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Mackie Onyx board for recording to PC??

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by thewanderer24, Jan 5, 2006.

  1. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Hi folks, I am a recording newb, and looking to start building up a basic set up at my home for recording. I did search on similar topics, and didn't really see many answers to my specific questions.

    Initially, this will be mainly used for demo type recordings for groups without drums (just don't have the space and noise tolerance where I'm at for drums). I'd like to get stuff that allows me room to grow and expand with as I have money, time, and space to invest more. Initially, I need to have AT LEAST 3 simultaneous inputs and more than that would be useful for some things I have in mind.

    I came across the new Mackie Onyx boards and am very intrigued. Seems like the preamp quality is decent enough that it would save me from initially having to invest in extra preamps, and it would give me a lot of simultaneous inputs to work with. Being able to control the mix with the board instead of the mouse is definitely appealing to me. The Onyx is also supposedly capable of working with many other recording software packages besides the Mackie Tracktion stuff.

    Being able to use the board as a straight up mixer for live applications is also a nice thing, as occasionally I would have the use for it.

    Also, it seems like it would be $1000 less initial investment than the digi002 protools set up. Every other possibility I've found interesting seems significantly more complicated to set up and work with, and at least as much money. I can get the 1620 and firewire card for about $1200, while the digi002 will cost me $2200 or so.

    I would be buying a new PC to work with whatever recording setup I go with. The PC would be as high end as I can afford and would be dedicated for the sole purpose of the recordings. I just can't afford the extra couple grand it would cost me to get a comparable Mac.

    My main questions are:
    Have any of you guys experienced recording with the Onyx onto a PC (using the firewire interface card option on the Mackie)? Thoughts (good and bad)?

    Am I gonna be in trouble for using a PC instead of a Mac?

    Software-wise, is the mackie "Tracktion" software any good? Is it possible to take files I record with Traction and move it to another format that pro-tools and others can handle?

    Thanks for the help...
  2. Call me biased, but I think the Onyx board is really pretty cool with the firewire option. Had it been available when I got my Spike, I would have gone up. And don't discount the Tracktion software, it's a very powerful, very easy to use DAW.
  3. Droog


    Aug 14, 2003
    I don't have hands on experiance with Traction but I know some people that have and I do trust there judgement and its is supposed to be a pretty dang good program, for the money especially.

    I too have been intrigued about the Onyx boards, not sure that it is right for me but I think they are a really good idea. Though you mentioned that you would enjoy mixing with the board as apposed to with a mouse. Well, that is not what it does, the mixer is simply a mixer with a firewire output. It is not a control surface by any means.

    I think they are great idea for recording practices, demo's and pre production type situations.
  4. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    OK, I understand that now. Still a very cool idea. Someone out there must've played with one??
  5. BruceWane


    Oct 31, 2002
    Houston, TX
    I haven't used one yet, but they are getting good reviews from many who have. The preamps are said to be very good for the price. They're as good as the pre's in any mixing board short of a Neve/Trident/API/Soundcraft that costs at least 10 times as much. And they are not in the same league as the boutique single channel preamps from Avalon/Great River/Focusrite/Groove Tubes, etc.

    However......the firewire output on the Onyx is directly after the preamp - no effects, no EQ. You can set up an audio path that passes through one entire channel strip, then into another channel, so that you get effects/EQ, but then you are using two channels up for one audio track. The Onyx boards are designed to be used as a live sound mixer that lets you record the "raw" tracks to a DAW; then you use the effects and EQ in whatever software you're using to mix.

    The firewire connection sends all the individual channels to the computer, but it only returns a two channel mix back to the board for monitoring. It does not send all channels back to the board for mixing.

    Really, this is the "proper" method to use - record your tracks dry so that you're not committed to any particular EQ or effect . Then you can make any changes you want or need as you mix within the computer. That way you've got practically unlimited EQ and effects available via plug ins. But a lot of people are surprised and dissappointed when they learn that the FW output is tapped directly after the preamps on the Onyx.

    I think they're a darn good deal for the money. If you need a mixer for live sound and want to record your gigs, they're perfect. But they are not really designed to be used as a "recording mixer" per se, just as a front end for a DAW. You then mix your tracks in the computer, not with the knobs and faders on the board.

    Basically, the Onyx will get your audio into your computer with very good quality. Not "great" quality, but very good. But as far as recording, that is all it will do. Which ain't bad, for the price.
  6. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Thanks for the answers so far guys.

    I guess I am wondering if anyone has any comments on the relative bugginess of using the Onyx via the firewire card. Especially in PC, but also in Mac.
  7. Passinwind

    Passinwind I Know Nothing Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 3, 2003
    Columbia River Gorge, WA.
    Owner/Designer &Toaster Tech Passinwind Electronics
    If I were in your situation, I'd be looking for a Yamaha 01V or something similar. It can be used as a control surface, sounds very good, has a proven track record, and works well for live mixing as well. And used ones are readily available and pretty reasonably priced.
  8. thewanderer24


    Apr 29, 2002
    SJ, CA
    Just a little update. I have all but decided I will be going with a presonus firepod to start. After a lot of research, it seems like a much better deal for my needs right now.
  9. Ben Clarke

    Ben Clarke Liquidating to fund a new business. Buy My Gear!

    Jan 6, 2005
    Western NY
    The pres in the Onyx are better than previous Mackies, but the Allen & Heath PA series sound much nicer to me.
  10. I've been looking at these also. The 1640 would be exactly what I need. They seem to be a great value.
  11. msquared


    Sep 19, 2004
    Kansas City
    A guitarist friend of mine upgraded from a 1604 VLZ Pro and dedicated A/D converter box to an Onyx system. He is quite happy with it.

    A few days after he got it, his bass player left a glass of water next to it while he wasn't looking and he ended up knocking it over the sliders of the Onyx. There was a loud pop and it stopped working. He wiped up the spill and let it sit unpowered for a few days, then brought it back up. Worked like a champ with no problems since (and this was around six months ago).

    The only thing to be aware of with the 01V is that it's got 20 bit converters. So if you really need the dynamic range that 24 bits gives you (or your ego won't let you do 20 bit hardware), it's not the board for you. But I had one for a while and loved it. If it had firewire out it would be perfect IMO.