Today Mackie has released an updated driver for their Onyx Blackjack USB recording interface and I have to hand it to them… so far it has been incredibly stable.
It’s no surprise that Mackie has been under the gun with Windows users ever since the release of the Blackjack back in 2010. While Mac users raved about driver stability on OSX, Windows users have struggled to get drivers to run stable in both Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. Even with subsequent updates to the drivers, the Blackjack basically was left rendered as an expensive brick. This sucked because the unit itself is wonderfully built and comes with high-end AD/DA converters as well as boutique preamps that run on all Onyx interfaces. Having previously owned a first generation Onyx 1220 mixer, I can attest to the build and sound quality of the mixer which is one of the main reasons why I purchased a Blackjack back in October of last year. Unfortunately, if you were a Windows user and planned on using the unit to track audio via USB, you were pretty much fucked.
I had some luck using Asio4All driver as a substitute (especially with the latest v2.11 beta1 build) which brought latency in Cubase down to about 12 milliseconds. But for casual use such as playing mp3’s or streaming audio online, I still had to use the bundled drivers with the Blackjack (the last version being v2.0), and that was a test in futility. Constant pops, glitches and audio dropping just made the unit incredibly unpleasant to deal with.
So here we are now with Mackie USB Driver v3.0 and I’ve been testing it for the last 4 hours and so far I have no complaints. The install was pretty straight forward and comes with a set of instructions for upgrading from both v1.9 and v2.0 driver installations which as expected will have you uninstall any previous drivers before installing the new driver. The installation was quick and after being prompted to reboot, I restarted my laptop and clicked on the familiar Mackie “running man” logo in the notifications area of my toolbar to launch the new control panel. Here I was greeted with options to set USB streaming mode and the Asio buffer size which I thoroughly tested. Both the USB streaming mode and Asio buffer size are directly related and you may receive a warning window which will notify you if you have set the buffer size to small for the current stream mode. This is done to avoid the notorious clicks and glitches that the previous drivers were known for.
I’ve had luck with “Minimum Latency” stream mode settings at a buffer size of 256 samples for casual audio streaming, and “Minimum Latency” stream mode settings at a buffer size of 64 samples for tracking in Cubase. This returned I/O latencies as low as 2.449 ms without any pops or glitches. I’m running on a fairly dated ASUS Intel Core 2 Duo laptop @ 2.13GHz with 4GB of RAM and everything is running smooth without any issues.
My final thoughts? Well, Mackie definitely delivered on their promise of putting out a stable driver for the Blackjack which I believe will be most welcome for all Windows users. Considering those who still own a Blackjack and have struggled as much as up to two years to get it to run as it should on the Windows platform, it may be a little too late to restore faith in the Mackie name, which at one point was synonymous with high-end quality. My personal opinion is I’m just happy to be able to use this little audio interface as it was intended and expected to work. As an extremely long Mackie user (since the late 90’s), it has restored some of my faith in the company to follow through and not just leave users hanging.
There has been a long discussion on the Mackie forums regarding the Blackjack driver issues which is actually pretty insightful and definitely opened my eyes a bit as to how driver engineering is approached. That being said, I’m also a consumer and at the end of the day if I am spending the money on a product, I expect it to work as it is advertised. This is paramount and it is unfortunate that Mackie did not properly field test the Blackjack on the Windows platform before releasing it to market. Regardless, thank you Mackie.
Download the updated Mackie Onyx Blackjack v3.0 drivers
I purchased the Blackjack a couple of months ago (I’ve been using their outboard gear since ’94) and was frustrated because it recorded perfectly in Soundforge, but when I went to playback the recording, all I got was stuttering audio. Unusable. So I returned it. Hmmm, was going to pick up the Focusrite Sapphire, but now maybe I’ll give this a try. I just need something that can provide 60db of clean gain.
I had similar issues tracking audio with the original v1.9 and v2.0 drivers before I made the switch to the Asio4All driver. The latency was still there, but could at least record directly into Cubase and Wavelab without any stuttering. Streaming audio was a different story. Regardless, I managed to make due this way for the last 7 months.
It has been just over a week since the release of the latest driver and I’ve only run into one issue within that time which is the ocassional pop when streaming video or audio online. This seems to be directly related to the browser’s use of the flash plugin but so far I have not been able to consistently replicate the issue. It’s very random but not so problematic that would warrant the need to replace the unit. Other than this, the Blackjack has been incredibly stable when tracking at the lowest latency settings without any problems for me.
I too had considered the Focusrite Sapphire and as well as NI’s Komplete Audio 6 which is also USB powered and even comes with MIDI I/O. The hardest part though is giving up the Mackie pre-amp´s which to my ears are just beautiful and the main reason why I’ve held onto the unit as long as I have.
excuse me i need to know how i can make work my windows 10 with onyx blackjack interface,
i would appreciate if you have a way to help me
I have real problem trying to install new (3.0) drivers to Blackjack. I did
everything from manual including deinstallation of older drivers, but
it doesnt work properly. Instalation never finishes right. I also
tried to download .zip few more times but that also doesnt work.
Sorry to hear about your troubles. You may want to send Mackie tech support a quick email letting them know of the issue you’re having. Be sure to let them know what hardware you’re running the Blackjack and include the Windows OS youre using.
will Mackie ever release a driver for windows 8???
for the onyx blackjack 2×2 usb interface?
Hi Joel! Great review.
Is this unit compatible with Cubase 5.1.0 and Windows 7 64 bits?
Hi Javier, at the time I wrote the article I was on Cubase 5 and Windows 7×64 running the Mackie Blackjack v3.0 drivers without any issues. Currently I’m using Cubase 6.5 and Cubase 7, and both run without any problems.
I’m running window 7 pro 64bit w/ core i7. I need help i’ve been really struggling with this piece of hardware. I had mixed thoughts before i got this because of all its reviews from users all around. but i heard it had a very stable update (v3.0) which i immediately updated as soon as i got it. it was running smooth for first 3 weeks and then all of a sudden it just stopped working properly. Whenever i’m watching videos or even making music sometimes (and by sometimes i mean random) it would start giving me the static noise sometimes 3 times a minute and sometimes 3-5 times in 6 hours and the only thing to stop it is by unplugging the usb and plugging it back again. this has been going on since last summer. This thing is built like a tank and i like it i just hate its sudden burst of static every time im chillin with my girl watching a movie. Do you have any suggestions on what i should do? other than throwing this in the can not even bothering to try and sell it for $2?
I feel your pain, man. It seems like anyone who owns a blackjack has always had mixed results in the stability department. You could always try a fresh install of win7 and the blackjack drivers… theres a chance this may not work and t s a rather pain in the ass to do just so you can get a audio device “working”. Personally, I would just buy a new soundcard. Ive written a review about the Steinberg UR22 and couldn’t be happier with it. You can read about it and reviews from other users here. Let me know what you decide on doing. – J
Thanks Joel I might just go with that. I read your review and it was very detailed and useful I’m probably gonna go drop by my local music store to pick one up if they have one.
Late hint: yep there’s a problem with bursts of noise, but in my case only when you leave it in low latency USB streaming mode while doing daily windows stuff (that’s a setting in drivers). Switching it to “normal” streaming mode for daily windows usage and using low latency mode only for tracking seems to solve it. Altough it’s a bit weird you have to switch something just to use the interface normally in windows. Oh well, we’ll get a new drivers in a couple of years, they’re apparently “working” on new ones.
Simply Terrible, driver version 3 still pretty much unusable on my laptop, tried every buffer setting at every sample rate and streaming audio such as mp3 glitches and grinds like aphex twin on a bad day trying to make ears bleed. I got cd audio to work but thats pretty limiting for everyday use. I think I’ll go back to asio4all. Its very disapointing in that Mackie have failed miserably with this device after it showed so much promise, they should be ashamed!
i can connect my mackie blackjack in windows 8
i connect my mackie blackjack to windows 8 and fuction great ,and i can use mackie driver v3.0
HOw did you do it??
hey, i have a win 8 and doesnt work with my mackie black jack also i cant find the driver you talk here (Mackie USb drive v3.0), you know where can i down load it?
I’ve had it working in Windows 10 x64. I had to run the driver setup in compatibility mode and it installed. It had one little freakout that necessitated a reboot, but works fine other than that. I mostly use it for podcast type things. It’s 2016 and 3.0 is still the newest.
I’ve been using it for years with Windows 7 x64 even at lowest buffers (with a roundtrip latency of 7,7ms). I have a buddy that has been updating to every Windows release so far he’s still using it.
Today I sold it to get somethig better. If I end up not liking what I buy, I’ll buy it back again :)