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Author Topic: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)  (Read 835 times)

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Offline jerryfreak

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MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« on: November 07, 2020, 06:05:57 AM »


treated myself to an M4 because i needed more gear  ::)
so many shows to tape these days  :sleepy:

pretty versatile unit for what it costs ($170 for the 2-channel M2, $220 for the 4-channel M4). its market seems to be the home musician/podcasting crowd

like all products in this market segment they are backordered, took me about 3 weeks to get mine from sweetwater
will probably be even more scarce soon with the recent AKM factory fire

edit: as of today 11/18 sweetwater has M2s in stock

-is a USB "DAC" for the workstation (I put "DAC" in quotes because while it can function as a USB DAC it doesnt have any other spdif in)
-has a half-decent headphone amp
-is a 4-channel ADC to computer/iOS device
-2 of the channels have P48 with decent preamps (+60 dB gain)

i see it as a good computer interface for the homefront and a good field unit taboot. Rugged enough, yet affordable enought that i wouldnt hesitate to take it in the field (would be cooler if it had 'field protected' front controls but hey at this price its hard to complain). With its featureset the M2 is kind of the same functionality of an RME ADI-2 PRO (plus a bonus P48 preamp!). 90% of the RME's SOTA performance at about 10% of the price  :coolguy:

is USB-C bus powered and seems to sip power (doesnt get warm really)
could also be used as a 4 to 2 channel mixer in the field if thats your bag

great value for someone with a handheld who wants to add a P48 preamp, it operates in stand-alone mode (sans computer) and can feed a handheld with its unbalanced outs or an HQ ADC with its balanced outs. ill try to compare it as a standalone pre vs the V3 and FP24 (AKA mixpre) into the AD2K to try to isolate preamp quality to the best of my abilities

product pages

user guide

review

another review with links to the specs of the ADC,DAC, and preamp chips

i have yet to do my own measurements on it but based on others' measurements i expect it to meet or exceed my other pro-sumer gear like the mixpre6 and zoom F6 in quality
« Last Edit: November 18, 2020, 09:15:14 AM by jerryfreak »
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Offline voltronic

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #1 on: November 07, 2020, 07:49:08 AM »
Thanks for starting this thread.  I've had my M2 for a few months now, and have been extremely pleased with it. 

Here is another great review. This is the one that sold me.


Some points to add:

- The headphone amp is more than half-decent.  It drives my HD650s loudly and cleanly, which is no small order.  I sold my headphone amp after receiving the M2 as a result.
- The preamps are very clean.  I've been doing a bunch of home recording of solo vocal tracks, and it's every bit as good as the much more expensive Focusrite interface it replaced.
- While it isn't touted as a headline feature, the M2/M4 can record in 32-bit float point.
- Overall build quality is very high, with no evidence of corners being cut on casework, knobs / buttons, or connectors. It is very lightweight, but not in a cheap-feeling way.
- Loopback / loopback mix function is a real killer feature, and it saved my bacon teaching my music classes remotely. Very few interfaces have this flexibility. I would connect to my online meeting, set the audio input to Loopback Mix, play local audio tracks while singing and playing piano via my VST instruments, and have that all be received by my students perfectly in sync.


Wish list items:

- There are no numeric divisions for the level indicators on the front LED. It looks pretty, but it's not at all useful for monitoring.  Perhaps a firmware update could change this.
- I would love to have a virtual mix console / routing matrix like Focusrite provides with their interfaces. The MOTU software only lets you change sampling rate and latency.
DPA 4061 | Line Audio CM3 | Naiant X-Q | AT 853  //  Naiant PFAs | Shure FP24  //  Zoom F6 | Sony PCM-M10
MOTU M2 // KRK Rokit RP5 // Sennheiser HD 650

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Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2020, 03:12:55 AM »
- The headphone amp is more than half-decent.  It drives my HD650s loudly and cleanly, which is no small order.  I sold my headphone amp after receiving the M2 as a result.

i wasnt sold

as a quick listen an non-strict AB, it definitely could get my HD600 loud than i care to listen to but lacked a lil somehtin somethin - ill try to AB it vs grace O2 or benchmark HPA
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Offline voltronic

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2020, 06:19:05 AM »
- The headphone amp is more than half-decent.  It drives my HD650s loudly and cleanly, which is no small order.  I sold my headphone amp after receiving the M2 as a result.

i wasnt sold

as a quick listen an non-strict AB, it definitely could get my HD600 loud than i care to listen to but lacked a lil somehtin somethin - ill try to AB it vs grace O2 or benchmark HPA

Funny you mention the 02, because the 02+SDAC is what I sold after I could hear no difference between it and the M2.  The 02 could go louder, but we're talking levels I would never listen at.
DPA 4061 | Line Audio CM3 | Naiant X-Q | AT 853  //  Naiant PFAs | Shure FP24  //  Zoom F6 | Sony PCM-M10
MOTU M2 // KRK Rokit RP5 // Sennheiser HD 650

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Offline carpa

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2020, 08:57:32 AM »
I'm also interested to get an interface in the next future. The standalone feature looks very interesting as could be used as a preamp for handheld ( think about my Zoom h6 when more of a bit of gain is needed); also it could become sort of portable if powered via a 5v usb battery.
Only thing - I bet you know -  the mic input signal goes through  AD and then DA to the output of Motu m2/4; if you feed a handheld with this line level signal it will be converted again in the recorder's AD.  Has any of you checked the quality of M2/4 as an external preamp?

As far as I know only a few interfaces ( the costlier RME Babyace or the cheap Behringer on the other side) can act as a true analog preamp, thus skipping the AD/DA process.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2020, 10:31:52 AM by carpa »

Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2020, 11:34:12 AM »
i was wondering about that
i havent seen a block diagram so i wasnt sure
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Offline carpa

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2020, 12:06:01 PM »
I am sure, because I've asked Motu Service about this. Of course there will be no latency while monitoring, as the signal won't be sent back and forth to a computer, but M4 won't skip ADDA conversion.  RME can do that and also the cheap Behringer ( think it is UHD404 or so), having inserts which are meant to send the analog signal to other processing devices.
I guess Motu converters are fine, so what is important - if you have the opportunity to test it - is sound quality. If plugging mics into an M4 and then feeding a portable recorder through its padded inputs gives better results than directly recording into the handheld, multiple conversion can be considered just a theoretical issue.

I've also read some of your links and I've seen that monitoring refers only to channels 1/2 while you won't hear 3/4. Should you record 4 tracks ( i.e. with other 2 mics into an external preamp and then in 3/4 line inputs) you can still check them and hear on your pc I think? (excuse me for the dumb question, but I don't own a pc audio interface...)

thanks

Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #7 on: November 08, 2020, 12:17:10 PM »
I am sure, because I've asked Motu Service about this. Of course there will be no latency while monitoring, as the signal won't be sent back and forth to a computer, but M4 won't skip ADDA conversion.  RME can do that and also the cheap Behringer ( think it is UHD404 or so), having inserts which are meant to send the analog signal to other processing devices.
I guess Motu converters are fine, so what is important - if you have the opportunity to test it - is sound quality. If plugging mics into an M4 and then feeding a portable recorder through its padded inputs gives better results than directly recording into the handheld, multiple conversion can be considered just a theoretical issue.

I've also read some of your links and I've seen that monitoring refers only to channels 1/2 while you won't hear 3/4. Should you record 4 tracks ( i.e. with other 2 mics into an external preamp and then in 3/4 line inputs) you can still check them and hear on your pc I think? (excuse me for the dumb question, but I don't own a pc audio interface...)

thanks
Well if your mics need phantom they won’t produce any signal at all without the motu in the chain. I’ve seen threads not so long ago were people are looking for cheap phantom power supplies this seems to fit the bill. (And can run a backup, actually technically better, recording to your iPhone.)
« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 05:11:04 AM by jerryfreak »
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Offline carpa

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2020, 01:05:58 PM »
Not sure I understand... was just trying to think wether these options make sense in case of 4 mics recording:
1) with pc. 2 mics into channels 1/2; other two mics into an external preamp ( with phantom if needed), then line in channels 3/4
In this last case the external preamp provides phantom and gain and the m4 line inputs record process AD and send to the daw.
2) using the motu as external preamp with a 4 channel recorder : same as 1) but line out of each channel goes into trs inputs if the recorder ( zoom tascam etc.) Of course it makes sense only if the resulting quality doesn’t suck because of the double AD conversion.
 
In either case I didn’t mean plugging mics directly into Motu’s line input. It would be too quiet even if phantom should be not needed

Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2020, 04:59:29 AM »
heres what it does for me

mics on channel 1&2
line on channel 3&4

while recording all 4 channels usb to soundforge

pressing the 'mon' buttons on the two mic channels sends analog out to both the 'Monitor 1/2" RCAs on the back (thru big front panel volume control, and thru the headphone out with little front panel volume control

pressing the '3-4' button enables the 3-4 line in channels to route the same way (also to monitor 1/2, as line out 3/4 seems disabled while recording)

the summed mixes of ch 1/2/3/4 are at at full volume when turned all the way to 'input' and muted when turned all the way to 'playback'

the only way to control the balance of ch1, ch2, and ch3/4  in the mix is via the ch1 and ch2 preamp gain knobs on the front channel. ch3/4 is fixed gain

to get a stereo mix of ch1 and 2 out of the rear monitors you need to longpress either of the monitor buttons to get the display to show a dash between the channels i.e "1-2" with a single blue box around them not "1 2" with individual blue boxes around 1 and 2. the latter routes each mic to both outputs (outputs are mono)


so to answer your questions:
1)yes, as described above. the software sees all 4 channels and can record them independently (it shows as two stereo devices, motu1-2 and motu3-4, but im sure you could select one channel out of either pair if wanted)

2)no! (at least not with all 4 channels into the motu. you can only get 2 analog channels out of it, at best a mix of the 4 down to 2. you could record 2. the headphone mirrors the 2-ch line out and theres no way to separate ch 1 and 2 from 3/4 without pulling one pair of them out of usb to a DAW or iOS device

you could do scenario 2 by routing your external pre right to the 4ch recorder, and then using the motu as a separate 2ch pre and routing its analog outputs to the 4 ch recorder. this would actually be preferable, as theres no gain on the motu line in. all you are doing by routing a line in signal thru it is adding the ad/da stage, and adding another point of failure. latency should be low enough thru the motu, that the 4 channels clocked together on the 4-ch recorder adc should sound fine and in sync (or at worst be constant phase difference/latency and easily correctable in post)
« Last Edit: November 10, 2020, 05:09:58 AM by jerryfreak »
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Offline carpa

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2020, 04:04:24 PM »
@jerryfreak thank you so much for your super-detailed answer, I really appreciate!  I now can understand all pros and cons related to that use....probably a great interface but a bit cumbersome in different uses. I'll probably skip on the thing now.... For some Skype (or similar) meetings or possible online lessons I just can go on using my Zoom H6.
Probably something like a RME Babyface pro is capable of operating standalone as just a preamp  or just a converter when needed, or on the other hand a Sound Devices Mix pre can also be a quality audio interface. Either of the two, while much more expensive than the Motu, I think could be a more future proof purchase. Curiously, on the very low end the Behringer interfaces can do the "just preamp" job!   

Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #11 on: November 18, 2020, 08:29:40 AM »
2 channels to iphone with apogee metarecorder works fine using this adapter and this powered usb hub.

backup out of the lineout to my sony ux-icd560 voice recorder whose interface is closest to a pcm-A10


The lightning socket on the camera adapter can still be used to power the iphone from the hub (voice recorder charging as well). quite a few cables but pretty functional solution

im still in search of a 4-track ios recording app to try

one thing i didnt realize when i bought that usb powered hub is that the power is thru a coax dc plug. seems that most are that way. a micro or usb-c port would be more standard from powering from a power brick than making/finding a usb-a to dc coax cable, not sure if those kinda hubs exist tho. Fortunately about a week ago i came across a USB-to-coax cable for some long lost piece of equipment. At the time I had no hope of ever using it, but it worked here.

also, in regard to:

Wish list items:
- There are no numeric divisions for the level indicators on the front LED. It looks pretty, but it's not at all useful for monitoring.  Perhaps a firmware update could change this.

the metarecorder app has proper -12 and -6 dB marks, with the yellow meters from -12 to -6 and orange over -6dB, as well as a 2-second peak hold. so it makes it a breeze to use. far more useful than the motu which goes from green to yellow at -6dB . perhaps we can calibrate and put a sticker on the motu to mark -20 and -12dB? will never be as good as metarecorder but it would still be an improvement. on the M4 the -12dB level appears to be at about thesame position as the "PLAYBACK" printed on the face. so i can safely peak between -12 and -6 by keeping the levels between 'playback' with occasional yellow on peaks

lineout to the voice recorder also offers better metering with peak hold and margin, though of course it needs to be calibrated. with that particular recorder my output knob is around 1-2 o'clock
« Last Edit: November 18, 2020, 09:11:23 AM by jerryfreak »
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Offline tnelson

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #12 on: November 18, 2020, 10:22:41 AM »
im still in search of a 4-track ios recording app to try

To record 4-track to iPhone/iPad (or as many track inputs as your interface provides), you can use the AUM mixer/recorder app. It gives you control over all inputs on your interface, and you can record each stereo or mono input independently.  You then export the tracks through AudioShare (or maybe the new File utility in IOS). You must gather the tracks into multitrack in post, but you can simultaneously record as many tracks as you wish, at up to 96kHz/32 bit floating point. I use this to record all inputs from my MOTU Microbook 1c. You can add FX, EQ to channels, busses, etc., if you wish

Offline jerryfreak

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2020, 11:55:45 AM »
im still in search of a 4-track ios recording app to try

To record 4-track to iPhone/iPad (or as many track inputs as your interface provides), you can use the AUM mixer/recorder app. It gives you control over all inputs on your interface, and you can record each stereo or mono input independently.  You then export the tracks through AudioShare (or maybe the new File utility in IOS). You must gather the tracks into multitrack in post, but you can simultaneously record as many tracks as you wish, at up to 96kHz/32 bit floating point. I use this to record all inputs from my MOTU Microbook 1c. You can add FX, EQ to channels, busses, etc., if you wish

thanks!

well worth $20 if it does what you say
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Offline tnelson

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Re: MOTU M-series (M2 & M4)
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2020, 01:09:53 PM »
well worth $20 if it does what you say

Browse through the AUM online manual at the Kymatica website...Its recording capability is only a small part of what it does in the IOS world....Much used as a mixer, FX processor, MIDI interface for IOS music performance. Sometime check out Gestrument Pro, engineered & coded by the same Jonatan Liljedahl behind Kymatica apps such as AUM. Now that's a mind-blower!

 

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