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Topic: MOTU 828mkII and Layla 3G audio interfaces

  1. #1

    MOTU 828mkII and Layla 3G audio interfaces


    I have used MOTU 828mkII for some time and most recently tried Layla 3G audio interfaces in my studio, so I thought it might be useful to write a bit about my experiences with the two audio interfaces for those of you who may not used them so far.

    Both have GSIF V2.0 drivers. Both work with Gigastudio.

    Here is my configuration: I use Gigastudio Orchestra 3.03, will be upgrading to 3.04 soon. I run relatively slow ASUS A7V266-E, with AMD Athlon XP 1600 (1.4Ghz) CPU. I installed 3GB DDR SDRAM. I use 80GB system/gigapulse drive and 250GB audio drive. Both are Western Digital 7200 RPM UDMA. I have USB/FW PCI card for USB 2.0 and FW support. I have Emu 1820m audio card with Emulator X, MOTU 828mkII on FW port, Layla 3G through Echo PCI card. I run Windows XP Professional tweaked for Audio (minimum of services, etc.) I use Sonar 4 Studio for sequencing.

    I use samplers as standalone without using re-wire. (I do not believe in re-wire yet due to numerious compatibility issues, etc. May change my mind once I get a faster machine.)

    Experience with MOTU 828mkII:

    Price: around $750 (without Tax)

    I used it as a GSIF compatible audio interface for Gigastudio (ADAT outputs and S/PDIF output). I also used it for recording final mixes to hard disk via S/PDIF input connected to Mackie D8B console. I did not use analog I/O. I used MIDI input to connect a MIDI control keyboard output.

    Problems: S/PDIF input was not calibrated well or was faulty out of the box, so I couldn't really use it since it would generate clock slips and would affect overall clocking and sync on all other digital I/O ports including Wordclock input. (I use Lucid's Genx6 as a clock master in my studio.) Hence, I couldn't use 828mkII as a slave, but it had to be clock master to work around S/PDIF problem. Still I could use the ADAT I/O without much trouble.

    MOTU tech support was very good, although sometimes very slow. They agreed to repair the box free of charge (they have only 3 month warranty!) I did it after the LCD display died so I couldn't really use it but through PC contol interface. Got a new/refurb unit a week or so later. Nice!

    The problem with S/PDIF was fixed, LCD replaced. I have observed loss of sync in GS 3 once after 1-2 hours of testing which I couldn't recreate during next 1-2 hours. I used 512 byte audio buffer setting on 828mkII. The problem could be related to GS 3 and my slow computer or might still be some lingering problem in MOTU audio drivers. The sync was recovered by resetting hardware in GS 3 (which is a very nice feature of GS 3).

    Layla 3G:

    Price: around $490 (including 5% Sales Tax)

    I used it only for GS 3 (ADAT outputs). I used MIDI input to connect a MIDI control keyboard output.

    Problems: None. It's as simple as that.

    It worked perfectly out of the box with drivers on a supplied CD (did not need any upgrades so far). Very solid clock performance (used it as a slave only). Never lost sync in Gigastudio. I could run with only 128 byte buffer without any loss of audio sync in Gigastudio.

    Feature limitations: while 828mkII is very flexible and without much (if any) limitations), the Layla 3G is a different story:

    a) you cannot use both ADAT and S/PDIF interfaces at the same time (not good if you plan to use ADAT I/O in parallel with disk recording via S/PDIF, or a similar application)

    b) does not support 96kHz sampling rate on ADAT (most other interfaces do it by reducing ADAT to 4 Channels of I/O) Analog I/O and S/PDIF supports higher sampling rates. However, the frequency response of the Analog I/O is only up to 20kHz, so I don't understand the point of sampling all the way up to 96kHz.

    In summary:

    * MOTU 828mkII very flexible, independent and parallel I/O, fully supports all advertised sampling rates. (did not find info on actual frequency response for analog I/O!). Drivers not bad, but not sure how stable or efficient they are. May result in a bit more latency, although acceptable.

    * Layla 3G very stable, not too flexible, very low latency, not fully supporting all sampling rates (e.g. ADAT). Analog I/O frequency spec clearly inadequate for sampling higher than 48kHz.

    Recommendations: (I didn't use all features of the two interfaces, so I cannot really comment on their analog I/O quality other than what was provided in the documentation) Based on purely digital I/O performance and GS 3, I would recommend Layla 3G for GS 3 especially if the GS 3 is the only audio application on the computer and there is no need for rates above 48kHz.

    If you need higher rates and you use the same computer for more than just GS3, the MOTU 828mkII would be much better choice compared to Layla 3G.

    Another factor is a difference in price.

    You may look at all of it together and make your own choice.

    Finally, I noticed that Layla 3G states analog frequency response to be only up to 20kHz, so if you are using similar analog I/O, you really should not waste money for 96kHz studio configurations, unless you really have some sound source that was captured with frequency response up to 40+ kHz in which case 96kHz sampling rate could make sense. (Personally, I don't believe in sampling above 48kHz.... but that would be another topic for discussion)


  2. #2

    Re: MOTU 828mkII and Layla 3G audio interfaces

    Nice review. Thanks!


  3. #3

    Re: MOTU 828mkII and Layla 3G audio interfaces

    Forgot to mention:

    * MOTU 828mkII has it's own power supply
    * Layla 3G takes power from the PC

    If you need interface with A/D and D/A that would not always depend on a PC being turned on, MOTU would be a better choice.

    A problem I had with sync (as reported in the first message), which I couldn't recreate initially, turned out to be a bad word clock cable. The pin on a BNC connector was pushed inside a bit.


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