Black Lion Audio Micro Clock MK2 by Vern
I bought this clock about four years ago because I wanted to see if the hype was true about getting better sound quality out of this unit when connected to my mid-level cost Echo Audiofire 12 converter units (three of them). I have worked with a number of different converters before and I feel that I have been able to differentiate between the differences I hear between Apogee, Lynx, Digidesign, etc. I was immediately impressed with the difference in audio quality once I hooked the Micro Clock Mk II up to my converters during for a mixing session in my studio.
In a nutshell it opened up the sound space of my Echo converters. In a BIG way. I've always been kinda "eh" on the Echo AF12, finding them a bit smeary in the lower bass frequencies and a bit harsh in the upper frequencies. They're not bad at all for the cost/channel ratio, but not exactly top-notch imo. That definitely changed when I added the Black Lion Micro Clock for the clocking source. I was actually pretty shocked on the differences; MUCH tighter and clear/punchy bass frequencies with no more smearing, much improved stereo and sound field depth, a better midrange punch, and also a smoothed-out top end. I literally felt I was mixing in an entirely different studio with the biggest difference coming in the 80-350hz range; all with the results in being able to clearly and confidently conduct a mix became immediately evident. Additionally, my Echo converters had experienced word clock jitter intermittently in the past with the internal clock; but not once to this day since installing the Micro Clock. I can absolutely hear that the Micro Clock immediately turned these converters into something that is impeccably similar to higher end converters; now they are quite literally in the same league as Apogee or a Lynx Aurora for example for a much cheaper cost per channel.
Ease of Use & Features:
Pretty self-explanatory. Plug it into your converters so it can transmit word-clocking. It offers three outputs for clocking, as well as sample rates up to 192khz though the use of a toggle switch and potentiometer selector. The unit is very easy to figure out; although if you are mixing or recording from different sample rate sessions you must switch the sample rate on the micro clock which can be sometimes easy to forget. I do wish this would be a rack-mountable unit, or that black lion would offer rack-ears separately, but I understand that would increase the price. I for one wouldn't have minded paying the additional price since the unit made such a dramatic improvement to my setup. The unit is made very well with steel and seems like it could withstand a fall quite easily. It would also have been nice to have a digital readout (like the mark III versions now have), but it's really a non-issue for me.
Bang for the Buck:
INCREDIBLE bang for the buck. I was a bit skeptical about Black Lion stuff before I ponied up the $350 to buy this unit used; but I'm SUPER happy that I did with my particular setup. It dramatically improved the audio clarity and depth to leave less guesswork when mixing and thus making my mixes better. This clock quickly increased my overall understanding and use of space, stereo image, and three dimensional depth within mixing. It might have been the best money I've ever spent in the audio world for so little. I would have paid much more if I knew what it could help accomplish for me.
With that being said, I haven't used the Micro Clock on any other converters in any other studio to this day. While it worked wonders on my Echo converters, it may not work in the same way on higher-end gear that already has better clocking algorithms installed. I've read many reviews, and it seems that there may be some improvement when used with higher-cost converters, but possibly not to the same level as my experience. I'd love to hear what the Micro Clock could do on some very cheap converters such as Behringer or the older Digidesign mid 2000's stuff; I'm sure its absolutely night vs. day.
All in all, the Black Lion Micro Clock II purchase was a vast improvement in my particular mixing environment that I would highly recommend as an immediate purchase to anyone with a similar studio setup as what I have.