Hands-On Review:Mackie S200 Series Speaker Systems
Mackie S200 Series Speaker Systems
The good stuff priced so bands can afford it
By Andrew Lerner
For two decades, Mackie has been providing musicians with gear that pumps out incredibly good sound. You see their speakers everywhere--on bandstands, in concert halls--all the quality venues. The reason is design excellence. When you put more expert thought into how you make something, you come up with a superior product, and that is what Mackie has consistently done. The SA Series speakers have been widely popular, as have the SR models.
This kind of excellence usually commands a lofty sum, and price has prevented many of us from acquiring the Mackie gear we desire. Now Mackie has brought some relief with its new S200 Series Precision Passive Loudspeakers. The series combines Mackie's most advanced technology and design, high-quality components, and roadworthy construction with a price that is astoundingly moderate. They sound great and are built to handle road abuse, yet are priced within reach for many bands and mobile DJs. They also have the sound quality and reliability for daily duty in clubs, dance halls, and concert rooms.
Currently there are three S200 models: the S215 passive 2-way with a 15" woofer and high-frequency driver and horn; the S225 which is the same but with two 15" woofers for massive bottom-end; and an 18" subwoofer (the S218s) that pairs with either of the two-ways. I was urged to give them a rigorous trial, so I decided to test them under real gig conditions.
Designed by experts
The whole band was eager to use the Mackie speakers. We don't often get a chance to play on premium gear, and the S Series speakers are seriously premium. The drivers and circuitry were designed and tuned by Eastern Acoustic Works, world-class sound engineers who specialize in systems for large tours and events such as the Super Bowl. These speakers were designed for high-power use and employ technologies developed by EAW for their large-venue systems.
The cabs are made of 18mm birch plywood treated with a pressure-injected resin. The birch construction makes them strong and durable. The 15" woofers have special 2-1/2" high-temperature voice coils. A 1-3/4" titanium-diaphragm compression driver on a Mackie Waveguide horn delivers precise mids and highs with wide dispersion and ultralow distortion.
Power and punch
These aren't sissy speakers. The S215 rates at 350W RMS handling and 1,400 peak ( the S218s sub is rated at 500RMS and 2,000W peak, the S225 at 700W and 2,800W). They won't fry easily and are capable of long-term heavy use. Recessed steel handles on each side make toting them as easy as carrying speakers ever gets. The vinyl covering should withstand heavy use without getting that tattered look. The industrial-strength grille protects the speakers from the public. Input and thru Speakon and 1/4" jacks allow both kinds of cables to work.
Straight from carton to club
Performance and sound quality, not looks, are attributes that separate a speaker from the two-way herd. Our weekend gig was the perfect way to see how the Mackies measured up. We play Friday and Saturday nights at a local night spot, so the first night we decided to run the S215 pair and an S218 sub. We started with just the S215 pair. This matched our usual setup and would let us compare the Mackies to our regular speakers.
As always, we made mellow for the first set and featured our vocals. The sound we got with the S215 pair was impressive--very clean and clear with defined mids and a full, responsive low-end. Our regular speakers are decent, but the S215 pair definitely trumped them. Our vocals came across with more clarity than we were used to and that made everyone sing better. The Mackies also had a warmth I liked. I've always had a preference for wood cabs because of their warmer sound.
Pumping it up
By the end of the first set, the dance floor was starting to see some action, so during our break we powered-up the amp running the subs and prepared to use blunt force. Adding the subs was easy. They have a low-pass filter that does away with any need for a crossover.
The reaction was instantaneous when we started playing. The dance floor packed out and stayed that way. With the bass and bass drum in sync and pumping out floor-throbbing lows, dancers couldn't resist the pulse. The sub added a tight, precise, and punchy bottom of compelling power.
The combination was killer. We had never had better sound, and when we needed more volume, the Mackie S speakers accommodated with ease. The specs say they are capable of around 130dB. I know we got plenty loud and the S speakers never hinted of being near their limit.
The next night was even better. This time we used the Mackie S225 pair for the first set, then added the subs for the ultimate overkill system. The extended lows of the S225 make it big-beat capable on its own. With the subs, the bottom got so big we had to dial back the volume because of too much thump.
The audience loved it and so did we. It's going to be a letdown to play on our regular gear next time around. Maybe Musician's Friend will give us a special deal on these now that they're used.
Features & Specs: