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+Sound Quality +Economical +Guarantee
-No "ON" Indictor -Fit & Finish
Off The Record:
"Track a lot of vocals in different studios? Take the MicroClock with you...it could make a big difference between a vocal that sings and a vocal that stings."
"If you think the MicroClock sounds good on the two track demo below...imagine what it will do to a multitrack session."
"The Black Lion MicroClock fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down..."
"I'd love to perform a comparison between the MicroClock and the $2000 Big Ben, now that would be the ultimate Head2Head!"
"Is this thing on??"
February 11, 2008
../ TestDrive: Black Lion Audio MicroClock
Black Lion Audio (BLA), a small concern from Chicago known for their enhancements of popular audio interfaces, recently released their first product,
an external word clock dubbed the MicroClock. Black Lion made the decision to develop their own dedicated master clock because they felt that most
of the solutions available were of poor quality and contained features that many project studios never used. When BLA boasted on their website that the
MicroClock "will provide a wide, separated soundstage and add smooth, neutral clarity to your digital conversion," we decided it was time for a TestDrive.
Although not a thing of beauty, the MicroClock's got it where it counts...
Black Lion Audio's external word clock a simple, compact device featuring three 75 ohm BNC
outputs, a toggle switch, a knob and a power input. That's it. No LEDs, no display, no meters. To be honest, when we received our review unit, it had a
"garage-built" vibe that gave us pause. BLA's logo appeared to have been applied to the unit with a stencil and a can of white spray paint, and the unit's
fit 'n' finish wasn't going to invoke panic in any of the major manufacturers Quality Assurance departments. However, the MicroClock has it where it
counts, which is why we found this little black box so compelling.
The MicroClock uses two master clock generation circuits, 44.1kHz and 48kHz, selected by
the toggle switch. To achieve an output of 192kHz, you select 48kHz with the toggle, and then turn the knob to the x3 position, which "multiplies" the
circuit by either 1, 2, or 3. Elementary for sure, but a single knob with all six frequency selections would be more to the point.
Dedicated Word Clock
Three 75 ohm BNC outputs
High-Quality Discrete Inverters
Operating Frequencies (in kHz): 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192
Jitter: < 10 picoseconds
Class B digital device
Dimensions: 3" x 4"
So how did it make our kit sound? Damn good. We inserted the MicroClock in our main
project studio and it made an immediate impact on the audio's overall clarity with increased definition in the mid to high frequencies and more precise bass
response. In fact, the room's engineer, who thought his rig was pretty well dialed-in, was quite impressed by the little black box. "Just when you think you
have a jackin' studio, someone has to pull the cotton out of your ears."
For another perspective, we sent the box to another studio that specializes in vocal-oriented
electronic music. His feedback was even more substantial, "With the MicroClock, I found that the vocal performances were more direct and present with a new
found soundstage that I didn't think was possible with my gear." High marks indeed. Jim Stout, a brilliant musician, producer and Roland employee, gave the
BLA MicroClock kudos as well, and provided the A/B comparison that you can hear below. "The MicroClock is the best word clock for the money," Stout concludes.
"In my experience, the master clock is usually the weakest element in interfaces under $2000, so adding a MicroClock is a no-brainer for anyone who wants to
enhance their overall sound."
We did find that there is some VooDoo involved with the MicroClock. BLA recommends
using 6 feet or less runs of BNC, but we found that a 3 foot length of quality cable improved the brightness enough to be noticed. In addition, power
conditioning may have either a positive or a negative effect on the sound, which BLA notes in the MicroClock's one page "manual." Our high-end Furman
voltage-regulator / power conditioner provided stable results, but a competing Monster product caused some distress and blurring of the sonic image. BLA
suggests plugging the MicroClock directly into the wall, since bypassing conditioning altogether may provide better results. However, we recommend you
experiment with what power delivery mechanism works best in your studio environment.
Due to the fact that this was BLA's first product, we subjected the MicroClock to a long-term
TestDrive to determine if there were build quality issues, or deterioration of the clock
signal over time. We are happy to report that the MicroClock held up without any problems, even after extensive shipping to and from the various studios around
Overall, the Black Lion Audio MicroClock is an excellent dedicated master clock generator that
will certainly improve the clarity of your A/D conversion. Although, it's hard to see where your $425 is going when looking at the MicroClock, you'll certainly
hear the money in your mix.
The Black Lion Audio MicroClock costs $425 and is available directly from the manufacturer.
BLA offers a 14-Day, no questions asked, money back guarantee if you're not completely satisfied with the results.
The Future: A single frequency selection knob is a no-brainer for the next version
of the MicroClock. Several engineers also suggested a small Power light so they wouldn't have to wonder "Is this thing on?" Since power delivery is
a significant factor in sound quality, it may be a good idea for BLA to explore an improved power supply with filtration.
Black Lion Audio's MicroClock is an excellent dedicated master clock generator that will certainly improve the clarity of your A/D conversion. Although,
it's hard to see where your $425 is going when looking at the MicroClock, you'll certainly hear your money in the mix.