The Big Knob is a high-quality monitor controller with pre-amps for overdubs or Podcasting built-in. It’s perfect for modern recording studios of all sizes and Podcasters that just need a few inputs. The most recent series has Onyx circuitry for super high-fidelity input and output.
Which Mackie knob is right for you depends on your studio and needs.
There are currently three different versions of the Big Knob from Mackie. The + is aimed at studios that need more monitor mix outputs and will be recording multiple performers. The huge feature of the Mackie Big Knob+ is the ability to host 3 outputs allowing you to have 2 sets of main studio monitors and also a studio subwoofer! Unless you have those 2 outputs you can't setup a Studio Sub properly...you'll be using Y adapters and all sorts of poor connections that can cause impedance issues and poor quality sound. The Mackie Big Knob+ solves that problem the right way.
The Classic Big Knob is geared toward solo artists and small project studios and is more economically priced with just 2 outputs for Studio Monitors and no talkback mic. The Passive Big Knob is way more limited and meant for simple line-level controls. More about all 3 Big Knob Controllers below.
Big Knob Studio+
The + is for serious studio production with multiple performers.
It offers 4 input sources and 3 monitor pair outputs. The big difference with the + is you get 2 more line level inputs 2x4 (instead of 2x2). If you’re using a subwoofer with your monitors this is for you. You can hook up a sub using one of the 3 outputs and turn it on and off easily. This is awesome for when you want to do careful monitoring with no sub and then add the sub when you’re ready to really feel your music! And yes you can switch between studio monitors and leave the sub on if you like!
This way you can have 3 sets of studio reference monitors to switch between while mixing and mastering your tracks. This makes it easy to test your mix on a set of awesome studio monitors, then again on some crappy computer speakers and make sure it sounds great on both.
The + offers more talkback capability with external mic input and footswitch control for more precise, professional communication while you’re working with the performer.
The + also has a dedicated amp-driven output for studio headphone distribution if you have a lot of performers in the studio using the same mix. Also, you can use any of the Big Knobs to provide signal to a powered subwoofer.
This is the most popular model and great for small project studios and personal studio setups.
It has 3 sources (instead of 4) and only 2 monitor pair outs which is actually fine for most smaller studios. This model doesn’t have an external mic for talk back, but it has a quality built-in mic that works fine for most applications.
The other difference is no amp-driven headphone distribution amp. So if you’re doing full band recordings with 3+ performers, you’ll want to get the + instead, so you have that high-end output for the headphone distribution amplifier and another output mix. If you’re doing solo recording or using this in a personal studio, this is a great choice.
The passive unit is a low cost, simple A/B line level source selector/switcher (no power supply needed). It features 2 monitor pairs and 2 TRS inputs/outputs and a 1/8 inch input to accommodate a smartphone. It does not have headphone outs or USB and is a passive controller for line-level sources and is designed for old school gear. There is no power at all in this unit. This unit cannot be used for output to multiple sources at the same time so you cannot add a subwoofer.
How do you hook up a subwoofer to the Mackie Big Knob controller?
It’s easy to add a subwoofer to your Studio Monitors using the Big Knob Controller. You just hook up the sub like an additional speaker monitor and then turn it off and on at will alongside your main studio monitors. For example, you hook up a pair of monitors to A and your sub to C. You can turn on A and C at the same time to have all speakers playing.
The BigKnob and BigKnob+ both allow for this functionality. The passive model doesn’t have the switch so subs aren’t an option with that one, it’s either or.
How do you connect a Big Knob Studio or Studio Plus?
Here is the basic overview provided in the Mackie manual that you’ll receive in the box. There are many other ways you can use the Big Knob products but this gives you a good starting point.