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MOTU 828es

MOTU 828es

3.75 3.75 out of 5, based on 4 Reviews

Love it. Solidly built with a good selection of I/O including MIDI. USB, Thunderbolt, and Ethernet connectivity join the array of conventional audio connections. Should be a serious contender for anyone stepping up from a basic interface.


12th February 2018

MOTU 828es by Lady Gaia

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
MOTU 828es

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.

  • 4
20th March 2018

MOTU 828es by kojak

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
MOTU 828es

Alrighty, got my 828es on Sunday and have had a few days to dive into it a little. Definitely getting used to a new routing screen has been a little challenging, as I had my previous interface for something like 5 years and it was completely different. The MOTU way of routing does make sense once you get into it though, I imagine it's just taking me some getting used to. One thing I did notice though, the grid does exhibit different behavior depending on whether you have the tabs collapsed or not. For example, just on a lark I wanted to route the talkback mic back into one of the inputs to record off it (just as experiment), and when the TB tab is collapsed, it won't let you click on one of the analog inputs, but when you click the little arrow to expand it, it then allows you. Similarly, if you have the analog outs expanded, for some reason you can click stuff off but not back on; I accidentally clicked off one of the ones I was using for mains (Analog 1-2, assigned to monitor "B"), and you can't just click it again to fix it...for some reason you have to collapse the tab, click it off, then back on again. Not the biggest deal, but very odd, and VERY frustrating before I figured out that's what you had to do. So if you're new to the MOTU routing page, definitely take your time and fiddle with it as it's a little finicky.

Overall though, I'm quite happy with it. Drivers and installation were a breeze, sounds fantastic, and the latency is more or less ad advertised. I'm using USB, and in the Slate guitar modelling standalone app (S-Gear), with a 32 sample buffer and a 32 sample "host safety offset" (not sure specifically what this is, other than just a second buffer?), my roundtrip was 3.0 ms (1.8 in and 1.2 out). Opened up a session with 30-odd tracks and a dozen or so instances of Slate VMR and a couple of reverbs and it ran fine, although I heard some pops when opening and closing the plugin windows...that being said I obviously wouldn't be running a mix session with a 32 sample buffer, but I was interested to hear how much you could tax it. With the plugin windows closed it sounded just fine, and when I put the buffers up to a much more sane 128 samples, everything ran flawlessly with no pops or silliness of any kind.

Really like the LCDs on the front, and the menus are laid out quite logically (although I assume most of the time I'd be using the setup screen on the laptop rather than the menus on the unit itself, but it's nice to know it's easy if I had to). One video I saw on YT, the guy noticed that the jacks for the 2 preamps were a little loose, and some of the buttons weren't as robust as he liked; on my unit I can say the jacks (both front, and the 1/4" jacks on the back) are all quite solid (plus the optical jacks look super cool with the red lights!). Also I was delighted to note that the knobs that control the gain for the preamps are detented at 1 db intervals, allowing for easy re-creation of settings if need be (not to mention you can save them as a preset as well). The monitor and headphone knobs are similarly detented.

Overall quite happy with it, and can't wait to get it home (I work on a cruise ship, heading home in a few weeks) and get it synced with my Aphex 1788 and really dive into the ins and outs. A fine replacement for my excellent but decidedly mid-level Roland Octa-Capture, and something I feel I won't need to replace for quite some time.

Explanation of scores:

Sound quality: Absolutely excellent. No complaints here.

Ease of use: As I mentioned, the routing and mixer are a little squirrelly at first, and the web-based controls might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I like the idea of clients being able to dial in their own mixes regardless of what phone or tablet they have, and not having to download an app. Effortless wireless control is nice, even if I don't use it daily.

Features: Tons of ins and outs, AVB networking, nice looking LCDs, front panel TB mic, there honestly isn't anything I could say it "needs." Great feature set.

Bang for the buck: Stellar. This kind of box for a grand is a steal. Anything even slightly better costs twice as much. Chances are, this isn't gonna be your first interface, but anyone with an entry-level or mid-level box who's looking to upgrade, IMO this is by far the best box in its price range, by quite a bit. The only situation I'd say this box isn't for you is if you need more preamps, like one of the 8-banger boxes from Antelope and the like, but anything of decent quality is going to cost you more, and I don't generally buy interfaces based on their preamps, as most built-in pres, while sounding very good, aren't gonna blow your doors off and are really meant to be utility pieces generally speaking. Use the money you saved buying this box and get a few channels of decent dedicated preamp like an RNP or Black Lion or this type of thing and I think you'll be much happier.

  • 2
1 week ago

MOTU 828es by HCMarkus

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
MOTU 828es

Been using my 828es via USB under macOS (Sierra) since December 2017 with great results. I read the prior reviews and generally concur with the conclusions set forth therein. Great sound and tremendous flexibility and bang for the buck. Once set up, easy to use; the only challenge lies in grocking the routing matrix. After everything is routed, the 828es is a joy to use.

Latency has not been an issue when tracking with VIs. The built-in footswitch jack makes no-hands punch in/out simple when I am working solo.

During tracking sessions, musicians really like being able to dial in their mixes using their tablet or phone. The Touch Console (a fairly recent firmware update from MOTU) works much better on i-style devices than the original mixer view, which is fine on a computer but too touchy on smaller touch screen devices. Submixes can be set up to simplify adjustment of multiple levels (i.e.drumkit mics) simultaneously. Individual headphone mixes can also be put together... I'm running four external headlamps, plus the two internal head amps for up to six custom monitor mixes.

I like using the built-in AVB Mixer on an iPad when tracking. Routing click from my DAW to an AVB channel allows me to silently adjust level or mute the click without removing computer focus from my DAW.

Can't comment in-depth on the sound of the built-in pres as I primarily use external mic preamps, but the few times I have needed the two pres this interface provides, they have proved serviceable, much better than older MOTU pres. A 20dB pad is available on each mic/instrument input.

I don't use the 828es internal reverb as I like my Lexicon (connected via the SPDIF i/o) better. Quick testing suggests the built in 'verb is probably good enough for monitor 'verb while tracking, but I don't see it getting used much when mixing.

Note that MOTU directs users of this device (and all of the higher-end AVB gear) to float the ring on the 828es audio outputs when connecting to unbalanced gear. The simplest way to effect this is to use TRS-TRS 1/4" cables. Unless the unbalanced 1/4" input uses a non-standard jack (of a type I have never personally seen), the ring of the TRS cable will float when the cable is fully inserted in the unbalanced jack. Only the sleeve and tip will make contact with the jack on the unbalanced end.

 
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