Flexible, well designed interface with excellent feature set.
Having upgraded to this unit from a smaller Motu interface (Ultralite MK3), I expected good quality and wasn't disappointed. The 896HD is solid-looking and nicely built - although I feel the front panel doesn't feel quite as substantial as the one on the Ultralite Mk3. I was slightly disappointed that the throw switches for pad/phantom had been replaced with multi-function knobs, but in practice I barely notice this now. Having 2 front-panel headphone sockets is a nice feature which comes in handy. The front panel metering is extensive and useable and uses different scales depending on whether limiting/soft clip is engaged.
The unit (and the Cuemix software) installed easily on my Macbook, and after updating software and firmware I was up and running quickly. One negative point which I've pointed out to Motu support: the included firewire cable is of poor quality - to the extent that moving the unit or laptop caused connection problems and dropouts. I recommend immediately replacing it with a high quality firewire cable as I did. The connection is now rock solid even when moving the 896HD or laptop. I would have dropped a review star for this as I expect any bundled cables to be of adequate quality - but having used the 896HD for a month I'm willing to forgive Motu on the strength of their product design.
In use I've found the 896HD to be a solid performer. I've heard some criticism of the preamps/converters on certain forums, but I like the sound of Motu products. To my ears they tend towards a slightly bass-heavy sound - but I think they capture bass accurately, and I feel this gives me more 'meat' to work with in a mix. I've had some great results on a range of source material using this interface. The new 'V-Limit' function is useful and gives a bit of insurance when tracking live.
The included Cuemix software allows for flexible routing/monitoring, and gives you on-screen control of all features. Its a bit of a learning curve when you first use it, but it becomes extremely convenient and almost indispensable. It has decent reverb, EQ, compression and limiter which can be applied on inputs or outputs. This is great for setting up treated monitor mixes during sessions - all of which can be saved with the project.
The unit also ships with Audiodesk - Motu's stripped down relative of Digital Performer. I'm growing to love this software. Its great for tracking, and as a free item it adds real value. It works seamlessly with the interface and although limited, I find it really useful. Sadly it is Mac only so of no use to PC users.
Overall I'm very pleased with this unit. I'm happy with the sound quality and more than happy with the design and feature set. I would recommend it to anyone looking for an 8 channel interface.
The mic preamps have a very low noise floor. The reverb effect option for monitoring is very useful for recording vocalists, who don't feel comfortable having dry monitors. The multitude of interfaces makes it compatible with any machine. The physical controls and the display are super intuitive and one can perfectly do withough the software control tool.
If I must think of a feature that is missing from this interface, I can only think of that it would be maybe nice to have some extra effects for the monitors, such as noise gate.
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