Apogee has come out with a software and firmware update for the Ensemble audio interface that is particularly interesting for Logic Pro users.
In addition to a replacement for the old Maestro software, direct monitoring is now available on a per channel basis in Logic Pro X version 10.3.2 or higher.
Direct monitoring has always been available but involved several steps. Disabling software monitoring within Logic Pro was followed by a custom setup in Maestro, routing the inputs directly to the hardware outputs. Now it is more seamless than ever. Apogee Control Software, the replacement for Maestro, need not even be used. There is a new direct monitoring button available directly on Logic Pro’s audio channel strips.
The new Direct monitoring button has three states it can be in.
Grey indicates the old behavior. It is not used, and Logic Pro’s software monitoring is used as expected. This is the best way to monitor plug-ins directly on the channel strip while recording.
When the track is record enabled, and it is activated, it turns orange. Effectively what is happening is that the audio input is being routed straight to the hardware output set in the channel strip’s output field with no latency. Plug-ins on the record enabled channel strip cannot be monitored this way, but sends to aux’s (with reverb for example) will remain in the signal flow and still arrive at the hardware output. With the buffer induced latency of course; but in the case of reverb sends, this is not really an issue.
There is one “gotcha’” with this new feature, however.
When the channel strip’s output field is not routed directly to a physical output, the "Direct" button will change to yellow to indicate that the input is capable of "Direct Monitoring" but that the output setting is not compatible with that feature. So, this rules out the possibility of using the new direct monitoring feature while a channel strip is routed to any kind of sub group or track stack.
This is understandable, as there may be gain stage changes in the signal pathway that would result in potentially large discrepancies in volume when direct monitoring versus software monitoring the signal. So for now, when you want to direct monitor the signal, make sure the channel strip is routed directly to a physical output. Hopefully, the developers will be able to sort this out and address this in future updates.
Apogee Control software
The new Apogee Control software is a nice upgrade from Maestro. Various windows can be displayed or hidden to customize the view. So depending on how you like to work, you might, for example, want to leave just the essentials window open and displaying with Logic Pro for quick access to the important parameters. It can be set to either vertical or horizontal orientation, so as to best fit your screenset.
The functionality is generally similar to that of Maestro, but the layout is different of course. One thing that wasn’t immediately obvious and had me scratching my head for a while was getting the independent headphone audio streams I had set up in Logic Pro to actually arrive at the headphone outputs. It’s necessary to configure this routing in the Monitor/Output section. It seemed obvious once I knew where it was. Unfortunately, there is no manual shipping with this new software yet.
The output routing is enhanced nicely, with the ability to freely route either software mixes from your DAW, mixes from within Apogee Control (including a new FX send mix), or hardware inputs, directly to the three available outputs on the Ensemble.
The update comes with several other nice new enhancements:
- The ability to connect two Ensemble Thunderbolt interfaces
- An iOS remote app for the Ensemble
- The ability to connect an Element interface to an Ensemble
All in all, this is a fantastic update. And it is great to see Apogee showing love for their Ensemble users.