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Author Topic: MOTU Traveler Mods  (Read 6495 times)

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Offline Ace of Dubs

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MOTU Traveler Mods
« on: November 18, 2005, 03:04:41 PM »
I know this is a computer interface, but since it also doubles as a standalone preamp, I though I would post this here.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally placed my order for MOTU's traveler. I tested this badboy with my powerbook and the compact size, SPDIF connections, great metering and tight DAC conversion won me over. The only critique I had of this box was the sound of the ADC. I spoke to Doug Oade to see if he offered any mods but he has no plans to do so. I kept searching till I found someone who does indeed mod the Traveler and supposedly is getting excellent results.

http://blacklionaudio.com/828.htm

I have signed up for  my mod and will gladly play guinea pig and report the results here. Stay tuned...

Offline Ace of Dubs

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2006, 06:55:23 PM »
So my MOTU just arrived and I am starting  to test this badboy out.
I dont have a fancy microphone, but SM57 recordings so far sound INCREDIBLE!

My Traveler has a very transparent sound with which I could not be more happy.
If anyone here has an FTP, I will gladly upload some test samples.

stirinthesauce

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #2 on: February 01, 2006, 11:50:04 PM »
+t for being the guinea pig on the mod and reporting back. 

Offline poorlyconditioned

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2006, 12:03:37 AM »
I know this is a computer interface, but since it also doubles as a standalone preamp, I though I would post this here.

After much hemming and hawing, I finally placed my order for MOTU's traveler. I tested this badboy with my powerbook and the compact size, SPDIF connections, great metering and tight DAC conversion won me over. The only critique I had of this box was the sound of the ADC. I spoke to Doug Oade to see if he offered any mods but he has no plans to do so. I kept searching till I found someone who does indeed mod the Traveler and supposedly is getting excellent results.

http://blacklionaudio.com/828.htm

I have signed up for  my mod and will gladly play guinea pig and report the results here. Stay tuned...

Hey!  Before you send that MOTU in, can you crack the box and take a closeup photo of the mic-pre section?

According to the webpage you mentioned, they use 4580 opamps.  We know those are bad and can be replaced.  (Not for the faint of heart on a $800 board, but can be done...).

But what I want to know is what circuitry is *before* the opamps.  In particular, is there a discrete transistor front end.  Also, is the circuit running at +-15V, or some lower voltage, like +-5V on the Edirol UA5 (stock).

If the circuit has a discrete front end, and if it has +-15V, I expect it to sound similar to the Presonus Firepod/Firebox.  And IMO this sounds a lot better than the UA5.  I don't know how much switching the opamps will help.  But I guess at the price he is asking (ca. $200), it sounds like it is worth a try.

Thanks,
 and plusT for modding your gear!
  Richard
Mics: Sennheiser MKE2002 (dummy head), Studio Projects C4, AT825 (unmodded), AT822 franken mic (x2), AT853(hc,c,sc,o), Senn. MKE2, Senn MKE40, Shure MX183/5, CA Cards, homebrew Panasonic and Transsound capsules.
Pre/ADC: Presonus Firepod & Firebox, DMIC20(x2), UA5(poorly-modded, AD8620+AD8512opamps), VX440
Recorders: Edirol R4, R09, IBM X24 laptop, NJB3(x2), HiMD(x2), MD(1).
** This individual has moved to user "illconditioned" **

Offline Ace of Dubs

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #4 on: February 02, 2006, 07:23:19 AM »
I already got my modded MOTU...sorry!

In regards to your questions, here is an email I got from Matt @ Black Lion

Quote
I upgrade all of the analog stages in the MOTU--mic preamps, line in, line out, and headphone out.  The converters themselves are actually quite good, they are the same converters used in Apogee and other high-end units.  I use a high-speed FET stage for all of the MOTU's analog stuff to put it on an entirely new level, and I think it will set well against stuff by Mytek, Benchmark, etc.

As for how the MOTU mod stacks up against Presonus...

Quote
I'm always wary of Presonus stuff, because it's largely mediocre but impossible to improve upon because of the way it's designed.  Also, I have a friend who works for Presonus, and he won't use any of their firewire interfaces--he uses one of my modified MOTU's instead, and that kind of raises a red flag in my mind.

And here is a preliminary review from one of the guys who is currently testing this mod..

Quote
"Basically all the shittiness is gone.  I'm even routing bass tracks out to a Distressor using external plugins in Cubase...so that means three full round trips through D/A and A/D conversion before hitting my ears!  I did a quick A/B comparing some Distressor snare drum tracks between using the MOTU and Mytek as A/D for the return path.  I really had to listen hard to hear any difference.  It was way more subtle than it was before...the Mytek has just a tad more high end smoothness and depth. So in my opinion the D/A has gone from "pretty okay for the money, but nothing I would run critical tracks through" to "a tool that I can make some music with".  I'm not hearing the shittiness of the conversion anymore. You really polished a turd big time!"

If you want to know more specific info about this mod, talk to Matt he is really cool guy who knos his stuff and has no qualms about revealing exactly how he mods these things.

admin@blacklionaudio.com

On a personal note, the more I play with this box, the more I appreciate its rich sound quality. I find that my sounds dont require so much EQing and fudging to sit well in the mix now and my mixes sound brighter/fuller. I cant wait to get my hands on a Neumann so I can really hear this baby sing!


Offline Steve J

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #5 on: February 02, 2006, 01:43:36 PM »
Hmmm...I say....hmmm.... :hmmm:

This sounds like the ticket for me. I too have thought the shortcoming of the Traveler was the preamp section. I'll have to drop him a line.
Humans are the only animals that follow unstable leaders.

Offline poorlyconditioned

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #6 on: February 02, 2006, 02:02:02 PM »
Hmmm...I say....hmmm.... :hmmm:

This sounds like the ticket for me. I too have thought the shortcoming of the Traveler was the preamp section. I'll have to drop him a line.

Can any of you guys photograph the preamp section for me?  I'm also curious what mods that guy did.  Probably just swapping opamps, but I'd like to see the part numbers (if he didn't file them off...).

Thanks,
  Richard
Mics: Sennheiser MKE2002 (dummy head), Studio Projects C4, AT825 (unmodded), AT822 franken mic (x2), AT853(hc,c,sc,o), Senn. MKE2, Senn MKE40, Shure MX183/5, CA Cards, homebrew Panasonic and Transsound capsules.
Pre/ADC: Presonus Firepod & Firebox, DMIC20(x2), UA5(poorly-modded, AD8620+AD8512opamps), VX440
Recorders: Edirol R4, R09, IBM X24 laptop, NJB3(x2), HiMD(x2), MD(1).
** This individual has moved to user "illconditioned" **

Offline Ace of Dubs

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2006, 03:14:44 PM »
Can any of you guys photograph the preamp section for me?  I'm also curious what mods that guy did.  Probably just swapping opamps, but I'd like to see the part numbers (if he didn't file them off...).

Read my post again. Matt describes how he upgrades all the analog stages, including all the FET components to take advantage of the great converters.

He is very laid back and open about hismodifications and even sells kits so you can do your own mod if you wish.

For those of you wanting photos or any other inside info, email admin@blacklionaudio.com

Offline poorlyconditioned

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #8 on: February 02, 2006, 03:40:22 PM »
Can any of you guys photograph the preamp section for me?  I'm also curious what mods that guy did.  Probably just swapping opamps, but I'd like to see the part numbers (if he didn't file them off...).

Read my post again. Matt describes how he upgrades all the analog stages, including all the FET components to take advantage of the great converters.

He is very laid back and open about hismodifications and even sells kits so you can do your own mod if you wish.

For those of you wanting photos or any other inside info, email admin@blacklionaudio.com

OK, thanks!  I'll send him an Email with my questions.  Most of my questions are about the MOTU itself.  From that I can determine what, if anything, will help on the modifications...

  Richard
Mics: Sennheiser MKE2002 (dummy head), Studio Projects C4, AT825 (unmodded), AT822 franken mic (x2), AT853(hc,c,sc,o), Senn. MKE2, Senn MKE40, Shure MX183/5, CA Cards, homebrew Panasonic and Transsound capsules.
Pre/ADC: Presonus Firepod & Firebox, DMIC20(x2), UA5(poorly-modded, AD8620+AD8512opamps), VX440
Recorders: Edirol R4, R09, IBM X24 laptop, NJB3(x2), HiMD(x2), MD(1).
** This individual has moved to user "illconditioned" **

Offline Brian

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #9 on: February 02, 2006, 03:47:37 PM »
does this same guy modify other MOTU models...specifically an 828mkII?

Offline 284201

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #10 on: February 02, 2006, 04:36:03 PM »
does this same guy modify other MOTU models...specifically an 828mkII?

From the website:

Quote
MOTU's family of firewire interfaces are all built upon essentially the same platform. They utilize Texas Instruments TMS320 series of DSP processors to handle bussing and routing, and TI's TSB43AB as a firewire driver.  The newer generation of MOTU units, such as the Traveler, the 896, and the 828MKII, use Asahi Kasei's converters, which are the same converters used by Apogee, RME, and others. I think the biggest liability of the MOTU interfaces is their decision to use NJM4580 opamps in all of the analog input and output stages. To my ears, these opamps are tonally flat and grossly unmusical. They seem to exhibit alot of haze due to their extremely slow response.

Building upon the 828 modification, I've added modifications for the Traveler and the 896 as well. The goal of the mod is  to lower THD and noisefloor, increase headroom, raise circuit bandwidth, and increase overall tonal and transient response. It involves replacing several surface-mount devices with high-speed FET components, as well as various capacitor upgrades. The end result is a staggering night-and-day difference that allows the AK converters to perform as they were designed to--it brings the MOTU to life, and improves overall soundstage and imaging. Vocal tracks are smoother, transients are more focused and less smeared. Guitars are more detailed and lifelike. If you're looking for an inexpensive converter upgrade, this is well worth your money. Prices are listed below, and return shipping is included. Email for more details, or to schedule a modification.

MOTU 828/828MKII                    $215.00
MOTU Traveler                            $235.00
MOTU 896HD                              $250.00

I was seriously considering the Traveler when I was still running a laptop.  I was starting to like the idea of getting another pair of mics (probaby DPA 406x's) and running them along with the Gefell's, but in the end I was worried about the pre-amp stage coming from a Grace box, and didn't really want to have an external pre in addition to the already large Traveler.

Sure is a slick piece of gear, though.  Nice find on the mods, I'd love to hear some recordings with a modded unit.  Or, even better, a pre/post mod comparison.

Offline Brian

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #11 on: February 02, 2006, 04:47:56 PM »
does this same guy modify other MOTU models...specifically an 828mkII?

From the website:

Quote
MOTU's family of firewire interfaces are all built upon essentially the same platform. They utilize Texas Instruments TMS320 series of DSP processors to handle bussing and routing, and TI's TSB43AB as a firewire driver.  The newer generation of MOTU units, such as the Traveler, the 896, and the 828MKII, use Asahi Kasei's converters, which are the same converters used by Apogee, RME, and others. I think the biggest liability of the MOTU interfaces is their decision to use NJM4580 opamps in all of the analog input and output stages. To my ears, these opamps are tonally flat and grossly unmusical. They seem to exhibit alot of haze due to their extremely slow response.

Building upon the 828 modification, I've added modifications for the Traveler and the 896 as well. The goal of the mod is  to lower THD and noisefloor, increase headroom, raise circuit bandwidth, and increase overall tonal and transient response. It involves replacing several surface-mount devices with high-speed FET components, as well as various capacitor upgrades. The end result is a staggering night-and-day difference that allows the AK converters to perform as they were designed to--it brings the MOTU to life, and improves overall soundstage and imaging. Vocal tracks are smoother, transients are more focused and less smeared. Guitars are more detailed and lifelike. If you're looking for an inexpensive converter upgrade, this is well worth your money. Prices are listed below, and return shipping is included. Email for more details, or to schedule a modification.

MOTU 828/828MKII                    $215.00
MOTU Traveler                            $235.00
MOTU 896HD                              $250.00

I was seriously considering the Traveler when I was still running a laptop.  I was starting to like the idea of getting another pair of mics (probaby DPA 406x's) and running them along with the Gefell's, but in the end I was worried about the pre-amp stage coming from a Grace box, and didn't really want to have an external pre in addition to the already large Traveler.

Sure is a slick piece of gear, though.  Nice find on the mods, I'd love to hear some recordings with a modded unit.  Or, even better, a pre/post mod comparison.


DOH!  i'm a dumbass and skipped right over the link.  +thanks!  I think i am going to do the upgrade for my MOTU 828mkII

Offline Brian

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #12 on: February 02, 2006, 06:43:26 PM »
i just dropped him an email about my 828mkII.  He must do some great work and have a pretty steady business because he couldn't schedule me any earlier than  march 22nd :o

needless to say i pulled the trigger anyway ;D  thanks for posting this thread Ace of Dubs. +T  I always wondered if the MOTU firewire devices could be modified.  I'm beginning to think anything made within the last 20 years can be made better at this point. 

Offline Ace of Dubs

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #13 on: February 03, 2006, 06:34:52 AM »
For those of you who want to hear some A-B comparisons:

http://www.jimbobaiken.com/traveler/index.html

The above link comes from a poster on TapeOp boards... here is what he has to say.
Quote from: jimbob
OK, here are some before /after samples of the MOTU Traveler, as modifyed by Black Lion Audio.  This is not the most scientific test and I don't think it provides a true representation of what the mod does, but I'm posting these samples because of so many requests to hear some.

The samples are of commercial cd's and an acapella vocal before and after modification.  I feel that this is actually a poor way to evaluate the mod done by Black Lion.  I think this mod will make a difference when multiple recordings are made with the Traveler through its mic pres and A/D.  Sort of how great preamps "stack up" nicely.  The differences when listening to mastered cd's going through only one A/D conversion on the traveler are not enormous, but I wouldn't really expect them to be.  The Traveler sounds pretty good out of the box.  Now I know it will be living up to it's fullest potential (well, it will when I get a better clock, but that will have to happen later).

I will be able to better determine if the mod makes a huge difference once I start recording larger scale projects with my traveler and mix those down.  But, so far I'd say even the slight difference I hear was worth the upgrade.

-Jim Bob

Offline noahbickart

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Re: MOTU Traveler Mods
« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2006, 07:12:32 AM »
Can the MOTU Traveler run without connection to a Mac/PC?

-Noah
Recording:
Capsules: Schoeps mk41v (x2), mk4v (x2), mk22 (x2), mk3 (x2), mk21 & mk8
Cables: 2x nbob KCY, 1 pair nbob actives, Darktrain 2 and 4 channel KCY extensions:
Preamps:    Naiant Littlebox, Naiant IPA, Naiant PFA, Sound Devices Mixpre6
Recorders: Sound Devices Mixpre6, Sony PCM m10

Home Playback: Mytek DSD 192> McIntosh MC162> Eminent Tech LFT-16; Musical Fidelity xCan v2> Hifiman HE-4XX / Beyerdynamic DT880

Office Playback: Grace m903> AKG k701 / Hifiman HE-400

 

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