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.