Friday, August 12, 2011

Mackie's Onyx BlackJack Recording Interface Review

Mackie ONYX Black Jack

The Mackie ONYX BlackJack is a rugged bus-powered USB audio interface that is small with great sound quality and versatile monitoring, making it an ideal portable companion to a laptop but equally at home in a fixed location such as a personal studio.  

Mackies ONYX BlackJack offers the quality preamp so recognized in their higher priced line of Onyx Mixers. The BlackJack features two Onyx preamps, having mic/line inputs on combination XLR / ¼” jacks, with individual DI switching for using the line jacks as high-impedance inputs, and switchable global phantom power. The monitor outputs are on balanced quarter-inch jacks, governed by the Monitor level control, and there’s a headphone output and accompanying level control on the front panel.  

The Onyx preamps are designed to go beyond standalone microphone preamps in headroom, transparency, and fidelity. Additionally, the Onyx preamps have a full 60db gain, improved radio frequency (RFI) refection and an ultra-wide dynamic range. Onyx preamps rival even the most expensive boutique mic preamps for sound quality a good part due to the Cirrus Logic converter. Power for the circuitry comes from the USB port, so there’s no need for a separate PSU. The 24-bit Cirrus Logic converter is capable of a 114dB dynamic range (A-Weighted), which is way beyond the signal-to-noise spec of most studio gear. Importantly, the gain staging within the unit means that the preamp circuitry is correctly matched to the A-D conversion, to sustain headroom while minimizing noise and distortion. Zero latency recording is possible by routing the input directly into the monitors and into the computer simultaneously, reducing any audible delay form player to computer (allowing the computer buffer to be directed towards the CPU). It also allows you to track in mono or stereo.  Overall, comparable interfaces do not possess this sound quality, and audio interfaces that do typically cost ten times as much as the Mackie Onyx Blackjack.

The Onyx Blackjack’s overall design is rugged and due to the unique 25 degree angled structure making it easy to see the controls, extremely user friendly. On the front there are five knobs, two gain (-20dB to +40dB), one “To Mon”, Monitor, and Phones knob. The gain knobs are linked to an LED light that remains green to show a healthy signal and blinks red when it is experiencing overload. The Monitor knob offers Mute to Max control with a Mono/Stereo button. The “To Mone” knob sends the input signal directly to the monitor outpurs for no-latency, analog monitoring. The Monitor and Phones knob also is Mute to Max with a 48V Phantom power button to drive condenser mics and then a headphones ¼” jack port to the far right. The sensible lay-out of the components, add to the usability of this unit. The back of the Onyx Blackjack has a USB port, R/L Monitor Outputs for balanced or unbalanced ¼” jacks, and two XLR & ¼” combination mic analog inputs. This unit is built like a tank and we give the overall usability an A+.

Overall the Onyx BlackJack is considered a real bargain and a very affordable interface and delivers both superior sound quality and flexibility. If you want to make high quality recordings this is the unit for you.

Available Now at for only $149.99 with FREE SHIPPING in the main 48 states.

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