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kojak 23rd January 2012 08:40 PM

Mackie Onyx Blackjack
This is sort of a 2-sided review...because in many ways this is a great product, but in one very large way it isn't. (At least not on.)

The good: Mackie built a great little 2x2 box that's compact, built like a Brinks truck, and featuring their killer-for-the-dollars Onyx preamps. USB bus powered, so no need for an external power source, intelligently laid out, with phantom power and Hi-Z available on both channels. Also has an input monitor for zero-latency monitoring of your sources while recording (I found this to be a little on the quiet side, so you have to crank it right over to get a usable volume, but otherwise worked great). Perfect for use in a portable rig, and the Onyx pres continue to be the hands-down best in class for their price range. Also should be noted that it comes packaged with Mackie's Tracktion 3 recording software, which has received positive reviews. (I have no personal experience there, as I use SONAR, but most reviews I have seen of Tracktion paints it as an easy to use and straight ahead platform.)

The not so good: A few nitpicky things I would have liked to have seen would be a 4 or 6 segment LED for input metering rather than just the single light on each channel (lights green when signal is present, and turns red when overdriven)...useful enough, but a larger meter would have been nice. XLR outputs would have been nice as well, although the size of the chassis would not have allowed both the 1/4" inch outs it sports now AND XLRs; however the 1/4" can accept a balanced or unbalanced plug, so one only needs a simple adapter to go from 1/4" balanced to XLR.

The thorn in my side: The ONLY reason this wasn't an absolute home run for Mackie was the massive and total screwup with the ASIO drivers for Windows. (Evidently Mac users have reported very few issues.) The initial driver, as well as at least one (if not two, if memory serves) update to said driver were completely useless, and most users were forced to use a third party (ASIO4ALL) driver to make the unit work. This is *apparently* finally being addressed in the first quarter of 2012, according to Mackie. (Keep in mind, this unit has been on shelves for something like a year.)

Conclusion: Amazing bang for the buck, and assuming Mackie comes through with a driver this year, this is an ideal unit for anyone who wants to record themselves, or a board mix of a band with the bare minimum of gear.

Benson Paris 31st March 2012 10:52 AM

Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2x2 USB Interface
I purchased the Mackie Blackjack as a step-up from my old Edirol UA-5 USB-Interface. I use it mainly as a D/A converter in my home studio for the production of electronic music and for post-production purposes. I am very pleased with the sound quality, all the details are there.
The build in preamp and A/D converter is mostly used in conjunction with an SM57 to record electric guitar or voice. I don't have experience with more sophisticated interfaces in my setup, but in comparison with the UA-5 the Onyx Blackjack has more mic gain and a much better signal-to-noise ratio. This makes it a prefect partner for the 57 (i think there are not many budget interfaces that deliver that much clean gain for a dynamic mic).
For a live recording of a brass orchestra it performed very well with two Rode NT-5 microphones. The recording sounded clean and natural.

Not much to say here, it's plug and play (I'm on Mac OSX) and it works.
But be careful with USB Hubs! I experienced some loud noise bursts while having the interface connected to one. I guess it is due to the fact that the Mackie is bus powered.

The specs of this unit are simple and straightforward: 2xMic/Line in (with hi-z switch for connecting guitars e.g.) - 2 Line out (both balanced) - 48V switchable phantom power - stereo/mono monitoring switch - headphone out - separate volume knobs for input monitor, headphone and main monitor signal.
As it is bus powered there is one less power cord to take care of (very useful for location recording or even field recording with a laptop).
The only thing i wish it had are stepped input gain trims as that would make it easier to match input gains in a stereo recording situation.

As I said, there are not many interfaces in this price range that give you enough gain for a SM57 (or other dynamic mics) with such a good S/N ratio. Moreover it has a very rugged design and works instantly after plugging it into your computer's USB port (Apple MacBook in this case). No complaints except the whish for stepped gain trims.

kreuzkoelln 10th July 2013 01:05 AM

Mackie Onyx Black Jack: Robust, useful little beast!
I bought this little piece of gear for club gigs or unconventional gigs where I don't have time to set up a lot of stuff. The two channels are perfectly sufficient for my needs there. I actually recorded with an Apogee Ensemble and have stepped up to an Apollo Quad lately, monitors are Neumann KH120s. Just to let you know the environment I've been testing it.

I didn't read anything, just plugged it in. It worked fine. That's what I expect from a two-channel interface. At their size they aren't allowed to steal more time. Logic and Maschine in standalone work great with the Black Jack. The sound quality is great for the price, of course not close to the bigger converters but it does a good job. In my live setup I have a dynamic microphone in the first channel and a guitar plugged in the second channel which is running Guitar Rig. All of this is in Groups in Maschine and the Output goes right to the mixing console wherever I am. It is a very simple setup but works very fine. The input is getting enough gain and the signal to noise ratio is very good. While listening through my monitors in the studio I hadn't much missing. The highs could be a bit clearer but in general it sounds ok.

The interface has never crashed or whatsoever, it has been working well. As a piece of my live gear it had to fall from the table couple times, nothing happened. It is built of strong metal and the knobs are really heavy and well made. The combined XLR-6.3mm jacks seem robust and don’t move around. The product designer did a great job with the desktop unit since it’s easy to tweak the knobs as well as not taking too much space on the desk.

If you simply need an output for your laptop or you need some inputs on stage, this is definitely the thing to go for. It is bus-powered which makes things easier but not more qualitative. I wouldn't necessarily record with it because I'm already spoilt by the other guys but it is a great deal for first recordings too.

Demaculus 11th September 2013 03:44 AM

Great Unit
The unit overall is great, built out of metal and very solid, had it for a few years and moved it in anything from a gig bag to exposed on the seat of a car. The thing is rugged. The gain is great on the unit for both microphones and for guitar recordings. The usb supply of phantom power is great as well. Good dials and responsive buttons the led indicator lights are also very accurate and responsive. A great unit overall would buy again instantly if something happened to this one. Works out of the box on mac with no drivers or set up. Very plug and play.

cardinalcrunk 26th January 2016 07:36 PM

I wish i could give this all 5's
This might just be a really rare case but the mackie blackjack has latency issues for me, even when I have it on input monitoring. I say this must be rare because I have a mac, and apparently the device is made to work with core audio. The features are great. I like the pre's on it as well. To be honest, I would recommend it over the 2i2 if the latency was not an issue. Such a damn shame.

Shaolin 28th January 2016 10:51 AM

Righting Wrongs
I'm writing to set the record straight.

This has always been regarded as a high quality piece of hardware ruinously let down by atrocious Windows drivers. That reputation doesn't seem to go away. That is a huge shame because they fixed it. Might've taken them years but if buying one today you're good. IT EVEN WORKS UNDER WINDOWS 10, despite their stated support only to w7 or 8. As I understand it, Mackie have not paid MS to get their drivers digitally signed, but you just run it in compatibility mode for W7 and right click 2 .inf files.

So, onto the review...

Build - tankesque, like everyone reports. The thing looks and feels like a mini console. That aids workflow and is just a pleasant experience. Great ergonomics.

Sound - love the preamps. Again, well documented. I've only had it a short time so bear that in mind, but I've so far run a CAD D80 LDD at 45-50 db gain and it was crisp, detailed and clean. Conversion sits right up there with mid range stuff like RME and Echo for sure. I like the detail I hear from bottom to top AD and DA.

Another good feature is that it has 2 DIs. A lot of interfaces in this range only have 1. So you can track a backing section playing together using a box like this - rhythm guitar and bass on DIs and v drums via MIDI (admittedly not with the Mackie...). This can really help with bands that are used to playing together. You use Y cables for the guitars to split to DI and their own practice amps and a separate drum monitor. Or send the 0 latency clean DI signals to a little mixer with the drum audio too. This really works out well for budget recordings

MIDI - none. I like that. Keeps the cost and size down. So much kit these days comes with USB so superfluous IMO. Or just buy a separate MIDI i/o if you have to.

Sample rate - WARNING, DO NOT USE THIS UNIT TO RECORD BATS. 44 and 48 Khz only.

Hardware 0 latency. Killer feature that works well. You can set latency really high - up to 8192 samples. This can help you postpone your CPU upgrade for ages while still recording at 0 latency. Or help you run more plugs in a busy mix. This feature alone can let the box more than pay for itself.

Price. Underpriced for sure. I suppose because its an older model maybe r&d has been recovered? And Mackie haven't paid for W10 digital signing. Good for them! Anyway it punches way above its weight class.

Overall, this is a fat-free wonderful little box. Mackie dragged their feet on Windows and maybe you hate them for all time, but if you need a good 2x2 careful not to miss out. You can get one for a song and make many many more with it. Recommended.