MOTU M2 and M4 Audio Interface Review

MOTU M2 Audio Interface: Review

MOTU M2 Audio Interface

The MOTU M2 and M4 Audio Interfaces are entry-level offerings from MOTU, but they have high quality preamps and the same ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC converters as their top-of-line interfaces. Everything about these units is extremely well made in a way that cannot be said of similar products from SSL, Focusrite, and others. For example, the cheap plastic buttons and pots on my SSL 2 became glitchy after a year and a half. The MOTU has a lovely portable-size black metal chassis, solid weighted knobs, and a fantastic LCD meter for input and output. It features a very robust headphone output much louder than interfaces from the competition.

MOTU M2 Voiceover Studio
MOTU M2 in my Voiceover Studio. Yes, I put carpet on my desktop!

Voiceover Monitoring and Loopback

For directed voiceover sessions and podcasting, it lacks a monitoring mix as found with SSL and others. However, it does have selectable monitoring on/off for each input channel, so it’s fine to just switch those off during recording if needed. Headphones are for hearing the directors and mix, when recording voiceover, not oneself, right?  Still, the one wonderful capability the MOTU 2 audio interface has, which is found in many more expensive interfaces today, is Loopback. After downloading the extra driver from MOTU’s website to enable Loopback, you can then easily record internet audio. This is a great tool for both voiceovers and podcasts. Loopback is then controlled within your DAW inputs, and not through a separate control panel. For example, here is what the inputs look like when using REAPER:

MOTU Loopback in REAPER

MIDI, Routing, and Extra Functionality

Additional features make the MOTU M2 and M4 even more attractive. While powered through the USB-C cable, there is an on/off switch in the back. Also found in the back of the M2 panel are MIDI inputs and both TLR and RCA monitor output jacks. The M4 has additional TLR line input and TLR and RCA line output jacks for extra functionality. The latency is very low on these interfaces. Note that some people have noted latency and other software issues using these interfaces with Windows, but Windows is problematic with audio devices generally. That is why I switched to a Mac permanently seven years ago.  

Excellent Preamps for Voiceover

Finally, the best part of the MOTU M2 and M4 are the preamps. They are extremely clean with plenty of headroom; and enough gain to drive a dynamic microphone. In side-by-side tests with SSL or Audient, the MOTU M2 may sound darker or bass heavy, but that is because the MOTU faithfully captures the full range of frequencies. The sound is very present, pristine, and wide in its sonic impression. Perfect for voiceover and podcasting. The SSL 2 sounds thin and veiled by comparison, even with the 4K harmonic switch engaged. Another thing to note about the preamps sounding relatively bass and low-mids heavy, is that audio captured by the MOTU M2 audio interface takes post-processing extremely well. In post, you can really mold the sound with EQ and compression. Other interfaces in this price range have its sound falling apart quickly with much processing.

 

 

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