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ESI Maya22 USB Audio Interface Review

peniku8

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I was looking for a compact audio interface with one mic preamp with software-controlled gain and a balanced stereo output for live shows.
The ESI Maya22 seemed to match my needs pretty spot on, at least I couldn't find anything smaller that fit the bill, so I ordered it and sure enough it showed up at my doorstep today.
As you'll see further into the review, the interface has some fundamental flaws which made me return it. Sadly I had forgotten to take a picture of the unit, so the stock image from the ESI website will have to do:

maya22usb_large.jpg


For the measurements I used a Topping EX5 as signal generator and the Cosmos ADC as input device.
Let's kick things off with the DAC part:

80,5dB SINAD:
Uhg0tXZ.jpg


Ouch... That's a rough start. At 0dBFS it produced 3,6Vrms unloaded, which dropped to about 2,3V being connected to the low-impedance Cosmos ADC.
-1dBFS (the level of this measurement) was best case SINAD, as you can see in the level vs distortion graph:

h2cYWLT.jpg


Edit: the slight increase in distortion at 0dBFS was caused by Windows's built-in limiter, since I had to use WASAPI in FlexASIO, because the Maya didn't work with Kernel Streaming. For regular use, this can be avoided by leaving your Windows volume at 99 or having a slight volume reduction (I think it was around 0.5dB) in EQapo.


Frequency response:
-2dB@20Hz


LicMFoG.jpg



Distortion vs Frequency @ -1dBFS:

Et7IHaB.jpg



Multitone shows TD+N of -60,5dB, which equates to about 12 bits of clean dynamic range.
ENOB is calculated as SINAD+crest factor, which in this case is 60,5dB+13dB=73,5dB=11,9bits.
For future tests I will use REW's 'minimize crest factor' option, which brings this down by 1dB to 12dB for my 1/3rd octave multitone test.
REW's displayed ENOB is not applicable to DAC measurements, as it adds the headroom of the ADC to the reading.
For ADC measurements, the displayed ENOB is correct. I will ask John to add an option to switch between DAC and ADC ENOB.


v0aEPjn.jpg



Measurement at -60dBFS reveals a total dynamic range of ~98dB:

7cuAU2N.jpg


This wasn't the best showing so far, but good enough to play back pink noise to measure the PA and to play background music. And the poor frequency response could be corrected with a compensation file.
Time to get to the mic input:
I plugged the EX5 in and sent it a sine wave at -20dBFS. The input was clipping already, even tho I hadn't dialed in any gain yet, so I opened the software panel and started looking for a gain control. After clicking through every possible part of the control panel, I realized this thing does not have a gain control. You get input and output volume faders, which are digital trim only. The first thing I then did was to grab my measurement mic (an insensitive EMX-7150), hooked it up to the interface and set it up to recieve a 114dB test signal at 1KHz from my pistonphone. This resulted in a -2dBFS input signal, rendering the interface useless for me at this point. I need way more headroom than 116dBSPL for data-logging during live shows. It's one of the reasons why I'm trying to replace the UMIK, which clips at around 120dB.
At this point I was almost frustrated enough to not even measure the input, but I decided against that, so here are some graphs to looks at:


Mic input frequency respose: 0,4dB@20Hz // ~-1dB@20KHz

sX4SAQj.jpg



Distortion vs level (limited by the signal generator with the undefeatable gain in place):
The part where the graph starts, at -68dBFS on the input, corelates to -100dBFS on the output. This just shows the 121dB of dynamic range of the EX5 that @amirm already measured. I'm actually surprised to see this.

YE8PNt4.jpg



Distortion vs frequency at -1dBFS shows some issues in the low frequencies:

kpu1fAg.jpg


...which mostly disappear at -10dBFS:

IrMR4te.jpg



I didn't measure any of the other outputs or inputs as I deemed this interface 'unusable' at this point. I can't recommend it. As I mentioned earlier, it's already packed up and going to be returned tomorrow. This is quite sad, as I couldn't find any other interface similar to this one. I really just want a box with an XLR input and 2 XLR or TRS outputs in a box as small as possible with no buttons or knobs.
Seems like the next best thing is the EVO 4...

Cheers!
 
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salmo

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Ouch, so nice looking device with so disappointing results. Nice work with review! How about Zoom AMS-22? Sadly with knobs and buttons but it's really compact device.
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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Ouch, so nice looking device with so disappointing results. Nice work with review! How about Zoom AMS-22? Sadly with knobs and buttons but it's really compact device.
Analog gain controls is an absolute no-go sadly. I need to log SPL for live shows and I typically don't have time to re-calibrate the mic every show because the pot might've been bumped while packing the interface away or something. The fractions of a dB of difference from air temperature and humidity is tolerable, but if I bump a gain knob it'll be completely off right away.
 

salmo

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Analog gain controls is an absolute no-go sadly. I need to log SPL for live shows and I typically don't have time to re-calibrate the mic every show because the pot might've been bumped while packing the interface away or something. The fractions of a dB of difference from air temperature and humidity is tolerable, but if I bump a gain knob it'll be completely off right away.
Oh, this changes the things completely, sounds reasonable. So yeah EVO 4 or Vocaster One looks like the best bets here. If only Shure MVX2U had a balanced output it would be great, it's probably impossible to make a smaller interface.
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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Update: I figured that the excess distortion at full scale of the DAC wasn't actually the interface's fault, but Windows's internal limiter kicking in. I had to switch FlexASIO to WASAPI because Kernel Streaming wouldn't work with the Maya, thus Windows meddling with the results are 0dBFS.
For anyone concerned about this: having your Windows at 99 volume (or EQapo with half a dB of reduction) avoids this problem altogether.
I'd like to remove the full scale graph from the review, but can't seem to edit the post anymore. Editing seems to be time-gated. @amirm what's the easiest way to get the 4th graph removed?
 

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AdamG

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@amirm what's the easiest way to get the 4th graph removed?
As requested the 4th graphic was removed. ;) Next time just drop a Moderator’s used name link as @trl did in the above post. We will help if we can. :cool:
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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As requested the 4th graphic was removed. ;) Next time just drop a Moderator’s used name link as @trl did in the above post. We will help if we can. :cool:
Very cool, thanks a lot, Adam!
Right as I'm testing another device, I noticed an issue with REW and I'd like to edit/update some of the text in this post here.

Under the multitone image, I'd like to replace
Multitone EORB shows just shy of 13 bits of clean dynamic range:
with
Multitone shows TD+N of -60,5dB, which equates to about 10 bits of clean dynamic range.
(REW's displayed ENOB calculates incorrectly, as it adds the headroom of the ADC to the reading. Ignore that value.)
 

AdamG

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Very cool, thanks a lot, Adam!
Right as I'm testing another device, I noticed an issue with REW and I'd like to edit/update some of the text in this post here.

Under the multitone image, I'd like to replace

with
Just reply to your own post and describe why you want to revise your post content.

Or you can become a Donor member and then you get unlimited Edit time for all posts. To become a Donor member click on your Avatar in the top right of the page. This will open a pop-up menu. Select Account Upgrades and then select your Donor level. It doesn’t matter what level you choose as all levels get the secret “unlimited edit timer” for all posts. Then you can edit your own posts all you need. At $25 bucks it’s the best deal at ASR.
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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Just reply to your own post and describe why you want to revise your post content.

Or you can become a Donor member and then you get unlimited Edit time for all posts. To become a Donor member click on your Avatar in the top right of the page. This will open a pop-up menu. Select Account Upgrades and then select your Donor level. It doesn’t matter what level you choose as all levels get the secret “unlimited edit timer” for all posts. Then you can edit your own posts all you need. At $25 bucks it’s the best deal at ASR.
Done!
 

staticV3

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I'm curious about the performances you do that require calibrated SPL measurements.

Couple of thoughts... Use a USB measurement mic that has no gain control. Use hot glue or something like it too fix a gain knob.
peniku8 mixes live shows across Europe.
These usually have SPL restrictions.

He also usually has a UMIK set up for logging SPL, which I guess doesn't work here hence the search for an interface.

(@peniku8 is it ok if I share your awesome live show pics?)
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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I'm curious about the performances you do that require calibrated SPL measurements.

Couple of thoughts... Use a USB measurement mic that has no gain control. Use hot glue or something like it too fix a gain knob.
I do use a UMIK-1 right now, but there are two big issues:
1) Limited cable length. I found a 4m cable to be the longest that would still work with it, at least with seemingly 'common' wire gauges, since the 5m ones I tested didn't work at all. I need to be able to move the mic a lot further in most venues, since I want to capture a good average of the entire venue/audience area and not just a small space in front of my mixing location. This is just for room EQ pre show, since during the show the mic will be placed next to me.
2) The UMIK has an SPL limit of 120dB. During most live shows, some peak (in bass) will exceed that and almost every peak reading in the data logs shows the same value in the end, which is the mic's clipping point. Apparently you can change the gain of the UMIK, but I found it impossible to open it up. I really tried (with WD40 etc).
And two minor issues which would be:
1) Non standard form factor. It's some 12mm in diameter, which makes it just a tad too small to fit into the 1/2" adapter of my pistonphone.
2) Mediocre off-axis performance in the last (two) octave(s). Large outdoor shows are close to free-field and small indoor shows are closer to diffuse field. I have a mixed field cal file for this (DF and FF files averaged) as a jack-of-all-trades, but the solutions is really just a workaround. I'd like some more reliable data in that region. I do measure (and hear) and correct breakup modes of compression drivers from time to time (that shows up in the room data).

I have an EMX-7150, which is fine up to ~146dB and performs much better overall compared to the UMIK. Now I'm just looking for the right interface :) EVO4 is already on the way btw.

As @staticV3 says, I do shows across Europe, mainly in Germany where SPL restrictions are 100dB(A)Leq30 and 130dB(C)pk. I do all sizes of shows from an audience of 50 to large festivals like Wacken etc.
Idk what kind of pics you have but feel free to share :D
 

Multicore

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peniku8 mixes live shows across Europe.
These usually have SPL restrictions.

He also usually has a UMIK set up for logging SPL, which I guess doesn't work here hence the search for an interface.

(@peniku8 is it ok if I share your awesome live show pics?)
YES
I want pictures. But even more I want videos so there's audio to go with it.
 

Multicore

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I do use a UMIK-1 right now, but there are two big issues:
1) Limited cable length. I found a 4m cable to be the longest that would still work with it, at least with seemingly 'common' wire gauges, since the 5m ones I tested didn't work at all. I need to be able to move the mic a lot further in most venues, since I want to capture a good average of the entire venue/audience area and not just a small space in front of my mixing location. This is just for room EQ pre show, since during the show the mic will be placed next to me.
2) The UMIK has an SPL limit of 120dB. During most live shows, some peak (in bass) will exceed that and almost every peak reading in the data logs shows the same value in the end, which is the mic's clipping point. Apparently you can change the gain of the UMIK, but I found it impossible to open it up. I really tried (with WD40 etc).
And two minor issues which would be:
1) Non standard form factor. It's some 12mm in diameter, which makes it just a tad too small to fit into the 1/2" adapter of my pistonphone.
2) Mediocre off-axis performance in the last (two) octave(s). Large outdoor shows are close to free-field and small indoor shows are closer to diffuse field. I have a mixed field cal file for this (DF and FF files averaged) as a jack-of-all-trades, but the solutions is really just a workaround. I'd like some more reliable data in that region. I do measure (and hear) and correct breakup modes of compression drivers from time to time (that shows up in the room data).

I have an EMX-7150, which is fine up to ~146dB and performs much better overall compared to the UMIK. Now I'm just looking for the right interface :) EVO4 is already on the way btw.

As @staticV3 says, I do shows across Europe, mainly in Germany where SPL restrictions are 100dB(A)Leq30 and 130dB(C)pk. I do all sizes of shows from an audience of 50 to large festivals like Wacken etc.
Idk what kind of pics you have but feel free to share :D
Yeah, a tricky problem. A small battery powered appliance that fits a mic stand that provides logging and monitoring with a wireless interface would be ideal.
 
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peniku8

peniku8

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YES
I want pictures. But even more I want videos so there's audio to go with it.
Raw audio from my phone so not exactly the finest recording, but better than nothing I guess :D
 

French Meloman

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If you take into account the price of this interface (around €75), its performances are sufficient for amateur recordings. It was probably designed for that.
 
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peniku8

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If you take into account the price of this interface (around €75), its performances are sufficient for amateur recordings. It was probably designed for that.
Gotta disagree. Not having a proper gain control will heavily compromise your recording quality in certain scenarios.
Let's imagine two ends of the spectrum:
-Recording a podcast with the notoriously insensitive Shure SM7B. The fixed gain in the use case will mean a low recording level, which means bad S/N. This issue can be mitigated by an in-line preamp like a Cloudlifter or a FetHead, but these things cost as much or more than the interface itself.
-Close-miking a loud-ish signal with a pencil condenser. Common for percussion instruments for example. Depending on the mic and the instrument, you will have no way to avoid clipping the input.

Not having adjustable gain is unacceptable with any kind of mic input imo. You can get a better interface for half the price nowadays. Or spend a tad more and get something actually good. With the current saturation of the entry level audio interface market I don't see any reason to spring for this unit and accept these kind of compromises.
 
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