We put Mackie’s diminutive multimedia speakers to the test.
While I wouldn’t normally suggest using small multimedia monitors as the sole basis of a studio monitoring system, they do have their uses, including secondary playback for those using more upscale monitoring, or as a quick ‘speaker check’ for those who work primarily on headphones. They can also suit anyone making music on a more casual basis, who might also need something through which to feed their computer audio when playing games, or streaming material with audio content.
Mackie’s take on the idea is the CR‑X series, which comes in a choice of four sizes: the CR3‑X, CR4‑X, CR5‑X and CR8‑X, sporting three‑, four‑, five‑ and eight‑inch woofers, respectively. The three‑inch model reviewed here is remarkably compact and easy to set up, so could come in very handy for when you’re working away from home. In this particular model, one speaker hosts all the necessary electronics, including amplification for both speakers, with a simple speaker cable connecting to the second passive monitor, using hi‑fi‑style spring terminals. An internal switch‑mode power supply runs on 100‑240 V AC, and the power cable is captive so there’s nothing to lose. Apart from the electronics, the two speakers are identical and pair their three‑inch woofer with a 0.75‑inch tweeter. The drivers are fed from a passive crossover, and it’s all housed in a rear‑ported enclosure. A switch on the rear panel sets which side your powered speaker is placed.
If more low end is required, Mackie offer an eight‑inch subwoofer as part of the same series. The CR‑X‑series speakers are also available with Bluetooth connectivity (the CR‑X XBT models).
Constructionally, the cabinets are built from a wood‑based material, finished in black, and complemented by a brushed‑metal front panel with a bright green outline motif. Overall they measure just 140 x 180 x 208 mm and weigh a reassuring 3.5kg per pair. Being physically small, the cabinets feel very solid and non‑resonant.
By way of specifications, the CR3‑X covers the 80Hz to 20kHz (‑3dB) range, which is very respectable for such a compact speaker. Per pair, they have a peak level of 97dB SPL, which is loud enough for comfortable close‑up monitoring. The amplifier section is Class‑A/B, and can deliver 50 Watts of peak power.
There's a nice sense of weight to the sound and the highs come over as detailed...
The active speaker of the pair features an on/off switch and three input options on its rear panel, these comprising quarter‑inch jacks, RCA phono connectors and a 3.5mm stereo aux input jack. It also hosts a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack on its front panel, which mutes the speakers when a jack is inserted. The volume of the speakers or connected headphones can be controlled from a knob, again on the front panel of the powered speaker. Turning this control fully anti‑clockwise also turns off the speakers.
Though presented as multimedia speakers, playing back a selection of music demonstrates that these speakers are a cut above what you might expect from such a description, and they wouldn’t be disgraced in comparison with many similarly sized studio monitors at the affordable end of the price range. Though the bass is slightly plummy, there’s a nice sense of weight to the sound and the highs come over as detailed, only turning aggressive if you turn up the level too far. I’d definitely be happy to use these speakers for tracking when working away from my studio, and having the option to plug in headphones is a nice touch if you aren’t already using an audio interface with a phones outlet. They would also serve well in place of a TV soundbar, especially with the addition of the sub.
Mackie’s compact speakers sound surprisingly big, and have applications in both domestic and studio environments. The headphone output is a nice touch too.