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UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

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UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:31 am

Given that the DSP in UA’s interfaces do all the heavy lifting, the minimum recommended processor spec (https://help.uaudio.com/hc/en-us/articles/205152223-Apollo-System-Requirements) of a quad core i7, seems like a pretty high price of admission.

I was hoping to pair an Apollo Twin MKII Duo with a mid-2013 MacBook Air. Quite an elderly laptop I know, but it’s happily running Logic Pro and Mojave and more than meets my demands of it.

Specifically it’s a 1.3GHz Core i5 with 4Gb RAM … wow, now that I actually write that down it is pretty dated!

Anyway, will it play nice with an Apollo Twin and it’s Console software or is it too over the hill?
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Wonks » Thu Jul 18, 2019 9:57 am

It does say 'recommended rather than 'necessary'.

I'd say that the Apollo will work OK, but that 4GB RAM isn't going to let you do very complicated work on the airbook. A Duo UAD processor is seriously lacking in processing power, so apart from running the pre-amp plugs on it, you won't be able to run that much else in mixing mode before the UAD maxes out. Probably why they recommend an i7 for brute native plug-in processing power.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:03 am

Wonks wrote:It does say 'recommended rather than 'necessary'.

I'd say that the Apollo will work OK, but that 4GB RAM isn't going to let you do very complicated work on the airbook. A Duo UAD processor is seriously lacking in processing power, so apart from running the pre-amp plugs on it, you won't be able to run that much else in mixing mode before the UAD maxes out. Probably why they recommend an i7 for brute native plug-in processing power.

I'm confused

I thought all the UAD plug-in processing was hoofed over to the external boxes?
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:13 am

FWIW I have used an Apollo Silverface and a Twin mk I with a mid 2013 Macbook Air quite successfully for both recording and mixing in Logic, though not both at the same time and only running a couple of plugins. It's spec is 1.3 GHz dual core i5 and 4 gig of RAM, so not particularly fast (in fact, looking back at your original post it's the same spec as yours).

My own experience with Duo Apollos has actually been quite good. Admittedly I don't tend towards the really heavy duty UAD plugins but I rarely reach close to the limits of processing on a Duo. A reverb and some compressors, for instance, is not a problem.

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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:36 am

jellyjim wrote:I thought all the UAD plug-in processing was hoofed over to the external boxes?

It is... but I think the point Wonks is making is that your box, being a duo model, doesn't have a great deal of DSP power onboard (by modern standards).

The latest UAD plugins are very much more DSP-hungry than the early ones, designed with the mindset of taking advantage of the current octo processors. Consequently, you won't be able to run huge numbers of plugins (and especially not the latest beefy ones) on the octo.

Depending on what you want to do, that may or may not be a problem. I still use a quad board and it serves me very well, but I tend not to use a large number of plugins.

Also, the 4GB Ram in your laptop is on the small side by modern standards.... and may well restrict what the laptop can run -- or how fast and smoothly it can run -- just because so many OS and programs are very memory-hungry, and with a small amount of RAM the data will have to be moved to and from the hard drive a lot.

I think -- as CC's experiences show -- it should work fine but don't expect it to be able to handle 20 instances of the OceanWay plugin!

H
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:43 am

Well as I say it's down to what you're trying to do. If your demands are modest (tracking up to four tracks at once, mixing with a few plugins like, say, the LA-2A) this machine is fine. I've found that in combination with my Apollo Silverface and an ambisonic mic the Macbook Air is quite a neat live recording combo. Admittedly I'll move the whole project onto my main machine back here but I can certainly do preliminary editing on the Macbook without problem.

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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:02 am

In my experience the UA Console and driver software is more demanding on the host machine than most audio interface control panel utilities. The actual audio processing is offloaded to DSP chips but the infrastructure that makes this possible is quite complex.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:05 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
jellyjim wrote:I thought all the UAD plug-in processing was hoofed over to the external boxes?

It is... but I think the point Wonks is making is that your box, being a duo model, doesn't have a great deal of DSP power onboard (by modern standards).

The latest UAD plugins are very much more DSP-hungry than the early ones,

But they've only just released the MKIIs haven't they?! Solo, Duo, Quad, they all come with the same plugin bundle.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:14 am

Doesn't mean you can run all the plugins simultaneously on all the versions!

There's a chart here which gives an indication of how much DSP each plugin requires --although it doesn't take into account the additional DSP load of the Apollo mixer, and this is for a 44.1 sample rate.

https://help.uaudio.com/hc/en-us/articles/215262223-UAD-2-DSP-Chart
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:15 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Doesn't mean you can run all the plugins simultaneously on all the versions!

There's a chart here which gives an indication of how much DSP each plugin requires --although it doesn't take into account the additional DSP load of the Apollo mixer, and this is for a 44.1 sample rate.

https://help.uaudio.com/hc/en-us/articles/215262223-UAD-2-DSP-Chart

Thanks Hugh, that looks useful
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Wonks » Thu Jul 18, 2019 11:41 am

Yes. Some of the latest UAD plugs take up most of a core's processing, leaving almost no capacity for anything else. The UAD software doesn't share processing over multiple cores, so if you've got one plug that takes 65% of one core and you want to run another that takes 40% of a core, then you won't get them running together on that core.

The first tranche of UAD software emulations were much less processor intense, but in an effort to make them more realistic, they've become much heavier on % processor use. The Shark processors used by UAD are at least 10 years old now, so though the rest of the AI might be cutting edge, the plug-in processing isn't. So make sure you use a mono version of the plugs where appropriate to maximise the processing available.

Whilst you will be able to run some UAD plugs when mixing, you are still mainly going to have to rely on native plugs unless you invest in more UAD processing hardware.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Bob Bickerton » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:10 pm

Whilst these comments are true, it’s worth noting that the Apollo ships with the legacy analogue classics bundle. These are the older and much less processor hungry versions of the plug-ins which are still very good indeed.

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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 18, 2019 12:57 pm

Bob's point is well made. You don't have to be using the latest and greatest and most cycle-hungry all the time. I really think from my experience with the 2013 Macbook Air that you can get a surprising distance with care and forethought. Longer term you'll want to move up to something more powerful, but then you'll want to do that anyway.

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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby johnny h » Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:03 pm

UAD have some very loyal followers and good plugins but they are seriously limited by their reliance on ancient DSP technology. Even a basic macbook air will run rings around the most expensive UAD card currently on sale.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Jul 18, 2019 4:09 pm

Define 'seriously limited'! ;)

'Ancient DSP technology' it may be, but it doesn't prevent them from creating some remarkably powerful, accurate and superb-sounding plugin emulations. Plus, it provides a high degree of protection against piracy while simultaneously serving to maintain a large and loyal user base, and even encourage them to upgrade to extra or more powerful accelerator products.

Sounds like a very shrewd and effective business model to me.... :lol:
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby johnny h » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:07 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Define 'seriously limited'! ;)
Lack of portability, low number of instances, little future proofing ;)
'Ancient DSP technology' it may be, but it doesn't prevent them from creating some remarkably powerful, accurate and superb-sounding plugin emulations. Plus, it provides a high degree of protection against piracy while simultaneously serving to maintain a large and loyal user base, and even encourage them to upgrade to extra or more powerful accelerator products.

Sounds like a very shrewd and effective business model to me.... :lol:
It doesn't "prevent" them from being able to run a couple of 2019 standard native quality plugins per core, but it certainly doesn't help! To my knowledge there are plenty of native plugins which haven't been reliably cracked that provide similar quality to UAD, yet don't rely on clunky hardware and allow vastly more instances to be used at once.

As a business model, I can't deny it makes them money, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone on the consumer side!
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:22 pm

I'm very surprised to hear the chips at the heart of the UAD engine are a bit long in the tooth! I wonder what their roadmap looks like with regards to upgrading the platform?

Of course, as you point out Hugh, the software that runs on the hardware is their real asset. That must be a big codebase and it wouldn't be a trivial task to migrate that anywhere.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby desmond » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:42 pm

jellyjim wrote:I'm very surprised to hear the chips at the heart of the UAD engine are a bit long in the tooth! I wonder what their roadmap looks like with regards to upgrading the platform?

Anyone who jumped onboard with the original UAD1 basically knows exactly what happens - they run the hardware platform until it's incredibly outdated, and sales start to slow, then eventually introduce a new hardware platform that's more powerful, and requires everyone to buy new hardware, but still isn't that powerful compared to general purpose computers, and runs that until it's incredibly outdated, rinse and repeat.

It's a business model that's worked very well for them - they are the *only* powered plugin / DSP platform that survived when all the competition couldn't make it work, they are introducing ever more plugins at a somewhat dizzying rate, they can add DSP chips inexpensively into their other hardware as a significant value add, their plugins can't be pirated (and thus they maintain some desirable exclusivity), and their userbase consists of people who a) actually *buy* plugins, and b) have already invested heavily to get into the platform in the first place, so they are more likely to continue to buy UAD plugins.

jellyjim wrote:Of course, as you point out Hugh, the software that runs on the hardware is their real asset. That must be a big codebase and it wouldn't be a trivial task to migrate that anywhere.

Not so much. As I understand it, they code on/for regular systems, and then have a deployment system that compiles into the destination DSP code. To support new chips, you extend that deployment system to compile to the new format, and then theoretically it's "just" a recompile of the plugins to work on the new chips. (Of course, the reality is a little more complex, but the principle is there.)

I'm fairly sure there are newer Sharc chips that use the same basic code and instruction sets, but are simply more powerful, than the old ones UA still use for the UAD2 platform.

It's not like the UAD1 -> UAD2 translation where the hardware platform was completely new so they had to build a lot of new stuff from scratch - the old MPACT chip was a graphics processor, and quite different from the more general purpose Sharcs they are using now.

Basically, UA hold on selling the same old DSP hardware until the market literally stops buying them and sales slow down - at that point, they think about upgrading the hardware, as opposed to just adding more chips - which is much less expensive, and a lot easier.
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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby ConcertinaChap » Thu Jul 18, 2019 8:45 pm

They are a bit long in the tooth, unquestionably, but DSP chips have always offered a lot of bang for the buck in their particular area of use and it doesn't surprise me that they are offering a useful degree of service long after their equivalently aged CPUs have disappeared off the radar. It is also true that native plugins can match UAD's for functionality and number of instances on modern machines. But their interfaces are as good as anyone's, very straightforward and effective to use and they give access to a marvellous set of plugins (inexpensive too if you choose your moment to buy).

For those of us who want to use them they're great and decent value for money. If you haven't bought in then that's fine too. You aren't short of alternatives nowadays.

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Re: UAD Apollo min spec seems high given it's DSP anyway (quad core i7)?

Postby jellyjim » Fri Jul 19, 2019 1:08 pm

Thanks all

Further research reveals to me that you're forced to download their entire library regardless of what you own! Urgh. Aggressive sales techniques or what?

But also terrible user experience if I can't hide the plug-ins I don't own. When or wherever I might select a UAD plug-in, will I always see those I don't own?

That'd be a deal breaker because for me it would be passion killer, so to speak, or at the very least an irritation ready to interrupt one's flow.
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