Motu UltraLite-mk4 technical measurements (DAC only)

Discussion in 'Source Measurements' started by atomicbob, Jun 5, 2020.

  1. Azteca

    Azteca Friend

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    Well, looks like I know what my new desktop/portable interface will be. Really remarkable performance and flexibility period, but especially for the price. When I was starting out the same cash would get you maybe an Mbox mini, if that. Focusrite Saffire perhaps. I remember upgrading to a Digidesign 002R. All of that is obliterated by this.
     
  2. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Thanks for the measurements Bob. Good to know about the -1 setting. I wonder if this applies with AVB streams on the bigger units. I'll have to check one day after COVID with Reaper and MOTU pro audio tools.

    The only real issue I've found with the MOTU AVBs is the need to ping your latency over USB when recording mixing with outboard gear and connecting ethernet interfaces together. But no USB interface has truly reports reliable and consistent sample accurate latency ime so it always must be done.

    You were mislead. The shops always say that because RME has a much higher markup. Especially in North America. The bom is lower. The drivers are also better for recording with plugins at 44.1khz and 48khz on windows and work on unoptimized Windows installations but that's about it. The RMEs are even worse about switching sample rates.

    Over USB that used to be the case but MOTU rewrote their windows drivers from the ground up a couple of years ago. The RME PCI-E cards are still great with better external converters and Babyface Pro is better than a UAD Apollo Twin and the old Apogee Duets but it's still a bus powered porta producer special. The RME rack mount units have major issues with the power supplies ime and they're very overpriced for what you're getting in 2020.
     
  3. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I don't remember now, but I don't think RME was even on the table when I was talking with the shop. I think the guy just wasn't a fan of MOTU. He was more of a Prism fan. (there was a Prism Atlas on sale... it was tempting, but I don't need something that huge on my desk)
     
  4. JayNYC

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    @atomicbob just to confirm your #1

    1. TRS outputs are active on both Tip and Ring. Never use a Tip-Sleeve phone plug for Single Ended connection, which shorts Ring to Sleeve and accordingly shorts one half of the active balanced output to ground. At minimum this will increase distortion. ”

    are you saying never connect a TS to RCA cable? ie: don’t plug this Motu into a DJ mixer ?
     
  5. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    If you wish to connect to a DJ mixer use a cable wired as follows:
    TRS to RCA
    1. Tip to RCA center
    2. Ring - no connection
    3. Sleeve to RCA shell
     
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  6. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    For what it's worth, I searched around a bit for other measurements of this interface, and ASR had someone measure an AKM version of this with the same need to attenuate the signal about 2 years ago (and they contacted MOTU about it). Has anyone received a response from MOTU with regard to the issues?
     
  7. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    I don’t think they care and I wouldn’t worry about it. Spurs 90-100db down won’t be audible. Pros or home recording amateurs don’t give shit about this. They worry more about practical stuff like noise and not overloading the ADC. Only Audio Science dweebs care about stuff that they can’t hear. Their brains would explode if they realized how bad SNR was for microphones after mic pres.
     
  8. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    Maybe they do care considering the M2/M4 don't exhibit this behavior - they are newer releases.
    Many recordings from the past 20 years can get really close to a square wave at times (when the signal is heavily clipped). It's possible we could hear the effect with such recordings, but I'd say it's debatable if it even matters with heavily clipped music that sounds like shit anyway.

    Also I don't think SNR for mics is as bad as you make it seem. DAC SNR measurements are from clipping to noise, while mics are rated at 94dB, which is far from clipping. I think for a vocal recording, for example, we should compare peak SPL at the microphone diaphragm (or mic clipping SPL, depending on which is lower) vs its noise.
    According to a quick Google search singers can reach LAeq levels of roughly 85dB at 1m distance. That's 105dB at 10 centimeters for a close mic'd performance. Those are average values and peak SPL values are 20-25dB higher than that, so we could assume 130dB peak. Mic noise floor is usually lower than 20dBA. Of course with more distance the dynamic range drops, but masking should usually mask noise when listening anyway.
    Even a lowly UMIK-1 has 100dB dynamic range (when A-weighted).
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Stop being a butthead. Come back when you've mic'd a performance and stood behind a console.
     
  10. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    I do not get why you called me a butthead if I am honest, but okay. I just wanted to emphasize that noise is hardly an issue with close mic'd recordings*. I have done both of those things you mention (although not professionally and that was many years ago), but I do not think it bears any meaning here. I also do not think your comparison makes much sense If I am honest.

    For those curious, I wanted to see for myself what this distortion sounded like. As it turns out a 1kHz tone clipped 0,1dB has a very similar spectrum:
    1kHz tone clipped 0.1dB spectrum.jpg
    FWIW I think it is audible, but I maintain that it is likely insignificant with real content being played back.
    The files attached are at -10dB, so they won't be as loud. They are level-matched.
    Distortion on the UltraLite mk4 for the 1kHz tone is actually slightly less as per @atomicbob.

    *I find that even spoken word at a larger distance recorded on a 70 year old microphone to have low enough noise: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/showpost.php?p=7083673&postcount=100
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
  11. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    The problem here is perceived arm chair engineering vs experienced engineers that have had to work the vagaries of live sound recordings. It becomes tiresome.

    Consider the following. The venue is a multipurpose room at the some high school. First challenge is bad room acoustics. Next, the HVAC provides intermittent background noise changes. Now add high pressure sodium lighting to fulfill the triad of residual noise challenges, before we add an audience and all the noise they produce.

    The setup requires two boards, one for SR and one for recording. Splits from stage mics requires two snakes and a number of splitter transformers. Now add some guitar amps on stage that buzz thanks to the wonderful room power distribution. At this point we tend to not give a shit about mic dynamic range, mic preamp noise floor, or much else beyond attempting to have FOH SR free from feedback and some modicum of clarity in the room and a serviceable multitrack tracking session from which a decent mix might be possible in post production. Never mind that the band will request to have it made loud, you know, like Red Hot Chili Peppers Californication (in high res no less) with a glorious 4 dB dynamic range. Oh, and setup time will only allow 4 hrs and maybe 15 minutes for sound check 10 minutes before doors open.

    So at this point, hauling in $150K of high dynamic range recording equipment and mics, seems a bit pointless.
     
  12. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    I do not even get where you think we are disagreeing here. I even said that the MOTU's behavior at near clipping was likely insignificant. It's just that I'm likely autistic and do not like when people compare apples to oranges. And now you are adding pears to the mix! FFS!
    It's also why I mentioned the U47 afterwards. By today's standards it is incredibly noisy and has high distortion at higher levels, but I recently listened to one of the online mic comparisons with this mic again and was very impressed. It's a slim chance, but I want to hear one in real life some day (not in a recording).

    Between using $150k high dynamic range equipment and using $150k high subjective involvement factor equipment, I'd go for the latter any day. Even if it has 15dB more noise and distortion orders of magnitudes more at the top of its SPL capability. And when recording school performances it's more like $1500 in equipment than $150k anyway.
    (Sorry atomicbob, but If I am honest I don't care so much for measurements with gear much anyway, so I'm the wrong person to ask. I just find it interesting when there's something, well, interesting in the measurements. Like the ULmk4's behavior near 0dBFS.)

    As an aside:
    Ha, I wish! Could you believe that they built a school near where I live around 2010 without air conditiong? They monitored CO2 levels in every classroom and you had to open the windows when they exceeded 2500ppm (no matter the outdoor temperatures), but apparently air conditioning was too expensive for state funding.
    The sad fact of the matter is that while HVAC systems are the norm in the US, they are the exception for most of Europe. People go for joyrides in their cars just to escape the heat in their homes in the summer. Bet that's more efficient than running an A/C at home :p.
    (To be fair the tilt and turn windows which are the norm here make installing window units impossible, so it becomes much more expensive to add air conditioning to a room over here.)
    At least universities and offices are usually air conditioned nowadays. But many schools still aren't. Homes? No way.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
  13. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    The M2/M4 are cheap bus powered pieces of shit. Their only benefit is that they're cheap and don't suck for shit like podcasting and voice overs or jerking off in your bedroom with an amp sim, listening on headphones, or powering a cheap pair of speakers.

    The onboard digital mixers are what make the MOTU and Lynx rack mounts, RME cards, and Prism desktop boxes beasts unless you insist on jacking off at 44.1khz with an amp sim on a Pentium IV. You can buy an RME or UAD interface if you can't figure anything out on your computer. The UAD and Apogee digital mixers are idiot proof but their boxes have their own issues. These other interfaces are a joke for real world studio use without a console.

    You send the headphone mix backing track to the interface from the computer. There's latency there. Even on a pimped out RME card to god tier converter rig or a 10k pro tools avid money suck there is latency from the computer to the interface. Greater latency than a digital console because we're dealing with Apple and MIcrosoft. So the backing track gets to the interface, the miced up source gets to the interface, those are mixed together and outputted in practical real time to the musician with no perceived latency as he hears himself play, and then the source is recorded back by the computer. These replace a console. Prior to these coming out, you needed a console or a good small mixer that didn't suck penis. The alternative was some cheap shit console like a Yamaha O1V (this at least distorts in a cool nasty, digusting way with it's mid 90s DSP) or Mackie. Or you paid for studio time at a real studio with a big boy analog console.
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    You are the one doing this. My assertion wasn't that SNR wasn't "good enough". It was that SNR of microphones and mic-pres (in actual use) would likely horrify the Audio Science Crowd who are used to 123db SINAD. (FWIW, SNR and max SPL are very different for mics). You instead made a straw man argument and have now pooped all over this thread.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    The noise gate, reverb, and especially the compressor exceeded expectations as well. It used to be that I'd have shell out a few hundred more for extra boxes. I don't think audiophiles realize how all this stuff and more is necessary for the end product to sound polished. I always think of compressors as cheating, and that one should practice without it, but they are needed. Besides, most audiophile speakers would explode if one tried practicing guitar or bass on them. I can totally see how in skilled hands, someone with a Motu and good post tools can come up with a production that kills pop releases today. Then again, today's pop releases set a low bar.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  16. Serious

    Serious Inquisitive Frequency Response Plot

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    @Psalmanazar all I wanted to say was that since MOTU seems to have "fixed" this "glitch" in their newer offerings, they may fix it in a potential UltraLite mk5, not that it somehow made the M4 a better device than the ULmk4. Why do you even think that that's what I'm trying to say? (An honest question, I'm trying to learn how to get better at getting across what I want to say.)

    @purr1n I'm just saying why are you comparing "SNR of microphones and mic-pres (in actual use)" to SNR of DACs anyway? And as with DACs we most definitely need to compare peak SPL vs minimum SPL. As in "not good enough" I meant not good enough for the ASR crowd (Who cares about ASR anyway? You are the one bringing them into this thread. In fact most every thread. The ASR crowd won't ever be lectured by SBAF.)

    Have you even listened to the files I linked? That was an on topic post. I wanted to bring the horrific looking FFT into context, like @atomicbob did in one of his legendary posts here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...echnical-measurements.5770/page-3#post-190831
    Instead we are now kids arguing about school performances and calling eachother names.

    Either way, I'm sorry. I definitely added noise to the thread and it's my fault for starting the microphone SNR discussion. And maybe you are going to say that once you put the signal through a compressor the SNR will shrink a lot, too. And you would be right. So it may not be fair to compare peak SPL vs minimum SPL like we do for electronic devices, like I mentioned.
     
  17. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Audio Science Review would fist their own assholes if they ever measured API gear.
     
  18. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    What do they need to fix? They're killing the thunderbolt and usb interface competition for everybody who doesn't need a babyface pro or drank the UAD kool aid. The massholes are winning on both sound and price. An Ultralite is 600-650 bucks. An 828es or 8 pre-es is about a thousand. A 16a is 1500 dollars. They have their own AVB routers. It's easier to use than a Dante card because your computer and normal network never sees it. Nothing has any fans like an Apogee Symphony, it doesn't cost 4000 dollars like Apogee/Lynx/Prism, and you don't need a 1000 dollar pci-e card from Audinate, RME, or Lynx. You don't even a pre-amp for your speakers if you won't be stupid.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  19. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    You didn't say that. You went on some oddball diatribe on how quiet microphones are with max SPL of 128db and an image of a 1kHz distortion spectrum. I've got news for you. After appropriate gain is set on a mic pre with typical placement, I can hear noise on a lot of commonly used microphone models. And this is with my shitty old ears which can barely make out the noise from Andromeda IEMs from a Sony ZX2.

    Reason I always bring up ASR is because measurements matter so little for gear. We already know how SINAD works, it's only cumulative past the threshold of the gear with the shittiest SINAD in the chain. With modern music, stuff is noise-gated, or processed in post with a denoise filter (ugh) that makes it seem quiet. But the effective SINAD from the recording process is probably "shit" like 75db.

    Motu doesn't need to fix shit because their gear isn't made for Audio Science buttholes. This is where the ASR thing comes full circle.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2020
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  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Wait... do you not have building codes in your country? We have our National Building Codes and ASHRAE standards, and I'm certain at least some of the standards must be adopted or at least used as guidelines in the EU. You're correct that air conditioning is rarely ever a requirement, but surely there must still be some kind of ventilation system installed to bring in outdoor air. The engineer in me is appalled if you don't. I'm shocked that the "window" level is even as high as 2500ppm. I would have expected the alarms to go off at 2000ppm.

    You got a whole 15 minutes? Geez, usually the band members don't show up until 15 minutes after their start time and expect me to do soundcheck during their first song. I consider it a win if they even send me their rider ahead of time.
     
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