It’s audio interface season in October, for Mackie followed up MOTU, Antelope, and PreSonus‘ announcements with a bunch of their own – the Onyx USB duo. Rather than the somewhat novel $1000 pro-audio interface segment, though, Mackie is pursuing the small desktop interface format with the Onyx Artist and Producer. Both interfaces handle 24-bit/192kHz audio and come across as Focusrite Scarlett killer wannabees – complete with industrious black designs fit for an assassin!
The Artist has the bare necessities for recording instruments and voice. There’s a single mic/instrument combo input designed around an Onyx preamp with +48v phantom power and Hi-Z switch for recording hi-impedance signals. The Producer expands on that with a pair of mic/instrument combo inputs and MIDI I/O for handling synths and controllers. Both models support zero-latency direct monitoring, have headphone outputs and L/R line outputs.
The Onyx interfaces connect over USB 2.0, which is still good enough for high-resolution audio in this day and age. They are also bus-powered, which makes them highly portable. Compatibility with Mac OS (via Core Audio) and PC (via ASIO) is also a given. Mackie also added a touch of ruggedness to the construction by utilizing an all-metal enclosure and extended-wear potentiometers.
In the bundled software department, the key player is Tracktion T7 – a fully functional DAW with unlimited audio and MIDI tracks. It is expanded with the DAW Essentials collection of 16 bread and butter FX plug-ins – read more about that here.
Overall, the Onyx series don’t seem particularly outstanding or memorable, but they will most certainly fare well as starter interfaces designed by a reputable brand.
Price and availability
The Mackie Onyx USB Interfaces are available worldwide now. US prices are $139.99 for the Artist 12 and $209.99 for the Producer 22. We think Mackie could have been more aggressive with the pricing, as this product category and price segment are extremely competitive in terms of quality and pricing. Is there a reason why one wouldn’t get Focusrite’s sub-$100 Scarlett Solo in place of the Onyx Artist? The only legitimate advantages we can think of are the interfaces’ ruggedness and the inclusion of a full Tracktion T7 license.
While Mackie offers a full-fledged DAW with unlimited audio and MIDI tracks, Focusrite’s software bundle contains Pro Tools First (Focusrite Creative Edition) and Ableton Live Lite – stripped down versions of the respective workstations that are good enough for beginners, but significantly paired down in comparison to T7. Still, Focusrite tries to make up for that with a hearty bunch of plug-ins, loops, and a subscription to the Plugin Collective monthly plug-in giveaway. Given the lower price and all the bundled content, we’d say buying a Scarlett is better value for money.
* This article has been updated to deal away with the inaccurate claim that Focusrite doesn’t bundle digital audio workstations with its Scarlett interfaces.