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New Traveler Portable FireWire Audio Interface from MOTU


November 16, 2004

MOTU has introduced the Traveler ($895 MSRP), a bus-powered FireWire audio interface for Mac and Windows personal computers. Designed for portable recording situations with either desktop or laptop computers, the Traveler has no AC power receptacle and instead draws power from its FireWire connection to the computer, while the computer can be powered by its own battery or AC. For extended remote recording, the Traveler can be powered by an industry-standard battery pack via a 4-pin XLR power socket. As a complete audio recording system with 20 inputs and 22 outputs operating simultaneously, the Traveler inherits many features from MOTU's 828mkII FireWire interface and adds many additional significant new features, including four mic/guitar/instrument inputs, digitally controlled mic input gain, 192kHz analog recording capability and both S/PDIF and AES/EBU 96kHz digital I/O.

Portable design

At 3.8 pounds and 14.75 inches wide by 9 inches deep by 1.75 inches tall, the Traveler is housed in a strong, lightweight aluminum alloy case that fits neatly beneath laptop computers and slides easily into a briefcase, backpack or computer bag. Sturdy rack ears are included for convenient 19-inch rack mount installation. The rack ears are long enough to provide enough space in a rack enclosure for MIDI and power cables connected to the right-hand panel of the Traveler.

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The front panel provides hands-on mixing, programming and trim control with 11 detented digital rotary encoders, four 48V phantom power switches, a headphone jack, a 2×16 backlit LCD, 12 five-segment meters and a bank of status lights for clock and sync options.

The rear panel provides 4 Neutrik “combo” XLR/quarter-inch mic/instrument inputs, 4 TRS balanced/unbalanced analog inputs, 8 balanced/unbalanced TRS analog outputs, optical in/out (for both 8-channel light pipe and 2-channel S/PDIF TOSLink formats), RCA S/PDIF in/out, XLR AES/EBU in/out, BNC word clock in/out, a 9-pin ADAT SYNC IN port for sample-accurate transfers and dual 400Mbit FireWire A jacks for convenient FireWire daisy-chaining from the computer.

Flexible power options

The right-hand side panel (looking at the unit from the front), provides MIDI in/out jacks, a 4-pin XLR battery power input jack, a BUS POWER ENABLE/DISABLE switch, and a standard DC power input jack that accepts any 10-24V DC power supply for extending stand-alone mixing operation in situations where 110-220V AC power is available. The bus power enable/disable switch allows the user to choose bus power or battery power (when a battery source is plugged in).

When operating at 96kHz, the Traveler efficiently draws approximately 9 watts of power, which helps extend the battery life of the laptop computer to which it is connected. DC battery packs that are commonplace for extended remote video camera operation can also be used to power the Traveler. These products offer multiple hours of recording time, depending on their capacity. The connection between the battery pack and the Traveler is made via the 4-pin XLR jack.

Four mic/instrument inputs with Digital Precision Trim

The Traveler has four mic/instrument inputs, which accept low-Z XLR microphone inputs or high-Z quarter-inch guitar/instruments inputs. Individual 48V phantom power can be enabled with four front panel switches. Above these switches are four Digital Precision Trim detented rotary encoders that also serve as 20dB pad switches when pushed. When the user turns these trim knobs, input gain can be adjusted in 1dB increments, and the LCD display provides active numeric feedback as the adjustment is made. The total gain range for these preamps, including the 20dB pad, is 73dB, allowing users to connect anything from guitars and microphones to +4dB or –10dB line level signals. Preamp gain and pad can also be controlled from the include CueMix Console software.

192kHz analog recording, 96kHz digital I/O and CueMix DSP monitor mixing

The Traveler's A/D and D/A converters provide for recording at any sample rate from 44.1 to 192kHz. Digital I/O (AES/EBU, S/PDIF and optical) is provided at any sample rate up to 96kHz. Like all current MOTU audio interfaces, the Traveler provides DSP-driven digital mixing and monitoring for all 20 inputs. Users can connect mics, guitars, synths and effects processors, and monitor everything from the Traveler's main outs or headphone jack with no separate mixer needed and no latency. The Traveler supports up to four separate stereo monitor mixes assigned to any four digital or analog output pairs. For example, separate monitor mixes could be set up for the main outs and headphone outs, while two additional stereo buses could be used for send/return loops to reverb units or other outboard gear. Each mix can support all 20 inputs. A “CueMix Return” feature lets the user route one of the four CueMix DSP mixes back to the computer. This allows users to record their entire mix, including monitored inputs, back into the computer, for example.

Additional features:

  • Front-panel programming – Traveler users can access their mixes, or any Traveler setting, directly from the front panel using six rotary encoders and a 2×16 backlit LCD display. Mix settings such as preamp input gain, pad enable/disable, panning, +4/-10 input level reference, 6dB boost, stereo pair grouping, mix output assignment and others are quickly accessed, clearly marked and easy to adjust. Users can create, save, recall and duplicate 16 global presets.
  • Stand-alone operation – A Traveler user can program the unit at the studio with the included CueMix Console software and then take the Traveler on the road for mixing/monitoring without a computer (using a power adaptor). Any setting can be changed on location with the backlit LCD and front-panel controls.
  • 20 inputs / 22 outputs – The Traveler provides the following independent inputs and outputs: 8 channels of 24-bit 192kHz analog I/O (including 4 mic inputs), 8 channels of 24-bit ADAT optical digital I/O (4 channels at 96kHz), S/PDIF digital I/O, AES/EBU digital I/O and headphone out. All inputs and outputs can be individually addressed from host audio software running on the computer and are available simultaneously (digital I/O is disabled at 176.4 or 192kHz). All inputs can also be individually addressed in the Traveler's built-in CueMix DSP mixer. The headphone output and main outs each have independent front-panel volume control. The headphone output can be programmed via software to either mirror another pair of outputs (such as the main outs) or serve as its own independent output pair.
  • Plug-and-play expansion – Users can easily expand their system by connecting additional Traveler, 828 or 896 FireWire audio interfaces.
  • 96kHz digital I/O – The ADAT optical digital inputs and outputs provide 4 channels at 88.2 or 96 kHz. 96kHz S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital I/O are also provided. The optical I/O can be switched to the 2-channel TOSLink (optical S/PDIF) format via software.
  • Sample-accurate MIDI – MIDI IN and OUT jacks are provided for users to connect a MIDI controller and/or sound module with no separate interface needed. MIDI timing is sample-accurate with supporting software.
  • Built-in SMPTE synchronization – The Traveler provides on-board SMPTE time code synchronization features, which allow users to slave their Traveler system to SMPTE time code (via any analog input) without a synchronizer. The Traveler can also generate time code and send it to any analog output. The Traveler provides a DSP-driven phase-lock engine with sophisticated filtering that provides fast lockup times and sub-frame accuracy. Like CueMix DSP, the synchronization features are cross-platform and compatible with all audio sequencer software that supports the ASIO2 sample-accurate sync protocol.
  • SMPTE Console software – This included software provides a complete set of tools to generate SMPTE for striping, regenerating or slaving other devices to the computer.
  • ADAT sync input – Allows sample-accurate digital transfers with ADATs or any other device that supports ADAT SYNC.
  • Word clock input/output – Allows the Traveler to be synchronized with any digital audio clock source. For example, with a MOTU MIDI Timepiece AV-USB interface and synchronizer, the Traveler can be resolved to video.
  • Two 1394 FireWire connectors – Connects the Traveler to the FireWire port on any computer via a standard FireWire cable. Two connectors are provided to allow daisy chaining of multiple Traveler's or other FireWire devices without the need for a FireWire hub.
  • Universal compatibility – The Traveler is compatible with virtually all audio software on Mac OS X and Windows Me/2K/XP.
  • Includes AudioDesk – Sample-accurate workstation software for Mac OS X with 24-bit recording/editing and 32-bit automated mixing/processing/mastering.

The Traveler is expected to ship in Q4, 2004. Price is $895.

For more information, visit their web site at

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