US audio products manufacturer Mackie was founded in 1988 in Seattle. They have become well-known in audio circles for their budget range of audio mixers. The CR1604, which could be used either as a desktop or rack-mounted mixer, became a huge success. Other products followed, and Mackie established themselves as a major manufacturer of affordable mixers.
They diversified and moved into the design and manufacture of powered and reference speakers. Speaker systems now make up over fifty percent of the turnover. They have allowed Mackie to become a major player in the audio market. We are going to take a look at one of their products in our Mackie CR4 Review.
The CR4 pair of speakers from Mackie are built to studio performance standard. They have been principally designed for the creation of multimedia. This means they are suitable for music production and low-level mixing and creating film music. They are compact and portable and ideal for use in a small studio or at home.
These monitors are good for editing and playback or just watching a video. They are also ideal for playing music from a desktop or a variety of devices. The Mackie CR4 pair of speakers are versatile and functional for all multimedia work.
As with most things today, one question that always seems to pop is…
We often see ‘Made in …’ and it is not always wholly accurate. Mackie promotes their products as US made and most of it is but not all. They use an ODM ( Original Design Manufacturer) called Meiloon from China. Also, another called Tymphany who are based in the US but who have factories in China.
We don’t personally see why this is a problem. Mackie will source what they need. If they can get a better product from overseas, they will do so. That is good business sense, which means a better product.
Mackie is an established, respected business and are not going to use poor quality components. If some are made in China, then it is because it is the best they can locate.
One of the things you can always be sure about with Mackie is the quality of the build and the components used. These monitors have this superior combination that is usually only found on monitors costing much more.
They are constructed of strong fiberboard and then given a coating of a toughened plastic. The wood cabinet gives an expansive natural sound that is far better than a totally plastic enclosure. The monitors are finished in black trim with illuminated green surrounds on the speakers and an off and on control. This also acts as a volume control.
We can’t honestly say that we are particularly impressed with the illuminated green. Somehow it doesn’t seem to fit the understated and minimalist design of the cabinet.
They have a four-inch polypropylene coated woofer and a three-quarter-inch tweeter with a silk dome. At the rear, each cabinet has a rear tuned bass port. This is to ensure an even distribution of the low-end frequencies. This combination puts out an output of 50 watts.
The setup consists of one powered speaker driven by a Class AB amplifier. The other speaker is a passive speaker that is unpowered. They connect via the supplied six-foot stereo cable. A useful feature that is built-in is a switch that lets you decide whether the powered speaker will be to the left or to the right.
This is a helpful idea when locating them near to the mains supply. Possibly even just to decide whether you want the control knob to the left or the right.
They are a sturdy build measuring 12.5 inches by 16.3 by 9.5, and they weigh 12 pounds. Built to be compact and portable, they are a comfortable size and weight. Assembled, tested, and largely made in the US with a few component parts from China, they have an excellent build quality.
This is the area where care needs to be taken. When you see a set of speakers described as ‘reference monitors,’ you are expecting studio-level performance. It is clear, though, that you are not going to get studio-level performance monitors at this price point.
Even if they do punch above their weight, which these speakers do given the price point, they are fine for low-level multimedia work and even very basic music mixing. But you must not confuse that operation with a professional studio environment.
They have a frequency response of 70 to 20,000 Hz and deliver a Sound Pressure level of 100dB. The frequency response, it must be said, though, is not flat, which is what you will get from reference speakers.
The sound for using on your desk is good. The depth of the low frequencies isn’t that great, but it is adequate. There are compensations as they have some quality built-in features like a sound-enhancing waveguide for higher frequencies.
The sound can be described as very good for hobbyist music and media production and playback. Not sufficient for higher levels of mixing. However, they could be used as an additional set of monitors, along with flatter reference pro monitors, to get more of a ‘real-world’ perspective on a mix. For the price point, though, they are good, and this needs to be borne in mind.
With two exceptions, the controls are located at the back of the speakers with the bass ports. The exceptions are placed on the front for convenience. There is the illuminated power button, which also serves as a volume control.
Also, an Aux in placed on the same speaker. This allows you to plug your phone or other devices straight in. A good idea to place it on the front, which saves you having to get around the back to plug it in.
On the rear of the passive speaker is just the connections for the cabling to the powered speaker. On the powered speaker, there are left and right TRS inputs. TRS connections can be used for stereo and mono balanced signals. This could be a line input or output from an external source like a mixer.
Below them RCA inputs and outputs and below that the speaker position selection switch. There are also speaker connections to the passive speaker and a mains off/on.
All very simple and straightforward. We do like the idea of having the Aux In for devices on the front, as we said, it makes life a lot easier.
A speaker to speaker cable is provided as are a stereo RCA cable for connecting a computer. Also a cable for connections to devices using the AUX IN on the front of the speakers.
Pads to create acoustic isolation are also included, which is a superb idea. These reduce the excess build-up of bass and also give you a tilt option to change the angle of sound delivery.
Need Something To Go With It?
Having a good set of monitors is obviously the way to go, but to make the best music possible, you’ll need some equipment to go with it. So please check out our reviews of the Best Vocal Mics, the Best Microphone Preamp, the Best Dynamic Microphones, the Best Microphones Recording Electric Guitar, and the Best Studio Headphones for Home Recording currently available.
Mackie CR4 Pros & Cons
- Excellent build quality and materials.
- The sound fidelity is more than acceptable, considering the price point.
- 50-watt output gives clear and adequately loud monitoring.
- Excellent for multi-media sound use or as an additional pair of monitors.
- Aux input on the front for easy connections.
- Excellent for the price, but they should not be considered as ‘True’ studio monitors.
- Really not sure about the green illuminated circles, some will love them, lots will not!
The Mackie CR4 multimedia monitors are certainly well-built with a rather limited but useful set of functions. As speakers to use on your desk at home for creating or editing a video, they are well-appointed and functional. For music creation, again on your desk at home, they are adequate without being spectacular. The bottom end is, however rather lacking for music creation.
But then we must keep in mind the price point. For running videos from a laptop or device, they are very good indeed. As reference speakers in the defined sense of the description, they are not so good. The sound would need to be much flatter for that function.
We are possibly being a little over-critical about a pair of speakers that function at this price point. You will not find a pair of quality reference speakers at this price. You will find it hard to find decent multimedia speakers at this price point, either. But these are very good at that level. In that respect, they are good value.
To be fair, the only thing we actually dislike about these speakers is the illuminations on the front. Not for us personally, but some are going to like them, so that is fine.
The Mackie CR4 Review are a pair of speakers that fulfill a function well. If you are looking for an affordable pair of monitors to sit on your desk, play some music or watch some videos, they are excellent. Possibly you might work on some music creation or maybe do some video creation and editing. If that is what you need, then these are a good buy.
Mackie has good quality products, and the Mackie CR4 multimedia monitors are a good example.