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MOTU - Audio Express 6x6
Published by Osorio
02-09-2012
Author review
Ease of Use
40%40%40%
2
Features
100%100%100%
5
Reliability
100%100%100%
5
Value
80%80%80%
4
Customer Support
60%60%60%
3
Expressiveness/Sounds
100%100%100%
5
Overall Rating
80%80%80%
4
Average 80%
MOTU - Audio Express 6x6

My experience with this device has been bumpy. It took a while for it to fall into place, but now that it has, I have no complains.

Once I got the interface, I plugged it in and it literally did nothing. The CD that came with it was useless (literally, my computer wasnít able to read properly, so I couldnít install the drivers). At the time my internet was in maintenance, so I read the manual and tried to use it as a standalone device. That was also unsuccessful, as I couldnít for the life of me get any sound off the unit.
I was pretty aggravated, but once the internet came back, I went to the MOTU site and downloaded pretty much everything. Mind you, this was by no means easy. Iím not sure how it all happened, but things that didnít install correctly on the first try somehow did on the 4th, doing nothing different. The process of getting this thing to run as it should still remains a mystery to me, and I pray to god that I will never be put in a position as to have to do it again.
Iím still missing a couple of things. I have found no downloads of AudioDesk, a program that comes on the CD, only updates that require the full version. But aside that, I believe things to be in place. This is not a big deal to me, since I already have Logic, a beyond capable DAW, but might be to someone else.

EASE OF USE:
In as few words as possible: ďThere is very little of itĒ. This thing has 7 buttons which are assignment to a bazillion functions. When dealing with it through the PC, one of the bundled softwares, CueMix, allows you to mess with the configurations through the software and visualize how everything is set. This is a life saver.
Messing with this interface on standalone mode must be a complete nightmare. I have only tried a couple of times to not very pleasing results, though I know now how to get sound out of it (push the respective mic button once). Buttons have different modes if you press them 1, 2, 3 or 4 times, or hold them for more or less than 3 seconds.

FEATURES:
Pretty solid, for the asking price, a really good unit with a reasonable amount of features. It has 2 mic / guitar inputs, a couple of Line Ins and Outs. You can read all about it on the MOTU site, itís all there. They are not lying, this thing is packed.
One thing to note though. It has both FireWire and USB connections. From MY experience, FireWire is a waste of time. Also, if you have a MacBook Pro, like I do, the FireWire connection on the laptop is different than the supplied cable, so you would have to buy another cable, like I did. Donít bother. Even though the FireWire technology has progressed to be much faster than USB 2.0, almost twice the speed, the Audio Express still has the old FireWire technology and itís capped at 400mb transfer, whereas USB 2.0 works at 480mb.

RELIABILITY:
This thing is build like a war horse. It's not really light and I feel like I could roundhouse kick it into a wall and the thing would still work. The connections are very tight and the cables don't slip easily. MOTU advertises this unit as something that could be used as a live mixer of sorts; I definitely believe this could take a Live gig beating and survive intact. The buttons are very responsive to touch but not hard to mess with, they fell just right. My fatty fingers fell like they are a little too close together, but aside that I can't really think of anything negative to say about this aspect of the unit.
Oh, no thing I just remembered: The FireWire cable is a little loose, both on the computer and on the device. One more reason to avoid using it, I guess...

VALUE:
I wanted a basic and reliable interface that allowed me to record guitars, and eventually some singing, at the same time. I also wanted to play the guitar through Logic without latency. The Audio Express 6x6 delivers. Itís important to take it for what it is: A somewhat budget interface for a beginning home studio. If you need to mic drums this is not the interface for you. However, if you are taking your time to record your solo effort, the Audio Express might interest you.

COSTUMER SUPPORT:
Their site is pretty basic, it has stuff there, but some is missing. As I said, I still donít have a copy of AudioDesk (or whatever it's called) which was supposed to have come on the CD, which doesnít work, for whatever reason.

EXPRESSIVENESS / SOUNDS:
I thoroughly believe Iím not the most qualified person to judge this. I like it though, for all itís worth. My guitar sounds clean and there is no noise or pop. One thing I noted is that it records amazingly low, but Iím still getting around that. Again, not very easy to use. The front panel has a decibel indicator which I have NEVER seen go beyond the 2rd light, out of 5, during recording. Might just be a configuration thing that I still havenít got right. Iím still looking into this, if it turns out to be a problem, Iíll update here, but all in all, no complains.

OVERALL:
I like the interface a lot, but quite honestly, Iím not sure if I would buy it again. It took me a while to get it going, and I still have some bumps every now and then, but Iím satisfied. I asked around here about getting a MOTU and I never really got an answer, aside from a very generic ďyou could get something else alsoĒ, so to answer my own question from so far limited experience with this device:
They are a bit troublesome, but if you persist, you might get your moneyís worth out of it. Still, not sure if this much trouble for getting something to work should be required. If I could get a do-over, I would look at other options.

Here is a picture of the thing sitting on my desk:


EDIT:
I took the time to finally try to play something other than my Les Paul through this interface yesterday night, recording some improvisation on my keyboard (a Yamaha YPG-525). I won't post the sound-clip because it was about 4 AM and it was just awful (not that it would have been any better were it 4 PM) but something interesting came up:
The sound was much louder than with the guitar. So the interface definitely works as expected and there is something I'm doing wrong with my guitar set up.

Against what I believe to be common sense when recording keyboard, my set up was that of a P10 to P10 cable from the Headphone Out of the keyboard, into the MIC 1 input on the Audio Express, instead of using USB 2.0 or MIDI connections. I monitored myself through the headphone output on the interface (as pictured above), but listening to the processed sound from Logic, not the direct sound from the Audio Express pre-amps.

In this scenario, the device works pretty much better than I hoped. There was a lot of clarity in my playing and the device picked up all the nuances I was able to produce. There was also no latency at all, my playing was spot on with the metronome (I listened to the recording a few times after fact, in order to spot analyze this particular point).
I am very happy with this outcome and will look further into the guitar deal and why it reproduces so low on volume.

I'll post here again if I find anything interesting.

  #1  
By Matt-Steele on 06-21-2012, 10:55 AM
Just wanted to comment... I have this unit and there is something wrong with your set up. I can only speak for myself, but the MOTU's pre amps are LOUD!!! With my guitars going direct into the unit, I can easily clip the unit playing hard on the low string even with the level of the input ALL THE WAY DOWN!!! I contacted MOTU about them being so loud and me wanting some headroom to turn them down, and they told me that that was as low as they go!

So sorry I can not give you suggestions as to get your inputs louder, but they are louder than any other interface I've ever owned, and I've owned many.

The MOTU is a pain to get going, but once it is, it is rock solid and it just works. I can't say the same about my last interface. The Steinberg MX818 or whatever the number was. That unit was great, but it always had driver issues, clicks and pops and virtual instruments would just drop out intermittently. Even though this MOTU device is a LOT cheaper, it outperformed the Steinberg in every way. It's been great. I don't even think about it. It just works.
  #2  
By Osorio on 11-12-2012, 05:55 AM
I just wanted to give this an update:

My problem with the overall volume was resolved by an option called "Trim", if I remember correctly. This option, along with a view dozen volumes controls spread across guitar / interface / daw ensure some excellent fine tuning on volume related matters. Working great with my microphone as well.

Also, MOTU has recently (I think it was back in September) released a compatibility update for Mountain Lion which comes in the form of a "integrated install" file. But it works as a general installer for Mac OS 10.6 too (the one I have going). So just fire that up and everything runs PERFECT.

So that takes care of my only two problems with this unit. Really happy I have everything sorted out.
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