Founded in 1985, Apogee initially designed filters, and later, armed with this expertise, their converters were soon regarded as the best of the breed. Around the turn of the century, Pro Tools TDM users were frequently supplementing their Digidesign hardware with Apogees and reaping the audible benefits, whilst mastering houses - especially Stateside - also upgraded with Apogee converters. The latest generation of Apogees includes the Rosetta 800 8-channel unit for multitrack A-D and D-A conversion.
This Rosetta 200 is a two-channel derivative, sharing features such as sample rates up to 192kHz, as well as Apogee favourites like UV22HR word-length reduction technology, SoftLimit and optional expansion cards to interface Pro Tools HD and Mix systems, and the FireWire card present on the review model. However, the 200 also adds a number of features not found on the 800 such as the unique new CODA section, full and clear LED metering and S/PDIF phono connections. Other digital formats for both input and output are comprehensively covered with AES configurable as single or double wire operation for sample rates from 88.2kHz upwards. Optical connections for sample rates of up to 96kHz can be set as S/PDIF or ADAT (S/MUX) and Word Clock BNCs are provided.
The unit is a deep and heavy 1U rackmounting box with vents at the sides, although heat output seems low. It is solidly built, with an elegant front, and all connections clearly laid out on the rear. Operation is achieved using a mere eight pushbuttons (including power) accompanied by a host of LEDs - there are no complex menus, although most of the buttons have a secondary function accessed with a longer press.
The X-FireWire expansion board is Windows XP and Core Audio compatible, so when connected to our Mac via FireWire, the Rosetta 200 appeared in the AudioMIDI Setup utility, and from here - or from DAW software - one can select the six different sample rates available between 44.1 and 192kHz; the indicator on the Rosetta changes obediently.
The routing of the different sources to analogue and digital outputs is cycled via two convenient dedicated buttons. The FireWire connection is indicated as ‘Option’, and using these any input can be selected as source for either analogue or digital output, and usefully there is a completely separate control section for sample rate and sync - configuration is straightforward.
The SoftLimit circuitry is a longstanding Apogee favourite which squashes peaks which come close to digital maximum. It was not designed for slamming, but as a failsafe mechanism it copes admirably with small ‘overs’ and unexpected peak levels and prevents things from getting nasty.
Perhaps the most notable features of the unit are comprised within the CODA section. The Aptomizer feature is a very neat way of recalibrating levels for optimal usage of available headroom. When set to Learn mode, one can run a pass of the track - or the loudest section - from which the peak digital level is set to -.5dBFS, whilst output is constantly trimmed by a corresponding amount so as to keep unity gain when monitoring through the converters. Whilst learning, the level is dropped to accommodate loud peaks, with it jumping to the appropriate level following the learning period. This setting can then be subsequently trimmed as necessary, particularly useful if one subsequently chooses to employ the SoftLimit feature.
Astonishingly, Apogee have never previously provided sample rate conversion, but as the need for this function increases, they usefully provide a high quality conversion here. In combination with their UV22 dithering process, this makes it simple to convert, say, 96kHz 24 bit material for CD at 44.1kHz and 16 bit whilst retaining as much quality as is possible.
The Rosetta sounds sweet and uncovers or retains more detail in the sound than any compared units, whatever the sample rate. If you are serious about your audio this unit is undoubtedly one of the best converters available.
CODA Audio Finishing including UV22HR and Aptomizer
FireWire and Pro Tools card options
(Auto) Sample-rate conversion
All common digital formats supported
192kHz sample rate
If the price of the Apogee makes you feel faint, try the considerably cheaper RME ADI2. However, if you are aiming for the ultimate in current converter technology we would suggest auditioning UA’s 2192 or Prism Technology’s even pricier AD-2 and DA-2, although for 192kHz you’ll need their ludicrously expensive eight channel ADA-8XR.
Unique CODA audio finishing module
Useful Aptomizer level setting routine
Extremely high-quality digital conversion
Digital format and sample rate conversions
Useful FireWire option
Professionally renowned - especially Stateside
Should prove an investment for many years
Walk On By
You probably don’t need 192kHz (yet)
At this level differences in quality can be subtle
If you are looking for very high quality converters for recording, archiving, mixing or mastering then this is just about as good as it gets.
Reproduced with kind permission from George Shilling. Copyright George Shilling.