Hands-On Review:Get Active! Mackie’s SRM450, SRS1500, SR1530 PA Speakers


The sound reinforcement arena is in the midst of a love affair with powered speakers. A bunch of manufacturers have jumped on that bandwagon by slap-ping power amps into their cabs and proudly announcing their new powered speaker lines. But it’s important to understand the distinctions between those powered speak-ers and the type of true active speaker technology that goes into Mackie’s systems.

Passive versus active
Old-technology powered speakers still contain passive crossovers - albeit with a shorter length of wire than standard, passive cabs. By contrast, Mackies are jammed with sophisticated electronics that per-form functions far beyond simple crossovers. These include equalization, phase correction, and time correction - processes that render a more accurate sonic image. Combined with dedicated amps for each transducer, Mackie’s designs ensure that the sound coming off your board is transparent and precisely reproduced.

The passive puzzle
The folks at Mackie compare matching a passive speaker and amp to the process of buying a new car and then having to shop for an engine that perfectly matches the car’s drive train. Imagine having to choose from among hundreds of possible engines from dozens of manufacturers who only provide vague information about the likelihood of their engine matching your car. That’s pretty much what you’re up against in trying to match amps and passive speakers. One size fits all Manufacturers design their amps without knowing what you’re going to connect them to. They design them to handle a bunch of unknown variables. Their amps have to function with variable impedances and frequencies. They have to hook up to and function with voice coils, crossovers, and cable types and lengths that are all over the map. These manufacturers have to come up with amp designs that are all things to all speakers and systems. The result is compromise. Compromise that can steal accuracy from your sound.

A better way
When a designer sets out to create an active speaker system, there is little such guesswork or compromise in matching components. Mackie is able to exactly match the amps they engineer to the transducers those amps will drive. For woofers, they design amps with high current and power output to move a specific low-frequency
driver. Conversely, in creating amps for high-frequency transducers, they specify less overall power but ensure the amp has the high peak power capacity to accurately reproduce high-frequency transients. Thus transducers can be driven to maximum output without risk of burnout.

Passive crossovers: strictly old school
Most crossovers consist of a few bucks worth of coils, capacitors, and resistors and are “powered” by the signal from the power amp. Many of them cause audible trouble by producing phase shifts and frequency spikes. Worse, they’re inefficient, using as much as 30% of the amp’s power at some frequencies. Replacing this crude signal-splitting setup with active circuitry opens up a new world of possibilities.

Active electronics changes everything
With active circuitry you get phase-accurate electronic crossover. Equalization can be shaped for the smoothest possible speaker responses. Phase alignment is handled dynamically. Time correction is implemented so that each speaker’s output arrives at the listener simultaneously. And it supports protection circuitry that doesn’t impact the sound yet intervenes in microseconds if something’s amiss.

In effect, with Mackie’s active speakers, you get a whole rack’s worth of electronics that make their speaker systems work and sound better. But enough theory. Let’s take a look at Mackie’s active speaker system lineup.

The SRM450 Active 2-Way Monitor
his system belts out tight bass all the way past 55Hz. The high end is detailed and articulate out to 20kHz. Midrange is warm and natural and is free from ear-wearying harshness. Dispersion is exceptionally wide. With SRM450s cranking out the groove, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The enclosure is a study in convenience and strength. According to Mackie, they nuked their R&D budget in coming up with a bulletproof design whose mold weighs 32 tons! With three handles, great balance, and numerous placement options, roadies love these things. Sound guys will love them too. There’s a full complement of status indicators, connectors, and controls.

The SRS1500 Subwoofer
Don’t be fooled by its compact size. This bad boy will add serious cojones to the bottom end of any PA system - active or passive. Mackie owns one of the world’s top trans-ducer manufacturers where they cooked up its custom-designed woofer with a special three inch voice coil. With 600 watts of high-current output to the transducer and a modest footprint, you can put the 1500 to work in just about any venue.

The SR1530 Active 3-Way Speaker
If two are good, three are even better. And the three drivers in the 1530 have each been optimized to work in concert with the three dedicated amp modules, each in turn tailored to the speakers. Each module is designed to deliver the right current and power to its transducer resulting in great efficiency. Though rated at just 500 watts, a comparable passive system would require a whole lot more amp to deliver the same sound levels. But it’s about more than just sheer output. Like the other Mackie actives, this is an exceptionally musical system that has been fine-tuned to produce huge volumes of easy-to-listen-to sound.

If you’re ready to step up to Mackie’s active speaker technology, Musician’s Friend has them in stock at the best prices around.

Features & Specs

Mackie Active Loudspeaker

  • Electronic processing
  • Servo feedback
  • Time correction
  • FR series amplifiers
  • Easy carry and setup

SRM450 Active 2-Way

  • Ultra-wide audience coverage
  • High dispersion horn aperture
  • Damped titanium HF driver
  • 400W RMS power
  • Built-in EQ, phase alignment, time correction
  • Ergonomic design

SRS1500 Subwoofer

  • 127dB SPL
  • 600W RMS power
  • 15" cast-frame driver
  • Built-in electronic high-pass crossover
  • Use with active or passive systems
  • Ultra-small footprint
  • 13-ply Baltic birch enclosure

SR1530 Active 3-Way

  • Frequency response: 42Hz-20kHz
  • 500W RMS tri-amp power
  • Optimized Wavefront high/mid horn system
  • 15" LF transducer with special voice coil
  • 6" horn-loaded midrange
  • 1" exit-compression driver
  • Rugged Baltic birch cab