Hands-On Review:Mackie SRM350 Active PA Speaker
Mackie SRM350 Active PA Speaker
Setting a new standard for quality in live sound
By Ben Offord
Mackie's SRM450 speakers have made quite a name for themselves in the music world since being introduced a few years back. Great sounding, powerful, simple to use, and extremely portable. Now Mackie has followed up with a new SRM speaker, the SRM350. It extends the line and can only enhance the good reputation the SRM450 already established.
Meeting the SRM350
I was hot to get my hands on the new SRM350s and planned to check them out by using them on my weekend gig. When they arrived, however, I was surprised at how small they were. I'm used to a not-too-bulky set of 12" 2-way boxes. Compared to them, the SRM350s look like reference monitors. They have a molded enclosure, like the SRM450s, but with a 10" woofer instead of a 12". They are amazingly compact – a little over a foot wide, a foot deep, and about 21" tall. They looked awfully small to cut our club gig, but I would reserve judgment until I heard them.
They certainly deserve a full three thumbs up for portability. They weigh 32 lbs. each with molded-in handles on the top and on one side. I can pack both of them at the same time without too much strain. For a preliminary test, I plugged them into my system by themselves without our usual subs. I liked how simple it was. I just ran a mic cable from the mixer to one box and daisy-chained the second box. No muss, no fuss. I even bypassed the equalizer.
A tiny dynamo
I fired up the board and the speakers, put on a break CD, pushed the mixer up to its usual level, and began dialing the volume up on the SRM350s. At about halfway, my jaw began to drop. Each box outputs 195 watts of power (165 watts to the woofer, 30 watts to the horn), which doesn't seem like a lot, but these little guys are so efficient that their modest wattage translates into a lot of sound.
Nor was the sound thin. For having only a 10" woofer, the bass and lower mids really had substance. By the time I worked the level up to three-quarters, the SRM350s were pumping out the dBs and filling our 100' x 70' high-ceiling practice space nicely. The manual says they are capable of 121dB SPL, which is amazing for such small units. Compared to our usual boxes, the SRMs were putting out more volume without introducing feedback. Impressive.
The SRM350 features Dynamic Bass Boost circuitry that automatically adjusts the output of the woofer relative to the horn to keep the bass full at all volume levels. It brings up the bass as the volume is reduced to keep the sound full. The SRM350 also includes a contour switch. I flipped it on and immediately noticed the bass sounded bigger while the highs retained their clarity.
Mackie touts the SRM350s as approaching reference monitor clarity and balance. It's a justifiable claim. The cleanness and clarity of their sound is impressive. These speakers brought out the detail of the music way more than the passive 2-way 12" speakers I was used to. It is also a well-tuned or flat system because feedback didn't occur easily. The SRM350s are not in the least touchy. I was convinced by now that they would handle our club gig with ease.
A look at the specs
I'm no technical ace, but I do know a few things to look for. The SRM350s boast Linkwitz-Riley crossovers—the kind— and Class H amp design, meaning that it has multiple rails it uses as demand becomes heavier, resulting in less heat. Other niceties are a 2" voice coil woofer, a titanium diaphragm high-frequency compression driver, and a horn dispersion of 90 degrees vertical and 80 degrees horizontal. This spread allows them to fill a small to medium-size club so that the sound is consistent in every location. Plus, the speakers can be used as floor monitors. They have a slanted side for such use and the horn has great dispersion when on its side.
At the gig
Over our two nights at the club, I tried out the SRM350s three different ways: as pole mounted mains by themselves, as mains over subwoofers, and as side-fill monitors. They performed beautifully in all three applications. Our band usually runs only vocals, kick drum, and synth through the PA. The guitar and bass run through stage amps only. What we discovered with the SRM350s by themselves as mains was that our vocals sounded the best they ever had. Our 12" 2-ways are high-quality boxes, but the SRM350s sounded better.
I have heard that 10" woofers are better for voices than larger 12" woofers, and now I believe it. It is amazing how much better you can sing when your sound has clarity and fills the air so that it surrounds you. When we added the subs under them, the system thumped big time and the top end held up even when the dance floor was packed and the band played loud.
The SRM350s worked great for us in a stage PA, and I can imagine them doing superbly for other applications. They seem ideal for installed systems, both in smaller club settings or larger concert halls. They are flyable and can be daisy chained up to seven units. They are perfect for DJs and other mobile applications because of their big sound, compactness, and portability. They are especially ideal for performing groups that only need to reinforce voices and acoustic instruments because of the clarity and balanced quality of their sound.
The SRM350s are great speakers and should meet with the same success as their larger brothers, continuing Mackie's leadership position in the active speaker arena. If you think that a 10" is too small for your purposes, I suggest you reconsider and give the SRM350 a closer look.
Features & Specs: