MOTU, Inc. has introduced the UltraLite-mk3, a portable bus-powered FireWire audio interface with on-board effects and mixing. Features include a compact form factor with rugged lightweight alloy chassis, two XLR/TRS "combo" style mic inputs with high-quality preamps, true hi-Z guitar inputs, a total of 10 inputs and 14 outputs, 192 kHz analog I/O, a 32-bit floating point DSP for digital mixing and effects processing, front-panel LCD programming, FireWire bus-powered portability and stand-alone operation as a digital mixer/processor.
"The UltraLite-mk3 offers unprecedented value for a compact bus-powered audio interface," said Jim Cooper, Director of Marketing at MOTU. "The quality of the analog I/O, mic preamps and newly added on-board effects are outstanding, yet the price remains the same as the original award-winning UltraLite."
Digital mixing and effects processing
The UltraLite-mk3 provides 10 inputs and 14 outputs in a half-rack form factor. All I/O is routed to a new on-board 14-bus digital mixer driven by hardware-based DSP with 32-bit floating point precision. The mixer allows users to apply no-latency effects processing to inputs, outputs or busses directly in the UltraLite-mk3 hardware, independent of the computer. Input signals to the computer can be recorded wet, dry, or dry with a wet monitor mix (for musicians during recording, for example). A separate "reverb return" stream allows users to record or mix UltraLite-mk3 reverb output separately in their DAW. Effects can also be applied when the UltraLite-mk3 is operating stand-alone (without a computer) as a complete stand-alone mixer.
Effects include reverb, parametric EQ and compression/limiting. The UltraLite-mk3's Classic Reverb™ provides five different room types, three frequency shelves with adjustable crossover points, shelf filtering and reverb lengths up to 60 seconds. Two forms of compression are supplied: a standard compressor with conventional threshold/ratio/attack/release/gain controls and the Leveler™, an accurate model of the legendary LA-2A optical compressor, which provides vintage, musical automatic gain control. Finally, the EQ section provides 7-band parametric EQ modeled after British analog console EQs, featuring 4 filter styles (gain/Q profiles) to effectively cover a wide range of audio material. LP and HP filters are also supplied with slopes that range from 6 to 36 dB.
The UltraLite-mk3's flexible effects architecture allows users to apply EQ and compression on every input and output (a total of 24 channels), with enough DSP resources for at least one band of parametric EQ and compression on every channel at 96 kHz. However, DSP resources are allocated dynamically and a DSP meter allows users to keep tabs on the UltraLite-mk3's processing resources. Each input, output and mix bus provides a send to the Classic Reverb processor, which then feeds reverb returns to mix buses and outputs, with a selectable split point between them to prevent send/return feedback loops.
CueMix FX software
All of the settings in the UltraLite-mk3 are accessible from the programmable front-panel backlit LCD. Users can also launch the CueMix FX control software for Mac OS X, Windows XP and Windows Vista. CueMix FX is a completely new software front-end with attractive graphic mixing, graphic editing of parametric EQ and a convenient tabbed interface for quick access to all features in one window. Three separate tabs show inputs, mix busses (seven stereo busses) and outputs. Users click a "Focus" button on any channel or bus to edit its settings in another area on the right-hand side, which provides separate tabs for graphic editing of parametric EQ, compression and other effects. Each channel displays a graphic thumbnail of EQ curves, compressor settings and other channel specific parameters. There is also a section for talkback and listenback. CueMix FX can be operated side by side with any host audio software for Mac or Windows, and it can be controlled from the Mackie Control Universal Pro automated worksurface.
The UltraLite-mk3 allows users to connect a wide variety of studio gear, including microphones, guitars, synths, keyboards, drum machines and even effects processors. All analog I/O, including six quarter-inch line level inputs, two mic/instrument inputs (eight inputs total) and ten quarter-inch outputs can operate at sample rates up to 192 kHz. S/PDIF connectors supply stereo digital I/O up to 96 kHz. A convenient front panel headphone jack serves as another independent output pair. The front panel phone volume knob is a programmable digital rotary encoder that, when pushed, toggles to control the TRS main outs on the rear panel or any combination of outputs (analog and/or digital). For example, it can control monitor output for an entire 5.1 or 7.1 surround mix.
Synchronization and MIDI I/O
The UltraLite-mk3 is equipped with Direct Digital Synthesis™ (DDS), a DSP-driven phase lock engine and internal clock source that produces imperceptibly low jitter characteristics (below the noise floor), even when the UltraLite-mk3 is resolved to an external clock source via SMPTE time code. The UltraLite-mk3 can directly resolve to (or generate) time code via any quarter-inch input or output, without the need for an extra synchronizer.
MIDI IN and MIDI OUT jacks allow users to connect MIDI devices without the need for a separate MIDI interface. If a user connects a MIDI controller to the MIDI IN and a sound module or sampler to the MIDI OUT, a new MIDI "thru" mode lets them play the sound module even when the computer is turned off or disconnected from the UltraLite-mk3.
Expansion, drivers and AudioDesk
The UltraLite-mk3 supplies two FireWire jacks so it can be daisy-chained with additional MOTU FireWire audio interfaces or other devices. The UltraLite-mk3 provides CueMix FX and drivers for Mac (OS X) and Windows (XP and Vista) for cross-platform compatibility with virtually all audio software via WDM/ASIO/Core Audio drivers. The included AudioDesk® workstation software for Mac provides 24-bit recording/editing and 32-bit mixing/processing/mastering.
The UltraLite-mk3 ships this summer at the same price as the original award-winning UltraLite.