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Motu M2 review

The Motu M2 USB-C audio interface is an absolute powerhouse. Considering the M2 is a budget interface, it’s surprising how flexible it is. It’s one of the best interfaces in its class, and it has a few features that set it apart from the rest. The M2 undoubtedly delivers value for money and flexibility; let’s find out how what makes it so good.

Motu M2 review
M2 audio interface / Image credit: Motu
Table of contents:

Motu M2 overview

The Motu M2 is a 2×2 USB-C audio interface with a distinctive look. Where similar interfaces have LED peak indicators, the Motu M2 has a beautiful LCD screen with full-color meters. The M2 has a relatively plain image outside of the LCD screen, but it squeezes so much into a small package.

Inputs/outputs 4.5

Starting on the front panel, the Motu M2 has a pair of XLR/TRS combo inputs with corresponding gain control knobs.

Each of the combo inputs has individual 48 V phantom power, which is something not all interfaces offer. Both inputs are also switchable between microphone, line, and guitar/instrument.

Motu M2 audio interface (front panel)
M2 audio interface (front panel) / Image credit: Motu

Beneath each phantom power button is a monitor button that patches the input signals directly to the outputs for latency-free monitoring.

The M2 features a large knob to control the monitor outputs and a smaller knob to control the headphone level. You can find a 1/4″ headphone output under the corresponding knob.

Motu M2 (back panel)
M2 (back panel) / Image credit: Motu

On the back panel, you’ll find MIDI in/out ports, a USB-C connector, and a Kensington security lock. To the right of those are a pair of balanced TRS outputs and a pair of unbalanced RCA outputs.

Audio/recording quality 4.0

This interface offers 24-bit audio with optimized drivers that deliver round-trip latency as low as 2.5 ms at 96 kHz with a 32-sample buffer size.

Sample rate/dynamic range

The Motu M2 offers sample rates up to 192 kHz, which means it is capable of recording frequencies far outside the human hearing range. When put to the test, the M2 performs as advertised with a relatively flat frequency response all the way up to around 90 kHz. In the audible range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, it’s incredibly flat.

One impressive performance feature of the M2 is that the frequency response remains flat no matter what gain setting you use. Not all similar audio interfaces can say the same.

The ESS Sabre32 Ultra DAC technology offers an expected dynamic range of 120 dB (A-weighted) although, different units may perform closer to 115 dB (A-weighted), which is still very impressive.

In fact, it’s the best performing interface in its class when it comes to dynamic range. It allows for plenty of headroom without introducing any additional noise.

Preamp

The microphone preamps aren’t the best in their class, but they perform respectably well. The preamps deliver an equivalent input noise of -129 dBu. That means they have a relatively low noise floor that won’t cause any problems, but a few budget interfaces do perform better in this area. See our recommendations.

The microphone inputs provide a max level of +10 dBu at minimum gain with very little distortion, which is very pleasing. The maximum gain provided by the MOTU M2 is around 50 dBFS at 0 dBu.

Overall, the preamps could be more impressive, but we can forgive it given the M2’s other standout feature.

At home/studio 4.5

The Motu M2 is an ideal interface for any home recording studio. One of the main reasons it’s so suitable for home studio use is that it’s so versatile. The flexible i/o configuration makes it easy to integrate the M2 with any other gear you have.

You can record singer-songwriter sessions and monitor your levels directly from the interface rather than having to check your DAW continuously. Having the option of MIDI in/out adds to the flexibility further.

The M2 isn’t the smallest interface available, but it’s not large either. More importantly, the controls are well-positioned and easy to adjust.

Mobile recording 4.0

The only real downside to using the Motu M2 for mobile recording is that smaller interfaces are available. But it’s small enough and robust enough to throw it in your bag and take it anywhere.

The same features that make it great for home studio use also make it great for mobile recording. When you are working on location, you don’t always have access to the same equipment, and often you just work with whatever is available. So, the versatile input and output options available definitely give you more options than most. Also, the LCD screen is fantastic for metering on the road.

Build quality 4.5

The build quality of budget audio interfaces is getting much better across the board, so it’s getting harder to stand out in this area.

What we can say for sure is the Motu M2 is just as tough as most. The housing is mostly metal, and all of the knobs are metal. It’s unusual to see an interface in the budget range with metal knobs, so that’s a very nice touch indeed.

Beyond the robustness of the controls, they all have a smooth action, too. Even the buttons have a nice premium feel, so there are no complaints at all.

Software bundle 4.5

The Motu M2 comes with a pretty reasonable software bundle. It includes Performer Lite, a beginner-friendly DAW that has over 100 virtual instruments. Performer Lite also has lots of effects and mixing plugins.

You also get a copy of Ableton Live 10 Lite, which is a stripped-down version of the flagship Ableton Live 10. It comes with lots of virtual instruments and plugins, and it’s a favorite of man EDM producers.

As well as the massive amount of virtual instruments you also get 6 GB of loops and sample packs. Content comes from Loopmasters, Big Fish Audio, and Lucid Samples.

Motu M2 vs. other interfaces

The M2 is one of the most versatile audio interfaces you’ll find under $200. Let’s compare it to a few of the best budget interfaces available.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

The Scarlett 2i2 is currently our pick for the best interface under $200, so we have to stick with the 2i2 here. We prefer the preamps on the Scarlett, but it’s a close call. See our full Scarlett 2i2 review

Steinberg UR22

Steinberg’s UR22 probably tops the list on build quality, but it doesn’t match the Motu M2 overall. We would take the M2 for its flexibility. See our Steinberg UR22 review (coming soon)

M-Audio AIR 192|4

We really do love the AIR 192|4, and we think it looks and sounds fantastic. It probably has better preamps than the M2 as well, but overall, the M2 just has more to offer. See our full AIR 192|4 review

Also, see our picks for the best budget audio interfaces, the best interfaces under $200, the best interfaces under $100 (coming soon), and the best recording packages.

Final verdict on the Motu M2

There are so many things to love about the Motu M2 and very little to complain about. So, let’s start with the one complaint; the preamps don’t blow us away. Everything else is outstanding, and we wish more manufacturers would include LCD metering rather than LCD indicators. It’s brilliant.

  • LCD full-color metering.
  • Incredible dynamic range.
  • Solid build quality.
  • MIDI in/out.
  • Flexible i/o configuration.
  • Preamps could be better.
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