« I like it a lot, once I eventually got it working. »Published on 03/19/13 at 09:31
I'm using it in a bedroom studio with a laptop. I have studios in most rooms, so for 50 bucks I thought to indulge myself. ( you can never have too many studios)
Connections; spdif in and out, 1/4 inch jack and xlr in's. 2 x 1/4 inch jack monitor out, and USB in, and power supply (supplied) in. Useful front panel selector switches and knobs.
I use it with a Toshiba Sattelite laptop and Altec Lansing VS4221 home sound system. Yamaha headphones.
Drivers seem OK, but I've only had it set up for a few hours. I haven't tried very many multiple tracks yet, only 3 or 4 just to test it, but latency seems workable-around. Guitars and basses plugged directly into the guitar input sound great, and not lifeless, like plugging them via a D/I box into a desk. (10 out of 10 for the guitar input)
At first, I couldn't get any input signal showing in VST at all, until I eventually disabled my laptop internal sound-card because presumably, the two had IRQ conflicts. I use Nuendo or VST, and I dislike Tracktion a lot and think that it looks horrible. I haven't used the Spike midi in's and out's yet, but presumably they'll work.
The online manual was needlessly silly sometimes, and instead of the jokes, I'd have much preferred it to tell me to disable my laptop sound-card. Setup is nothing like as simple as the Echo soundcards (Mia, Layla, Darla, Audio-fire )for example, but the sound is just as good, and I like the mic-pre's and the D/A converters very much.
One slightly annoying thing, is that because it's USB Version 1, it won't tolerate a USB hub, and it has to have it's own dedicated USB port. But once I sussed that out, I was up and running (eventually) The onboard SHARC processor is interesting, although I didn't use the onboard EQ, gates, and compression at all, preferring to use the FX and processing in Nuendo/SX. The XD-2 processing panel is quite useful though, and the internal presets and configurations are varied and very well thought out.
I disliked the laborious setup and the time wasted in absolute frustration trying to get the thing to be fully operational.. It took me almost a full day to figure it out and to eventually get it to work properly, but for 50 bucks, once working, it's probably the best sound-card I've ever owned (for the price.) Perseverance certainly paid off.
I have six 20-bit Layla soundcards and 3 x new Lyla 3gs, and a RMI Hammerfall lightpipe card which drives 3 x 8-channel Soundscape optical to t-dif converters. I also have two Soundscape Mixtreme 192 cards which go to and from Tascam Desks... The Mackie Spike sounds just as good as any of them.
The sound is very detailed, and possibly slightly warmer than the Echo Layla 3G D/A converters, and the top end is detailed and the bottom end, solid and warm. The mid range is clean and not at all smeared or washy.
If I could get another one for the same price, I certainly would. It is important for prospective buyers to realise that the Spike only runs on Win XP and that it is no longer supported by Mackie. Having said that, the Mackie site still allows relevant Xd-2 software and firmware downloads and an easy new-user re-registration, if you're buying a second-hand Spike.
I use Windows XP exclusively, although if I ever changed to a different Windows OS, I would install XP on another bootable partition, just to be able to use the Mackie Spike.
Conclusions; Excellent and unbeatable value for around $50 to $100 bucks or £50 / £70 quid or so, and if you still use Windows XP then IMO there's nothing anywhere that sounds any better, especially for that price.