MOTU 828MK3 Hybrid by locust_tree
The 828 Hybrid is currently the centerpiece of my home studio. Using its ADAT ports I'm currently pushing 26 channels out to a mixing console, as well as using its built in MIDI interface to play a couple synth modules I have.
I'm writing this review largely because the popular opinion on MOTU is pretty torn, and there's a lot of misconceptions floating around from their older products. If you haven't checked out what they've been up to recently you might not realize how much they've stepped up their game.
There are a few things about this unit which I've fallen in love with. First of all, the Cuemix DSP system is a full-on low latency monitoring system with compression, EQ and reverb. This was a big part of my decision to purchase the unit as I've worked with Pro Tools HD systems before and I wanted to have effects in the headphone mixes that I wouldn't have to commit to. None of the effects print if you don't want them to, and you can even record the reverb return as its own track since it shows up as a discrete input.
Speaking of I/O, the thing that surprised me the most about the Mk3 with regards to its price class is that all I/O - everything - is discrete. If you've worked with budget interfaces before you know that it's common to see headphone outs that actually just mirror the main outs, front panel instrument inputs that override the rear inputs, etc. There is nothing like that on the 828. The Phones out is its own distinct output that doesn't mirror any existing output pair (unless you want it to!) and the front panel mic / instrument inputs are discrete as well and have no correlation with the 8 TRS inputs in the rear. The unit's main XLR outs are once again their own pair and do not simply mirror TRS outs 1 and 2. This translates to an I/O count that's just staggering - 30 discrete outputs and 32 discrete inputs if you count the reverb returns from CueMix. If you're like me and you do hybrid mixing on a console, you like having way more I/O than you need and the 828 excels with that.
MOTU also made mention when the Mk3's came out that they had significantly improved the quality of the converters, and as someone who found most of their MkII stuff very muddy, I can attest that this is true. How they stack up to Apogee, Lynx, etc I can't say because I haven't done a shootout, but if you're using the old MkII as a reference point there's a distinct top end detail now that was sorely lacking before.
Finally, a lot of mud gets slinged at MOTU with regard to their Windows drivers, so I have to mention that so far I've installed the 828mk3 Hybrid on 2 Windows machines, one running XP and one running Win7 with no issues whatsoever. None. In both cases I put the driver CD in, ran the driver software, restarted, plugged the 828 into the USB port, and turned it on. Everything just worked - hands down the easiest installs I've ever had on Windows machines (and I've had week-long ordeals installing other interfaces.)
The only cost cutting measure I can find is the enclosure itself. It's lightweight and plastic. But seeing as it just sits in my rack at home, I don't need tour-tough construction. If you're going to be doing lots of plugging and unplugging with the rear 1/4" jacks I'd advise caution.
All told, the only company that can even begin to compete with this feature set is RME, at well over twice the price. One of the best gear purchases I've ever made.