Monday, September 16th, 2019

Review of the MOTU UltraLite mk3 Audio Interface

By editorMarch 31, 2012

MOTU Ultralite mk3

In between developing new audio gear, I get to do a little ‘home’ recording from time to time, so I wanted a real all-in-one audio interface with enough analogue I/O in a compact footprint.  After some discussion with Keith at KMR Audio inLondon, I bought the MOTU Ultralite mk3 which at the time was available only with FireWire interface.  This was a concern as I’d read stories about compatibility problems with certain FireWire chip sets.  I needn’t have worried as it worked first time out of the box and has continued to do so.

As I do recording in various rooms of the house, I wanted a portable unit which could be powered via the FireWire connector when required, but I didn’t wanted to compromise on analogue audio I/O, and that’s really where the Ultralite has and continues to work for me.

You get 8 analogue audio inputs (2 are combo mic/DI inputs including individually switched +48V powering) and 8 analogue audio outs, plus stereo main outs and stereo headphone out plus MIDI plus S/PDIF I/O, and it’s only half rack size!

The general construction of the unit is esthetically pleasing and very robust.  Audio I/O is via combo XLR/TRS or balanced TRS and all connectors are gold plated.

CueMix Control Screen

The software interface works with either Windows or Mac OS and is easy to understand and use.  I don’t use the on-board DSP processing much but it’s pretty comprehensive with level, EQ, Compression (inc. an LA-2A emulation which I’m afraid sounded pretty naff) and reverb.  Although I will normally drive the unit from the PC screen I really like the fact that every single control can be access from the unit itself.  The on-board user interface with two line display has been really well thought out and is extremely logical in use.

Converter quality is fine for home recording work and the two mic amps are quiet enough for tracking song ideas if you haven’t got higher quality stand-alone units to hand.  The unit will operate at sampling rates up to 192kHz but I haven’t found it worth going beyond 44.1/48kHz for general recording use.

I found I needed to keep an eye on maximum input levels when using the converters from some of my analogue outboard gear (some of which will drive up to +28dBu) as maximum line input handling is surprising low at around +14dBu.  However this is easy enough to deal with as long as you manage your operating levels sensibly.


Rear Panel

Round trip distortion (analogue in to analogue out) is very good at mid frequencies (measuring around 0.008% at 1kHz on my Neutrik Audio Test Set) and acceptable at 10kHz (0.045%) and similarly noise performance over the audio band is pretty good at around -84dBu (22Hz to 22kHz) when operating at 44.1 or 48kHz sampling rates.

The latest version of the mk3, the ‘Hybrid’, comes with both FireWire and USB2 interfacing but other than that it’s pretty similar in facilities to the unit I own.

Overall it’s a great little package which has worked very well for my recording needs and it’s been 100% reliable.  Tech support (when I’ve asked the odd question) has been accurate and polite.

Best Features : Great range of audio I/O in a compact package, good audio quality

Weakest Points : Converters fine for general tracking but would be the limiting factor if this was the only I/O available for your recording set-up.

Rating : 9/10



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