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Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid
4.25 4.25 out of 5, based on 4 Reviews

Does what it says on the tin: a compact interface, with powerful features, that is extremely easy to use, has stable drivers (under OS X) and with very reasonable build quality.


17th December 2011

MOTU Ultralite MK3 Hybrid by Me2

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid

I spent a long team reading various boards and reviews before eventually plumping for the Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid.

The key factors that steered me in the direction of the Motu were:
- 2 built in instrument/ mic preamp inputs for on-the-go recording
- plenty of clean gain for use with the most demanding dynamic mics (I've successfully used this with a pair of MD441s)
- stable software drivers with a long history of MAC support
- compact and portable, with firewire bus powering
- Hybrid: you can also use USB2 if there are ever firewire driver problems
- easy to use user interface on the front panel
- plenty of additional line in channels, as well as midi and spdif.
- truly stunning price/quality ratio

The unique differentiating feature that was the final breakthrough for me was that the outputs are DC coupled, so they can be used for CV to control an analogue synth. Volta (the MOTU software to do this) is expensive, but there's no reason why you can't just output your own control waveforms direct from within your DAW.

The unit has lived up well to those promises in practice so far. It has proven very stable in use and I've not had any significant problems (running under MAC Snow Leopard).

The knobs on the unit are fairly small, but the menu structure is very intuitive, and the controls are a piece of cake to figure out, meaning great stand-alone operation without any software app at all, so you can be up and running real fast.

MOTU Audio Setup works well for controlling the core audio settings on the Mac if you do need to tweak anything (I've rarely needed to).

The only real criticism I have is that the Cue Mix FX software routing is extremely confusing at first, and it took me a few attempts to get the routing exactly the way I wanted it for a specific application. Although to be fair, for most simple set-ups you probably wouldn't even need to start up this app, as you'd just use the front panel controls.

The Ultralite Mk3 Hybrid would certainly suit a mobile musician who wanted to throw down a few ideas quickly when inspiration struck, and could theoretically produce decent finished recordings on both MAC and PC.

If it was lost or stolen I'd certainly buy another one.

16th March 2012

MOTU Ultralite MK3 Hybrid by agentsynth

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid

The first time I came across a MOTU Ultralite MK3 was whilst searching for a replacement firewire audio interface for my home studio. My firewire interface was not coping with my iMac’s firewire chip very well and so I was hoping to find a USB interface to solve the issue. Despite the MOTU being considerably less expensive than the unit it was to replace, it offered both USB and Firewire connectivity and for me, that was the selling point as no other interface at the time offered hybrid connectivity. I’d also heard of MOTU’s history of stable drivers and operation with Macs. Still though, I was worried that I would be stepping down in sonic quality especially as the aforementioned unit was the RME Fireface 400 and had sounded very impressive.

Playing back some iTunes tracks, the MOTU stood up to the challenge and the difference in audio quality was barely noticeable to my ears. If I had had to pick one solely on sound quality, it would be the RME by a whisker but only a whisker and mainly because the high frequency content was a little more present on the RME. This is a criticism I’ve heard quite a lot about MOTUs, my test certainly agreed but you only notice it in a direct comparison.

So what else do I like about the MOTU? It’s compact and full of I/O and doesn’t have any breakout cables. It’s very portable and can run on bus power when connected by firewire. It also allows you to use it in on a horse and cart in the middle of a field, should you wish (as long as you have charged your laptop).

If you record one instrument/vocal at a time, the connections and controls you will need are all easily accessible from the front panel so works well as a desktop unit, which is handy since it can’t be 19”-rackmounted on its own. The back panel has a wealth of analog I/O but these are fairly tightly packed which could pose problems for thicker jack-type cables. One thing I like is the fact you can also use the MOTU as a standalone mixer at a gig, with all settings adjustable from the front panel.

The front panel design could have been better thought out in my opinion but it’s not the worst. The volume knob and mic pre knobs on the far left are intuitive and will get lots of use but the green display doesn’t seem to be used to its full potential and input level metering is vague. However it is enough to indicate you have something connected or to tell you what sample rate you’re working at and certainly the only way of using the unit without a computer.

With a computer though, the front panel becomes obsolete (like most audio interfaces of this size) and I wonder whether part of the display could have been replaced by a LED or two and freed up some front panel real estate, which might enable some rearranging of the cluttered back panel too. There are four more knobs to the right of the display to control the on-board DSP effects and Panning which are a bit fiddly and again only really serve a purpose if you are using this unit live. You’ll be clicking through all sorts of fun menus trying to adjust a trivial value 1 increment but at the end of the day, it works.

The unit lacks word clock and ADAT though it does have SPDIF. As above, freeing up space on the front would have allowed these additions in theory, but obviously the price would creep up and the low price of the MOTU Ultralite has always been its trump card.

The computer software CueMix is something I do like. Once you have familiarised yourself with it and found out how to focus on the various inputs/outputs, it is very flexible allowing you to make several headphone mixes and add on-board DSP including reverb, EQ and compression – though only the EQ and compression can be recorded to a DAW, the reverb is in the monitor path only. The quality of the DSP on this unit is good but I found that 9/10 times I preferred to stick to my Logic/third party compressors on a session. Again, it would come into its own in a live environment with no PC.

The mic preamps are not Neutrik but they are sturdy and the back analog-ins are clean and accept both +4dB/-10dB signals. I found at high gains I got some USB/Firewire noise coming through which is a shame, but if you get your gain structure sorted and get a bit closer to the mic, you can work at more optimum gains. The mic preamps aren’t the greatest though and you can always buy an external preamp which I have done, and avoid the preamps and computer noise entirely. Better still hit the MOTU’s SPDIF direct from a mic preamp that has digital output facilities and you have a very affordable way of getting some excellent vintage and boutique preamp signals into your DAW. The combo preamps also accept guitars and basses and these sounded faithful with no obvious lack of input impedance.

Probably the most impressive feature of the MOTU is the driver operation and latency, though my experience is admittedly using a Mac. If you need low latency monitoring through software (as opposed to Direct monitoring through the audio interface, which the Motu can also do), I have struggled to find anything quicker than the MOTU Ultralite MK3. In fact, I had the honour of hooking up a new RME Fireface UCX to my system recently, and bizarrely (the RME has new ultrafast converters) found similar software roundtrip latency values via both firewire and USB. At 256 samples buffer size, 44.1 sample rate the reported values on my screen were 13.6ms for BOTH units.

Now I have heard some speculation that MOTU somehow lie about this value but the number aside, in my own test when playing a piano sample in Logic 9, I couldn’t tell the difference. Even if they do lie and are a whole 1ms slower, seven years ago in 2005, MOTU were only 1ms slower than a new all-guns blazing 2012 product.

They were also seven years ahead on hybrid connectivity if you consider the UCX has a very similar feature set. I’m not getting into a debate over the RME UCX versus the MOTU Ultralite Hybrid MK3, and I’m not saying one is better than the other (I’ve used both and like making comparisons!) but for twice the price, you’d be paying for an improvement in sonic quality only in my opinion as the MOTU’s latency is bang up to date.

Some would argue the UCX is the better bet, afterall it did sound very good and has ADAT and word clock to boot which are lacking on the MOTU, but if you are a midi-guy who records occasional vocals/guitar the MOTU is still a real contender out there, especially when you consider the price!

25th April 2012

MOTU Ultralite MK3 Hybrid by RASTARECORDS

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid

FOR ME WORKING WITH THIS MOTU INTERFACE INNA COMPACT LIVE RECORDING SISTEM (8CH ISO SPLITTED ) OF A VERY SMALL JAZZ CLUB IN SAO PAULO , ULTRALITE MEANS:

THE PREAMPS SOUNDS BETTER THAN MY MBOX 2 AND VERY DIFFERENT OF MY RME FIREFACE400, SOMETHING LIKE LESS HOT AROUND 200 CYLCES LARGE BAND AND LESS FIDELITY OVER 5000 CYCLES IN GENERAL FOR MY EARS WHEN TESTED AT HOME USING : SHURE VP88,SAME POSITION, THE SAME 2 CABLES, IN THE SAME ROOM AND EXACTLY THE SAME SOUND SOURCE, A MONO SPEAKER 1 METER OF DISTANCE PLAYING A LOOP VOCAL TRACK, MONITORING WITH A HD650 IN THE SAME LEVEL ,AFTER RECORDING IN PT9.

AFTER THAT TEST WE CHOOSED MOTU-ULTRALITE FOR THE PUB BECAUSE OF THE BEST RELATION PRICE x BENEFITS ,AND ALSO THINKING OF THE NON-IDEAL CONDITIONS OF EVERY NIGHT WORKING, I MEAN: DIFFERENT SOUND ENGINEERS EVERY NIGHT HAVING TO MAKE FROM THE SAME MIXING CONSOLE ALESIS ZED14 THE PA MIX, MONITORS MIX, LIVE STREAMING MIX AND RECORD EVERY SHOW IN 8 CH MAXIMUM SYSTEM (SPLITTER ART 8CH-PRESONUS DIGIMAX DIRECTOUT -MOTU-MACKBOOK), ALSO WITH ALWAYS QUICK SOUND TIME (1 HR FOR SETUP STAGE AND SOUND CHECK) AND ALSO ALWAYS THE SAME 8CH SPLITTED LIMITATIONS (SAME MIC'S AND CABLE'S,VERY SMALL STAGE,WEDGES ON STAGE AND DIFFERENT PUBLIC AND BAND LEVEL EVERY NIGHT, AND BAD REC MONITORING FROM THE HOUSE MIX WITH EVERYTHING HAPPENING ON THE SAME TIME ).

I WOULD SAY THAT THIS INTERFACE WORK VERY WELL FOR THE PUB NEEDS, AND ITS VERY HONEST TO HER FEATURES.

AS IT SAYS,AND ALSO FOR MY TASTE SHE IS "ULTRALITE" IN SOUND QUALITY,PORTABILITY AND WEIGHT, EASY TO INSTALL AND USE BUT COULD BE MUCH EASIER (AS THE MATRIX SYSTEM OF THE FIREFACE400 FOR EXAMPLE), GREAT CONNECTIONS POSSIBILITIES BUT COULD HAVE ADAT 8CH ALSO, LIKE THIS WE WOULD BE ABLE TO USE CHEAPER AND SAME QUALITY LEVEL PREAMPS FOR SOME SITUATIONS LIKE THE PUB FOR EXEMPLE, NOT JUST UNITS WITH DIRECT LINE OUT OR 8 SEPARETED PREAMPLI UNITS WITH LINE OUT. THE CUEMIX IS NICE TOO, BUT MAYBE TOO MANY THINGS, PAGES,TAKE'S MORE THAN ONE HOUR TO GET IT, I MEAN, NOT SO LIGHT!

FOR HOME PRE-PRODUCTION ITS VERY NICE, MAYBE THE BEST ONE IN THIS PRICE HERE IN BRAZIL.

AT HOME IM VERY HAPPY WITH MY FIREFACE400 RME, BUT FOR THE PUB IM WORKING IN THE ULTRALITE IS THE BEST OPTION, AND THEY ARE VERY HAPPY WITH IT, AND ALSO I ADVISED IT FOR A FRIEND MUSICIAN STARTING TO PRODUCE AT HOME AND SHE IS LOVING IT!

CONCLUDING, MOTU ULTRALITE IS REALLY AN "ULTRALITE" AUDIO INTERFACE.

THATS IT!

GUSTAVO SANDES (GUMA)

10th October 2014

MOTU Ultralite MK3 Hybrid by BunnyBubble

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.5
Motu Ultralite Mk 3 Hybrid

I won't list all the features but I was looking to upgrade from my older, aging Apogee Duet as I needed more IO to plug in my MPC, turntable and instruments (bass, guitar). I use Totem monitors and old HD280 Sennheiser headphones (95% of the time). I'll admit I had a very strong case against MOTU from the get go, notably experience with the horrible, older (pre-mk3) 828 units and was only looking at Apogee and RME but for $$ reasons, I dove in... and I'm very happy I did.

Setup was a breeze (OSX Mavericks), installed Cuemix FX, drivers and updated firmware in about 10 minutes. Discovered by the OS, super responsive controls.
Cuemix is intuitive enough to use without reading the manual and there are a lot of routing options available as well as effects. EQ and compressor are good enough to track but the reverb is a bit on the thin side. Plugins would do a better job but I (really) like the fact that I can simply jam without going through software and get no latency. I only see them as (delicious) icing on the cake.

Didn't notice any loss in quality at all - actually it seems (subjectively) nicer to listen to than the Duet, as it's not as harsh in the top end.

Latency is very, very good. I'm actually surprised: here are the RTL figures I got comparing the Duet to the UL3-H (could be even better at 192k but for the sake of comparison...):
Duet
44K
32s = 6.55ms
64s = 7.28ms
128s =10.2ms

96K
32s = 4.94ms
64s = 5.27ms
128s = 6.6ms

Ultralite 3 Hybrid (FW and USB)
44K
32s = 4.15ms
64s = 4.88ms
128s = 7.78ms

96K
32s = 2.48ms
64s = 2.81ms
128s = 4.15ms


So, all in all, a great interface with a great balance of features and quality for the price - which is already more than I can say about the "big" brands.

 

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