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MOTU sound cards keep dying

Connecting Hauptwerk to MIDI organs, sequencers, ...
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organsRgreat

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MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 8:57 am

Is there any reason why my MOTU 828 Mark 3 Hybrid sound cards would keep dying? By dying, I mean that when I switch on nothing happens - the unit is totally dead. Two units have so far done this. One was repaired by musictrack, who appear to be the official uk importers for MOTU equipment. Now a third seems to have gone the same way.

One did go through an "intermediate" stage, during which, after switch on, the display panel illuminated dimly and was generally unhappy - I can't remember the exact details (flickering?). If I waited a while it eventually worked normally, but in the end it gave up altogether.

The only aspect of my use that's even slightly non-standard is that two of these units are used together over firewire; but that's why they're called hybrid - they work over USB or firewire. They are linked to Behringer ADAT units - some provide inputs, some outputs; and when this all works, it works prefectly, so there can't be anything wrong with the basic setup.
I have three of these MOTU units altogether; they're mounted in an open-frame 19 inch rack, with a one unit space between each, so they shouldn't be overheating.

Is there are fuse inside that I could try replacing? Are the power supplies in these units known to be fragile? That they die completely suggests a power supply problem.

They cost nearly £600 in the UK, and there's a standard repair charge of £95 plus VAT, plus the cost of postage of course. I haven't kept detailed records, but they seem to die after about three years - surely they should last longer than that? MOTU's drivers are known to be tricky, but their equipment in general has a good reputation, and they've been in the business for quite a while, so I don't understand why this is happening.

The one that was repaired by musictrack appeared to be a replacement; I hadn't kept a note of the serial number, but what came back was a complete set, with leads and a user guide in sealed plastic wrapping. Can any conclusions be drawn from that?

During the 1970s I added a second set of dividers to an analogue organ (an early Hammond Everett); that setup worked perfectly for twenty years, during which it travelled hundreds of miles around southern England. It never went wrong - I wish modern digital equipment was that reliable, though of course the sounds are light-years ahead of those we had back in the 70s. I've been working with home computers since the Amstrad CPC464 came out in 1984, so altogether that seems a reasonable background for working with modern computer audio.

HELP!
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larason2

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 12:47 pm

I would wager there is something wrong with your motherboard. Maybe the power supply is not working properly, or there is a short somewhere. Have you checked your power supply? At 10 years old, it may well be near the end of its life. I would replace your unit with an external interface. These days, there is no advantage to an internal card.
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mnailor

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 1:25 pm

These are external audio interfaces. I had two 828s die after about a year each. Was using it as an ADAT DAC for an RME UFX. Replaced the second one with a 24Ao and have been running it for 5 years and 4 months. I hope it doesn't break down because I said that.

The RME still works and is 8 years old, but I eventually changed over to just using the 24Ao and keep the RME as a backup.

No idea why the 828 hardware seems so fragile. Mine was on USB, so Firewire is probably not the problem.
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organsRgreat

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 3:12 pm

larason2: We've somehow got our wires crossed - the MOTU 828 Mark 3 Hybrid is an external interface, as mnailor has explained:

https://www.gear4music.com/Recording-an ... roduct-ads

The computer is only three years old, and has just been serviced by the makers. It works perfectly with one 828, but the other is completely dead.

mnailor: Thank you so much for sharing your experience - it's a relief to know that I'm not the only user to have experienced this problem. I might see whether one of my 828s can be dismantled far enough to see the power supply transformer. If so I'll measure the voltages - I suspect that mains in would be present, but at some point on the output the voltage would disappear. (I worked with mains voltages in the days of valves - UK mains is 240 volts AC, and valve anodes needed 200 to 300 volts DC, so I know how to keep safe).

The 24Ao might well be the way forward - a quick look on the internet suggests that it has ADAT, which would help; I need a lot of inputs as well as a lot of outputs. I believe there's also a 24Ai, but I don't want to buy more equipment than I need. D sub connectors are a minor nuisance, because of the need for interface leads, which are usually rather long and would have to be coiled up sonewhere around the 19 inch rack; but I'll investigate.

I hope your 24Ao doesn't now break down because you've helped a fellow sufferer!
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larason2

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 3:36 pm

Ah, sorry. When someone says sound card I somehow assume it is an internal unit. Rebuilding the power supply makes sense, but with units like this, an internal component may be damaged which would be difficult to replace.
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mnailor

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSat Sep 18, 2021 5:20 pm

The 24Ao has 3 ADATs in and out and 24 analogue outputs. I use 3 DB to TRS snakes with mine.
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organsRgreat

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSun Sep 19, 2021 10:25 am

larason2: Yes - when I first became involved with computer audio, sound cards were internal. Then it became difficult to fit in all the connectors needed for multichannel audio, so they had to become separate units. And yes again - I had an Echo Audiofire that probably died because one capacitor was known to be unreliable - Francois explained that, and showed me which one to replace. In the end I decided to change to the MOTU 828 - my experience with sound cards has not been happy . . .

mnailor: Thanks - exactly what I needed to know. Those ADAT ins and outs would enable me to continue using the Berhinger ADA8200s that are already in place and working perfectly.

I found the following "25 PIN DB25/DSUB Male to 8 x Stereo (TRS) Jack Plugs – 6.35mm" available in a variety of lengths - the shortest being 50cm:

https://custom-lynx.co.uk/product/custo ... ack-plugs/

Do you know whether MOTU use the Tascam standard? I can check with them if necessary.

I believe Martin has had experience of the 24Ao - if he doesn't comment here I might contact him directly to ask whether he has any thoughts on reliability; or Francois might have used them. It's a slight risk buying from a company of which my experience has so far been unhappy, but very encouraging that you've found the 24Ao more satisfactory than the 828.
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mdyde

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSun Sep 19, 2021 10:47 am

Hello organsRgreat,

organsRgreat wrote:I believe Martin has had experience of the 24Ao - if he doesn't comment here I might contact him directly to ask whether he has any thoughts on reliability; or Francois might have used them. It's a slight risk buying from a company of which my experience has so far been unhappy, but very encouraging that you've found the 24Ao more satisfactory than the 828.


I don't have first-hand experience with 24Ao models, I'm afraid, but I know from the forum that various Hauptwerk users use them, and they haven't reported any problems on the forum that I recall.

(I do have a MOTU 16A, which is a related model, and haven't had any problems with it, although I don't use it that often, so it hasn't had very much use, aside from testing with it from time to time.)

RME's interfaces are also particularly highly regarded for quality of hardware, drivers, support, longevity, etc., so they might also be worth considering. (However, they don't make a model with as many outputs as the 24Ao, except at a significantly higher price.)
Best regards, Martin.
Hauptwerk software designer/developer, Milan Digital Audio.
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mnailor

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostSun Sep 19, 2021 11:31 am

I don't know what Tascam standard is. I use cheap Hosa DB25 to TRS snakes. Coiled up behind the console :D

If you already have all your analog outputs, maybe the 24Ao isn't the best fit and something limited to USB and ADATs would work out.

RME does make great gear, better than MOTU but often more costly. Could you use a $500 (US) DigifaceUSB with 4 ADATs since you have your DACs already?
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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 4:20 am

The Motu 24Ao Dtype connectors use the Tascam standard.
The 24Ai and 24Ao follow the Panasonic/Tascam (AES-59) standard specification for a female D-sub connector with balanced analog input or output.


I used the existing cables to my amps when I changed to the 24ao, cutting them and wiring to the Phoenix connector blocks.
Next time, I would use the D-type connectors.

Iain
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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 6:43 am

Martin - Thanks for your thoughts. I have a hazy recollection of you acquiring one of the more recent MOTU units because you were interested in the AVB system - now I know which one it was. It's helpful that you don't recall other Hauptwerk users experiencing problems with the 24Ao. Sometimes a batch of units gets made with components that turn out to be substandard - but that is only discovered later when they start to fail; maybe that happened with the 828.

I've looked at RME, as I'm aware that they have an excellent reputation - it's a matter of getting the best balance of price, facilities and probable reliability. I'll need to think a bit.

mnailor - My ADAT units only supplement the main sound cards - they don't by themselves provide all the connectivity I need. I'm using two sets of 8 speakers, plus a separate stereo pedal channel and a separate reverb channel, so that's twenty outputs. I need LOTS of inputs because two laptops running complementary Hauptwerk sample sets organ need to be mixed in (32 inputs), along with a Viscount CM-100 (6 channels) – total 38. Reaper is mainly used as a digital mixer for the whole system, and to add reverb.

I see that the 16A has jack sockets, which would save me buying more cables, but it's much more expensive. Until now the system has expanded gradually, over a period of eight years; incorporating a different interface needs careful planning.

Iain – Thanks for providing this information and sharing your experience.

Everyone: Two further thoughts:

(1) Neither of the newer MOTU units has MIDI connections. When started with Hauptwerk I used £30 stand-alone MIDI to USB convertors. On average I was getting one stuck note per playing session of 2 – 3 hours. When I changed to using MIDI via the 828 stuck notes became a rarity. The stand-alone units take their power from the MIDI line, so I assume that having more power available in a mains unit makes a difference. “Old fashioned” DIN MIDI still has advantages if one has older keyboards with that type of connection, and wants to operate on the MIDI data stream before it enters Hauptwerk – for instance for rechannelising, or removing unwanted data which could produce an overload.

(2) Musictrack’s standard service charge for the 828 is currently £95 plus VAT - £114. Assuming that each of my three 828s lasted three years before dying, that would be £114 a year in service charges, plus postage. Say £130. I could have four services for £520 – and the cost of a newer MOTU interface would be more than that. I’d retain the DIN MIDI ins and outs, and would not have to completely reconfigure my system. I’ve reached an age at which I’ve no idea how capable I shall be four years from now. At the moment the service charges look the most attractive option, especially as I have a “spare” 828 so would not lose the use of the organ for very long.
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mnailor

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 7:00 am

"My ADAT units only supplement the main sound cards - they don't by themselves provide all the connectivity I need. I'm using two sets of 8 speakers, plus a separate stereo pedal channel and a separate reverb channel, so that's twenty outputs. I need LOTS of inputs because two laptops running complementary Hauptwerk sample sets organ need to be mixed in (32 inputs), along with a Viscount CM-100 (6 channels) – total 38. Reaper is mainly used as a digital mixer for the whole system, and to add reverb."

It seems like the only analog inputs are the 6 from the CM-100, so an 8 unbalanced analog to ADAT interface is needed there. The outputs from the second laptop would be USB and could be converted to 2 - 3 ADATs to get everthing into one 4 ADAT audio interface into the first Reaper/Hauptwerk laptop? Or is Reaper on a third computer?

I use a powered MOTU MIDI Express XT for the MIDI inputs, rather than ports on the audio interface.
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organsRgreat

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 11:11 am

mnailor: I don’t fully understand “It seems like the only analog inputs are the 6 from the CM-100, so an 8 unbalanced analog to ADAT interface is needed there. The outputs from the second laptop would be USB and could be converted to 2 - 3 ADATs to get everthing into one 4 ADAT audio interface into the first Reaper/Hauptwerk laptop? Or is Reaper on a third computer?”

so let’s see if the following clarifies the situation:

Desktop computer (the most powerful) runs Hauptwerk and Reaper

First laptop runs another Hauptwerk sample set

Second laptop runs a third Hauptwerk sample set

This is an expensive way of doing things – three computers, three Hauptwerk dongles - but it’s the only way I can get all the sounds I need. One of the sample sets is the 1966 Schantz organ from Evensong, which I think I bought for $35, so that helped.

Each laptop generates 16 analogue outputs via interfaces, so that’s 32 altogether, plus 6 from the CM-100 giving a total of 38 to be brought digitally into the desktop for Reaper. That does mean that altogether 32 signals are converted from digital to analogue, then back to digital for Reaper, but nowadays DACs and ADCs introduce so little distortion that this doesn’t degrade the sound significantly.

I’m happy to explain further, but does the above provide enough information to explain why I need so many inputs?
Something like the MOTU MIDI Express XT might well be ideal for converting DIN MIDI to the USB variety; I hadn’t realised it could do that, but have just checked the spec, and there’s the USB port on the back panel! So thankyou for pointing that out.
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mnailor

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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 11:41 am

Your 2 laptops' 32 software outputs don't have to be converted to analog and back. They could be USB to 4 ADATs into a central audio interface. There are only 6 actually necessary analog inputs in your system, which can be ganged into one more ADAT.

This might be a case for an AVB network if you really wanted to clean it up, but that's some extra cost.

I take it this is HW 4, or Reaper wouldn't be needed.
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Re: MOTU sound cards keep dying

PostTue Sep 21, 2021 1:15 pm

Thanks for your continued patience . . . I still seem to be missing something, so could you recommend specific pieces of equipment that I would need to convert USB to ADAT? I’d rather not go to AVB because of the expense.

Yes, this is Hauptwerk 4. To upgrade to version 6 would cost around £200 per computer, £600 in total. I’d need to keep Reaper whatever happens, as I use it for plugins such as Pianoteq. My instrument is primarily a theatre organ (they often had piano attachments); I already have access to a very versatile church pipe organ locally, but there’s only one theatre organ in this town, in a very busy venue – regular practise there would not be possible. I did broadcast on a couple of occasions on BBC Radio 4, from a Wurlitzer in the London area, but did not pursue that connection, as by then (1976) it was difficult to make the theatre organ a significant income stream. A musician has to concentrate on working in the areas that provide regular employment – in my case as a piano teacher and church organist. The opportunity to explore theatre organ sound virtually is proving a wonderful retirement hobby.
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