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Audient ID14 MKII, Motu M4 or Focusrite Clarett+ 2 Pre?

Cadence

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Hi! I was looking at three interfaces – ID14 MKII, M4 and Clarett+ 2 Pre – for purposes of recording vocals/guitars and listening through headphones with low (ER4SR) and high (in the future) impedance, on a MacBook. Durability is important, as I would like to keep such an interface for many years. After some readings, I have come to the following conclusions:
  • The Clarett+ 2 Pre offers an overall complete package with great pre-amps. A review of the previous model showed its headphone output has power and fairly low impedance, but also crosstalk, noise and balance issues, which may be either present or not in the new model. Its price is significantly the highest in the group.
  • The M4 seems to be the best middle-ground interface with an affordable price, but I have seen that its headphone output is very weak with both low/high impedance headphones.
  • The ID14 MKII presents good features for an affordable price and its headphone output has plenty of power, but also a high impedance (22 ohms) that makes it not suitable for the ER4SR. It also cannot be used in a standalone fashion with wall power, unlike the other two interfaces.
The ID14 MKII was my first choice, then I leaned towards the M4 later on, but I am still undecided. Now, some important questions are as follows:
  • Has the revision of the ID14 MKII with new chips changed anything regarding the headphone output impedance? If not, would it give me very audible issues with low-impedance headphones (e.g. ER4SR at 45 ohms)?
  • Given the absence of standalone functions, does the ID14 MKII need a computer with the Audient software opened every time I want to use it?
  • Is the headphone output of the M4 really so weak that I may feel not having sufficient listening volume with certain headphones?
  • Given these concerns, could the price of the Clarett+ 2 Pre (at least double that of the ID14 MKII) be justified, especially if the problems with the headphone output of the previous version have been solved?
Thank you very much in advance.
 

Feargal

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The Julian Krause reviews on Youtube are a good resource if you haven't seen them already. Here's the Audient:

And Motu (well, M2 which is I think identical headphone output-wise) here:

Motu rather quietly released an updated M2/M4 in 2021 with some different components and I'd love to see it tested to check whether performance hasn't suffered as all the tests seem to be with 1st gen devices.

I'm in a similar conundrum to you. I have AKG371's which are also quite low impedance. The Motu looks to be the best quality DAC/headphone performance and is probably fine output power-wise but I'd like a bit more power (and not have to buy a separate headphone amp). My priority is really DAC/headphone performance over ADC quality.
Motu price is also quite high in the UK over the Audient.
 
OP
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Cadence

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The Julian Krause reviews on Youtube are a good resource if you haven't seen them already. Here's the Audient:

And Motu (well, M2 which is I think identical headphone output-wise) here:
Motu rather quietly released an updated M2/M4 in 2021 with some different components and I'd love to see it tested to check whether performance hasn't suffered as all the tests seem to be with 1st gen devices.

I'm in a similar conundrum to you. I have AKG371's which are also quite low impedance. The Motu looks to be the best quality DAC/headphone performance and is probably fine output power-wise but I'd like a bit more power (and not have to buy a separate headphone amp). My priority is really DAC/headphone performance over ADC quality.
Motu price is also quite high in the UK over the Audient.
Hey, thanks for the kind response. Julian's reviews were those that brought me towards these devices and from which I learnt their pros and cons. Having revisions of the M2/M4 and ID4/ID14 (possibly) MKII around certainly makes all past reviews and comments slightly less reliable.

The lowest prices I have seen go as follows: 210 € (ID14 MKII), 275 € (M4), 420 € (Clarett+ 2 Pre). The price difference is pretty relevant only for the Clarett+ 2 Pre, which is the only reason I have for not choosing it without second thoughts.

I see the AKG K371 have a 32-ohm impedance, thus the ID4/ID14 MKII can be more problematic in your case, with their 22-ohm output impedance. I have seen Julian's graphs indicating what occurs with such an input-output pair and his suggestion was that the headphone impedance should be at least 8 times that of the amplifier. I am worried that using the Etymotic ER4SR (45 ohms) with the ID14 MKII would be a disaster, hence the reason for not buying it, along the unavailability of a standalone mode.

The M4 would not give such issues, but I share the same thought you have about not having to purchase a separate amplifier in the future. Without high-impedance headphones, however, I would not be able to understand by myself which sort of power the interface can deliver. If even an Apple dongle can better drive headphones across a low/high impedance spectrum, damn...
 

AnalogSteph

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M2/M4 is not at all a bad choice for IEMs like the ER4SR. Output impedance is very low, output noise at -109,2 dBV(A) should still be low enough to be inaudible, and it'll drive 300 mV into 32 ohms with low distortion so that area is not an issue either. ER4SRs are rated 45 ohms nominal and 98 dB @ 100 mV (118 dB / V)... M2/M4 max output into them should be greater than the measured 21.6 mW into 32 ohms = 0.83 V, so that still seems enough for ear-splitting volumes of greater than 116 dB SPL. Sure the output can't go super loud into 16 ohms, but then again (a) that's mostly in-ear terrain anyway and (b) what do you expect from a single OPA1688?

Likewise, max output into 300 ohms translates to 2,63 Vrms, still more than you can expect from the vast majority of dongles. When it comes to driving one of the usual 250/300 ohm Beyerheisers or similar (102-103 dB / V), I would not be worried at all, particularly if you are somewhat young and your hearing is in decent shape. The worst that can happen is that things just don't go quite as loud as you'd like under extreme circumstances.

Overall, the M2/M4 headphone out should get the job done across a wide range of loads, it's fairly well-balanced. We're just used to stuff at overkill level here. Inexpensive audio interfaces inevitably aren't about overkill.

On the input side I'm not the greatest fan of the AK55xx anti-alias filters, but I suppose if you have no issues with recording at 192 kHz it's not a big deal. (If you insist on sticking with 48 kHz, anything with a CS5381, CS5361 or CS4272 would be a better match. The best parts for 44.1 straight are pretty much all long discontinued, e.g. AK5394(A) or AK5385B.)

Another concern if you intend to keep such an interface long-term is the manufacturer's driver support track record, if those are required (a basic 2+2 may get by as a generic USB audio class device).

I wouldn't be quite so averse to the thought of a headphone amp... while admittedly us folks in Euroland aren't as blessed with offers of good, inexpensive devices as some other regions, there still are about two around the 150€ mark at least, and in return you'd get the flexibility of being able to choose from many more interfaces that would otherwise be ruled out on the grounds of high output impedance, poor load driving, modest maximum output or high noise level.
 

umbral

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The Julian Krause reviews on Youtube are a good resource if you haven't seen them already. Here's the Audient:

And Motu (well, M2 which is I think identical headphone output-wise) here:

Motu rather quietly released an updated M2/M4 in 2021 with some different components and I'd love to see it tested to check whether performance hasn't suffered as all the tests seem to be with 1st gen devices.

I'm in a similar conundrum to you. I have AKG371's which are also quite low impedance. The Motu looks to be the best quality DAC/headphone performance and is probably fine output power-wise but I'd like a bit more power (and not have to buy a separate headphone amp). My priority is really DAC/headphone performance over ADC quality.
Motu price is also quite high in the UK over the Audient.

Have Motu + AKG K371 = perfect match ! Can be driven to distort with the interface since they are very sensitive.

When did : ?
"Motu rather quietly released an updated M2/M4 in 2021 with some different components and I'd love to see it tested to check whether performance hasn't suffered as all the tests seem to be with 1st gen devices."

New revision of Motu M4 (maybe the new M2 too) use NXP USB controller, not Xmos, and currently only has Win10 / Mac drivers.
Unfortunately, support for Win7 (and Android, with driver from USB audio player / recorder?) still missing.

And DAC ESS9026pro instead of ESS9016s in prev. revision .
Dear all, wanted to confirm that MOTU obviously now ships the new revision of the m4, as first made public by Evgeniy in the post above. have inspected a newly bought unit, seems the same as above.
win10 drivers (asio and mme/ks/dx) seem not to play so well on a ryzen mobile 4800u apu notebook, will have to do some many more tests. a rme fireface uc plays stable as a rock on the same notebook.
Evgeniy: did you encounter driver problems (=cracks and pops) with this new revision of the m4, if tested on win10?
Cheerio!

How can i tell which version do i have ?

Which one is better the old one or the new one ?

DAC ESS9026 pro vs ESS9016s ?


NXP USB controller vs not Xmos
 
OP
C

Cadence

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M2/M4 is not at all a bad choice for IEMs like the ER4SR. Output impedance is very low, output noise at -109,2 dBV(A) should still be low enough to be inaudible, and it'll drive 300 mV into 32 ohms with low distortion so that area is not an issue either. ER4SRs are rated 45 ohms nominal and 98 dB @ 100 mV (118 dB / V)... M2/M4 max output into them should be greater than the measured 21.6 mW into 32 ohms = 0.83 V, so that still seems enough for ear-splitting volumes of greater than 116 dB SPL. Sure the output can't go super loud into 16 ohms, but then again (a) that's mostly in-ear terrain anyway and (b) what do you expect from a single OPA1688?

Likewise, max output into 300 ohms translates to 2,63 Vrms, still more than you can expect from the vast majority of dongles. When it comes to driving one of the usual 250/300 ohm Beyerheisers or similar (102-103 dB / V), I would not be worried at all, particularly if you are somewhat young and your hearing is in decent shape. The worst that can happen is that things just don't go quite as loud as you'd like under extreme circumstances.

Overall, the M2/M4 headphone out should get the job done across a wide range of loads, it's fairly well-balanced. We're just used to stuff at overkill level here. Inexpensive audio interfaces inevitably aren't about overkill.

On the input side I'm not the greatest fan of the AK55xx anti-alias filters, but I suppose if you have no issues with recording at 192 kHz it's not a big deal. (If you insist on sticking with 48 kHz, anything with a CS5381, CS5361 or CS4272 would be a better match. The best parts for 44.1 straight are pretty much all long discontinued, e.g. AK5394(A) or AK5385B.)

Another concern if you intend to keep such an interface long-term is the manufacturer's driver support track record, if those are required (a basic 2+2 may get by as a generic USB audio class device).

I wouldn't be quite so averse to the thought of a headphone amp... while admittedly us folks in Euroland aren't as blessed with offers of good, inexpensive devices as some other regions, there still are about two around the 150€ mark at least, and in return you'd get the flexibility of being able to choose from many more interfaces that would otherwise be ruled out on the grounds of high output impedance, poor load driving, modest maximum output or high noise level.
Thanks for the information! Given these details, my preference for Etymotic earphones, plans for recording at 96/192 kHz and good Motu support on Macs, the M4 should suit some recording and listening needs without problems.

Just to give a baseline measure, comfortable listening levels with my MacBook Pro 13" 2020 and ER4SR are already in the 2-4 level range from 0, with 1/2 of the maximum volume being already too loud; it may be that, with high-impedance headphones, the low power of the M4 could provide me with comfortable volumes anyway; the issue is that I do not have experience with high-impedance headphones, hence I cannot envision anything in advance.

I have a couple of questions. Is it correct that the M4 can be used in a standalone manner, with wall power and without being connected to a computer (e.g. being ready to go with a guitar and headphones plugged in the interface)? I see this is not possible with the ID14 MKII, which is one point against choosing it. Also, given the M4 was released in 2019, could a similar new product be expected soon, or does the revision practically remove any chance for this occurrence? I do not know which kind of schedule Motu may follow; for instance, I would expected Scarlett Gen. 4 interfaces to be released by Focusrite soon, 3 years after the Gen. 3 ones.

Have Motu + AKG K371 = perfect match ! Can be driven to distort with the interface since they are very sensitive.

When did : ?
"Motu rather quietly released an updated M2/M4 in 2021 with some different components and I'd love to see it tested to check whether performance hasn't suffered as all the tests seem to be with 1st gen devices."

How can i tell which version do i have ?

Which one is better the old one or the new one ?

DAC ESS9026 pro vs ESS9016s ?


NXP USB controller vs not Xmos

The new M2/M4 should be "made in China", rather than "assembled in the USA". In addition, two screws should be present near the front inputs, rather than only one. By looking at this page – SABRE Audiophile DACs – the ES9026PRO is listed under their best series with a 2019 date, while the ESS9016s seems to be from 2015 and is not on the page; I naively assume it has been replaced by the ESS9016K2M, listed under another category and with a 2021 date.

One additional, important question that comes to my mind is: does the ES9026PRO in the new M2/M4 revisions change anything in terms of headphone output performance? If yes, then I may just pick one M4 up and be done with my doubts for good.
 

Noodles

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If HP out is your main deciding factor and you are only going to use low impedance headphones - M4.
Both ID14 and clarett have 10 ohm output impedance which may have an audible impact on bass through the headphones.
However if you are going to use higher impedance headphones id go for ID14.
AD/DA conversion is probably best on the Motu.

It really depends on if you need the other features each of them bring on the table.
 

DomieMic65

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I'm quite satisfied with the SSL 2+ (AKM converters) and HD600 witch I had long before I got the SSL.
It has high(-ish) output impedance so I preferred higher Ohm headphones. Actually in general I tend to have a preference for higher Ohm HPs.
The last few days I got a pair of DT 770. I wanted a closed over ear pair and for the price (125€) they seemed a great choice.
I thought that the SSL will have no issue driving them but they seem to be much more demanding than the HD 600. I guess because the 600 are more sensitive? Not that they can't go loud enough. They can but the volume pot often goes after 3 o'clock! They sure would benefit from more headroom! Sonically (subjectively) they seem to be a good match! I could also buy the 80 Ohm 770s I don't know if they will by a better choice after all!
My 2c..
 
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Cadence

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If HP out is your main deciding factor and you are only going to use low impedance headphones - M4.
Both ID14 and clarett have 10 ohm output impedance which may have an audible impact on bass through the headphones.
However if you are going to use higher impedance headphones id go for ID14.
AD/DA conversion is probably best on the Motu.

It really depends on if you need the other features each of them bring on the table.
I wouldn't say the headphone output is the main factor, but I underlined it because it seems to be the only weak point of the M2/M4 lineup. The ID14 MKII has a 22-ohm output impedance, while the Clarett+ may have a 5-ohm impedance like the previous Clarett; negative points for these two interfaces are the absence of a standalone mode for the ID14 MKII and the higher price of the Clarett+ that may not be justified when compared with the ID14 MKII and M4.

As described in the post, I am interested in both listening and recording instruments and vocals. Given the clarity of Etymotic earphones, I may just grab the M4 and record with my 45-ohm ER4SR; in the future, when purchasing high-impedance headphones (e.g. with 300 ohms), I will evaluate if the M4 can still be suitable for them. You mentioned that the "AD/DA conversion is probably best on the Motu": is this referred to the quality of both recording and listening?

I'm quite satisfied with the SSL 2+ (AKM converters) and HD600 witch I had long before I got the SSL.
It has high(-ish) output impedance so I preferred higher Ohm headphones. Actually in general I tend to have a preference for higher Ohm HPs.
The last few days I got a pair of DT 770. I wanted a closed over ear pair and for the price (125€) they seemed a great choice.
I thought that the SSL will have no issue driving them but they seem to be much more demanding than the HD 600. I guess because the 600 are more sensitive? Not that they can't go loud enough. They can but the volume pot often goes after 3 o'clock! They sure would benefit from more headroom! Sonically (subjectively) they seem to be a good match! I could also buy the 80 Ohm 770s I don't know if they will by a better choice after all!
My 2c..
The SSL2+ was another alternative that, however, I had to discard. Based on JK's review, its headphone output has a 10-ohm impedance that is not good for my ER4SR (and possibly future low-impedance headphones), as well as some noise and crosstalk issues; I also do not appreciate the presence of the 4K mode, as I will never use it when recording, similarly to the Vintage mode of the Universal Audio Volt series.
 

Tangband

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I have the Audient id14 mkI. Im very satisfied with the sound.
I would say dont buy id14 if you have a Windows computer because the software for PC with Audient is not very good, a lot of bugs that you really dont want to experience when recording live events . The Audient software for Mac is much better, but occasionaly the sound interface dont reckognize the computer when turning on. The software is the same for Audient id14 mkI and mkII.

Maybe the id14 mkII works better with Windows in some ways ? I havent tested.

The mic pre amps in Audient id14mkI are VERY good. When recording , this quality might be of much bigger importance than the best AD converters or dac chips. This was the main reason I bought Audient.
 
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Noodles

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I myself have an SSL2+ which drives everything i plugged into it bar the HE6. I am very satisfied with what this little package can do, no issues with AD/DA conversion ... i even sold my RME ADI-2 and it is now what i use daily for everything.
The converters are definitely better than the ID14/Motu, see:
But they are close enough.
Cannot comment much on the audio quality of the Clarett, but in terms of build quality - it is quite good. The routing options on the Clarett are probably better than the competition, but you will need to set that in the control panel (it saves on the device and you can bring it with you wherever).

Like i previously said ... i think it would depend on what else you need out of the functions each brings to the table.
 

JeffGB

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I have both the MOTU M4 and the Audient ID14 mkii. The MOTU M4 is the new version (my wife has the old version). I'm using Windows 10. The MOTU M4 is not stand-alone. It is USB powered and only has a USB input. The Audient ID14 mkii is the same although it does have an optical input but that is for adding additional channels and is not usable as an spdif input.

Neither interface has any pops or clicks on my Windows 10 computer. They both drive my headphones well, but I'm not primarily a headphone user and don't listen at high levels so take that with a grain of salt.

Trigger warning: The following comment is purely subjective and I have not done extensive volume matched blind tests. I slightly prefer the sound of the Audient ID14 mkii over the MOTU M4. The Audient is slightly warmer in signature while the MOTU is slightly cooler.

Technically, I would say the MOTU M4 is slightly superior. The balanced outputs on the Audient appear to be resistor balanced (you can use a single-ended TRS plug, which shorts the balanced outputs without harm when driving a single-ended amplifier. I checked with Audient support before doing this.) whereas the MOTU is fully balanced on the output and has separate RCA outputs for single-ended use. Other than that, they both are quite nice. The Audient runs a bit warmer than the MOTU and the layout of the controls is different, so you need to decide which is more comfortable to you.
 
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Cadence

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Thanks to everyone for the good information, which is much appreciated. It seems that, in this price range, these interfaces have different minor pros and cons, but are overall capable to deliver satisfactory results; unsurprisingly, similar questions on this matter have been commonly asked over time, but I had never seen anything simultaneously concerning the Clarett+ and the new M2/M4 and ID4/ID14 MKII revisions.
The MOTU M4 is not stand-alone. It is USB powered and only has a USB input.
This detail is pretty interesting. If the M4 is powered with wall power by using a phone or computer charger through USB-C, does it not function at all? It would be interesting if it could sometimes be used without a computer; for instance, playing the guitar and directing the sound to external speakers.
 

Trell

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This detail is pretty interesting. If the M4 is powered with wall power by using a phone or computer charger through USB-C, does it not function at all? It would be interesting if it could sometimes be used without a computer; for instance, playing the guitar and directing the sound to external speakers.
I tried that with the headphone output and that worked for the M2. I did not test the mains out.
 

LangDuTienTu

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I had the same wondering as you and ended up picking MOTU M4.
Iam able to experience the ID14 MK2 with a little bit of money just like renting, but I feel like I don't need to. Cause M4 provides me 4 outs, front control instead of top (I place something on top of the M4), and they have almost same converter quality.
But I have to say that the headphone out on the M4 is not as I expected. Iam telling about the sound quality but not the volume output. It was details enough although I expect it has better details, and the sound is not rich and powerful enough for my taste. Main output to Speakers is definitely better with more powerful and puchy, but soundstage is a little bit... you know... not so wide. The headphone out is the only reason I wanna try the ID14 MK2.

And one thing you should consider in case you record nylon guitar, you should pick the M4. Nylon recording is not nylon anymore on the ID14 MK2 as it tends to turn into metal.
 

cajadas

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I had to chime in to share my recent experience with ID14 MKII. As an Antelope Audio Discrete 4 Synergy Core user for years, I've never had any expectations about the Audient touching the sound quality of the Discrete 4. At first listen there was an evident difference and I was almost returning it to get a Zen Go. This is because I no longer need all the ins/outs of the Discrete 4. But I decided to let the ID14 MKII play for about 50 hours as some manufacturers recommend. DAC and other components burn-in. Truth is: when I listen to it again, performance was so close to Discrete 4, I couldn't believe my ears. I did several A/B tests and decided to sell the Discrete 4 and keep the ID14 MKII.

Conclusion is: This interface sounds almost as good as 1000€ interfaces, so if is AD/DA conversion you're after, just get it. Nothing else below 500€-1000€ will sound this good. Now, if you don't trust my years, I don't care, just get one and test it yourself.

I also love the tiny size (it's so small...) and pretty much everything about it with the exception of the volume issue everytime you turn off your computer. Annoying and unnaceptable, but I'm trying to have some patience until they eventually fix this via firmware update.
 
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