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Mackie Big Knob - Does it colour the sound?
Old 2nd August 2008
  #1
Mackie Big Knob - Does it colour the sound?

Hey all,
Contemplating a Mackie Big Knob for my home mixing suite, to switch between the sets of monitors, mono check and mix in DAW and Cd player. (A lot easier on the mixing desk in the studio!)

Does the mackie big knob do it's job well, without colouring the sound? If not, are there any similarily priced alternatives??

Cheers!
Old 2nd August 2008
  #2
I looked at the Big Knob, which of course reminding me of my own substantial natural endowments I was drawn to, but in the end I went with the PreSonus Central Station. It's a completely passive unit, basically just a box of relays with a couple headphone amps. So the connection is literally just a straight electrical connection through the box. Being passive it does eat up some gain, but for most folks with near fields that's hardly a problem. My HR824mkIIs have the input sensitivity knob on the back on about 25% even with any loss from the passive volume control, and it's still plenty loud if all the way up. It has separate volume offset knobs for each set of speakers, so you can level match them for valid monitor comparisons.
Old 2nd August 2008
  #3
Gear Nut
 
eclectic's Avatar
 

Yes.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #4
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

yes - it's not a great unit. For the same price there are better, passive units.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #5
Yes this all confirmed what i feared might be true! THe Mackie rerally is too good to be true at that price! Central Station it is.. My bank balance will not be amused!! hehe

Thank you one and all for the advice!
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #6
Lives for gear
 
GordZilla's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
yes - it's not a great unit. For the same price there are better, passive units.
Hmm... what better units are there for the $200-$250 that a Big Knob can be had for?

Be pretty tough to find even a used Central Station for that. I suppose there is the Presonus Monitor Station... looks like they are going for about $265.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #7
Not meant to be a buzz kill, but all of these cheap monitor solutions all color the sound, in a cheap way. I owned the presonus.....stupid. There is no contest with high end outboard monitor gear, or any of the other consoles monitor sections I've used. If you are looking for a good monitor solution, I think you should save up for something really good, it will make a huge difference.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #8
Come on. It's a direct wire connection through the box using physical relay connections, and then just going through a passive attenuator. That's getting into patch cable difference territory to claim that that's going to have some significant effect on the sound.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
Come on. It's a direct wire connection through the box using physical relay connections, and then just going through a passive attenuator. That's getting into patch cable difference territory to claim that that's going to have some significant effect on the sound.
Hey, some people can hear the difference and some people can't.

If that's the case, do you outfit your studio with Hosa?

I respect where you are going with your opinion, I just don't agree with it.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #10
Gear Maniac
 

Hello,

Just went through the same exercise. This is what you need.
SM Pro Audio - M-Patch 2

Enjoy.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #11
Lives for gear
 
mixerguy's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
yes - it's not a great unit. .......

+1
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #12
Quote:
Hey, some people can hear the difference and some people can't.

So you had them both hooked up at once through the same speakers in the same room playing the same source, and your had someone flip back and forth while you listened blindfolded to see if you could tell which one was which?
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #13
Do you really think that monitoring through a central station is as good as it gets for audio reference?

By the way, I did do an A/B. The quality of playing back was better through my Tonelux CR2.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TROT View Post
Hello,

Just went through the same exercise. This is what you need.
SM Pro Audio - M-Patch 2

Enjoy.
No.. This is what you need!

Sound Performance Lab

Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #15
Lives for gear
 
mdjice's Avatar
 

Yes...look at the presonus central station instead
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

The price difference is substantial between both units...depends if he wants to spend the big bucks...connectivity wise the Sound Performance Lab unit is more versatile but if he wants to switch between 2 sets of monitors, plus a CD player and his daw then the MPatch would be the unit to consider (price wise).



Quote:
Originally Posted by Loudnoize ent. View Post
No.. This is what you need!

Sound Performance Lab

Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #17
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordZilla View Post
Hmm... what better units are there for the $200-$250 that a Big Knob can be had for?

Be pretty tough to find even a used Central Station for that. I suppose there is the Presonus Monitor Station... looks like they are going for about $265.
well - you can build your own - and mackie big knob is rather more than that in the UK! It's about the same price as Central station! (well £50 in it).

Central station sound quality is very good - it's passive so it'd be hard to see it do much !! It's BUILD quality is the issue. But yes - forget the big knob.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #18
Lives for gear
 
Ermz's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by TROT View Post
Hello,

Just went through the same exercise. This is what you need.
SM Pro Audio - M-Patch 2

Enjoy.
This unit is great if one is on a budget. Honestly, for the majority of users, having a passive attenuator system like this isn't going to have any significant impact on audio fidelity. I hear the main issue to keep in mind is the quality and capacitance of the cables running to the speakers, as the passive units allegedly attenuate high frequencies to a degree.

I have one of these units, and it suits me fine. The idea that the minute changes caused by a 'budget' volume control like this could have any significant impact on tracking or mixing seems ludicrous to me. It ends up being another one of those nitpicky audiophile things. Your environment, speakers & converters will have significantly more impact on your ability to discern detail from the source material.

Grab yourself an M-patch 2, and know that you've saved a ton of money that can go toward more useful gear.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #19
Lives for gear
 
MonoBrow's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ermz View Post
This unit is great if one is on a budget. Honestly, for the majority of users, having a passive attenuator system like this isn't going to have any significant impact on audio fidelity. I hear the main issue to keep in mind is the quality and capacitance of the cables running to the speakers, as the passive units allegedly attenuate high frequencies to a degree.

I have one of these units, and it suits me fine. The idea that the minute changes caused by a 'budget' volume control like this could have any significant impact on tracking or mixing seems ludicrous to me. It ends up being another one of those nitpicky audiophile things. Your environment, speakers & converters will have significantly more impact on your ability to discern detail from the source material.

Grab yourself an M-patch 2, and know that you've saved a ton of money that can go toward more useful gear.
Agree.I have one too and its perfect for me,i have 1 pair of Monitors(p22a) and for that price...its just perfect for my needs.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #20
The Big Knob might slightly color the audio; it's the trade off for having so many features at a relatively low price.

It does NOT color the audio enough to adversely affect monitoring/mixing for me. If you can't do a good mix using a Big Knob then the monitoring isn't your problem.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #21
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by BLUElightCory View Post
The Big Knob might slightly color the audio; it's the trade off for having so many features at a relatively low price.

It does NOT color the audio enough to adversely affect monitoring/mixing for me. If you can't do a good mix using a Big Knob then the monitoring isn't your problem.
It affects the audio enough to not be able to judge a violins timbre. It's fine for messing about or serious hobbyist. But for mix critical decisions on money earning projects - it WILL affect what you will put out - in a compromising manner. I've tried it and things that your looking for that my clients expect can't be discerned. It's not tripe - but it's tripe in a high end professional environment. It's not a preference thing, but discerning clientele.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #22
Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
It's not tripe - but it's tripe in a high end professional environment.
No one's arguing that you can put a Big Knob up against an Avocet or any other high end monitoring system.

He's asking for a solution in the <$300 range for a home studio. I'm telling him the Big Knob will do the job nicely, and while it's not the perfect solution for a perfect monitoring setup, it won't stand between him and his mixes either.

And I really don't think that monitoring through a Big Knob qualifies me, or any other Big Knob user, as a hobbyist. It's that kind of attitude that inspires hack after hack after hack to go out and buy an SSL so they can sell their studio on their gear, NOT their passion for music or their hard work towards becoming a great engineer. I'm not saying that's YOUR attitude so please don't take offense, but it's a common sight around these boards and it reeks of pretension and condescension. YES, everything else remaining equal, the gear better suited to the job will always win out. But everything else is never equal.

My two cents.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #23
Quote:
Do you really think that monitoring through a central station is as good as it gets for audio reference?
Not in terms of features obviously. But it's a physical connection. Ultimate really doesn't come into it. It's like asking if this or that patch cable is the ultimate monitoring tool. They both are physical connections capable of getting the signal from A to B just fine, without degredation, and you couldn't begin to tell the difference between two reasonable quality patch cables in a blind test.

Obviously this is a little more complex since there's an attenuator involved in the path. But it's a passive attenuator. As to A/B'ing them, if you didn't do it in a blind test, with carefully matched levels, then it wasn't much of a test. Anyone, listening to two pieces of gear, one of which costs many times more than the other, is likely to choose the more expensive one if they know what they are listening to. And if the levels weren't exactly matched, then it's not much of a comparison. A slight difference in volume will automatically make one sound better.

If you just removed one and put another in and listened to the new one, that's no test at all. The human ear is not good at discerning sutble differences with there's even a short time between the comparisons.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #24
Lives for gear
 
nukmusic's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
So you had them both hooked up at once through the same speakers in the same room playing the same source, and your had someone flip back and forth while you listened blindfolded to see if you could tell which one was which?

LMAO..heh Just so much of the "This is good, this is not good" bull S H I T". it never ends. Folks just get to technical over simple things. Make music with any one of em.
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #25
Moderator
 
narcoman's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nukmusic View Post
LMAO..heh Just so much of the "This is good, this is not good" bull S H I T". it never ends. Folks just get to technical over simple things. Make music with any one of em.

As I said before - you'd be unwise to judge violin or clarinet timbre through any cheap ICs.... However - the device is usable - my other concern with them is the huge nasty sound you get when they fail. Passive attenuators don't do that!

It is horses for courses, but to a certain degree you select gear appropriate to your price point and "enough" for what you do. Big Knob is a poor device in terms of audio performance. When combined with price - it becomes more attractive. it gets LESS attractive when you see he Central Station isnt much more - and that is a very usable device.

I have Avocet - which is about 5 or so times the price of Central Station. In terms of what I use it for it's worth every penny - but I couldnt recommend Avocet to project studios or even moderate market place professional studio. You need a good monitoring environment to do Avocet and similar devices any justice!!

However, the difference in quality between Central Station and Big Knob is very obvious - that is why I cannot recommend Big Knob when MUCH better devices exist at a minor price increase.

The reason "folks get techy over simple things" is because all of us in these forums are not from the same zone. Some are working classical / orchestral soundtrack where quality is paramount. Others are running small electronic music outfits, where vibe is very important. You cannot just use any gear to make any music. If creativity is your key requirement (ie you're a composer/writer) then monitoring would not be so important to you. If you are at the recording or mixing end, then monitoring is VERY important. Indeed it is your responsibility to ensure the composers or performers get the best quality - even if they don't know they want/need it! I am a producer. I produce music for a living - no i don't write it - i organise the teams and make the "buck stops " decisions. For garage rock records and soundtrack music (and the occasional bit of pop). When I run a project - I want to hear what is being recorded without compromise. Mackie Big Knob places a compromise in the amplifier circuits - minor issue in the "harshness" zone. You can't accurately tell what's happening in this area (the sort of 4 - 8 khz stuff). If I (or someone else) fcuks that up on a 6 figure recording budget - do you think those finacing the project won't notice?

We're all in different parts of the music world - there isn't a "one product fits all" box. But there are better devices at many price points - Mackie Big Knob is one of those boxes that, although popular, doesn't do as well at what is designed for as other products. CS is one of them.

Oh - and Blue - no offence taken!!
Old 2nd August 2008 | Show parent
  #26
Wow! Wasn't expecting so many replies, thanks guys. I hadn't really set a top budget, the Big Knob was just the only one i really knew anything about. It is for kinda critical mix decisions, so a lack of colouring would be desirable. Thanks everyone for pointing out all the options, lots to investigate for myself now
Old 3rd August 2008 | Show parent
  #27
Gear Addict
 
rkwyent's Avatar
 

M-Patch 2

AndyZippy,

I would say go with the M-Patch 2. I will explain as much points as my patience will allow.

A few months ago i went on the same quest. I researched the low and high-end options and this is what I found.

1. Most people don't take the time to get things right. What do i mean about this? I purchased my M-Patch 2 and when I connected it it colored the sound. Instead of sending it back, i did some research. I ordered some high quality low capacitance cables shortest matching run to my speakers and wolla everything was fine. Most people would have sent it back.

People will tell you that there are no real differences in cables. With a passive attenuator the quality of the cable is critical.

Now to the features of the M-Patch 2.

2. The M-Patch 2 has features that some of the higher end volume controls wont do and some of what the Big Knob does.

It has 2 inputs so you can level match 2 different sources.

It has 2 outputs so you can use 2 sets of monitors.

It allows full balanced connections throughout the signal path and can pass unbalanced signals if thats all u have.

Here is something unique that i did with the M-Patch. I only use one set of monitors so i put the left speaker on the left connector of the first output and the right speaker on the right output. have both engaged. when calibrating my speaker system I can calibrate each speaker at a time for level matching of the left and right channels at a push of a button.

Also when i am mixing i can listen to each speaker individualy at a whim.


Oh. did i mention it has a mono switch? If you are serious about mixing u want to listen in mono.

The Central Station has all the features of the M-Patch and more including more output and input options plus a built in DAC that specs nice and is passable for just-about-pro monitoring.

But at $150 U.S. the M-Patch 2 cant be beat.

And it sounds fantastic after i took out the cheap coiled up long-run cable that was filtering out the high frequencies.

Thats all i have the energy to post.
Old 3rd August 2008 | Show parent
  #28
Ah nice one rkywent, thanks for taking the time to post matey! Yea a mono button is a must, i'm missing having the one on the desk at the studio like mad back at home for mixing this past week.
Old 3rd August 2008 | Show parent
  #29
For me, the ability to have 3 sets of monitors was important, which the CS has. We all know how stupidly different mixes can sound on different speakers, and making CDs and carrying them around is a time consuming process. I only have two sets now but I'll add another, smaller set before too much longer, off to the side. I think it really does help a lot to have as many as you can right there during the mix (within reason of course.)
Old 3rd August 2008 | Show parent
  #30
Lives for gear
 
mikymike's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by narcoman View Post
As I said before - you'd be unwise to judge violin or clarinet timbre through any cheap ICs.... However - the device is usable - my other concern with them is the huge nasty sound you get when they fail. Passive attenuators don't do that!

It is horses for courses, but to a certain degree you select gear appropriate to your price point and "enough" for what you do. Big Knob is a poor device in terms of audio performance. When combined with price - it becomes more attractive. it gets LESS attractive when you see he Central Station isnt much more - and that is a very usable device.

I have Avocet - which is about 5 or so times the price of Central Station. In terms of what I use it for it's worth every penny - but I couldnt recommend Avocet to project studios or even moderate market place professional studio. You need a good monitoring environment to do Avocet and similar devices any justice!!

However, the difference in quality between Central Station and Big Knob is very obvious - that is why I cannot recommend Big Knob when MUCH better devices exist at a minor price increase.

The reason "folks get techy over simple things" is because all of us in these forums are not from the same zone. Some are working classical / orchestral soundtrack where quality is paramount. Others are running small electronic music outfits, where vibe is very important. You cannot just use any gear to make any music. If creativity is your key requirement (ie you're a composer/writer) then monitoring would not be so important to you. If you are at the recording or mixing end, then monitoring is VERY important. Indeed it is your responsibility to ensure the composers or performers get the best quality - even if they don't know they want/need it! I am a producer. I produce music for a living - no i don't write it - i organise the teams and make the "buck stops " decisions. For garage rock records and soundtrack music (and the occasional bit of pop). When I run a project - I want to hear what is being recorded without compromise. Mackie Big Knob places a compromise in the amplifier circuits - minor issue in the "harshness" zone. You can't accurately tell what's happening in this area (the sort of 4 - 8 khz stuff). If I (or someone else) fcuks that up on a 6 figure recording budget - do you think those finacing the project won't notice?

We're all in different parts of the music world - there isn't a "one product fits all" box. But there are better devices at many price points - Mackie Big Knob is one of those boxes that, although popular, doesn't do as well at what is designed for as other products. CS is one of them.

Oh - and Blue - no offence taken!!
Nobody using a bk gives 2 ****s about being able to hear the violin or clarinet timbre, well not me anyway!!!
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