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M-Audio Fast Track Ultra..any good?
Old 4th April 2008
  #1
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
M-Audio Fast Track Ultra..any good?

I'd like to hear your experience with the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra?

The price fits the bill, and the specs fills my needs = 6 trs inputs for my keyboard and a drum machine.
Old 4th April 2008
  #2
Gear Nut
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by robo_ge View Post
I'd like to hear your experience with the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra?

The price fits the bill, and the specs fills my needs = 6 trs inputs for my keyboard and a drum machine.
Yes! I love it. See my post on this subject:

A vote FOR the M-Audio Fast Track Ultra
Old 4th April 2008 | Show parent
  #3
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 15 years
Just put in my order for 1. Gonna hook my adi-2 to the spdif.
Old 4th April 2008 | Show parent
  #4
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1 Review written
🎧 10 years
It's working fine, however I felt the converters on my old Tascam US-428 sounded better. Doesn't matter too much, I'm mostly ITB anyway.

Love all the outs.
Old 4th April 2008 | Show parent
  #5
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ioanni's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Oh, so the converters are that bad !?

So is it stable at least?
What about the mic pres?
Old 5th April 2008 | Show parent
  #6
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Mylithra's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Cant speak for the ultra but I do have a fast track pro.
1. Its noisy. (not 60Hz hum but somthing much higher. Probably around 1k or so) Could be the fact I have it sitting on a preamp between the preamp and power distribution but its always been this noisy. I dont use it for recording into the computer, I use it more for playing VST instruments in real time.
2. The mic pres are slightly better than Behringer's. The had a little more bandwidth in them but I though they still sounded a little to squeezed for my taste. Id use them if I absolutely had to but I would reach for something else first.
Old 5th April 2008 | Show parent
  #7
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ioanni's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Thanks Mylithra for the review of the Fast Track pro. I was aware that it has many flows.

I thought that the Ultra is a new design and it has better specs, it is stable and it sounds better. Anyone to validate this?

I am asking because I was thinking of recommending the Ultra to a friend of mine.
Old 5th April 2008
  #8
Gear Head
 
🎧 10 years
Can't speak for the Ultra but I used to have a Fast Track Pro. I found it had noisy preamps, poor build quality (one of the buttons stopped working after very little use), high latency and low gain.

Its fair to say that the best thing I ever did was replace it with a 2nd hand Metric Halo ULN2, it was night and day! I suspect that the convertors in the Fast Track are ok for a low end piece of kit but the preamps are ****e. Get yourself a better preamp and you really will see the difference.

To give you an idea my ULN2 cost me Β£400 2nd hand, built like a rock, sounds amazing .. I don't know what the Ultra costs and its probably worth the cash but I'd recommend you have less features and better quality. Try a ULN2 or Duet.

If your on a PC i've no ideas what else to suggest ... get a mac?

Rich
Old 5th April 2008 | Show parent
  #9
Gear Nut
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mylithra View Post
Cant speak for the ultra but I do have a fast track pro.
1. Its noisy. (not 60Hz hum but somthing much higher. Probably around 1k or so) Could be the fact I have it sitting on a preamp between the preamp and power distribution but its always been this noisy. I dont use it for recording into the computer, I use it more for playing VST instruments in real time.
2. The mic pres are slightly better than Behringer's. The had a little more bandwidth in them but I though they still sounded a little to squeezed for my taste. Id use them if I absolutely had to but I would reach for something else first.
According to our M-Audio contact here on GS, this device uses an entirely different chipset and preamps than the Fast Tracks before it - as in, all they have in common is the name. They had to upgrade everything anyway to support USB 2.0.

Anyway, I have only used it for a live recording where so many other things can be blamed for the "squashed" sound - see the sample in the other thread that I linked above and decide for yourself.

I think M-Audio is headed in a better direction since being acquired by Avid. Maybe that's just wishful thinking though...
Old 5th April 2008 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Head
 
bassistmarty's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
very nice recording...can hear the bass and the trombone very well...
Old 7th April 2008 | Show parent
  #11
Gear Maniac
 
stingray1122's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Hey guys, RayT here. I'm the Hardware Product Manager for M-Audio. I've only been with the company for about 1 year (I was with Mackie before this) so I don't have a ton of info on our legacy products. I did directly manage the Fast Track Ultra and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

To start, yes the Ultra is a completely new design compared to the Fast Track Pro. The chip set used is entirely new in order to get the higher performance and USB 2.0 functionality. The preamps are based on the Octane design but have been enhanced with newer technologies for better performance.

The SNR for the preamps is -103dB and there's about 53dB of gain range (from +6dB - +59dB) without the 20dB pad. The Headphone amps have also been re-designed to offer more clarity and power. The line inputs were designed to bypass the mic preamp so you get a cleaner, more direct signal.

We also spent a lot of time on the new USB 2.0 drivers so they are very solid and reliable.

I don't expect anyone to trust my word on the products as I work for the company. I strongly encourage open discussions here on the forums and trying out the gear for yourself.

RayT
Old 8th April 2008 | Show parent
  #12
Gear Nut
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by stingray1122 View Post
Hey guys, RayT here. I'm the Hardware Product Manager for M-Audio. I've only been with the company for about 1 year (I was with Mackie before this) so I don't have a ton of info on our legacy products. I did directly manage the Fast Track Ultra and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

To start, yes the Ultra is a completely new design compared to the Fast Track Pro. The chip set used is entirely new in order to get the higher performance and USB 2.0 functionality. The preamps are based on the Octane design but have been enhanced with newer technologies for better performance.

The SNR for the preamps is -103dB and there's about 53dB of gain range (from +6dB - +59dB) without the 20dB pad. The Headphone amps have also been re-designed to offer more clarity and power. The line inputs were designed to bypass the mic preamp so you get a cleaner, more direct signal.

We also spent a lot of time on the new USB 2.0 drivers so they are very solid and reliable.

I don't expect anyone to trust my word on the products as I work for the company. I strongly encourage open discussions here on the forums and trying out the gear for yourself.

RayT
Loving mine so far, keep it up!

The one problem I've had so far is if I power the unit up first using the power adapter and then connect the USB cable, Mac OS X gives me the grey screen of death "You need to restart your computer" etc.... Can avoid that problem by connecting it first and then powering it up.
Old 8th April 2008 | Show parent
  #13
Gear Nut
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
^^ Just kidding, it is unpredictable which combination/order of operations will make it grey-screen. :(

Hopefully this is a 1.0 driver issue that will be fixed with an update...
Old 16th May 2008 | Show parent
  #14
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by bengl3rt View Post
Loving mine so far, keep it up!

The one problem I've had so far is if I power the unit up first using the power adapter and then connect the USB cable, Mac OS X gives me the grey screen of death "You need to restart your computer" etc.... Can avoid that problem by connecting it first and then powering it up.
Yeah, I had that problem too and tried for months to get M-Audio to respond. They finally did (and I won't moan about the whole tech support hilarity) but the only useful suggestion they had was to use a powered USB hub. This was something I hadn't bothered trying since their documentation suggests against it for bandwidth issues. However, I haven't found any problems with it and the kernel panic crashes have since stopped.

If I really started taxing the hub with external drives I can see it becoming a problem so it would still be nice to see them fix the firmware since it clearly isn't playing well with the USB controller driver. I suspect it's just not buffering its output on power-up or something like that.
Old 22nd May 2008 | Show parent
  #15
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by stingray1122 View Post
Hey guys, RayT here. I'm the Hardware Product Manager for M-Audio. I've only been with the company for about 1 year (I was with Mackie before this) so I don't have a ton of info on our legacy products. I did directly manage the Fast Track Ultra and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

To start, yes the Ultra is a completely new design compared to the Fast Track Pro. The chip set used is entirely new in order to get the higher performance and USB 2.0 functionality. The preamps are based on the Octane design but have been enhanced with newer technologies for better performance.

The SNR for the preamps is -103dB and there's about 53dB of gain range (from +6dB - +59dB) without the 20dB pad. The Headphone amps have also been re-designed to offer more clarity and power. The line inputs were designed to bypass the mic preamp so you get a cleaner, more direct signal.

We also spent a lot of time on the new USB 2.0 drivers so they are very solid and reliable.

I don't expect anyone to trust my word on the products as I work for the company. I strongly encourage open discussions here on the forums and trying out the gear for yourself.

RayT

Hi,

don't know wether this is appropriate here, but as you suggested open discussion, I want to take the opportunity and request some help on my problem with my new FTU. I did everything like it was explained in the instructions. Then I plugged in my guitar into the mic/instrument input 1. I only received a signal on one channel in the monitor 1/2 (only on the right side = hardware input 1). Shouldn't there be a signal on hardware input 2 as well? Especially since the two channels are linked in the general settings. Sure, it's a mono signal that comes in, but with my old m-audio soundcard (internal) I always received signals on both sides. In addition the master out gets a signal on one channel too (now it is the left side). What's wrong? Or is this quite normal?

Thanks for your help
Sascha (Munich)
Old 22nd May 2008 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Go to the soundcard's mixer and see if that input is panned completely to the side you are hearing.
Old 3rd July 2008
  #17
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
not pleased at all with this unit... the short version:

in early march, i bought a fast track ultra. shipping was incredibly slow, and it showed up around april. things were fine, except the dsp monitoring effects (which sound weak anyway) got terribly distorted and crackly when i tried to open a ptools file in 88.2. customer service couldn't figure out the problem, neither could ray (stingray on here) and since dsp monitoring effects were one of my reasons to purchase, i returned it with the intention of buying another.

in april, i purchased another unit that showed up DOA. the power light came on but the computer wouldn't recognize it. i tried different USB cables, different computers, reloaded drivers, etc. had to return it.

since this was my second unit to return, i was really unhappy about the idea of paying shipping to return a defective unit yet again... a month went by trying to get m-audio to step up and pay return shipping for this 2nd defective unit (their customer service department seemed to have no concern whatsoever about this). ray generously offered to test a unit and swap it out, but depsite numerous e-mails for well over a month, that's never happened...

i had to get the dealer involved (the president of this company has told me she's considering dropping their line due to the crap she went through trying to get them to replace my defective interface).

so in late may, i finally got a prepaid fedex form to send back the defective interface. i do so, and i wait... and wait... the dealer gets involved yet again, and they claim they can't find it. then they do... but the fast track ultra is backordered and previous orders have to be shipped before i can get mine replaced.

meanwhile my project is months behind schedule - i've lost opportunities and money, and they seemingly don't care.

then yesterday my new interface finally shows up. same problem as the first unit... distorted, crackling dsp effects in 88.2. right back where i started in march.

so there's obviously a compatibility issue with my computer, but this is a new laptop - 3GB RAM, 2.40 GHz dual processor, 7200 RPM drive... i've tried every single system optimization tip i can find and this thing still pops and clicks and has the static-covered monitoring effects.

so now i'm stuck with protools m-powered, and really don't want to use m-audio ever again.

i'm usually not the type to write about bad gear experiences on a board, but this situation compelled me to share. i've been more than patient with m-audio and it's gotten me nowhere.

if you're in the market for one of these, i'd seriously reconsider it... unless you have a way to test it with your system first to avoid having to deal with m-audio customer service in the event of a problem.
Old 9th July 2009 | Show parent
  #18
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Thought I'd add my two cents to the thread based on my experience so far with this device. Back in April I was shopping around for an 8-channel audio interface compatible with Vista 64. After some research it looked like my laptop's chipset has issues with Firewire (both the built-in and with any add-on cards). I did a test install of the Fireface drivers which did not play well with my configuration. So that pretty much limited me to USB 2.0.

The Fast Track Ultra 8R was actually a bit of a pleasant surprise. I was prepared for the worst--driver issues, crashes, glitchy audio, that kind of thing. It installed with minimal hassle, and it sounded great once I figured out how to configure Sonar 8 64-bit to use ASIO instead of WDM. I also gave Ableton Live a try (side note: the demo version of Ableton Live only supports 2 channels of recording, so unless you already have software you can't use all 8 channels right out of the box). It works well but it's not really what I'm looking for. Cakewalk has a demo download of the 64-bit version of Sonar 8 so I was able to try things out before throwing down the money.

There are three issues I've found with the Fast Track Ultra 8R. The first is that it has trouble with certain USB ports on my laptop. The second is that my computer crashes when I lift the lid IF I unplugged or turned off the interface while the lid is shut. The third is that the channels show up in Sonar as stereo pairs (channel 1 left, channel 1 right, channel 1 stereo, channel 2 left, channel 2 right, and so on). I want them to have labels that match the numbers on the front panel.

When it's plugged into either of 2 ports on one side of the computer, the audio crackles and pops. If I plug it into the port on the other side of the computer, it works great. I suspect this is a problem with the way my laptop was designed--perhaps the ports on the one side are shared on a hub with the trackpad, keyboard, and other devices. Solution: Try each of the USB ports on your computer until you find the "good" one.

To solve the second issue, I have to unplug or turn off the device with the computer fully awake. It's like the old joke... Patient: "Doctor, doctor, when I pull my lower lip up over my head, it hurts!" Doctor: "Well don't do that!"

For issue number three, there has to be some registry hack, configuration file, or some such method for fixing the channel names. I haven't found it yet, but I'll post it if I do.

The sound quality is pretty good. The preamps are a big step up from my junky old Alesis IO|2. I lifted the lid (don't tell M Audio) and found that each channel has a THAT 1510 preamp IC. A bit of research on the web shows a few rather expensive boutique preamps also use this IC, which gives me warm fuzzy feelings. Picky stuff: The preamps get quite noisy at the highest gain setting.

Each channel has its own 24-bit analog-to-digital converter (AK5386) which is rated for 192KHz but only used up to 96KHz. Likewise, each output channel has a separate digital-to-analog converter (AK4384). They are all chained together to the DSP (SAM3308B from Dream), which handles the built-in effects (not so great sounding, but fine if a singer wants some 'verb on the monitors) and the data processing for the USB 2.0 interface. I'm glad M-Audio decided to go with this arrangement instead of some buggy all-in-one USB audio chip. The 64-bit driver support is in beta but it's worked out pretty well for me.

The headphone amplifiers are a bit bass and low-mid heavy so I've had to mix with that in mind. The amplifier ICs are NJM4556 devices from JRC--not terribly good, but better than what's on the IO|2. Fortunately it's easy to connect an external headphone amp.

The Fast Track Ultra 8R is no Aurora, but it's got a good bang for the buck.
Old 9th July 2009 | Show parent
  #19
RTR
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RTR's Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
Get the 2626 or the 610...best maudio gear out there!!!
Old 9th July 2009 | Show parent
  #20
Lives for gear
 
1 Review written
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by zeroeight View Post

The Fast Track Ultra 8R is no Aurora, but it's got a good bang for the buck.
Thats a damn good review. Even opened it up to let us know what exactly what's inside. Cheers.
Old 9th July 2009 | Show parent
  #21
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
It's okay. I had one before I upgraded to a ProjectMix I/O. My main issue with the Fast Track Ultra is the damn thing didn't always work. ProTools didn't recognize it at least half the time and I ended up having to turn it off and disconnect and reconnect and so on and so forth.
Old 13th July 2009 | Show parent
  #22
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I originally started with a Fast track Pro, then upgraded to the Fast Track Ultra for the extra inputs, I/O, and Octane Preamps. The difference was quite noticable with the Fast Track Ultra sounding REALLLY Good, and had more usable gain on the preamp input gain knobs than the Fast track Pro.

In short, the Fast Track Ultra is a huge upgrade in sonic performance and features over the Fast Track Pro (IME/IMO)
Old 13th July 2009 | Show parent
  #23
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jnorman's Avatar
 
3 Reviews written
🎧 15 years
i looked at the FT ultra for its four preamps, but after hearing the pes, decided to go with a lexicon U42s, 4 preamps by dbx, and USB2. nice and stable on vista laptop.
Old 14th July 2009 | Show parent
  #24
Gear Addict
 
muddy's Avatar
 
🎧 15 years
what's inside the fw1814?


ml
Old 10th August 2009
  #25
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
I'm am a recent FTU 8R purchaser and am having major problems getting it to work with my setup. Keep getting error messages from Logic telling of audio / midi sync problems and tales of awry samples rates (even though both device and DAW are set to the same rate). When it does work, for that brief period there is distortion and pops. Really unhappy, as I've never had trouble with any interface before (other M-Audio, MOTU, Presonus, Digidesign etc) and am sat twiddling my thumbs, rather than twiddling knobs. It seems like an ace bit of kit if it would work though!
BTW:
Macbook Core 2 Duo
2.16Ghz
2Gig RAM
Fast Track Ultra 8R

Last edited by formermissameric; 10th August 2009 at 07:10 PM.. Reason: Kitlist
Old 17th March 2010 | Show parent
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
i grabbed a fast track ultra from a member here, and i can't imagine anything better for the price. it's stable on my laptop with xp sp3 (optimized for audio). i'm getting 4.9 ms roundtrip latency (as measured in centrance ltu), out of a usb inteface, which is hard to believe. i've ran some of my old projects at that buffer setting (64 samples) to see if it would kill over or if the cpu would skyrocket, but it didn't. i prefer direct monitoring for vox, and the onboard dsp is cool for a little verb/delay send action, but tracking bass, guitar, and synths at 4.9 ms is no problem to my ears. the preamps are clean/quiet/plenty of gain for using an sm57 for vocals. i have a few cheap outboard preamps, which i'll be getting rid of now - the four preamps on the interface sound very decent to me. i would highly recommend this thing to anyone who needs this feature set, assuming that you've optimized your computer for daw use. thumbs up to m-audio for this one. thumbsup

i have no affiliation with m-audio or any music gear manufacturer/retailer/or anything else like that. i'm just a guy who is glad to have found a gem in a sea of marketing junk.
Old 17th March 2010 | Show parent
  #27
.T.
Gear Addict
 
.T.'s Avatar
 
🎧 10 years
I thought I'd chime in, I've owned this interface for over 6 months now.

Pretty damn stable. Even the ASIO4ALL drivers stumble in comparison to the factory USB ones (at comparable sample rates) on my laptop running Windows 7. The only problems I had was with 'high performance' mode, and this is an experimental setting anyway (it crashed my comp when it is enabled), as advised by M-Audio.

I don't use any of the Pres, I have an outboard one so I can't comment on the sound quality there. I use this primarily for writing and producing stuff ITB.

Any downsides? No ADAT, but that's wishful thinking heh The SPDIF input is great. It's perfect for travel as well, I take it around with my laptop and its had no problems.
Old 17th March 2010 | Show parent
  #28
Gear Maniac
 
🎧 10 years
Quote:
Originally Posted by .T. View Post
The only problems I had was with 'high performance' mode, and this is an experimental setting anyway (it crashed my comp when it is enabled), as advised by M-Audio.
i'm running the high performance mode (64 sample buffer) on xp sp3 without any problems yet. i hope it stays that way.
Old 18th March 2010 | Show parent
  #29
Here for the gear
 
🎧 10 years
Thought I'd chime in on the Fast Track Ultra and Ultra 8R...

I used the 4-pre Ultra for close to a year without any issues. I recently upgraded to the Ultra 8R and it has also been rock stable for about four months now (my brother has been using my old Ultra for the same four months and he's pleased with it - no issues whatsoever). Pre's aren't super exciting but they're quiet, sound quite good, and have plenty of gain. While I've had relatively little experience with other interfaces I can say that my experience with the FTU and FTU8R has been nothing but good!

(system is Pentium Dual Core 3.4GHz, Intel 945GTP chipset, 4GB RAM, three WDC SATAII HDD's - Sonar 8 Producer, Steinberg Wavelab 6, NI Komplete, various VSTi/DXi's and plugins).
Old 18th March 2010 | Show parent
  #30
Gear Addict
 
🎧 10 years
I have the fast track ultra 8 that I got specifically to dump live performances into my computer for mixdowns later on pro tools. I haven't had any major problems with the unit; I've noticed the preamps get reeeeaaallly noisey if you push them pretty hard, but I've never actually had to get anywhere near the amount of gain needed to do this. Long story short, you can see what I've been able to do with the unit if you like:

YouTube - seanoreillyband's Channel

No other super fancy gear I would say. Neumann KMS 105 on vocal and some Rode nt5s on the piano.
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