Last Updated on(Last Updated On: February 29, 2020)
A few days ago when I was driving my car, my elder brother sitting beside me told about the newly released audio interface by MOTU. He told me that Motu has released its 1st 4-channel USB-C audio interface Motu M4 at a budget price.
He told me that the data transfer speed is much more than any Firewire or USB 3.0 interface. But I was actually not surprised by the data transfer speed of Motu M4 USB-C but the Dynamic Range of this audio interface ie; 120dB, which is way higher than any other same range audio interface.
Even several high priced audio interfaces don’t have that dynamic range. I googled for some detailed information about Motu M4’s dynamic range and here’s what I found.
Equipped with the same ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC Technology found in audio interfaces costing thousands, the M4 delivers an astonishing 120 dB Dynamic Range on its main outputs.
It’s really an amazing piece of information enough for me to review this newly released Motu audio interface.
Let us see some features of the Motu M4 USB-C audio interface. After then we’ll go in details.
Motu M4 USB-C Features
- Motu M4 features 4-in / 4-out USB with studio-quality sound
- Powered by ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC Technology
- Ultra-low latency powered by USB-C for host software processing
- Full-color LCD metering for all inputs/outputs
- 2x mic/line/hi-Z guitar inputs on combo XLR/TRS
- Individual preamps with 48V phantom power for each input
- 2x balanced 1/4-inch line inputs
- Monitor mix knob which helps balance live inputs and computer playback
- Measured -129 dB EIN on mic inputs
- Hardware (direct) monitoring for each input
- Measured 120 dB dynamic range on outputs
- 4x RCA analog out
- 1x headphone out (driven by ESS converters)
- MIDI in/out
- 4x balanced, DC-coupled 1/4-inch TRS outputs
- Supports 44.1-192 kHz sample rates
- USB audio class compliant for plug-and-play operation on Mac. Now no driver required for operation.
- Driver loopback best for capturing host output, live streaming and podcasting
- Bus-powered USB-C with power switch
- Metal body
- MOTU Performer Lite 10 and Ableton Live Lite 10 included
- 100+ instruments included with Performer lite.
- Included over 6 GB of free loops, samples, and libraries
- Built-in the USA
- Two-year warranty
Motu M4 USB-C Price – $220
The second thing I’ve surprised with is the price. However, it has only 4 ins/outs the price ($220) is really amazing for a high dynamic range audio interface.
I have searched for high dynamic range audio interfaces on the internet and end with all costly units including Apollo audio interfaces which have the highest dynamic range in this world. But it’s not for medium budget studio owners.
But with the release of Motu M4 USB-C audio interface now average buyers can also enjoy the high depth audio recording.
Now let us see the technologies behind that powers up Motu M4 USB-C to deliver that kind of performance.
ESS Sabre32 Ultra™ DAC Technology
As given on ESS’s official website, SABRE32 DAC is the world’s highest performance 32-bit and 24-bit audio D/A converter solutions used in various consumer and professional applications including Blu-ray players, audio pre-amplifiers, A/V receivers, recording systems, mixer consoles, and digital audio workstations.
Sabre32 is equipped with Time Domain Jitter Eliminator that delivers an unprecedented Dynamic Range of up to 135dB and THD+N of -120dB.
The same Chip is used in Motu M4 USB-C that helps achieve the highest possible dynamic range ie; 120dB and deliver the crystal clear audio.
Now you know the 1st technology used in Motu M4 which enables the high-performance audio experience. Now its time to know something about the Data Transfer technology used in M4 which makes it much more faster than other same range audio interfaces.
What is USB-C
According to PCMag USB-C is an industry-standard connector for transmitting both data and power on a single cable
It’s developed by USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF). It looks like a micro USB port used in mobile phones. The Protocol is used in USB-C is USB 3.1 which is able to deliver up to 10GBPS data transfer rate. It’s way higher than any firewire or USB 3.0 port.
So when you use Motu M4, the audio recorded by your DAW can be stored quickly without any quality loss on the way. As well as it can be used in mobile locations through your laptops and iPad without additional power support.
Motu M4 US-C Audio Interface Review and Buying Guide
Now let us discuss different common features of Motu M4 that help you in whether you should it to buy or not.
I’ve told you above, The SABRE32 DAC technology which makes it a high dynamic range device and USB-C technology which makes it an ultra-fast audio interface is the charm, there are some other features that will excite you in buying this great audio interface.
Features like up to 192 kHz sample rates and world-class preamps used in this audio interface are added benefit you’ll get in Motu M4.
Let us go inside the various features of this audio interface. After getting some deep knowledge we’ll get the PRos and Cons of it to help you decide should you buy it or not.
Ins and Outs
Motu M4 has 4 Ins and 4 Outs of which you’ll get 2 preamps on the front side panel and 2 TRS ins on the backside.
The front side 2 x XLR/TRS “combo jack” mic/line/Hi-Z guitar inputs which are independent preamp gain, features 48V phantom power and separate monitor switch for each input. These ultra-clean preamp circuits produce -129 dBu EIN on the mic inputs as measured by the manufacturer.
The backside TRS inputs are line-level inputs that can be used to record Keyboard/synthesizer/pads and line-level recording instruments.
Motu M4 USB-C has 4 x 1/4″ TRS line out (balanced, DC coupled) and 4 x RCA (unbalanced) analog out (mirrored). One headphone stereo given on the front panel with independent gain control that can be used to monitor/mix on the go.
These all outputs are equipped with SABRE32 DAC technology which enables these outs to deliver the dynamic range up to 120dB. We have discussed earlier in this article about SABRE32 DAC technology and the tremendous dynamic range provided by this chip.
For a lower mid-range audio interface, 4ins/4outs with mirrored RCA outs can be considered as value for money. You’ll also get ultra-low latency MIDI In/Out to record VST instruments and connecting DAW controllers.
However, you cannot record more than 4 instruments due to its limited inputs, it’s way higher in quality compared to other same price range audio interfaces.
Now let us come to the performance of this audio interface.
With USB-C port, world-class mic preamps and High dynamic range, the performance of this audio interface is really amazing. As compared to other audio interfaces in the same price point Motu M4 USB-C delivers much more quality in your audio recordings.
As you know its equipped with USB-C port which can deliver up to 10GBPS, you will get ultra-high-speed data transfer provided your computer configuration should support this.
The USB-C port enables it to operate in ultrafast mode and captures the DATA with lighting fast speed up to 10GBPS. Due to this ultra-fast USB-C port, there are no data losses throughout the procedure. As a result, you’ll experience more clean and depth in your recordings.
You know that the data transfer speed is very crucial in the digital audio recording so this audio interface will fulfill your expectations regarding speed.
The ultra-low 2.5 ms Round Trip Latency (at 96 kHz with a 32 sample buffer) will make it the king of speed in all audio interfaces.
The rugged black colored metal body which is the signature of Motu audio continues in Motu M4. As well as the compact design makes it more mobile to carry with your laptop or iPad.
However, you need to take care of it otherwise you’ll end up with unwanted scratches.
I really love its front panel metering which is the only full-color LCD in its class with a featuring clear, detailed level meters for all inputs and outputs. You can also enjoy the volume control and feedback to get your mix right.
Till now we’ve got into the features and specifications of Motu M4 so that you could get some idea of it. Now let us see the pros and cons of Motu M4 USB-C. After that, we’ll try to find some other same range of alternative audio interfaces.
- The Ultra-high-speed USB-C Interface delivers the lighting fast data transfer rate.
- Higher dynamic range (120dB on outputs and -129 dBu EIN on mic inputs) from other same audio interfaces. Even in a high price audio interface, you won’t get this high dynamic range in outputs.
- Motu M4 comes in your budget ie; $220 which is really great price point for budget home studios.
- World-class Mic Preamps provide the crystal clear audio recording when it comes to recording acoustic instruments.
- This Bus-powered audio interface enables you to record on the go.
- High sample rate processing up to 192 kHz.
Cons (Lack of Features)
- No optical inputs and outputs. As its a high-speed audio interface, the manufacturer should provide the optical ins and outs to use the full power of USB-C connection.
- Lack of ins and outs. It has only 4ins and 4 outs which is very low for use in home studios where most of the recordists are used to record 5 or 6 instruments simultaneously.
- The rugged metal body is not scratch-proof so you need to care for it and save it from scratches.
What’s In The Box
You will get of course the audio interface in the box as well as some other accessories and software that are listed below.
- Audio interface
- USB-C cable
- MOTU Performer Lite 10 and Ableton Live 10
- 00+ instruments (in Performer Lite)
- Over 6 GB of included free loops, samples and one-shots from industry-leading libraries.
- User Manual
- Driver CD
Do I really need this?
If you are a home studio owner don’t record more then 4 instruments simultaneously then Motu M4 USB-C will work like a charm in your studio. But if you want some more inputs and outputs then go for other audio interfaces with more ins and outs.
Remember, this audio interface features SABRE32 DAC which enables the ultra-high dynamic range ie;120dB on outputs and -129 dBu EIN on mic inputs so it works great in mixing projects.
If you are a mixer then this audio interface will work great in your mixing by delivering the more clear audio so that you can apply your effects and panning more accurately.
However, technically there is no same range alternative to this audio interface because its 1st USB-C audio interface in the world, we have to see for alternatives without USB-C port.
There are two alternatives to this audio interface in my personal opinion.
Focusrite Scarlett 4i4
Price – $160
Tascam US-4×4 USB
Price – $170