M-Audio M-Track 8x4M by Braindedzluney
At the time of writing this review I have had this device for almost 2 weeks. I have developed opinions about it and therefore I will write them here in an official "review".
Some may not know so I will state here that an audio interface is the most useful piece of audio equipment in the modern studio, and not to get one without at least 8in 4out. I would go for the 8 in 4 out as a minimum. It's OK that is what this interface has.
It is a fast interface, it uses USB Type C and as far as I can tell connects to the same port on the computer of USB Type C which means USB 3.1. This makes it fast. I had found a USB cable that could run type B to type C decently with my previous interface but that was fried. So is this any different? At no point does M Audio say in the literature that there is a difference other than having included two cables. But the output of the device is type C. So It remains to be tested.? It is however not a very good type of connection. USB C that is. USB C is a type of connection that is the cutting edge but in my opinion the connection itself should have some hooks (like old fashioned phone lines do, and ethernet cables, and some old cellphone chargers also had for a while in the last decade or 2). Some hooks with a press to pull out would be the best way....not that those were infallible either. Meh. Connection via USB rectangular standard is also possible here.
I had an experience when trying to use the cable C to C included in the package, where Windows shut off the device and reset it every couple of minutes over the course of 1:23:00. This was a total of 12 shutoffs for the device. This could have been due to a poor connection. I have not gone back in to retest that cable.
No, instead I used the Samsung T5 cable which comes with Samsung's T5 mobile SSD series. These are capable of gigabit speed. This cable from Samsung is also about 40-45 cm from plug to plug. Making it less than half the distance for data to travel that the included M Track 8x4 cable has (1m).
Aside from the device shutting off and turning on I have a few other opinions. More comparisons really, I previously had only experience with the interfaces Fast Track Ultra and Fast Track Ultra 8R. These interfaces have a very good driver which includes a mixing panel for their line outs and software returns. This mixing panel enabled me MANY TIMES to defeat head room difficulties in mixes, by simply routing specific VST chains into a different output software return or different output entirely. This is not possible as yet with the M Track 8x4 as its driver is extremely limited and only allows to change buffer and sample rate. Expectation would be then that you have a perfect mix in your DAW or can make one.
Speaking of DAWs, the M Track 8x4 M comes with Pro Tools First, & Ableton Live Lite. These are commonly included software DAW downloads in many devices for sale at the music store. There are also other non-VST, for Pro Tools mostly plugins included, the Xpand 2 (a couple of GB of download as a VI multi including many sort of synth, percussion, bass, guitar, strings, electronic arp, etc etc) is included, and this also includes the Air Plugins which come bundled when you buy full Pro Tools. It also has the Mini Grand plugin which is included with full Pro Tools. I haven't yet tried the "Strike" plugin which is drums and probably comes with newer versions of Pro Tools, but was not part of my Pro Tools package (I already had Pro Tools at the time of buying this device).
There are 4 outputs which makes a possible use of 4 of the inputs if you, like I, want to patch outputs back into inputs with short cables for live streaming. For whatever reason OBS software won't allow you to GRAB the output channel from the M Track and just send it. So I like interfaces with extra outputs and inputs for just this reason.
You can of course do whatever you want with the 8 inputs but only 6 of them have a preamp. The preamp seems ok. Can achieve pretty good guitar crunch and distortion by turning it up to the red. This will make your home stereo with an audio input into a handy amplifier if you live in a "practice amp only" type of dwelling, or situation. The preamps don't seem to require an XLR connection (balanced mic cable) in order to run. This was the case on M Audio's Fast Track Ultra 8R which I also own. I had to fool it into seeing XLR ins by buying XLR adapters. No such difficulty here. Every channel 1 thru 4 preamps with 1/4 inch cable inputs. I tested each with my microphone and guitar.
There are Monitor channels with volume dials both 1/4 inch. I monitor almost everything I do using the output of the computer so I haven't played with the headphone monitor 1/4" jacks...much, aside from my home stereo as amp test, which made use of these. I did do a second test yesterday using Live Professor 2 for processing and it tests out as being pretty clear and the latency is very low. I was able to play guitar and sing no problem.
The big dial in the center is fun to use, feels good to the toucher with rubber grip round the circumfrence. It is used to dial down the sound from the software returns all at once, as a whole mix. It can take lots of stuff out of your monitor all at once, which can be fun to do if you're live streaming using multiple computers or interfaces. In my case I rock Studio 1 in my streaming computer and usually run my mic chain and guitars via that, but that is over a network and kind of an advanced scenario. The point is it allows me to separate an entire side of my mix with just this big dial on the M Track.
There is the 48V phantom power for those with vocal mics which need that. I typically use a plugin chain to get my desired vocal sound, but the mic direct worked all right for natural voice sound. Sounded pretty good, even better when I preamped the preamp with my Tube Mic Preamp in series before it. I M O it was a little quiet by itself. But hey that's why God gave us DAWs and Air Plugins to manipulate our mono ins.
There is the option using the driver to preset the device to 192 kHz sample rate and a higher buffer size, before opening the Pro Tools program. I don't know about Pro Tools First, but my Pro Tools (not "first") which is the normal Pro Tools allows 192 kHz sessions. So I tested the audio of the Mic, and some Arturia V Collection software synths (with polyphonic aftertouch--I tested with the CS 80 and Jup 8) and the Yamaha Reface DX synth (thru the keyboard's L & R outs into two mono ins to the interface) in a 192 kHz sample rate, 2048 buffer session. Here is the Soundcloud link to the audio of my test session. It is a 192 kHz file. Does 192 sound better? I think it does. Sounded richer and more complete from the software synths. A lot better when replaying via Soundcloud. Be the judge: Testing 192kHz Audio On M Track 8x4 in Pro Tools | Free Listening on SoundCloud
All in all a very solid device. You will want to watch out with the USB C ports, make sure that you push it in till there's no light between the surface and plug. Then don't move the interface or computer at ALL. Can't vouch for the cable as I don't have it working with the included cable. There is also a USB C to USB A (standard USB) cable if you want to just use it in your 3.0 port or 2.0 port.
The interface gets pretty hot as it's loaded with preamps. It's very heavy and in my opinion it is very fast. I have been a Windows only user. The Windows system I use has a Ryzen 7 1700 processor (8/16 core CPU) but the USB array currently has USB 3.1 as a max speed. For me this interface solved some problem I was having with my old interface causing static and going to constant straight static as the computer would max out the CPU under heavy stress to the audio processing. This had been a huge problem for me every time it happened using that old interface I would have to shut down Pro Tools and restart after powercycling the 8R. Turns out that old interface seems to be sort of fried, working for a while then going to static. Therefore the M Track could be said to be working out quite well, as this static problem NEVER happens now (unless I plug the 8R in side by side).
Works in multiple daws (tested in Pro Tools, Savihost and Live Professor II, Studio One Artist and Ableton Live Lite) and provides 8 inputs into OBS or any other software which gets into the MME binder inputs on the system. Used under my Pro Tools daily live stream template, which runs maybe 4 to 6 vi, a guitar channel, mic channel, and plugins on all channels. Worked fine in the Pro Tools. Played in Studio One with 5 MIDI ins running 5 vi and 2 audio chains. So fair to say the interface works fine in S1 as well. You will never have a problem using the enclosesd Ableton which limits you pretty heavily to like 8 of anything like tracks. For Ableton lite the M Track works without even flexing.
Seems to be pretty much everything the live streaming musician needs (short of a 2nd Ryzen 7 2700 laptop and a 3rd interface for that). Like I said there is no mixer included in the driver so you may want to keep your old interface as a side by side companion so you can get those good outputs back to inputs patches going in your mix via OBS.
All in all I give it a 5 out of 5 but I may be generous cause I am getting it to work with that Samsung cable. If you can get M Audio to throw in a Samsung T5 cable or cable of similar quality you would be good. Remember also that USB C is a protocol that has destroyed laptops with bad cables. Like I said my computer shut off with the provided cable, 12 times. Though It may have simply been that I didn't connect it well enough, it could also be that the computer was being driven for more power than it could provide by the cable, which is where the problems come from with USB C. This is the only potential issue. However the interface itself is a peach.
I went back in due to popular discrediting of my research here today and re-tested the C to C cable that came with the device and the result was another shut down of the device. Despite not using preamps, despite deliberately shoving the cable tips in all the way. It still shut down and Pro Tools gave the message that it couldn't communicate with the device. So to all my nay sayers here is the link: periscope livestream go to last minutes with pro tools open to see the disconnect message