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MOTU 24i Digital Audio Interface

The 24i gets a

BEAT MODE 7 STAR RATING.

Beat Mode Review

Hopefully you will read this review before you get a MOTU 24i as it can save you some grief and alert you to a problem that seems to be a recurring issue.

This DIGITAL AUDIO CARD on the surface is a great value for a 24 bit digital audio system. First off I have to bitch at MOTU becasue when you get this unit it is set up so that the MASTER VOLUME knob on the front of the box controls the headphone volume with the speaker volume automatically set to the max. Being that I was to monitor directly from themain outputs of the MOTU 24i into my Event 20/20 bas monitor speakers, I had to do an extra step. Open the box and change a jumper setting so that the volume knob worked like a volume knob. This wouldn't be so bad but as I found MOTU drove their PHILLIPS HEAD screws in so tight that it was next to impossible to get the case open without stripping the screws and rendering it permanently closed.

LATENCY - SYSTEM PROBLEMS - Don't expect to get through to MOTU tech support - it is simply impossible.

BEAT MODE RATING SYSTEM

0 to 1 star - SUCKS - BARELY USABLE - Not RECOMMENDED

2-4 stars - SOME REDEEMING VALUE, BUT NOT MUCH TO SHOUT ABOUT.

5-6 stars - DECENT - worthwhile for some applications.

7-8 stars - VERY GOOD product with many pluses, highly usable.

9-10 stars - INDISPENSABLE - must have - the cream of the crop!

Somehow I manged to get that one stubborn screw open dispite stripping it. But the problems did not end there. I hooked up my unit and got past the set up hurdles and got it working. Within a few days it was a dream system giving me pristine disgital 24 bit audio that sparkled of cleanliness. I used it for weeks to great result and was extremely impressed with the quality of my recordings.

But wait -I was not off the hook that easy... I added a few new modules and got up to the 16th input only to hit a snag... When I played my synth module through that input there was a disturbing distortion noise... At first I thought it was the cables (brand new) but when I swapped them the buzz was still there on channel 16... So I disconnected the cables altogether and guess what? Yes, that disturbing noise was still there. It was a bad input... Upon further investigation I found out that input ch 22 ALSO had unusually high noise. Unacceptable.

So I was fortunate enough to return it and swap it for a new one. I left the card in and only swapped the interface box. I hook up all my cables, fire up Cubase VST 24 and test the inputs - all 24. Some mild hiss but in general no severe noise like my previous box. But then I realize that I had to open the box and set that darn jumper so the volume knob would act as a volume knob (MOTU - that sucks and is an unnecessary step). Guess what - yes, the screws would not unscrew.. I tried dillgently but only stripped the damn thing again. I returned the unit and swapped it for another. I brought it home and once again could not get the screws to open. But check this out - I figured I better test the INPUTS on the unit before I brought it back to have THEM open it for me and it turns out that INPUT 4 had a lot of noise. Gargling kind o' noise. Bad freq stuff.

What is the problem MOTU? I didn't even have any wires connected and ch 4 had an audible distorted noise. SO now I have to try again 1 more time to get a flawless box wich is what I deserve. One that works with ALL the channels working properly without any noise. And yes - I am going to have them open the screws for me... Stay tued as I will report on unit #4 which I am now running off to swap for.

OK... finally got some luck on my side and the new interface works as it should with NO noise on the inputs. This should be a lesson to anyone that gets an AUDIO CARD/INTERFACE, and in particular a MOTU card, that you must check ALL the channels, even if you will not be using them right away..

So, at least I feel better now that I got a MOTU 24i that works and just to be safe I had THEM open up the unit and it's ridiculously tight phillips screws... Why you have to set a jumper INSIDE the unit to get the knob to work like a normal volume knob - I don't know....

So enough about my problems - how does the card work? Well getting the interface and the software working on my Mac was pretty straight forward enough... I had a beige G3 266 with 256 MB RAM. However I was having trouble getting the latency down to an accetable level and was having problems with an intermittent CRACKLING that occured ONLY when I recorded tracks to disk. I lowered the buffer settings to an acceptablelatency but had more crackling problems. I thought it was my old Sldgehammer Hard Drive or the Adaptec card... I upgraded from system 8.1 to 8.6 but the problems did not go away. I updated control panels and dropped my extension set to beyond bare bones... Still crackled. Getting MOTU tech support on the phone was IMPOSSIBLE. Could not get a live person and the tech notes on the site did not address my problems well enough... So I did research and got the impression that my 266 G3 just didn't have enough horsepower...

SO i bought a 450 mhz upgrade ZIF and very painlessly removed the 266 chip and replaced it with the 450 and overclocked it slightly to 466. My G3 now ran like a charm but guess what - still had that crackling upon record... I bought a new Fast 7200 RPM 9.1 gig drive... still crackled... More time passed and still no word from MOTU. And then suddenly I stumbled upon a page on the internet that said it had similar problems and the culprit was the Iomega ZIP extension. I removed it and VIOLA! No more crackling upon recording. Can you believe it? All the upgrades I did (which I needed anyways and do not regret) but it turns out to be the Iomega extension that when removed - away went the crackling problem... Geez... Ironic thing is that a few days after fixing the problem (10 days after installing the 24i) I get a call out of the blue from the MOTU marketing dept. asking if I was happy with my purchase (not returning my call by the way). Boy did I let them have a piece of my mind!

So, after jumping those hurdles I must say that the audio quality is sparkling clean. My new recordings of songs in Cubase VST 24 4.1 sound like night and day compared to the previous Korg 1212 I/O set up I was using with a 168RC digital mixer). A world of difference. Beautiful clean sound. And despite what I was warned about by many - that I could not DIRECT MONITOR without a MIXER and go direct through the MOTU wiothout latency problems, is now working beautifully. You can record direct to disk and NOT use a silly ass external or digital mixer. I am throwing the KORG 168RC mixer away (worst gear I ever bought). Better yet I will BLOW IT UP so I can revel in it getting splattered!

SO all in all, if I did not have the problem with the bum channels and that noise issue, I would be enthusiastically giving this a higher rating, but considering the hassle factor in setting up the system to work properly, and the 2 defective units plus the screw problem, I can only give this a 7 rating. Keep those things in mind though as this is really a great product that delivers clean sounding direct to disk recordings with next to no latency. Just beware that some units have NIOSE on some inputs and you better clean that system folder and create an extension set without the Iomega ZIP extension... Cheers!

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