Flexible firewire multi I/O with powerful DSP mixing, EQ, reverb, and compression built in.
I've used MOTU's original 896 firewire interface extensively, and I've developed a great deal of respect for the quality and performance of their products. The 828mk3 is the latest model in the well-known 828 series. I am simply amazed.
The 828 gives you 8 1/4" TRS inputs, 8 1/4" TRS outputs, plus XLR main outs, XLR combo inputs on the front panel with preamps, optical inputs and optical outputs (16 channels each), SPDIF, TRS sends, front panel stereo headphone and main out TRS jacks, MIDI, timecode, and word clock. Everything works in parallel, and feeds to and from your computer over a single firewire cable. All TRS and XLR connections are balanced, and the TRS are all line level and also unbalanced compatible.
The preamps on the front panel sound clean, quiet, and crystal clear. Absolutely transparent. Trim knobs give you about 58 dB on gain on the preamps. 20 dB pad and phantom power switches as well. With the preamps set to no gain, and the pad on, its about line level, so you have plenty of gain for even the quietest mics.
Everything can be adjusted from backlit LCD screen on the front panel, and the headphone jack can be set to monitor any output. There is also a convenient talkback/listenback feature you can use to communicate with people in your studio over any other I/O.
The real power of this device is in the on-board DSP mixer and FX processor, CueMix DSP. Basically, it lets you apply the following FX to any input and/or output:
* Vintage Leveler (very nice!)
* 7-band parametric EQ
* Global reverb
Note that *each* input and *each* output can have its *own* custom EQ, leveler, compressor, etc. Amazing. The reverb is global with sends and returns.
This wraps a 28x16 matrix mixer (8 stereo busses). As I mentioned, everything is controllable from the front panel, but the coolest thing of all is the CueMix software, which lets you control the whole thing from your computer (Windows or Mac). You can save 16 presets in the unit for recall later, with or without a computer attached.
With so many inputs and outputs you would wonder what to do with them all. As I integrated this device into a live sound system, I realized that I could plug lots of things directly into this box, and eliminate a lot of other gear. I replaced a mixer, two compressor limiters, and an EQ, and cut my wiring in half. In the end, it wasn't that hard to fill up the I/O. :) In a studio setting it would be a dream as well, being able to create a custom mix for anyone in the studio on the fly. And its all 32-bit digital processing inside, so you cut down on noise as well.
Historically, MOTU's firewire interfaces have been known for their quality in recording and playback, with clean, quiet preamps and top-notch 24-bit A/D and D/A converters. This unit supports sampling rates from 44.1 kHz to 192 kHz. The quality as a analog-to-digital recording interface is second to none, but the addition of the on-board DSP steals the show.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this box to anyone looking for a new recording interface. It also works wonders when you need a programmable mixer, limters, eq, etc. without a physical control surface. The drivers are solid and the software looks and feels very polished. You can add more devices via firewire. Considering all the gear you could replace / not have to buy, the $750 price tag is well worth it.
All in all, no real complaints. If you need more XLR inputs with preamps, take a look and the new 896mk3, it has the same on-board DSP. That will be my next buy from MOTU.