Let’s start with the important bit: the Traveler really is a mobile interface. It weighs under four pounds and fits into a backpack; it’s actually a little lighter and more compact than a typical 15” laptop. Now, if your input and output needs are limited (a mic in, headphone out, and stereo out do suit a lot of folks just fine), your options are obviously many. But the Traveler manages to be this small and pack an absurd amount of I/O and functionality into that small space.

Audio interfaces tend not to get a whole lot of updates, but MOTU has been steadily upgrading the Traveler. New in mk3:

  • Digital I/O expanded for a total of 28 simultaneous ins and 30 outs (including digital I/O), on top of the (existing) four XLR/TRS mic ins. Digital up to 96kHz and analog up to 192kHz – all eight.
  • True high-impedance guitar ins
  • Hardware limiter on the pre, plus a “soft clip” feature that “engages just before clipping occurs and helps reduce perceptible distortion.” (That’s “soft” as in the clip prevention – the process takes place in hardware. I inaccurately described this as being similar to a compressor; it’s not – it’s a different process, and combined with hardware limiting makes this ideal for live mic input.)
  • 1 dB trim increments on all analog ins
  • MIDI Time Code support
  • Optical I/O: choose 16 channels ADAT, 8 channels of SMUX, or two pairs of TOSLink, or mix and match
  • New software: CueMix FX software, which turns the Traveler into a mixer with compression, a modeled version of the Teletronix optical leveling amp, and real-time signal analysis
  • … and you can access these features from the front panel

… just to name a few improvements. And lest you think FireWire is dead, have a good look at the Traveler. The whole package is powered by the FireWire bus, or you can add a field battery pack. On the Mac side, this is yet another reason not to get a non-Pro MacBook.

New CueMix FX software, which is also available for MOTU’s other interfaces.

A lot of these features are nice, but to my mind, the major draw is still that you get a ton of I/O in a nice, mobile box, now with four mic ins. For anyone doing surround, you also get front-panel monitoring controls, and enough actual outs to pull off various surround setups, with different setups nicely supported in the software. On Mac and Windows, you get full ASIO, WDM, Core Audio, and Core MIDI support. (Linux has been maturing as far as FireWire audio support, though I don’t know off-hand how this will do.)

MOTU isn’t shipping the new Traveler until Q1, but they promise the same pricing as the current model, which has a street around US$850.

MOTU Traveler mk 3 [Product page, which goes into some of the rather lovely effects in there]

If you own another MOTU unit, you’ll be relieved to know the CueMix software features will be available for download on other FireWire audio interfaces.

Bet this would look fantastic as a pillow, too.

  • Mad Al

    Wait, did I see that right? The MIDI and power input are on the SIDE of the unit but it's still quite obviously been designed for possible rack mounting (to judge by the triangle of holes near the side front).

    This strikes me as a very silly idea. I know for a fact that it would never fit into my current equipment rack, which leaves me stacking it somewhere and hoping it doesn't slide around.

    Yes, I realize that the portability is part of the selling point (why else call it "Traveller"). But if you're going to restrict yourself to a 19" form factor anyway, you should at least make it useable in that way.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @Mad AI: I think they're able to get away with that because it's not a full rack width, so those jacks are still accessible. If you want a traditional rack design, you can opt for the 896 … but this should work in a rack, too. And it's nice to have it designed in a way that you might *not* rack-mount it.

  • http://www.otownmedia.com Richard Lainhart

    The Traveler is 14.5 inches wide, so it's possible to connect MIDI and power when it's rackmounted. It's awkward – you have to connect them before you screw it in – but doable.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Didn't MOTU have some sort of side-mount cable for these, too? Or did I dream that?

    To me, the main appeal is still to leave the ears off and throw the thing into a bag, but I can see why you might want to mount it.

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    motu keeps cranking out stuff that looks sexah on paper. unfortunately, their drivers, and support for same = FAIL. (i had an 828mk2, and currently own a useless Ultralite.)

    prepare to be a beta tester.

  • http://stretta.com Matthew Davidson

    The previous Traveler had four mic inputs as well.

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    @seismo: Well, basically, driver support is generally a nightmare because of ongoing OS changes, hardware specifics, etc.. I know plenty of people who have been really happy with MOTU's drivers. At least we do see frequent updates and they've been up front on new OSes.

    It's best to talk specifics rather than generalities — as you've discovered; none of this is any comfort if your stuff isn't working! What issue were you having specifically?

    @Matthew: yes, sorry, tried to make that clear — folks, what's new is the true high-impedance ins on those combo in jacks, and the expanded digital I/O. (and, of course, all these other features…) But it's worth again mentioning four mic ins with four pre's, as that's really cool. ;)

  • http://www.batterycollection.net jmelnyk

    fwiw, i've owned two 828 mk2's and an ultralite. i've also owned interfaces from presonus, m-audio, echo and emagic (remember the weird blue a6|2m?). the motu's have by far been the most stable (and best sounding) out of all of them. especially with hotplugging, they give me no issues where others were dying left and right. the echo audiofire even fried my macbook pro's firewire port, requiring the whole motherboard to be replaced.

    this update looks cool. but it's not really the most useful of their interfaces to me. and i love how they keep jumping from mki directly to mkiii (did it with the ultralite too).

  • http://www.createdigitalmusic.com Peter Kirn

    Yeah, across the board I've heard fantastic stuff about MOTU for FW audio. (People have also been very happy with RME.) MOTU has a long experience with FireWire running back to internal use on their PCI boards back when people said portable FireWire audio interfaces wouldn't be practical. (wrong!)

    I don't see doing this with USB2, either, though it'll be interesting to see what happens with vendors like MOTU when USB3 becomes available. That's still down the road, though, and this works *now*, which has a certain appeal. ;)

  • MK

    Damn them. I'd been thinking about getting a Traveler for a long time, but I just got the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40. Was feeling happy with the purchase until I see the Traveler updated two days later!

  • dead_red_eyes

    To me, Apogee and MOTU offer the best Firewire Audio Interfaces out there. Both have great build quality and driver support. MOTU has been rock solid for me for many years now.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Oh, I meant to add that this new Traveler looks HOT! I'd get all up in it if I had the cash flow.

  • Mad Al

    I apologize. I should really read more carefully. I simply assumed (incorrectly) from the general proportions of the box that it was actually a 19" form factor.

    I now hang my head in an appropriate level of shame (not currently visible in this post)

  • http://relivethefuture.com/choronzon Martin

    It would be nice if MOTU weren't 'hostile towards linux' then id consider getting one of these. I have an 828 mk2 and its great, but im leaning more and more towards using linux for music but getting the 828 running is a complete nightmare. The best so far is it ran for about 5 seconds.

    tbh I dont really understand why they dont just open source all their drivers (motu and other hw manufacturers), its not like anyone pays for the drivers, they dont have to accept any patches and what IP are they really protecting?

    but you can be sure there would be patched versions available for those who have problems.

  • Vanceg

    It does look nice. Reminds me of the RME Fireface 400 in terms of I/O and mixing/routing ability (Motu has effects, RME has much greater cross patch routing at 28×28). Fireface 400 is considerably smaller, though, and I like that. I'll stick to "traveling" with my FF400.

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    @ Peter: i guess my argument would be: in order for support to be a nightmare, support would have to exist in the first place. i'm still waiting on a reply to support requests to MOTU, dated 11/06/08. "status: unread." (actually, i'm not waiting, an RME fireface is en route.)

    while i don't think the specific issue i'm having is really important to this conversation, feel free to do a google search on "motu ultralite trim bug" for some background. in my case, something as simple as A) actually replying to my support request and B) providing me with a link to the *old* driver would have fixed the trouble.

    funny thing is, 2 months ago i'd have had a "generally favorable" opinion of motu. especially in relation to presonus, alesis, and motu .. all of whose small-ish fw interfaces i demo'd prior to purchasing the ultralite. i like motu's build quality overall, and stability is passable. in this case, software rushed to release by the marketing team, coupled with complete failure in the support dept has cost them a customer.

  • zeekay

    @ Martin: Reverse engineered driver for the old Traveler, http://ffado.org/?q=node/62. FFADO is slowly expanding in terms of supported hardware. No idea if/when the new traveler will be supported, but might be something to watch if you are interested in linux audio recording. I've long stared wistfully at their device support page wondering if my M-Audio 1814 would ever be supported…

  • http://www.myspace.com/videomusik Video Music

    I own the MOTU Ultralite (the first one) and I have had absolutely no problems with it on my mac. It even took a 2 meter fall to a stone floor because some drunk p***k had to lean over the dj booth. Found a safe place for it afterwards and played a 1.5 hour live set with no problems.

    On my windows "side" of my mbp it's a nightmare though, although it might be because of the previous installation of the drivers for my M-audio Firewire interface (the precursor to their current Firewire Solo) which absolutely failed on both the mac and windows "sides" of my mbp.

    @seismo: do you use it for mac or pc?

    Have been considering selling off my ultralite to get the new ultralite mk3, because the build in DSP effects (Compression, EQ, reverb and limiter) could take a load off the cpu for basic mastering of live tracks. I usually play through a dj mixer, so there is normally no way to do this but software plugins.

  • http://seismo.blogspot.com/ seismo

    @ video: i'm using it on a few different machines, all pc/XP. all have the WD firewire chip, etc…

  • http://ardour.org/ Paul Davis

    I'd just like to note that MOTU appears to make nice hardware – at least I see generally positive reports for friends using their PCI devices on OS X. But this company has been the most aggressively anti-linux audio technology company I have ever encountered (and because of what I do, I've encountered most of them). I've been sworn at by their engineers for asking about Linux support, and not in a casual way. There is moderately successful work going on now to reverse engineer support for MOTUs firewire interfaces – a task aided by the fact that the key chipset for these things is never made by the company with the name on the faceplate – but my understanding is that they continue to stonewall any attempts to get their h/w to work with Linux.

    As far as I can tell, the minor differences in features between MOTU and RME products make me entirely comfortable recommending RME to any and all Linux users who ask. We even have support for the Fireface series coming soon, where it is true that RME did initially offer some resistance (mostly due to a misunderstanding). Among the many RME devices I own is an original digi9652 from 1999. This device still functions perfectly, is still effectively state of the art (except for the lack of a matrix mixer). If you are considering Linux as an audio platform at all, skip MOTU and their unbelievably bad attitude and support companies who believe in your right to choose your own platforms.

  • http://none johnboy

    I´m using a UltrLite MKI since the day it went on sale. Never had a single problem with the drivers. Motu was early on firewire (i had the first 828 too) and this seems to pay.

    there´s one Preamp gone on my device but after years of usage this can happen.

    I´d go for motu again, except for a fireface.

  • Seba

    MOTU have always been a Mac company since the '80s w/ their Mac-only software like Performer (which I use). Frankly, they should just drop any supposed Windows support for their hardware since it's well known that they don't work well on that platform.

    If you are a Mac user, MOTU is a great company, but don't expect them to respect any other platform. They don't publicly announce this fact, but they really are "Mac only" for all intents and purposes.

  • Daniel Browne

    " * New software: CueMix FX software, which turns the Traveler into a mixer with compression, a modeled version of the Teletronix optical leveling amp, and real-time signal analysis

    * … and you can access these features from the front panel just to name a few improvements"

    Is this compressor a software thing or is it in the traveler hardware?

  • Seba

    It's software based on the new Masterworks Leveler in Digital Performer 6.

  • dnparadice

    I have the "old" traveler and it has worked great for years. Motu stuff works great, mac updates mess things up but motu is good about getting things corrected. Too bad apple has decided to remove fire wire form mac books. Leave it to mac to throw motu another curve ball. Personally I dont like that with Apple you only have 5 choices of hardware.

  • Pingback: Traveler Mk3 announced by MOTU | trainspottr

  • http://www.ebokeh.com John

    Either I can't find it or it's not there… Does anyone know if there's a features/comparison option anywhere on the motu website? I want to see the differences between the Ultralite MK3 and the Traveler MK3 features side by side.

    Looking at them both independently is fine, i'm just trying to see them side by side.

  • http://robinparmar.com robin

    RME for me too. Once you use their rock-solid hardware-based recording software and mixer you realise there is no alternative.

  • Trancer

    im really really confused between the ultralike Mk3 and traveler Mk 3…..im currently using windows but soon ill be switching to a mac(in about 6 months time)….on the website it says its compatible with both????is it true????after reading all the comments it doesnt seem like its compatible….since it'll be my first soundcard, i want it to work perfectly fine on both…..

  • Kiwisteve

    I have a Motu Traveler Mk3 and although they state on their website that support Apples new Snow Leopard about 3 days after installing it the Motu suddenly went off the air (can no longer be seen my the iMAC). Now nothing I do will get it back. I have tried virtually everything I can.

    Not only that but When the Motu is plugged in and turned on (connected to the firewire400 port on the iMAC) the WD 1Tb External hard drive connected to the firewire800 port gets temperamental and does not always behave. Turning the Motu off fixed the issue. So either a driver or the Motu is screwed.

    I have tried the external dive in both the firewire 800 and 400 ports on the imac with appropriate cables and it runs fine so the iMAC port seems great.

    So as far as I can see the Motu port is ether screwed or the drivers are playing hell with teh system.

    I logged a Tech report with Motu via the internet but they are really slow in getting back.. And from what I hear I can expect to wait a looong while. Looks like I am gonna have to fork out and get something else while I wait as I simply cannot survive without my audio interface.

    I love teh Motu when it is working and in teh past it has been rock solid and fabulous but the chnage has F&^*&^ed me up good.

  • rmgamez

    Hi, any news about the motu ultralite and snow leopard?

    same problem here.