MOTU Volta

Testing the New MOTU MicroBook with Volta

This week I tested out the new MOTU MicroBook USB audio interface with Volta. Volta is a really cool control voltage plug-in that enables you to trigger analog synths through a computer. Before synthesizers had MIDI connectivity, people would control them externally with control voltage. However, since the computer recording revolution took over, there’s been no way to send commands these old analog synths with audio software. That’s all changed thanks to Volta!

The audio interface that you use with Volta must have “DC Coupled” outputs. Before the MicroBook came out, the cheapest way to use Volta was with the $530 MOTU Ultralite. At $250, the new MicroBook is now the least expensive Volta-compatible interface.

One thing I did notice while setting this demo up was that having just two outputs represents a severe limitation with Volta. Basically, I was forced to create and save a custom “mix” in MOTU’s CueMix software that allowed me to only monitor a single input on the MicroBook.

In the settings in Volta, you can only choose outputs to send control voltage out of in pairs. So with the MicroBook, you can only choose to send CV to outputs 1 & 2. This means that blasts of CV gets sent out to your monitors and your headphones. That isn’t what you want.

MOTU CueMix

However, the custom mix I set up in CueMix allowed me to monitor only the return input on the MicroBook. With Volta, you send CV out to trigger a synth, then you plug the synth’s audio output into an input on the interface. This allows the Volta plug-in to supply the DAW with the return audio from the synth. This way you can put the DAW’s effects before or after Volta in an effect chain.

I really have to give MOTU some serious bonus points. I had never used CueMix before, but they included a very well produced how-to video on the installation CD about using CueMix. I was able to make and save the custom mix I needed very easily. My little workaround solved the issue. It isn’t perfect, but you can indeed use Volta with the $250 MicroBook. However, it’s easy to see how really digging into Volta is better suited to an interface with more than just 2 outputs.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them in the comments section of this post. Thanks for stopping by!

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Sam

Writer, musician, photo taker and video maker. When not writing somewhat longish articles for this blog, I write incredibly short things on Twitter: @SamMallery

5 thoughts on “Testing the New MOTU MicroBook with Volta”

  1. Intrigued… but it seems like it might be kind of hard to monitor the master mix with the MicroBook though.

  2. I don’t really get the form factor behind this, or the Duet, or the Babyface. Maybe it’s just not my kind of thing.

  3. I didn’t get the point Auggie.
    Why you can’t monitor the output? There’s a custom mix and you assign it at the headphone, isn’t it?

  4. Ahh… the TB-303. There’s a piece of gear that I’ve always wanted but never could justify actually buying one. I don’t think I would use it enough. But wow… what a legend.

    I’m not an expert, so don’t take my word as the final verdict, but I know that the stock TB-303 has a control voltage output, not an input, so I don’t see how you would be able to control it with Volta.

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