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Major confusion over Motu M2 - a lot of conflicting reviews

DTNT

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Hi everyone,

I am in a search of a new interface in circa 200 euros price range. Just to highlight at the beginning, I almost don't record at all (if I record rarely, its mostly vocals), I only use it for music production, mixing, and mastering, so the most important things to me are output sound quality, both for monitor speakers and headphones (I use headphones a lot with various impedances), and latency.

My first choice was Audient ID4/14 mk2, but then I watched Julian Krause's review and found out that it loses headphone amp properties if you use a USB adapter (I don't have USB C port on my laptop) and that it has really high headphone impedance, over 20! Both of these were a big no because I use headphones a lot in addition to my studio monitors.

So I decided to buy Motu M2, but I am so confused by its revision and all the different reviews online, let me number some of them.

1. Some say it's the best interface in the price range with a phenomenal DAC (one that Apogee uses), others say its DAC is to avoid.
2. The new version has a different DAC, again, some say it's an improvement, others say it's more of a budget DAC.
3. Some say it sounds the best in the price range, others say it sounds narrow and it lacks low end, and that Audient ID14 sounds much better.
4. Build quality. Some praise it as being the best-built audio interface in the price range, others say there are numerous quality issues, like volume knob imbalance over time, button problems etc.
5. They are not made in the USA anymore, they are made in China now.

On paper, Motu M2 looks like a steal, but I'm really concerned with DAC sound quality, and overall quality control. Also since I have to order it from another country, I have no idea if I will get older Motu M2 or a revisioned version, and they seem like really different interfaces.

Should I be concerned with these things, or should I just order it and don't think?

You are free to suggest other interfaces in that price range. Thank you very much in advance! Cheers!
 
OP
D

DTNT

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that's clear bullshit


yes. or spend ~50$ more and get the m4 with double the outputs.
Thank you, I feel like it's bullshit too when they say it lacks low end or sounds shallow, dark, or whatever. Perhaps those are people who are used to colored sound.

What is your take on revision? Is it the same no matter which version I will get?
 

My adventures in stereo

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I returned my Motu M2, becuase of a faulty USB C connector
The sound quality on recording was sub par, the preamps were underpowered, the gain levels were sub par
and finally returned it within 2 weeks due to a faulty USB type C connector
Much happier with a ID 14
 

Trell

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I returned my Motu M2, becuase of a faulty USB C connector
The sound quality on recording was sub par, the preamps were underpowered, the gain levels were sub par
and finally returned it within 2 weeks due to a faulty USB type C connector
Much happier with a ID 14

The preamps are good and the gain levels are about average for that price class. If you want more gain you'll have to pay more. My UCX II has 75dB of max gain gain.
 

Piere

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I returned my Motu M2, becuase of a faulty USB C connector
The sound quality on recording was sub par, the preamps were underpowered, the gain levels were sub par
and finally returned it within 2 weeks due to a faulty USB type C connector
Much happier with a ID 14

Can second this. That wacky USB-C connector is really a nightmare. It renders the thing unusable in real recording sessions, regularly loosing connection if you touch the M2. Please go back to a solid USB-B connector mr. MOTU! There is no real reason to move to USB-C, the M2 uses USB2. Sound quality is ok but on average, comparable to other soundcards in the $100-$150 range. This is really a pitty because user interface is top! No frills, otherwise strurdy build, just what you need with neat level meters.
 

Trell

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Can second this. That wacky USB-C connector is really a nightmare. It renders the thing unusable in real recording sessions, regularly loosing connection if you touch the M2. Please go back to a solid USB-B connector mr. MOTU! There is no real reason to move to USB-C, the M2 uses USB2. Sound quality is ok but on average, comparable to other soundcards in the $100-$150 range. This is really a pitty because user interface is top! No frills, otherwise strurdy build, just what you need with neat level meters.

I found the level meters on the M2 pretty useless. The level meters on my RME UCX II, on the other hand, are useful.
 

Piere

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True, but that is another price - performance segment. The M2 is targeted at the low budget home studio. I myself use the M2 still to do loudspeaker and room measurements and then the meters provide a handy rough indication other comparable sound cards are missing.
 

Trell

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True, but that is another price - performance segment. The M2 is targeted at the low budget home studio. I myself use the M2 still to do loudspeaker and room measurements and then the meters provide a handy rough indication other comparable sound cards are missing.

MOTU could easily add a scale to the levels display, for instance, as this is just software displaying graphics on a screen and no different than what RME does. This assumes that the input data for the levels display is somewhat accurate, and perhaps that is the problem with the M2/M4?

Apart for the useless levels display the M2 is quite nice, though I don't use it much anymore as I have other devices instead.
 

Piere

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The levels are coloured as any other led level meter and with a clear clipping indicator. Do you need more for regular recording? It is a nice soundcard for the price. Only that wacky USB-C renders it useless for the purpose intended :facepalm: But oh wait, where is my roll Gaffer tape... ;)
 

Trell

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The levels are coloured as any other led level meter and with a clear clipping indicator. Do you need more for regular recording? It is a nice soundcard for the price. Only that wacky USB-C renders it useless for the purpose intended :facepalm: But oh wait, where is my roll Gaffer tape... ;)

There is no scaling on the display, as I wrote, and the are other uses for a very nice graphical display than just as a clipping indicator, wouldn't you agree? The colors are not that easy to discern levels from either. For MOTU this is a lost opportunity with a very nice display that is pretty but useless.

As for USB-C on the M2 I did not have any issues with it for my usage, but I do agree the USB-B on my RME ADI-2 DAC FS as well as RME Fireface UCX II are far more secure.
 

bequietjk

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The preamps are good and the gain levels are about average for that price class. If you want more gain you'll have to pay more. My UCX II has 75dB of max gain gain.
We need to get one of those babies here on ASR for review. The M4 is the way to go imo in this price range and if you want something better well its time to start forking out some funds.
 

kongwee

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The reason I know about to using MOTU because of legacy support. I dunno it is true for now. They claim their give all the drivers support for all their interface. Also all device gonna be USB-C. I recently bought $50 Bluetooth speaker and get USB C charge port. Unlike 3 year back, I get mini USB for other bluetooth speaker.
 

Piere

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Yes, USB-C is fashion today, nice for iPhones but not so nice at the rather rough environment on stage or other recording site. I am hoping MOTU will not replace XLR and TRS jacks on their interfaces when 3.5mm jacks can do the job as well....
 
OP
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DTNT

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The reason I know about to using MOTU because of legacy support. I dunno it is true for now. They claim their give all the drivers support for all their interface. Also all device gonna be USB-C. I recently bought $50 Bluetooth speaker and get USB C charge port. Unlike 3 year back, I get mini USB for other bluetooth speaker.
Well, that is super nice, there is a ton of hardware rendered basically useless because of OS upgrades.
 

DVDdoug

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I don't know anything about the M2...

Latency (delay) is ONLY a problem if you are monitoring yourself while recording and the latency in your headphones makes it difficult to perform. If that's a concern there are lots of interfaces with zero-latency direct-hardware monitoring where the monitor signal doesn't go through the computer.

There is always some latency through the computer. It's related to buffering and multitasking and the operating system is always multitasking even if you're only running one application.

When mixing & mastering there can be minutes, hours, weeks or years, of "latency" so a few more milliseconds doesn't matter. ;)

ADCs and DACs are usually better than human hearing. This is not the weak link.

All preamps have some noise so some are better than others and some preamps haver more gain than others. But most interfaces have decent preamps and unless you have a soundproof studio the acoustic room noise is usually worse than the electrical preamp noise. With USB powered interfaces, sometimes noise gets-into the preamp through the USB power and then you don't know if you should blame the computer or the interface. An interface with it's own power supply avoids this issue.

Most interfaces are designed for use with high-output condenser mics close to the sound source. Dynamic or ribbon mics, or quiet sounds, may need a higher gain preamp.

And in your case, you may want a higher-output and/or lower impedance headphone amp.

(I use headphones a lot with various impedances),
The pros recommend against using headphones as monitors. They are OK for listening for little details or defects, etc. But if you do use headphones as monitors you should choose one pair so you can learn what a good mix sounds like on those headphones.
 

Trell

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We need to get one of those babies here on ASR for review. The M4 is the way to go imo in this price range and if you want something better well its time to start forking out some funds.
There is this review by @Rja4000 that also measures the preamp at several gain levels, something amirm currently does not do.

 

onununo

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I own an M4. It's got the "ESS Sabre32 Ultra" DACs inside, or at least this is what is mentioned on the box. I bought it recently, for measuring the in-room frequency response of my audio systems, and for this purpose I went through the REW card calibration procedure.
Well, according to the calibration, it turns out that the preamp is not flat. At moderate preamp level in fact, we get -3 dB @20Hz, -1.5dB @30Hz, -0.9dB @40Hz, -0.6dB @50Hz, and slowly rising up to approx. 150 Hz, where we get 0dB flat up to approx. 9kHz, then we see some small rolloff: the -0.5dB point is @18kHz, and at 20kHz the amplitude is -0.68dB.

Given the rolloff, especially in the low end of the spectrum, expect some lighter than usual recordings (mind in any case, that we are talking of -3dB @20Hz, which in that frequency range is not very critical), and perhaps a tiny less airy highs. As for the phase plot, if follows the rule, with 90 degrees rotation at 20Hz. Sorry I cannot attach the chart, because I deleted it and kept only the resulting calibration file from which I could get those numbers.

As far as the DAC is concerned, looping back the line input with the output gives basically a flat frequency response in the entire audio spectrum, so we can say that with good approximation. the above numbers characterize only the preamp.

Sonically speaking, the first time I hooked up the interface to my PC, listening with a pair of ELAC Adante AS61, and then also with a pair of Neumann KH310, I was delightd by the openness of the sound, and sense of tri-dimensional depth. I thought I had made a mistake to buy my RME ADI2 DAC, bacause I could get better sound for a quarter of such price. But I was wrong: switching back to my ol' RME ADI 2 DAC, I noticed that the feeling of openness and tridimensionality, was quite likely due to higher jitter and non linearities. In fact, the RME DAC rather obviously sounds cleaner, with a more focused stereo image, with more solid bass and a sense of cleaner, less confused mid-highs.

So to my honest conclusion (bare in mind this is solely my personal conclusion on the basis of the above observations):
MOTU M4 is a good interface. It is good enough even for taking some occasional measurement. Its DAC sounds nice enough, but forget about comparing it with more expensive DACs such as the RME, because you'll notice that in comparison it tends to sound lighter and fuzzier in general (or less "analog", if you prefer). Its preamps are usable, bacause they are not noisy, but require a little equalization, at least if you intend to use them for making measurements.

I think that in general, preamps in cheap audio interfaces are never meant to be used for measurement (i.e., linear). Rather, they are meant to provide a nice coloration of the sound, one that can please the wideast variety of music creators.
 
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malp

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It lacks bass. It lacks some warmth and presence. It lacks musicality. I am going to return mine and buy the Audient id14 mkII again (I made the mistake of selling mine thinking that the motu was better). Audient is a much better interface to work with, it inspires me to record great stuff.
 
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