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Author Topic: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?  (Read 28465 times)

Magnet

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Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« on: February 18, 2006, 10:27:15 pm »

Hi,
I have a Motu 24I/O and i am thinking of have Matt at Black Lion Audio do his opamp mod on my unit. http://www.blacklionaudio.com/828.htm here is a quote from Matt on what he does with this box.
"It's a complete upgrade of the analog stages--I upgrade all the inputs
and outputs from the stock JRC4580 opamps to Analog Devices AD8066 FET
opamps. It's quite nice sounding--THD and noise are dropped, and transient response improved. The mids are smoother, and the high and
low end become much clearer, less muddled. There's also a slight
increase in headroom, about 6dB."

The price is approx $500 for the entire job. Since 24 great channels of conversion in and out would cost at least $10k i thought about having this mod done as well as adding an external clock like a big ben, mytek or Isochrone and if i choose a Mytek should i get one of there 2 channel converters and use that as my master clock for the motu box. Now if i do use a AtoD or DtoA as my master clock i will also have to add a motu 2408mk3 just for the digital in and out which i really need now anyway but i have been hesitating to buy a 2408mk3 just for spdif in and out.

So if i get this done and add a clock i'm talking about a $1500 investment instead of $10k or more.

What do you think, I can't afford 24 channels in and out of apogee etc and my clients won't pay a dollar more per hour even if i spend another 20 grand on converters anyway.
This seems like it may make the most sense if this mod and the clock can really step up the quality. Please help.  

best
magnet
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compasspnt

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2006, 04:42:23 pm »


Can you go anywhere and listen to the difference between the original and modded versions?

That would tell you a lot.

The analogue side of many converters is indeed a weak link in the chain.

The price seems fair.

The BL site looks pretty straightforward.
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zmix

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2006, 05:40:02 pm »

I would like to play "devil's advocate" and ask:

What do you hope to improve with this upgrade?

Comparing the data sheets of the NJM4580 and the AD8066 is not particularly convincing to me. When dealing with A/D and D/A conversion, there are really important 'bread and butter' concerns like input offset voltage, input bias current, unity gain stability, CMMR and output current capability.
GBP is another concern, but since there is a really finite frequency range, less so in digital audio.

Here are some important differences which can drastically affect the sound of the conversion process:

The output of the AD8066 can only swing 9V p-p.
The NJM4580  can swing 27V p-p

Many D/A converters use a differential output circuit, so common mode performance can affect the result.

The maximum common mode input signal of the AD8066 is stated as -5v to +2.4v (7.4v asymmetrically).
The NJM4580 can accept -13.5 to +13.5 (27v symmetrically)

The maximum output current of the AD8066 is only 35ma.
The NJM4580 is 100ma.

Another design consideration is that the AD8066 is intended as a video amplifier. It operates from a single supply with a maximum voltage of 24 volts. The NJM4580 is designed for high performance audio and can operate on =/- 18V rails.

Back to my original question, will these other factors negatively affect the performance improvements you are imagining?

For the additional money, you could upgrade to the MOTU HD192 or the discontinued but superior sounding 1296, both of which use state of the art converters in them. The 24 i/o uses a lesser converter, and well, you cannot make a silk purse from a sow's ear.

-CZ

Magnet

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2006, 10:45:04 pm »

Hi Terry,

Thanks for your reply. I wish there was someone who could give me a good A/B Comparison or someone who can say anything about the results of this mod on their Motu unit. Matt at Black Lion seems busy doing these but i cannot find any posts anywhere from anyone who has had the mod done.
To Answer Zmix question; My goal would be to get a significant upgrade in all my ins and outs with the opamps mod and the addition of an external clock. If i can step up the quality for Approx $1500 and not have to spend $10k for 24 channels of I/O that would be great as that is about the most i can invest into my studio at this time. Over the past year i have added a perfectly restored Yamaha PM2000 console and a Studer A810 as well as a bunch of outboard. I really do need 24 in and out and this seemed like a way to step up the overall quality for a price i can afford. Can anyone suggest another way to step up without breaking the bank?
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zmix

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2006, 03:13:33 am »

Mr. Magnet,

Take a look over this forum and read Mr. Lavry's comments about external clocking. In addition, speak to the designers at MOTU about these mods, they are accessible people. They also know more about the layout and the internal environment in which the chips live and work.  

The few details I posted about the 'upgraded' opamps are enough to convince me to keep the unit stock. And in addition to the above, do you want 180mHz capable amplifiers in a hostile RF infested box?

To put this into simple dollars and sense, you can spend around $3500 on a 24 i/o,  mods, cabling and external clocking or spend $2400 on a pair of HD192 and have 24 channels of conversion of much higher quality than the 24 i/o is capable of even with the mods. In addition, the HD 192 has real metering with 1dB steps, AES I/O with SRC and are fitted with XLRs. These things are really much more important once you stop worrying and start working.

-CZ

TunaSafeDolphin

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #5 on: May 02, 2006, 08:23:17 pm »

BUMP
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zmix

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2006, 02:24:04 am »

Update:

I recently spoke to an engineer at S&S research, the company who design and build MOTU's hardware. He was apalled by the AD8066 'upgrade' offered. He  stressed that the NJM4580 was one of the best parts they had found, and that the only real limitation was the 24 I/O 's converters. The converters they use in the HD192 are state of the art pieces.

maxdimario

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2006, 11:37:24 am »

I always mod anything that has op-amps with video op-amps, as the super-high speed tends to minimize the typical transient distortion caused by lag in the high neg. feedback loop.
be careful of instability and PSU issues.

I don't believe that MOTU would ever put the absolute best amps in their units because one video op-amp costs 10 to 20 times what the standard ones do.

it was probably the best  within their budget.

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crm0922

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2006, 11:53:37 am »

Use your device's internal clock unless it must be slaved to another digital device.

From Mouser.com:

-------------------------------------
NJM4580L: $0.24/ea
-------------------------------------

From Digikey.com (mouser doesn't sell ADI)

-------------------------------------
AD8066AR-ND: $5.38
-------------------------------------

Now price doesn't tell the whole story, but it certainly would seem strange to me that an opamp that costs 1/2 what a TL072 costs is the "best parts" they could find.  I'm guessing they didn't look very hard when they say the $0.24 price tag.

Chris
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PookyNMR

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2006, 03:24:25 pm »

Seems to me like replacing the engine in a Ford Pinto in order to get a nicer car.  Sorry, but you still have a Ford Pinto.  

Sell the MOTU unit and get something that truly is a step up with a better design / implementation.

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Nathan Rousu

crm0922

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #10 on: May 05, 2006, 04:40:57 am »

PookyNMR wrote on Thu, 04 May 2006 15:24

Seems to me like replacing the engine in a Ford Pinto in order to get a nicer car.  Sorry, but you still have a Ford Pinto.  

Sell the MOTU unit and get something that truly is a step up with a better design / implementation.




Audio is not like a car.  This analogy is foolishness.

The analog audio path in a converter is relatively simple.  If there is a sonic limitation to the chosen op-amp, a replacement may well make a big difference.

I'm not saying "go for it" for sure, the OP needs to make that decision for himself.

Chris

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Jim Williams

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #11 on: May 05, 2006, 11:13:56 am »

zmix wrote on Wed, 03 May 2006 23:24

Update:

I recently spoke to an engineer at S&S research, the company who design and build MOTU's hardware. He was apalled by the AD8066 'upgrade' offered. He  stressed that the NJM4580 was one of the best parts they had found, and that the only real limitation was the 24 I/O 's converters. The converters they use in the HD192 are state of the art pieces.


They didn't look very far. The real answer was, "it was the best part we could find.... that met our price-point.

Using the opamp that made Behringer famous isn't something to brag about. Then again, I remember these guys in high school. They couldn't dance, they couldn't sing, they clapped on the 1 and 3 instead of the 2 and 4 at campouts. They got good SAT scores. They got EE degrees.

It's called, "Revenge of the Nerds".
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Audio Upgrades

danlavry

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #12 on: May 05, 2006, 02:34:43 pm »

Jim Williams wrote on Fri, 05 May 2006 16:13

zmix wrote on Wed, 03 May 2006 23:24

Update:

I recently spoke to an engineer at S&S research, the company who design and build MOTU's hardware. He was apalled by the AD8066 'upgrade' offered. He  stressed that the NJM4580 was one of the best parts they had found, and that the only real limitation was the 24 I/O 's converters. The converters they use in the HD192 are state of the art pieces.


They didn't look very far. The real answer was, "it was the best part we could find.... that met our price-point.

Using the opamp that made Behringer famous isn't something to brag about. Then again, I remember these guys in high school. They couldn't dance, they couldn't sing, they clapped on the 1 and 3 instead of the 2 and 4 at campouts. They got good SAT scores. They got EE degrees.

It's called, "Revenge of the Nerds".


That NJM4580 looks to me like a very close relative of NE5532.

Regards
Dan Lavry
(EE and musican)
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PookyNMR

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #13 on: May 05, 2006, 02:43:34 pm »

crm0922 wrote on Fri, 05 May 2006 02:40

PookyNMR wrote on Thu, 04 May 2006 15:24

Seems to me like replacing the engine in a Ford Pinto in order to get a nicer car.  Sorry, but you still have a Ford Pinto.  

Sell the MOTU unit and get something that truly is a step up with a better design / implementation.




Audio is not like a car.  This analogy is foolishness.

The analog audio path in a converter is relatively simple.  If there is a sonic limitation to the chosen op-amp, a replacement may well make a big difference.



But why bother spending so much money on trying to buff up a lower end MOTU unit?  Why not use that money to buy something that is all around better?

I like what Chuck says:
zmix

To put this into simple dollars and sense, you can spend around $3500 on a 24 i/o, mods, cabling and external clocking or spend $2400 on a pair of HD192 and have 24 channels of conversion of much higher quality than the 24 i/o is capable of even with the mods. In addition, the HD 192 has real metering with 1dB steps, AES I/O with SRC and are fitted with XLRs. These things are really much more important once you stop worrying and start working.

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Nathan Rousu

cram1960

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2006, 08:24:33 pm »

But Zmix...he ALREADY HAS the 24I/O.  That money is gone.  Presumable he's been using it and so has some kinda cabling already, too.

So I think the real Q is what would be a better use of $550 (the cost of the Black Lion upgrade).  Not what was already spent.

Of course, the 24I/O could be sold, but then he'd have to replace 24 channels of I/O, with about $1500($1000 for the MOTU + $550 for the BL mods)...now what say you?

Where can he get 24 channels of better I/O for $1500? Or for $550?

(btw, I also own a 24I/O so the Q is NOT rhetorical!)

Thanks!
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Magnet

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2006, 07:30:02 pm »

Thanks for all the input and here's the update.
I had Matt from Blacklion Audio do his opamp mod
to my Motu 24I/O and i also had him do his new
clock mod as well. He replaces the internal clock with 2 much better clocks. One for 44.1/88.2k and one for 48k/96k. I am very pleased with my investment. The opamp he uses really sounds much
better just as Matt described in my first post. And the new clock makes it even better. This unit really sounds very good now and the price was right.

best
Magnet mixerhands
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cram1960

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #16 on: June 17, 2006, 01:48:26 am »

Cool.  

Did the mods also improve stereo imaging?

What was the turnaround time?
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Magnet

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2006, 03:00:24 pm »

Yes, the stereo imaging has improved and
the more i work with the new mod the
happier i am with my decision.

Call Matt at Blacklion audio and setup a
time for him to do your mod. He was very accomadating regarding sheduals.

best wishes
magnet mixerhands
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iCombs

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #18 on: July 12, 2006, 07:47:50 pm »

I have a pair of 896's that Matt modified, and I COMPLETELY echo your comments...microdynamics actually exist, and I no longer have to work to take a "haze" off of the mix...I'm totallly happy with them.

Also, I'm waiting to get some other stuff back...he did a 3630 for me (had one laying around that hadn't seen the light of day for years), and I'm waiting on another...plus he's modding a Rolls RP-220 for me that hasn't been used forever either...again, we'll see how those turn out...so far I'm pretty impressed with Black Lion.
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Dan Mc

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #19 on: July 12, 2006, 10:41:25 pm »

I have been effectively using a Motu 24i/o for about 2 years now and have been pleased with its simplicity. I mainly use it to dump tracks from my Otari Mtr-90 and then mix with Nuendo automation bussed backed out through analog summing....
anyway.... did the clock upgrades make the unit noticable more stable... I am not interfacing digitally at all but internal clocking always seemed off a little. I have always suspected the Motu PCI card????
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Magnet

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #20 on: July 13, 2006, 09:16:29 pm »

Your transfers in and out will be so much better with the opamp and clock mod. The new clocks sound so smoothand solid. I am really happy with the work i had Blacklionaudio do. I just did a drum tracking session at a major studio and we transfered from 24trk 2inch to PTHD.
I am just as happy with my new modded converters
as i was with the PTHD at 24/88.2. PTHD sounded brighter but who needs brighter. Basically in my opinion digital sounds like crap and once you get up to a certain level
of conversion you are just choosing from different colors of crap. I'd like better conversion in the future but this was a great step forward. I would rather now put money into bettering my tracking rooms acoustics rather than getting even better converters. just do it. you will be happy.

best
magnet mixerhands
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Jon Hodgson

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #21 on: July 14, 2006, 04:27:57 am »

So,

did you take some before and after samples of similar sounds?

it might be interesting for people to be able to compare.
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Dan Mc

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #22 on: July 14, 2006, 12:46:02 pm »

I agree with ya magnet
money disbursment through the studio is the hardest part
it seems to me that Yeah High end converters are great (and i really want them eventually) but for 700 bucks upgrading the unit which i am used to preformance wise and have integrated into my rig wiring wise makes sense for at least another year or so and then i can build my mic and preamp collection so i can have something good to actually convert!
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zmix

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #23 on: October 08, 2006, 10:28:14 am »

Have you read this user's experience? Seems like Black Lion have some customer relation issues to resolve.
   http://cgi.ebay.com/MOTU-24i-w-Black-Lion-Audio-Modification  -Ripoff-424_W0QQitemZ130032516591QQihZ003QQcategoryZ41784QQs sPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem  


This Auction is for a MOTU 24i that was mint
Before it was Sent to Black Lion Audio
It may or may not be in perfect Working order anymore so I am Buying a Big Ben and I am selling this 24i At any Price - NR
I will ship it out when I get it back from Black Lion
NOTE: If you are considering using the services of
BLACK LION AUDIO…you better think Twice !
THIS IS WHAT ORININALLY WAS PROMISED BY BLACK LION AUDIO…
BLACK LION AUDIO - MOTU MODIFICATION

MOTU's family of audio interfaces are all built upon essentially the same platform. They utilize Texas Instruments TMS320 series of DSP processors to handle bussing and routing. The newer generation of MOTU units all use Asahi Kasei's converters, which are the same converters used by Apogee, RME, and others. Given their strong drivers and routing flexibilty, these units are pretty hard to beat for the price.

One big liability of the MOTU interfaces is the use of NJM4580 and NJM2115 opamps in the analog stages. These opamps are tonally flat and grossly unmusical. They seem to exhibit a haze due to their slow response and high order distortion. And, in spite of what their datasheets promise, the noise floor could use some serious reduction. A second weak spot is definitely that clock. It's based around Texas Instruments TLC2933, which is a VCO and PLL all in one. Although it's not as temperature dependent as some would claim, jitter is high in comparison to good converter clocks-the datasheet claims at least 120 picoseconds, although it's much higher than that because of less than ideal power supply noise.

Black Lion offers two approaches that can be taken here: the first is to lower the analog stage's THD and noisefloor, increase its headroom and bandwidth, and increase overall tonal and transient response. This involves replacing several surface-mount devices with high-speed FET components. The second approach is to replace that clock with a low-noise, low-jitter clock stage that will hold its own against most any high end clock on the market. Under this aspect of the modification, jitter drops from 120 picoseconds to less than 10.

Black Lion Audio
4028 1/2 N Paulina
Lower Level
Chicago IL 60613

Matt Newport

(773)857-3761
MY PERSONAL NIGHTMARE WITH BLACK LION AUDIO…
Excerpts from my letter dated 09-19-2006
Dear Matt,
My experience with your company thus far has been extremely frustrating.

This is the history of our transaction thus far:

1) I shipped out my 24i unit on 08/25 to arrive for its 8/31 appointment

2) I received an email on Sept. 6th explaining the unit was done

3) I immediately sent $550 (including $25 for shipping) on Sept. 6th and I included the following note: Please handwrite or type all the info. about my unit such as type of converters, old clock and now the new clock chip, old analog stage info. and now new analog stage info., I would like to this info. keep it on file

4) After waiting a week my 24i did not arrive...I called only to find out the unit had on even shipped yet !

5) After finally receiving my 24i late Friday on the 15th (I noticed a toggle switch and no documentation at all with the unit….no info. I originally requested and no info on the toggle switch); I tried to call Black Lion, but I am in CA and they were closed at that time on Friday. I now had to go another weekend without being able to use my mod 24i.

6) I called you on Monday Sept. 18th and you explained the toggle switch; I hooked up the unit and the clock did not lock (prompt shipping back to me would have been nice since now I will suffer even more downtime). Black Lion was now closed and with no documentation I tried for 5 hours to troubleshoot on my own…..I hooked it up to 2 different G4 Macs, OS 9.22 and OS X10.3.9; I tried every combination of the toggle switch and the Motu control panel clock selection under both OS 9 and OS X….I just couldn’t believe the unit would come back non-functional. You stated it was tested before it left and it must be shipping damage….there is no damage to the box whatsoever. If the mod is that delicate that vibration from dropping the box during shipping would damage the new clock, then I strongly suggest you guys double box units when shipping or use stronger solder….or something ! If I take the Mod unit on the road is it going to be that fragile…??!



I am at a loss for words…I was looking forward to this modification for several projects and I am second guessing my decision to have picked your company for its services.



I shipped my Motu 24i back to Black Lion on Wednesday 20th (2 day shipping). I have called Black Lion 3 times during the week of Sept. 25th and I have NEVER even gotten the courtesy of a return call. After calling today (09-29-2006) Matt explained that their Motu PCI card is damaged and they need to buy another one for testing modified units…wow what a professional company, they Mod units all day long and have 1 test card…lol. I wonder how it was originally tested if they don’t have a functioning motu PCI card ?



If you win this auction I will ship the item the item after I get it back from Black Lion Audio…..and I don’t know exactly when that will be.

I have been without the unit for 1 month and 4 days and have paid for their services 3 weeks 2 days ago, maybe if I beg they will get it back to me so I can ship it out ASAP after the auction.



NOTE about the Black Lion Mod: The Modification of the clock and the analogue stage cost me $525 so I hope I get at least a few bucks back, unfortunately after doing my homework (a little late) I realized that this may be a little pricey since the analogue stage part of the mod where the Motu NJM4580 Operational Amp chips are unsoldered and SA5532AP Op. amp chips replace them (think there are 6 or 8 of them) only costs about $4.72 in parts (SA5532AP chips are $.59 each on the web). I do not know what a clock chip costs…..but you do the math….how much is soldering per hour these days ?



One Last NOTE: If you are not interested in my Motu 24i, but you read this since you were about to ship your DIGI or Motu Unit to Black Lion Audio for modification, you better think again…using the services of BLACK LION AUDIO may keep your studio down for quite a while.

intervalkid

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Re: Motu 24I/O Upgrade?
« Reply #24 on: October 22, 2006, 01:02:19 am »

You have to set your software to recognize the clock as an external clock source for it to function properly.

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