?"

Should I be considering Burl, Antelope? Anything else I should consider between the $1500 and $3000 price point for 16 channels of A-to-D? I like the price point of < $100 per channel of the MOTU 16A, but don't want to skimp on this very important part of the signal chain.

I'm recording mostly rock & americana, so warmth is always good, but I assume that's the preamp's job, and I want my A-to-D to be as transparent as possible? Am I wrong?

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by kslight » Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:49 am

I’m pretty happy with my MOTU 1248 (same family).

If you want to buy from a company with a reputation of supporting their products, with quality sound and performance, flexible routing, I think they are a solid choice. I would not describe the upper level MOTU as consumery, in fact a lot of companies use the same / similar converters. IIRC the MOTU AVB line uses the same chips as some Apogee, Apollo, etc...so I would argue “pretty good” conversion, there may be slightly better converters out there as the 16a is not a new product anymore, but you will definitely pay a lot more to get that.

I chose MOTU for the above reasons and also because it works great off usb, thunderbolt, and avb...I felt like it was relatively future proof if I were to switch computers in the future... My old Mac Pro doesn’t have thunderbolt but I haven’t felt the need for it with this interface.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 11:08 am

kslight wrote:
Mon Sep 28, 2020 10:49 am
I chose MOTU for the above reasons and also because it works great off usb, thunderbolt, and avb...I felt like it was relatively future proof if I were to switch computers in the future... My old Mac Pro doesn’t have thunderbolt but I haven’t felt the need for it with this interface.
Understood and agreed. I like having options re: which "older" mac I'll use as host.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by digitaldrummer » Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:06 pm

I've had the original Apollo 16 (firewire, silver) for several years now and I'm very happy.

If you choose UAD, then yes, you may find yourself going down the rabbit hole, but what a nice rabbit hole it is! I have not purchased a plugin that I was disappointed with yet. and the conversion is very good. no complaints at all.

If you just need a lot of I/O you might also look at the Antelope Orion. I had one of the original 32's for awhile and it was nice, but the console app was a bit limited at the time. I understand the routing is better on the newer models. With the UAD console I can make 4 separate cue mixes for headphones, etc. it's much more flexible I think. does what I need anyway.
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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:55 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:
Mon Sep 28, 2020 3:06 pm
If you just need a lot of I/O you might also look at the Antelope Orion. I had one of the original 32's for awhile and it was nice, but the console app was a bit limited at the time. I understand the routing is better on the newer models. With the UAD console I can make 4 separate cue mixes for headphones, etc. it's much more flexible I think. does what I need anyway.
This is great, thanks. I wasn't aware of this option.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by Nick Sevilla » Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:13 am

I have been very happy with my Focusrite RedNet 2 with Dante (ethernet audio)

16 channels of IO conversion.

As to your supposition of the past 20 years all converters sounding the same... well, no.

I beta tested the original Digidesign 192 HD units, and when they came around they were great.

I changed them out for the RedNet2. And it was not a subtle difference. 20 years of chip improvements
is clearly heard.

Both units are only converters, they do not have any extras in the signal chain like the Apollo units.

For 16 channels though, you might have to find the older 2 space rack units, as the new single space one is over your 3K limit.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:41 am

Nick Sevilla wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:13 am
Both units are only converters, they do not have any extras in the signal chain like the Apollo units.
The Apollo 16's are strictly converters - no preamps. They do have the DSP, which is optional, but if you are paying for UAD it would be crazy not to use it.
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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by Recycled_Brains » Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:16 am

I have a silver Apollo 16 w/ a thunderbolt card. I like it. My best advice as someone who has gone down the UAD rabbit hole a bit... just get a few of the staples and you're good. Resist the urge to feel like you gotta have 'em all because you've invested in the platform. API EQ's, 1176, LA2A, Vari Mu, 1081, EMT140 (although, the Soundtoys Little Plate is fucking legit and so inexpensive), etc. Don't go crazy. I have a bunch and the ones listed above are the only ones I regularly use and now I kick myself in the ass over the fact that they have no resale value.
Ryan Slowey
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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by Nick Sevilla » Tue Sep 29, 2020 1:25 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:41 am
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:13 am
Both units are only converters, they do not have any extras in the signal chain like the Apollo units.
The Apollo 16's are strictly converters - no preamps. They do have the DSP, which is optional, but if you are paying for UAD it would be crazy not to use it.
Ah, good to know. Their marketing simply is not clear on this.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by digitaldrummer » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:00 pm

Ryan makes a good point on the resale, although I think you can transfer plugins with a device (or at least it could be done once upon a time). But I also look at it like this... I can relatively inexpensively get access to the sound of some world class hardware that I would probably never buy otherwise. I can have multiple channels of Fairchilds or LA-2A if I want. So when I buy plugins, I'm looking at things I would likely never afford but still would like the sound option... Neves, Pultecs, Helios EQs and a bunch of compressors. so while I might not be able to put those plugins on Craigslist, I also did not spend $100K on it all. And I have plenty of "native" plugins that work side by side with them.
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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:56 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 8:41 am
Nick Sevilla wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:13 am
Both units are only converters, they do not have any extras in the signal chain like the Apollo units.
The Apollo 16's are strictly converters - no preamps. They do have the DSP, which is optional, but if you are paying for UAD it would be crazy not to use it.
That's the thing. I'd be paying a premium for the UAD, when all I want it conversion.

I know UAD is super-tempting (and useful for most of my day-to-day, hobbyist situations), but I'm trying to focus my pennies on hardware not vendor-locked emulation.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:57 pm

Recycled_Brains wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 9:16 am
I have a silver Apollo 16 w/ a thunderbolt card. I like it. My best advice as someone who has gone down the UAD rabbit hole a bit... just get a few of the staples and you're good. Resist the urge to feel like you gotta have 'em all because you've invested in the platform. API EQ's, 1176, LA2A, Vari Mu, 1081, EMT140 (although, the Soundtoys Little Plate is fucking legit and so inexpensive), etc. Don't go crazy. I have a bunch and the ones listed above are the only ones I regularly use and now I kick myself in the ass over the fact that they have no resale value.
Understood, thanks.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by fu22ba55 » Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:00 pm

digitaldrummer wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 2:00 pm
Ryan makes a good point on the resale, although I think you can transfer plugins with a device (or at least it could be done once upon a time). But I also look at it like this... I can relatively inexpensively get access to the sound of some world class hardware that I would probably never buy otherwise. I can have multiple channels of Fairchilds or LA-2A if I want. So when I buy plugins, I'm looking at things I would likely never afford but still would like the sound option... Neves, Pultecs, Helios EQs and a bunch of compressors. so while I might not be able to put those plugins on Craigslist, I also did not spend $100K on it all. And I have plenty of "native" plugins that work side by side with them.
Understood. It would be nice to have 10 Neve pre's on the drums just for the hell of it, and still have a Neve left over for vox. And most of my needs / applications are non-pro, hobbyist, demo situations, so I could more likely get away with emulation.

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Re: MOTU 16A vs Apollo x16 vs ???

Post by Nick Sevilla » Wed Sep 30, 2020 11:26 am

fu22ba55 wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 3:00 pm
Understood. It would be nice to have 10 Neve pre's on the drums just for the hell of it, and still have a Neve left over for vox. And most of my needs / applications are non-pro, hobbyist, demo situations, so I could more likely get away with emulation.
Tons of records throughout the 1970s to now were done like this:

RECORD on a Classic 70 series Neve.

MIX on an SSL to 1/2 tape (ATR 102 was used a lot).

MASTERING by a Mastering Engineer (second set of ears, still the best route IMHO).

So many, you can't really count them.
Howling at the neighbors. Hoping they have more mic cables.

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