MOTU 828es by Lady Gaia
I purchased a MOTU 828es in January 2017 and have almost nothing negative to say about the unit. Previously, I had been using a simple 4-channel audio interface fed by an analog mixer – but the time had come to move to an all-digital solution which I researched extensively before jumping in.
Things I appreciate about the unit? It’s aggressively priced compared to many alternatives with similar connectivity and A/D + D/A conversion quality. Line-level inputs are clean and incredibly transparent. I haven’t done extensive testing with the pre-amps but in initial testing with electric bass and guitar they’re crisp with a surprisingly low noise floor.
I couldn’t be happier with the flexible approach to mixing in the digital domain. Everything is configurable, routable, and recallable with more auxiliary busses for effects sends and submix groups than you’d ever see in the analog domain. It took a bit to understand everything offered in the user interface, but the manual is well written and even covers a lot of the basics I’d have expected they’d take for granted in a unit that isn’t really aimed at novices.
The most unconventional aspect of the design is offering the entire mixing experience as a web application. Being able to pick up an iPad to monitor and tweak over a WiFi connection is easy and convenient. Multiple devices can be making changes simultaneously, which is perfect for tweaking individual headphone mixes. Built-in effects are similarly focused on live monitoring rather than replacing outboard gear, but the mix of gating, compression, EQ, and reverb serves admirably.
The real icing on the cake here is the use of AVB (or TSN as the standards body has rebranded it.) The Ethernet port isn’t just a way to connect to a WiFi network, but can be used to network multiple AVB devices without all the usual nightmare of clock synchronization, etc. Just plug and play to expand to multiple interfaces with AVB-compatible switches as needed. Hopefully the rest of the industry gets its act in gear and considers this a replacement for outdated digital interconnection technologies (or we could settle in for the format war with Dante. Sigh.)
My one complaint? Contrary to all the documentation and promotional material, you can’t actually configure both optical connectors as TOSLink. Optical B is always in ADAT format. According to MOTU support this amounts to miscommunication between engineering and marketing, so be aware. Otherwise it’s absolutely everything I was expecting.