MOTU (Mark Of The Unicorn) has a new audio interface in rack format. The 828 ES supports 60 simultaneous audio channels in total, spread out across 28 inputs and 32 outputs. More specifically, there are 8 analogue inputs and 8 outputs, 2 mic/guitar inputs with preamps, 2 XLR outputs, a pair of headphone outputs, 16 ADAT optical inputs and 16 outputs, and a pair of RCA S/PDIF inputs and outputs.
Each mic channel offers individual preamp gain, pad, 48V phantom power controls, and digital remote control. Additionally, each 828 ES mic input is equipped with a hard-wired send for mono or stereo mic channel outboard processing.
For conversion, the MOTU 828 ES uses an ESS Sabre32 DAC with 123dB of dynamic range. It’s the same technology used in the brand’s flagship 1248 interface. Digital connectivity is established via Thunderbolt and USB connections, with round-trip latency rated as 1.6ms at 96kHz.
Control room & expansion options
The 828 ES has integrated control room features, too. There’s a built-in talkback microphone alongside a front-panel talk button. The front panel is also home to A/B speaker select buttons. Expansion options include pairing up with a second MOTU-AVB interface, stringing together up to five MOTU interfaces, and networking configurations via standard AVB/TSN switches and cabling.
MOTU has the software part handled together with the hardware part. It offers a digital mixer with 48 inputs, 7 stereo aux busses, 3 groups, 64 network inputs, and DSP effects – such as reverb, 4-band EQ, noise gate, and compression. The software also handles audio routing to and from the computer alongside devices on your audio network. The user interface is reminiscent of a large-format mixing console, which means there’s a good degree of familiarity to it.
The 828 ES can also be controlled from a web app that’s available on desktop and mobile devices. On-board DSP, mixing, device settings, and network audio routing are up for app control. If you need a DAW, MOTU packed a full version of AudioDesk, which runs on Windows and Mac and looks like Pro Tools and Logic Pro 9’s distant cousin.
MOTU constructed the 828 ES interface from aluminium alloy. This allows for a lightweight, yet sturdy construction able to withstand both studio and tour applications.
The 828 ES is now shipping. The price is $995 USD. This is a very tempting price considering the interface’s features and construction. Its closest competitor is the PreSonus Quantum, which is a product of similar price-to-quality ratio. You can read more about it here. Hopefully, these products’ existence signals a budding trend of $1000 pro-audio interfaces with enough bang for the buck to secure the future of any reasonably-sized studio!