I have been always a big fan of Motu products. From my Motu 898 MKII to today’s Motu 8 PRE-ES, The sound quality it gave me is truly amazing. SO, in today’s article, I will review the new Motu 8PRE-ES Thunderbolt Audio Interface that I have just bought for my studio.
Let’s begin the review…
Motu 8PRE-ES is the latest piece in their thunderbolt audio interface inventory.
With its amazing audio quality and Preamps, it will win your heart.
However, compared with other same price range audio interfaces you have to invest some more dollars for Motu 8PRE-ES, the audio quality it gives will please you.
NOW, let’s see the features that you’ll get with Motu 8PRE-ES.
Motu 8PRE-ES Thunderbolt Features
52 simultaneous audio channels – In Motu 8PRE-ES you’ll get 24 inputs and 28 outputs, that will open your door to connect all your studio gear, guitars, microphones, synths, drum machines, keyboards, outboard effect processors, and optical expanders.
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Analog audio quality – The ESS Sabre32™ DAC technology converter delivers you up to 123 dB dynamic range. This enhanced dynamic range is capable of recording and processing the subtle part of your audio and gives a superb analog audio quality.
Cutting-edge Mic Preamps -It’s 8 world-class transparent mic preamps that can deliver a superb -108 dB THD+N, 118 dB dynamic range, and -129 dBu EIN performance. Each channel has its separate preamp gain, pad, 48V phantom power as well as a digital remote control which helps us to operate smoothly.
Ultra-low latency Thunderbolt and USB drivers – Motu 8PRE-ES delivers a high-speed transfer rate with up to 1.6 ms at 96kHz over Thunderbolt™ with high-performance DAW hosts. It has multi-connectivity provided with Hi-speed USB 2.0, Thunderbolt 1, 2, and 3 and AVB/TSN Ethernet.
Control room features – There is a whole new control room feature given with the built-in talkback mic and front-panel talk button.
DSP mixer and effects – A full-featured DSP mixer with analog emulated effects is given with that you can use to enhance your mixing and live sound quality.
Modeled vintage effects processing – High quality modeled vintage effects are given in Motu 9PRE-ES. Effects such as the legendary LA-2A compressor and British analog console EQs are great dynamics effects to mix with.
Web app and touch control – With the web app software provided with Motu 8PRE-ES you can control everything from your laptop, tablet, and smartphone. This software is specially designed for touch control so you can precisely apply things in your recording and mixing.
Motu 8PRE ES costs you from around $1100-$1200 on online shopping websites.
Mac System Requirements
- 1 GHz Intel-based Mac or faster required
- 2 GB RAM or more
- Mac OS X version 10.8 or later
- Thunderbolt 1/2/3, USB 2/3 or AVB/TSN Ethernet port* required
- At least 500GB HDD
- *AVB/TSN Ethernet audio interface operation requires OS X El Capitan or later
Windows System Requirements
- 1 GHz Pentium-based PC or more
- 2 GB RAM or more
- Windows 7*, 8 or 10
- Available Thunderbolt 1/2/3 or USB 2/3 port
- At least 500GB HDD
Web App Support
- Any web client platform: Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android
- Any web browser: Safari, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Explorer, etc.
Pros and Cons
- Thunderbolt support with up to 1.6 ms latency (almost zero latency)
- 52 independent IN/Out channels
- Onboard Vintage analog effects with legendary LA-2A compressor
- Full metal body
- Analog sound processing
- Wireless remote control
- ADAT inputs and outputs need an external digital mixer
- DSP mixer is a bit hard to understand for beginners
Above I’ve given some quick analysis that I got when using this audio interface in my studio. I’ve also given some pros and cons as well as the system requirements above.
Now it’s time to dig deeper that is it an ideal audio interface for you or not?
Remember, every engineer and recording studio has it’s own standards and requirements so for some of you it may be the best fit where for others it may not.
The end decision should be always based on your budget and requirement.
Now let us see it’s Motu 8Pre-ES features in detail one by one.
Motu 8Pre-ES has 8 high quality dedicated Preamps. Each of them has its separate 48V Phantom power and Preamp gain so you can connect 8 condenser mics simultaneously.
All of them deliver superb -108 dB THD+N, 118 dB dynamic range, and -129 dBu EIN performance which means you can record crystal clear analog quality audio.
The 24Bit 192kHz processing makes them world-class Preamps.
You can connect Condenser microphones and acoustic instruments with them.
When I got this audio interface and connected my acoustic guitar with the Preamps, the audio quality it delivers is superb. Especially when I’ve applied the LA-2A compressor, classic reverb, and the Teletronix leveler effects and in the channel.
However, there is a little bit noise at the top of the preamp gain (when you level up the gain full) but it can be negligible when compared to quality.
I also compared it with my RME UFX Preamps. As compared to RME it has better Preamps, especially for those who love a little more low end.
SO, The overall quality of the Preamps is superb.
Now let us see the second most important feature, ie; it’s Ins and outs.
Ins and Outs
Motu 8Pre-ES has 52 independent Ins/Outs that make it a multipurpose audio interface. Whether you are using it standalone or with a digital mixer or as a part of the network, it will best fit for all these types of operations.
Here is the breakout of IN/OUT channels.
- 8 x XLR/TRS “combo style” mic/line/instr inputs
- 8 x 1/4″ TRS line out
- 16 ADAT optical Channels
- 8 SMUX optical channels
- 2 x 1/4″ TRS stereo headphone outs
- 2 Main outs
With lightning-fast thunderbolt technology, it is capable of operating all the Ins/Outs simultaneously. That means you can easily record multiple higher sample rate tracks at the same time provided you have a top computer system.
If you don’t have a high-speed computer then you can’t use Motu 9Pre-ES in full throttle.
I always suggest my followers get iMac because it’s built specially built for audio recording purposes.
I too have iMac in my studio.
However, it costs me just double any assembled Windows-based PC but its’ performance told me that my choice was not wrong.
Well, here were INs and Outs of Motu 8Pre-ES. To be honest, I never used more then 16 tracks simultaneously in my studio so I don’t know if it can handle all 52 INs and Outs at the same time but the company says it can.
BUT, I can guaranty that it can easily handle up to 24 tracks.
Now let us discuss it’s about its mixer and routing feature.
Like other Motu cards, 8Pre-ES has also a matrix routing system that can be handled digitally through the provided software.
BUT, I want to suggest newbies that it’s a bit hard to configure if you don’t have any experience with Motu audio interfaces.
I had Motu 896 MKII previously so I easily handle the given routing feature. However, a handful of manuals, Youtube videos, and Forum answers are already there on the internet that can help you in that.
For your convenience, I have a Youtube video about routing Motu 8Pre-ES,
Let’s have a look into this video.
Additionally, Aux and Bus channels are given for better routing and mixing with given effects. You can use those effects directly in your DAW by routing them through these aux and bus channels.
Control room features
One of the very exciting features given in this sound card is the CONTROL ROOM FEATURE.
This feature helps us to talk with the artist while he is inside the recording room. The control room feature is not new for Motu users because most of the Motu audio interfaces have this feature by default.
Even the oldest one 896 MKII that I had also had this feature.
There are 6 dedicated buttons are given for this purpose.
The Talkback, Mute, Mono, Net ID, and A/B shift buttons are given there for the control room system.
I will not go to the detailed configuration as it’s already provided in the user manual and very easy to setup.
The talkback feature is very time-saving when you are on live recording so I love it.
Modeled vintage effects processing
Motu has introduced Vintage modeled effects in their previous audio interfaces a while ago and this feature is also added to the new Motu 8Pre-ES.
In this feature, you’ll get a handful of vintage modeled effects that will give the analog charm to your recordings.
If you buy these effects through Universal Audio, they will cost you a lot of money. BUT, thanks to Motu’s new initiative now we are getting some of these effects free of cost with its audio interfaces.
In Motu 8Pre-ES you will get the legendary Teletronix LA-2A compressor along with British analog console EQs, Classic Reverb, Gate, and HPF. The 32 Bit float precision with DSP engine delivers virtually unlimited headroom without losing sound quality.
Web app control from any device
Motu is providing a web app control software with this audio interface that can be used to operate from any device.
There is no need to install the Motu web app on your hard drive. It is served directly from the hardware and can be accessed through your browser.
You can directly open 8pre-es on-board DSP, mixing, device settings, and network audio routing from your favorite web browser through the connected laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
The compatible platforms are Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, Android.
When I am talking about performance, it’s not just about speed and audio quality but also the ease of use and beginner-friendly.
As Motu 8Pre-ES has all the fast data transfer ports including Thunderbolt 1/2/3 the speed is no doubt lightning fast. Hence the latency is very low. I will separately discuss it in the below section.
Audio quality is also good as a world-class audio converter provides a dynamic range of up to 118 dB.
If you can be able to use the matrix panel well with its internal effects then you’ll rock it.
BUT, the big question is, is it user friendly for newbies?
I think you need a good mixing skill to use this kind of audio interface. Otherwise, you would be lost inside the matrix panel and mixer window.
BUT, if you had previous knowledge of Motu audio interface software then you can go with it without worrying a lot.
SO, my suggestion to the newbies that do your homework well before press n buy button.
When you are doing live recording low latency audio interfaces are great. Motu 9Pre-ES audio interface has multiple high-speed connections including thunderbolt hence you’ll get lightning-fast speed.
That means, as low as 1.6 ms at 96kHz over Thunderbolt™ when you are using high-performance DAW.
I gave it a try and checked the latency with connecting 16 ins. The result was amazing. The double sound that generally comes due to latency is negligible and the artist can see what he play or sings immediately on his headphone.
That’s the power of thunderbolt technology.
As expected, build quality is great like older Motu cards.
The solid metal chassis gives it strong protection from damage. Even if you accidentally drop this audio interface on the floor, chances of damage are low as compared to others. However, I don’t recommend you to drop it.
The chassis is built with an aluminum alloy so it’s lightweight yet incredibly durable.
The durability of Motu 8Pre ES makes it user friendly for studios as well as stage.
What’s In The Box
- MOTU 8pre-es 24×28 Thunderbolt/USB Audio Interface
- MOTU Audio Tools Software
- AudioDesk Software
- Limited 2-Year Warranty
- User manual
Do You really need this?
The answer to this question is really hard for me as the needs of all people are not the same.
Some of us are live recordists, some are composers or mix engineers. SO, the needs vary as per their requirements and recording situation.
Well, where Motu 8Pre-ES stand in all types of requirements?
As I have tested, it can easily handle 24 ins and outs in the live recording. SO, in my suggestion, it’s a perfect audio interface for live recording and stage performances.
BUT, as we know, home studios are now at the peak of the audio recording industry. Is it suitable for home studios?
The answer is, if you want the extraordinary audio quality in your recordings then you should go for it, otherwise you should not.
Most of the home studio owners cannot afford these types of costly audio interface.
SO, there are two things you should keep in mind.
- Your budget
- Your needs
Like I had the budget as well as I’m a live recording engineer so a high Ins/Outs card is required for me. That’s the reason I bought the Motu 8Pre ES.
One more thing you should keep in mind that, Thunderbolt is only provided in Mac devices so you must have a Mac computer or Laptop to use this card in full throttle.
When it comes to the alternatives, I have only one in my mind.
Focusrite Clarett 8pre X
With 26-IN, 28-OUT, and thunderbolt connection, it’s the best alternative to Motu 8Pre ES. However, I always prefer Motu over Focusrite but there is no other best alternative in this price range.
If you want the same configuration at low cost then you can go with Focusrite Clarett 8Pre X
SO, above you’ve read my review of Motu 8Pre ES audio interface. Now it’s time to decide whether you should go with this audio interface or not.
If you ask me for my verdict on this audio interface, I will tell you that it’s one of the best audio interfaces in this price range.
Equipped with some great technologies like ESS Sabre32™ DAC and Thunderbolt 3.0 it’s capable of producing industry-standard music.
BUT, it’s not so affordable for newbies and small studio owners. SO, if your budget is tight then you can skip it and go for the best alternative Focusrite Clarett 8pre X.
Now the choice is yours. If you buy it, let me know your experience with it. Comment section is waiting for your feedback.