MOTU MicroBook II by roughgear
I was looking for a small, portable interface to use with my Macbook. I wanted something better than the built-in sound card, something I can mix with and that has low latency. I already use a MOTU Traveler MK I and a MOTU 8pre interface (both firewire) and so I thought I'd give the new Microbook 2 a try. On the paper it has all the features, inputs and outputs that I needed and out of the box it looks really nice and solid. The case is made of metal and there are no buttons or knobs that could break easily. So far so good. I installed the latest drivers and the first latency tests were promising. My built in audio card showed me 9ms latency at 128 samples - the Microbook 2 showed me 9,5 ms at 128 which is good for a USB interface. I started to record and wanted to check the sound difference between my old MOTU Traveler from 2006 and the Microbook 2. Acoustic guitar, vocals and upright bass to feed the mic preamp and an electric piano to check the line-in conversion. I put both preamps on + 24 db of gain and noticed that the level of the Microbook was around 3 db weaker than the one of the Traveler. But still strong enough to work with quiet dynamics or even ribbons. I also noticed that there is no possibility to switch the line in from +4 to -10 on the Microbook which I would have liked.
Later, when I was listening to the results, I noticed that the files recorded with the Microbook were full of clicks, pops and drop outs. I didn't hear any clicks during the recording process but that's the way the audio was recorded. I started to look for the mistake, changed settings and tried several things and finally found on a forum that someone simply suggested to exchange the USB cable. So I did that and it helped! But just a bit. Instead of a lot of clicks I just had a very few. I tried all the cables I had and could not find a real solution. So I have to send it back as it's simply not useable like this. I hope the guys from MOTU will solve this problem. I already used several interfaces with my (standard) macbook running Mac OS X 10.6.8 and never had this kind of problem. Anyway, here is a link to the files I recorded for the ones who are interested:
MOTU Microbook 2 vs. MOTU Traveler
Sound wise I like the Microbook - it sounds fresher and less muddy than the Traveler MKI, it has a strong preamp and a good noise floor. Hopefully the audio samples will give you an idea.
I have no time to waste and I want a new product to work properly, out of the box - and a USB cable of good quality but if MOTU solves this problem one day, this could be the portable interface of my choice. After this disappointing experience, I did not even check the on-board eq, compressor or analyzing tools.