Sparrow mkII ADC


Black Lion Audio proudly introduces our completely redesigned, 2-channel analog-to-digital converter, the Sparrow mkII! There is an obvious need for affordable, yet good-quality converters within the professional and project studio world. Certainly there are great two-channel systems available, but they are prohibitively expensive. Those that are within reach of the project studio’s budget usually suffer from the poor sonic qualities that plague mass-produced studio equipment. We have made it our mission to develop superior-quality, boutique audio equipment at very “un-boutique,” affordable prices, and the Sparrow mkII is exactly that!

Additional 1 year warranty (3 years total)

We offer an additional one-year warranty on top of the standard two-year warranty on defects in materials and workmanship for this item from the date of purchase. See Disclaimer & Warranty tab for more info.

SKU: SpwADCwh Category:

Product Description

The Sparrow mkII is housed in a 1U, ½ rack chassis, featuring XLR and ¼” balanced inputs, LED metering, BNC word clock I/O, AES output, coax & optical S/PDIF output, and user selectable input level calibration that accommodates nominal input signal levels from +11dBu down to -10dBV. It features sampling rates from 44.1kHz -192kHz, with clocking architecture that features low jitter and wide Q third harmonic crystal oscillators. Because of the quality of the clock multiplier and PLL recovery stages, performance will not degrade should the converter be synchronized to a lower quality word clock reference.

The A/D conversion process is a tricky beast to tame. Because conversion requires so much current movement, there are plenty of places for unwanted noise to be created, both within the signal chain and in the power supply. As we began to research and test approaches to converter design, we discovered a unique way to reduce these unwanted artifacts, one that’s not cost prohibitive to implement and works better than traditional approaches. We coupled this proprietary converter circuit to a high-speed, high-headroom analog stage that can capture the smallest nuances and micro-dynamics. The result is unparalleled: a mastering grade, two-channel A/D converter that not only has an enormous sound with pinpoint imaging, but also has a smooth, open sonic quality and a wonderfully rich midrange. No other converter sounds like a Sparrow mkII.

Our Sparrow mkII features 4 input stage trim presets and a single amplifier before the converter for simplicity and purity of signal path. Power supply filtration is designed around latest-generation high grade capacitors, ensuring low power supply noise. This is an A/D whose sonic performance is as good or better than the top A/D’s currently available; once you use the Sparrow mkII A/D converter, your standards will be forever changed!

Sometimes it’s fun to show what your design team is capable of creating. The Sparrow mkII represents a good portion of our research into delta sigma conversion and clocking architecture. What sets it apart from the rest of the pack? For one, instead of using one converter for stereo conversion, it employs two converters in a parallel-balanced circuit to increase converter dynamic range. Add to this our unique approach to converter configuration, our FM master clock with wide Q third harmonic crystal oscillators, advanced PLL recovery, and a low noise analog path, and you get the richest, clearest and fattest sounding A/D converter to ever set foot in your recording studio. Once you track with it, you’ll find that other converters sound hard, processed, or lifeless. Use it for mastering, recording, final mixes, or whatever application your studio needs. The Sparrow mkII is $1999 and outperforms the FM192 modification, making it among the best two-channel A/D converters available in the pro audio market today.


  • Balanced inputs (XLR or ¼”)
  • Selectable user input level calibration
  • Word clock input and output
  • Sampling rates from 44.1kHz -192kHz
  • AES, coax S/PDIF, and optical S/PDIF digital outputs
  • LED metering
  • Accommodates nominal input signal levels from +11dBu down to -10dBV
  • 1U high, ½ space rack mount chassis
  • User selectable 110/220 voltage input

Dynamic range:

  • 122dB Unweighted
  • (124dB A-Weighted)

Max analog input before digital clipping:  >+24dBu

Inputs:  Balanced Analog = TRS and XLR, Clock = 75 Ohm BNC


  • SPDIF = Coaxial (75 Ohm) and Optical, AES-EBU (110 Ohm)
  • Word Clock = 75 Ohm BNC
  • Word Clock Lock = indicator LED

Sampling rates:  44.1kHz – 192kHz

Bit rate:  24 bit

Latency:  ≤ 65/Fs

Digital Audio Output Level Indicator:  Bi-Color LED (Green/Amber/Red)

To test out the sound quality of the Sparrow MKII White, I recorded my Moog Music Inc. Sub Phatty into the Sparrow MKII White and then into Logic, and then listened to the results of similar recordings made with the Sub Phatty plugged into my Fireface 800. Compared to the Fireface 800, the tracks recorded with the Sparrow sounded very musical and had plenty of bottom end. I can honestly say that the Sparrow MKII White gave my Fireface 800 a run for its money; the Sparrow MKII White recordings had a beautiful sonic quality to them and sounded rich throughout all the frequency spectrums.

Sara Simms, AskAudio Mag, (full review here)


Two of our reviewers employed the Sparrow as A/D conversion for their mid-level analog mixers, one focusing on rock, the other on industrial. Swapping out their RME and Apogee interfaces with the Sparrow, both cited the “delicious bottom” on the conversion that had “just the right amount of viscosity” to “provide fullness without tubbiness.” The other evaluator compared his experience to architecture. “I can equate it to living in this nice house that I thought was quite complete. However, when I switched to the Sparrow, I discovered a door with a wide staircase leading down. Suddenly, my house had this really huge BASSment. And not just one with cement walls…fully furnished with a pool table, big screen TV and a full bar.”

Our rock reviewer recorded an acoustic guitar with an X/Y stereo mic configuration at a commercial studio. With top-end matched mics and a pair of world class pre’s, he inserted the White Sparrow at the end of his signal chain to evaluate the 24 bit / 192kHz conversion against several stereo and multichannel A/D boxes available. He came away impressed with how the Black Lion performed. The “soundstage was certainly more pronounced along the axises…providing a natural depth, while still enabling the guitar’s sound to be firmly planted in the center.” He found the “smooth character” of the conversion to be “very musical” without any “artificial phase” that some other gear relies on “to increase the width.”

Our EDM reviewers found the Sparrow made a significant impact on their overall sound. “Frankly, I’m shocked on what a difference the Sparrow made over my current set up, which I thought was pretty dialed-in,” stated one reviewer. “I run a MIDI Pre-Rig that funnels my outboard gear into Logic and I often get compliments for my clean signal path. Not having much experience with Black Lion Audio products, I was expecting their take on A/D conversion to pale in comparison with my Benchmark ADC1. However, I was wrong. Not only did the Sparrow hold it’s own, but the expanded soundstage seemed to ‘wake up’ the top end of my [Dubstep] tracks while staying grounded to the hard, metal edges of my unforgiving basslines.”

FutureMusic, (full review here)


“Finally a converter that sounds EXACTLY like what I hear coming out of my SSL 4000G+. The White Sparrow Mk II is the cleanest way from A to D!”

– Tom Lord-Alge, Grammy Award-Winning Engineer, South Beach Studios (Avril Lavigne, Bon Jovi, P!nk, Weezer, Hanson, The Rolling Stones)


“Every aspect of a rig influences the decisions that are made when creating music. After much comparison with other converters and word clocks, the Black Lion Audio Sparrow-MKII ADC White and Sparrow DAC White are the two that I trust to give me accurate, truthful representations of the music that I work on.”

– Justin Hergett, Grammy-nominated Engineer, Main Street Studios (Santana, Crystal Skulls, Nick Jonas, MNDR)


“I take my Sparrows with me everywhere I go. They upgrade every other piece of gear in the studio.”

– Ron Entwistle, Multi-platinum songwriter/producer (Gotye, Eric Clapton, Trent Reznor, Frank Ocean, Massive Attack, Katy Perry, Daft Punk)


“Black Lion is delicious.”

– Jon Castelli, Mirrorball Entertainment (Ariana Grande, Elliphant, Yelle)


From 44.1 to 192k, the Sparrow has you covered. Great sound, these guys know digital audio at Black Lion. This utilitarian approach gives you a converter that sounds every much ‘high end’ as you could ever need”… “but without any fancy features, looks or meters. Go for what matters, the sound. The simplicity is nice also, dial in your sample rate and just rock.

Conclusion: Another winner from the ‘bang for the buck’ experts at BLA. in Chicago. The Sparrow will likely be a vast improvement over your sound, give it a shot and hear for yourself what you might be missing.”

Warren Dent, ZenPro Audio, Orangeburg, SC


“Just wanted to give you all an update on things going on over here. I am presently in mix stages for my production work on Native Canadian (Metis Indian) country blues singer, John McLeod. It’s been an amazing process thus far utilizing all of my BLA studio processors. The record was recorded at Stagg Street Studios on a Vintage Legacy API console utilizing some of the best Mic collection on the west coast. Featuring “Fritz” Lewak on Drums (Jackson Browne, Melissa Etheridge) and Tim Emmons (Rod Stewart, Bo Diddley) on Bass. Of course I made sure I brought along my Micro Clock to keep everything sounding beautiful and solid.

Most overdubs were done at my studio, Emily’s Basement Recording in Hollywood. I utilized my Auteur Mic Pre in stereo mode, recording Dobro and Acoustic Guitars. Everything was monitored through my Sparrow converter to ensure the best possible playback. And finally, for the first time I am employing my BLA PM-8 summing mixer. My mixes are simply slamming and all clocked together once again, with my Micro Clock.

Thanks for the great work BLA!”

George Landress, Mixer/Engineer/Producer
(No Doubt, Jon B., Chaka Khan, Jane’s Addiction, The Killers)


“Just wanted to let you know that after the first two days in the studio with the red sparrow mk2 I couldn’t be happier… it sounds really, really great… The top and bottom ends are just fabulous, my old apogee is shamed, and on craigslist! Will begin recommending to everyone I know in the business right away.. 🙂 Thanks to all…”

Jolyon Dixon, (Pete Townshend, The Who, Rachel Fuller, Rorschach, Amy Macdonald)


“Just hooked up the White Sparrow! WOW! Clocking off of it too, great low end!”

Justin Hergett


“Now everything I record goes through the Auteur and the Sparrow… Everything sounds better through [them]. I have also re-tracked everything in my Bauhaus Remix through the Auteur and the Sparrow.”

John Van Eaton, Mother of Sorrows Studio, Newport, KY
(Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Bauhaus, Love & Rockets, Linkin Park, KMFDM)


“You have gone above and beyond! Just so you know…I’ve been test tracking all day…this thing is insane. It sounds amazing. Thank you so much. This little studio is finally doing what it was supposed to. Be well and thanks again!”

Jay Mehler, Guitarist for RCA recording artist (and NME/Brit award-winning) “Kasabian”


“I just got to try out my white Sparrow Mk2, and to quickly state what I’m thinking now:

This is the best piece of recording hardware that I ever had the chance to use or hear. It looks beautiful, and it sounds amazing. I never had an ADC before where one of these qualities were really archived, let alone both of them together.

Thank you so much for giving “indie” musicians like me a chance to work with such great equipment…”

Gregor Hintner, Vienna, Austria


SparrowMK2 Owners Manual-Cover

SparrowMK2 Owners Manual




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1801 W Belle Plaine Ave
Ste 102
Chicago, IL 60613

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Returns & Exchanges

If you aren’t completely satisfied with your purchase, you can return or exchange it for up to 14 days from the time you receive it. Items must be in their original packaging and in “new” condition to be eligible for a return or exchange. Refunds will only be processed after a returned item has passed our quality control inspection. We can only accept returns or exchanges for items bought directly from us. Please email us at to request an RMA form. Returns and exchanges that don’t include a completed RMA form in the box cannot be processed. Return shipping is not covered by B.L.A.


We extend a two-year warranty on defects in materials and workmanship for all Black Lion Audio products from the date of purchase. This does not cover user error, wear, tear, or abuse. Should your B.L.A. product experience any problems or failures during the warranty period, please email us at to request an RMA form. Warranty repairs that don’t include a completed RMA form in the box cannot be processed.

Non-Warranty Repairs

If your B.L.A. product is in need of a repair that isn’t covered by our warranty, please email us at to request an RMA form. Repairs that don’t include a completed RMA form in the box cannot be processed. We charge a nominal bench fee that covers most repairs. If the cost of a repair exceeds the bench fee, we will contact you.