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Released more than a decade ago, the original Mackie Big Knob was the “go-to” monitor controller for project and home studios. Mackie’s latest announcement of the next-generation Big Knob Series has created a bit of a buzz, as the new lineup features three models at very affordable prices. The Passive version is the smallest and requires no power, while the Studio and Studio+ incorporate a USB audio interface for even more flexibility.
The Big Knob Passive is a simple 2x2 monitor controller that provides selections between two sources and two monitor pairs. The passive circuitry requires no power for operation and delivers pristine audio quality. The front panel also includes button controls for mono, mute, and dim. All connections are compatible with balanced and unbalanced ¼" TRS cables. Input B also includes a 1/8" TRS input for connecting to any audio player with a 3.5mm connection. Its “all-metal” enclosure is built like a tank and is very portable for the musician/artist/engineer on the go.
The Big Knob Studio ups the ante with the inclusion of a high-quality audio interface capable of capturing and playing back high-resolution audio up to 24-bit/96 kHz. The source and monitor selection portion provides a choice between three audio sources and two monitor pairs. The classic “Big Knob” volume control is accompanied by independent trim controls on all sources and monitor outputs, as well as dedicated controls for mono, mute, and dim functions. The flexible 2x2 USB recording interface utilizes two boutique-quality Onyx mic preamps, which include +48V phantom power for working with condenser microphones. The cue mix allows you to blend the signal from the direct inputs with other signals for zero latency recording. The rear panel offers combo XLR-1/4" connectors for inputs 1 & 2, while inputs 3 & 4 utilize ¼" TRS connectors (balanced/unbalanced). For outputs, the Studio features ¼" TRS stereo pairs for Monitor A, B, and a 2-track output for connecting to a recorder or other audio device. For additional flexibility, inputs 3 & 4 and the 2-track output include a switch for +4 or -10 dB operation. The front panel offers an 1/8" input jack that connects to inputs 3 & 4 and two independent ¼" headphone outputs. Other features include a talkback microphone with level control and a 16-segment high-resolution input meter.
The Big Knob Studio+ builds upon the Studio with even more inputs and outputs and a higher-quality USB audio interface that’s capable of recording and playing back high-resolution audio up to 24-bit / 192 kHz. The Studio+ offers a choice between four sources and three monitor pairs and sports the same form and functionality with Onyx preamps, direct monitoring, and dedicated trim controls for all inputs and outputs, as well as controls for dim, mute, and mono. The device adds an additional source pair (5 & 6) and a stereo Cue In with ¼" TRS connectors. Additionally, the Studio+ includes better talkback options with an external XLR microphone input and footswitch control, as well as a dedicated amp-driven studio output, well suited for a headphone distribution system.