The world of podcasting can be a little confusing if you don’t have a background in audio and all the technology that comes with it.
Many new podcasters may have a basic set-up when it comes to equipment, which is understandable considering the price.
However, this may limit your potential when trying to reach an audience and grow your podcast following.
When recording more than one person, you’ll need a more sophisticated set-up. Devices such as an audio interface will be needed, for example, the Mackie Onyx Blackjack.
With this product, you can use two microphones as well as record your audio to your computer and alter the settings to suit your needs.
In this article, we provide a comprehensive review of the Mackie Onyx Blackjack audio interface.
What Is the Mackie Onyx Blackjack?
Mackie is a well-known brand that has been making professional music equipment since 1988.
They are known for their quality and affordable products which is what makes them so popular.
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack is a USB audio interface and monitor-level controller.
Audio interfaces allow you to convert microphone or input signals into a suitable format that loads onto your computer.
Bus-powered, the Blackjack means you don’t have to fuss around with a power supply.
Using an audio interface allows you to use any XLR microphone which is perfect for podcasting and using more than one microphone at a time.
If you have guests on your podcast or host with another person, then an audio interface will be essential.
The audio interface has many different features, here is a more detailed description of these and what each of them do.
- MIC/Line inputs
- ¼” L/R Monitor out
- USB input/output
- Gain control
- SIG/OL LED
- Hi-Z switch (mainly used for musical instruments)
- TO MON level (used to monitor zero-latency)
- Mono/Stereo switch
- Monitor level
- Headphone output
- 48V Phantom power switch and LED
- USB LED
- POWER LED
As mentioned, there are two Onyx microphone preamps that have ultra-wide dynamic range and improved radio frequency rejection.
These are usually found in expensive studio consoles. It has 60dB of available gain which should be more than enough for podcasting purposes.
The compact design means that the Mackie Blackjack won’t take up too much space in your studio or on your recording desk.
The 25-degree angle makes for easy access to the controls and audio jacks simultaneously.
A metal stand that allows the interface to sit in this position can also double up as a convenient carrying handle.
It might be small, but the Mackie Blackjack has some incredible features for its size.
The channels can also be used to connect musical instruments, not just microphones as they double as direct input ports.
The outputs that can be linked to headphones or computer monitors have their own independent controls which offer the user increased flexibility and gives a more professional feeling experience.
The gain control is one of the most important features of the device as it is used to adjust the input sensitivity of the microphone and line inputs.
This allows you to adjust the signals from the outside
The LED lights above the controls indicate the channel signal with green showing a healthy, normal signal and red to indicate there is an overload.
Not only does this contribute to the ease of use of the device, it can help to create better sounding audio.
Latency is the short period of delay that occurs between the audio signal entering a system and when it emerges.
The delay with computer recording is frustrating, however, the Blackjack removes this issue allowing you to track while listening to the direct source with zero routing.
To control any latency delay there is an input monitor knob to route the analog signal directly from the preamps to the monitoring outputs.
Monophonic and stereophonic refer to the number of different channels that are used to record and playback audio.
‘Mono’ refers to a single audio channel whereas ‘stereo’ sounds are recorded and played back using two channels.
This switch is quite self explanatory, but it allows you to monitor the inputs in mono or stereo.
Signals are still recorded as separate streams regardless of the setting you choose.
The playback quality of the Mackie Blackjack has been found to produce high-quality, smooth sounds that are well-controlled with high rates of around 96kHz.
A standard recording resolution of 48kHz will create a good resolution, but the one here is exemplary.
However, this comes with an increased file size when it comes to digital output.
The headphone output was also found to produce plenty of clean level sound too.
Cirrus Logic converters are used with this system to offer 114dB of dynamic range and the preamp circuitry means there will always be the most headroom and the least noise and distortion possible.
The 24-bit high-end Cirrus Logic converters allow the recordings from the equipment to be converted into digital data to be read by computer software and back again.
This 24-bit is industry standard and can be found in all interfaces. With this built-in, there is no need for a separate device, which isn’t often found in smaller devices.
These converters not only provide quality sounds but also produce clean and detailed recordings from microphones, perfect for making the best possible podcast.
Ease Of Use
The Mackie Blackjack is super easy to use, it is essentially a plug and play system.
Once you’ve plugged in the USB and you’re ready to start recording using the editing software of your choice.
The Blackjack can be found readily available under the ‘inputs’ of whatever program you’re using.
Value For Money
This is a mid-range product and this is reflected in the price.
For the price, this product provides great value for money as it has some high-quality elements and produces good sound quality.
The interface can cost between $110 – $237 depending on where you buy it from, there are also a number of second-hand devices available from re-sell sites such as eBay.
- It’s compatible with most digital audio workstations e.g. Logic, SONAR
- Includes Tracktion 3 production software for both Mac and PC so you can start recording straight away
- Produces good quality audio
- A mid-range product means it’s a little on the expensive side
- No MIDI connections
- You can’t use more than two microphones, you it’s only suitable for smaller-scale productions
Let’s take a look at the compatibility of the audio interface with PC and Mac.
- Microsoft Windows 7 32/64, Vista 32/64 RTM, or XP SP 2
- Pentium 4, Celeron, or Athlon XP processor
- 512 MB RAM
- Mac OS X 10.4.11 – 10.6.4
- G4 processor
- 512 MB RAM
Things To Consider When Buying An Audio Interface
There are a number of elements to consider when buying an audio interface, here are the top few we suggest to keep in mind:
- Compatibility – this is really important as it means that all of your devices will work with said interface.
- How many inputs you need – this is important to consider as you won’t be able to add any extra ports at a later stage. Two ports is an ideal minimum amount to allow you to have two microphones plugged in.
- Power source – the power source of the device is important to consider too as it may mean that your device is not portable and also means you have to deal with more wires.
The Bottom Line
For the price and quality of the product, the Mackie Onyx Blackjack is a great audio interface to use for small-scale podcast productions. For larger productions we suggest checking out the Mackie ProFX8 which is an 8 Channel Mixer.
With its sturdy outer shell and compact design, it’s great for first-timers as well as musicians. The right audio interface for you will depend on your needs and budget.
Mackie are well known for their interfaces, and this is the smallest one they have created which still comes with their well known Onyx preamps making it a great choice if you want something compact with some great features!
If you are interested in the Mackie Onyx Blackjack this review will go in depth on this combined USB interface, which also has a monitor level controller.
This is a perfect product for those who will only need to record either 1 or 2 inputs simultaneously, however they still want the preamps you will get from a larger Mackie Onyx as well as the stand out digital conversion quality.
So, if you do not want to break the bank, but still want some good quality, this product is a great choice!
For the most part, the Mackie Onyx Blackjack has been designed to be used on a desktop, and this is reflected in the signature simple design which you get from most Mackie products.
The product has a sleek design which is high quality, and comes in very robust packaging, so you will not have to worry about it getting damaged in transit.
It is made from a folded steel case, and this has a rear leg directly built into the device which means that when sitting on the desk, you have easy access to the interface.
This means that all the connections will be angled away on the back of the device so they will not get in your way.
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack is designed to work with both PCs and Macs and it will work well with most DAW software which is commonly available.
It is specifically designed to work with products and software made with the manufacturer, but it is not exclusive to work with these.
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack is completely class compliant, meaning it will not need to use a driver, however, if you are using Windows on a PC, we recommend using the newest ASIO driver available when using the product to ensure that you get the best performance possible.
It is also worth noting that if you get the Mackie Onyx Blackjack, it also comes combined with Mackie’s software; Tracktion 3 which is a simple and easy way to use computer recording, and is an even more tempting offer if you do not have a DAW which you are particularly attached to already.
So, if you like the sound of the Mackie Onyx Blackjack, but you want to ensure that it is perfect for you, keep reading to get even more details on this interface.
The Mackie Onyx Blackjack comes with two of the Onyx preamps, as well as having mic inputs which are on ‘combi’ jacks/XLRs, as well as having DI switching which can used on line jacks as well as any high-impedance inputs, as well as the inclusion of switchable phantom power.
The outputs for a monitor use quarter inch jacks which are controlled using monitor level control, and on top of this there is a headphone output which also has level control which is found on the front panel.
The main omission which you will notice is the lack of an S/PDIF digital input.
However, this is not the most commonly used input, so this is likely why Mackie chose to omit it on this design, however, it can be useful when important in some digital formats, so keep this in mind if this is something which you could need.
The aforementioned Onyx preamps have a simple metering which is shown in dual-color LED which are very similar to those which you will find on other Mackie Onyx devices where they work amazingly.
These preamps are well known and liked for their sound quality so it is reassuring to see them being used here.
It is worth pointing out that there is no low cut or pad filter found on this version of the Mackie Onyx however, you will still get lots of headroom, as well as good signal transparency which has over 60 dB of gain included.
The Mackie preamps are some of the best and rival the more expensive options you will find, so for the price you get them, they are incredibly impressive.
The conversion on the Mackie Onyx Blackjack used Cirrus Logic chips and these are used to power circuitry which comes directly from the USB so you will not need a different PSU.
These chips are capable of getting 114 dB range which is much more than typical signal-to-noise spec which you will find in most typical studio gear.
The gain staging which you will get using this unit also ensures that the circuitry of the preamp is matched to your AD conversion which will lower any potential noise or distortion while maintaining the headroom.
We should also mention the monitor knob for the input which will be used for mixing the input signal to the DAW return mic which maintains latency free monitoring which means you can have even larger bugger sizes while you are recording but will not have to deal with any frustrating headphones delay.
You can also use the mono button to transition the input signal to either both the left and the right phones or speakers if you want, if you do not, channel one and channel two will be heard on the left and the right respectively.
The specs you will find on the Mackie Onyx Blackjack are very typical for a standard Mackie console, however, this is with the exception of the frequency response being dedicated by what sample rate is being used.
The dynamic range of the converter is bigger than the noise floor of its circuitry, however, the circuitry has a performance typical of a mixer from Mackie, however having a good amount of headroom which goes up to +10 dB while using mic mode and then +25 dB on the line inputs.
The testing for the Mackie Onyx Blackjack was done using Logic Pro, and the Blackjack once plugged in immediately showed up as an input source already named without need for a driver.
After running some tests on the device we can report that recording with it is a simple task and the playback quality you get is very high.
There is a slight difference you will find between both low and high sample rates, with the higher tending to have a more full and smooth sound which could be described as having an analogue feeling sound.
The difference is not too discernible, but if you are paying attention you will notice it.
It is hard to describe the Mackie Onyx Blackjack as having a specific tonal character, however, we can say that the sound recorded is both clean and smooth.
Doing music playback using the Mackie Onyx Blackjack was also a high standard and the headphone output is clean as well.
This is a great little device which has a simple design and functions very well with good sound quality and a convenient layout.
The small design is just as robust as you would want it to, and it does not have any issues with USB whining which can come with similar small mixers which are on the market, and it also does not immediately fall off your desk once plugged into a mic as well.
The only clear drawback to this product is the lack of an S/PDIF input, but this is only used in specific situations, but if you rely on it, then unfortunately this is not the product for you.
However, if you do not need this input, then there is not a better product you could get to work as a basic interface.
There are some cheaper products which do a similar job, however, when taking into account how much a monitor controller, and a headphone amp cost, the Mackie Onyx Blackjack starts to seem like a much more reasonable price
When it comes to products which you could choose instead of the Mackie Onyx Blackjack, the main option which comes to mind is the slightly cheaper Presonus Inspire which is based on Firewire, however, it does not come close to the Mackie Onyx Blackjack in terms of being a good quality interface which also has good monitoring options and is also durable.
- Very good build quality made from steel
- Audio quality which is recorded using this is high quality
- Includes Tracktion 3 which makes working with the device a lot more simple
- You will struggle to find a product which includes everything this interface does at a similar price
- Does not have a digital I/O which limits its versatility slightly
For the price you can find this product, for what you get in a nice smaller package, you can understand why this product has gained traction and popularity.
So if you want a smaller USB interface which is pretty versatile and is not too big, there is nothing better for you than the Mackie Onyx Blackjack.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do Audio Interfaces Make The Sound Better Quality?
Audio interfaces will definitely make an improvement in your sound quality, especially when recording.
When you use an audio interface the recording will have a higher sample rate and bit depth allowing you to have increased resolution.
The quality of the converters is essential to creating a final sound quality that is as close to the original analog audio as possible.
Do I Need An Audio Interface For Podcasting?
Although, you don’t need to have an audio interface for a podcast or voice-over it can create higher-quality audio.
This makes it easier to professionally edit the sounds without the background noise and other cross-talk.
If you want to have more than one microphone, then it is essential to have an audio interface to connect more than one microphone.