Sonic LAB: Mackie Onyx BlackJack

2x2 USB premium interface      30/07/10

No flash plug

   QuickTime (MP4)  | iOS MP4
4:5 mins

Mackie’s latest breed of standalone IO still tout the favoured Onyx preamps - and whyever not? They do sound pretty decent and are nice and quiet too.

There are two flavours - the BlackBird, a FireWire 16x16 affair (8 inputs + ADAT IO) and the BlackJack. This one is a little less usual, in that it is  a USB device. Not something that Mackie are well known for.
Nicely cased in a strong metal box with sturdy connectors (2x combi inputs, 2x bal monitor outs and a headphone jack) it has an air of quality about it. Knobs are all of the usual Mackie type and feel sturdy enough to stand up to the usual nonsense.
There’s no power supply required, this feeds purely from the USB port and shouldn't need much current, although with the 48v switchable fantom power it might pull a little more.

The two Onyx preamp inputs take XLR mic, jack - line and both have a Hi-Z switch for direct instrument pluggery. There’s a decent amount of gain in the system for even the quietest sources with additional level in the headphone amp should you need it - I just hate it when theres a puny signal for monitoring.

You can feed the live inputs directly into the monitor path using the monitor control to allow for zero latency monitoring. A nice touch is that inputs are hardwired L+R with a mono switch to bring them both into the centre.

Blackbird is class compliant, meaning you just dont need a driver for the Mac (10.4.11 and above) with a Mackie Universal Driver for the PC side.
In use on my system, I found it to be rock solid - actually better than my Onyx 820i (original version) which sometimes gets a little confused with the clocking. This may be something to do with the superior quality Cirrus Logic AD/DA electronics inside the BlackJack - which do seem to have a slightly fuller sound than my Onyx 820i.

In The End
There’s not much to say about the BlackJack - its solidly built, sounds pretty good, a piece of cake to use and doesn’t crap out in use.

However, it is a little pricey for a two channel system, and doesnt have any MIDI. If it's specifically the Onyx sound you want, maybe a better bet would be to spend roughly double but get an 820i - three mic pres, 8 channels, EQ and Aux etc. But for portability, quality  and convenience, Blackjack has em beat.
Available in the stores shortly at £210/$259 - full retail price, you will find it for less.



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10 Comments...  Post a comment    original story
Marc JX8P    Said...

Nice review, Nick! How's the latency of the drivers when playing virtual instruments?

30-Jul-10 11:36 AM

Nick B    Said...

marc, I will check

30-Jul-10 04:54 PM

AndyB    Said...

Nick - do you have the iPad camera connection kit?

I'd be really interested if this worked as an audio interface for the iPad using USB hookup. It would make for a fantastic high quality portable rig.

Seems that the USB interface is standards compliant - although I'd be worried about the current draw, especially with phantom power turned on.

04-Aug-10 06:28 AM

Nick B    Said...

No, we dont, but I will investigate. The Apple store is just down the road. Wonder if the power will handle it , there is no power input, all from USB.

04-Aug-10 09:27 AM

AndyB    Said...

Thanks Nick - great reviewing! Shame it doesn't work.

FYI - I'm currently using the iPad and camera connection kit with an Allen and Heath Zed10FX mixer - which has a built in USB interface. Using 'Multitrack DAW' software on the iPad it's quite a nice little setup for audio note-taking.

I'm sure you'll get some good use out of the camera kit, and I can recommend Multitrack DAW if you haven't yet tried it. Just been playing with 'ThumJAM' too and that's also a great app!

05-Aug-10 05:07 AM

nick B    Said...

OKay, picked up an iPad cmaera kit today. No it doesnt, the BlackJack draws too much power. Though I did hook up the Zoom H4N okay, as that has its own power source.

05-Aug-10 05:59 AM

Daniel V    Said...

Hi Nick, thank you for the great review. I am very interested to know about connecting the Blackjack to record to an external recorder like the zoom H4n or sony PCM-10 or tascam model. I see that you say you used the zoom h4, can you say how you did it. Did you connect it to the USB of the zoom and just recorded? Any advice would be welcomed, thanks.

31-Oct-10 11:40 AM

Bill Caplinger Pensacola    Said...

The Blackjack DOES work with the iPad 2 with Camera Connection adapter IF you put a powered USB Hub in between (can deliver 500mA per port). The signal shows up using GarageBand (iPad) - and one or two other sound/notes apps -although not as an obviously stereo mode. (only one VU meter)

I wanted to be assured that the Blackjack does send Channels 1 and 2, so I connected to my Mac(s) and confirmed that at least one audio program Final Vinyl (Griffin Tech) does recognize and process both channels with excellent separation.

I tried Sound Studio and was able to get response from both sides, but not presented as two distinct channels.

Final Vinyl is/was a free program that bundled with i Mic, which is another way to get two channels into the iPad, but line level signals were all I could get to work in Stereo - that is why I bought the Blackjack. I think that Final Vinyl actually needs to see an i Mic, when I tested I used my G4 Cube which has an i Mic replacing the original USB speakers.

All of this is to say that I am sure it will not be long before someone has a DAW for the iPad that will deal with these wrinkles. I am now going to make an adapter cable that will supply the 500mA 5V needed to power the Blackjack and not have to use a hub.

25-Apr-11 05:47 PM

Dominic M    Said...

Hi Bill Caplinger

Did you ever succeed in making you own 500 mA 5V powered adapter cable to help connect a Onyx Blackjack to an ipad through the camera connection kit?

That's just the sort of thing I would find really helpful. I would love to record through my Blackjack onto an ipad. Surely that would be the most efficient and quiet set up for simple stereo (2 track) recordings.

If you didn't, could you advise me on what USB hub to use as an interface between the Blackjack and the Camera Connection Kit.

Thanks for getting back to me

Dominic UK

24-Aug-12 09:11 AM

Jesper    Said...

Hey, i know this is old, but i cant seem to get my Blackjack connected to ipad - even if i use a powered HUB ??

How did you do that - and did you really do it :)



05-Jun-14 08:08 AM

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