Hands-On Review:Mackie MR5 and MR8 Studio Monitors

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A big sweet zone and a small sweet price!

By Jim Gault
Musician’s Friend Staff Writer

Mackie has been a leader in sound reproduction for some years now,  both in the concert hall and the studio. Mackie’s HR Series reference  monitors have pretty much dominated the project and home studio world,  providing such facilities with innovative audio technology and  pro-level, reference-quality sound. The only rub for many musicians with  home studios has been the cost of the HR speakers.


Though not expensive by pro-studio standards, the HRs do require what  amounts to a serious commitment of cash for the amateur recordist. Now  Mackie has introduced the new MR line to ease the economic strain with a  more affordable sound solution. Launching this new line are two new  models, the MR5 and the MR8.  Both are powered monitors and draw heavily upon the HR technology to  deliver accurate and very detailed reference-quality sound at prices  that are surprisingly affordable.


Accuracy is a critical factor when it comes to mixing. In order to  mix properly the sound has to be flat and neutral. Any excessive  coloring or anomalies in the form of peaks and dips in response will  skew your results in unpredictable ways once the music is played back on  other systems. Car stereos, headphones, and speakers in home systems  have different characteristics and you want to create mixes that can  work on them all. The MR speakers are designed to give you the  transparency and neutrality that allow you to do so with certainty and  consistency.


Coordinated components


A monitor speaker is an assemblage of components, and how these fit  together makes all the difference. Often, only subtle technical features  separate a great speaker from a less than perfect one. The shape of the  baffle that surrounds a tweeter doesn’t look significant, but it is.  The MR baffle’s precisely molded shape has been carefully designed and  tested to minimize sound wave defraction. In other words, it guides the  wave to ensure broad and even dispersion and smooth transition between  lows and highs. The idea is to give you a consistent sound anywhere  within the sound field, so that it creates a large sweet spot.


Even more important components are the drivers themselves. The MR  monitors use steel-frame woofers and silk-dome tweeters that Mackie  builds themselves for assured quality and consistency. They are designed  to work together perfectly to provide low distortion and extreme sonic  clarity over a wide, unbroken frequency range.


Perfected power


Amplifier design is another critical aspect of the MR monitors that  draws upon the knowledge gained through engineering the HR Series. The  amps have the same Class A/B architecture as the HR amplifiers, and are  tuned to the specific shape and size of the enclosures and the speakers.  Mackie has designed these amps to provide substantially more headroom  than other amps in their class. The MR5 delivers 85W/50W at peak, while the MR8 produces 200W/100W at peak for a full 100% headroom! As a result, they  can get louder, but more important, maintain greater accuracy over a  wide dynamic range. This headroom also makes them more adept at handling  transients.


Inside the box


The cabinet that houses the MR monitor is not just a box big enough  to hold the speakers and amplifier. As much as any other component in  the system, the enclosure affects the overall sound. It is engineered  precisely to minimize noise, maximize efficiency, and is perfectly tuned  to the system’s other components and power.


The MR cabinet is made of high-quality MDF which is rigid enough to  prevent vibration and neutral as far as adding resonance or coloring,  even with bass-heavy, high-volume source material. The port is the  proper size to prevent pressure buildup that can inhibit driver  movement, and it enhances bass response. The port is also given a  precise curved shape that prevents port whistle as air rushes in and  out.


Studio and beyond


The MR monitors are designed for critical music mixing applications  thanks to their accuracy. But this doesn’t mean they can’t be used for  other applications in the home. They make hellaciously good speakers for  a stereo system or for home theater setups. You can even combine MR5s and MR8s for surround sound or DJ setups. For multiple monitor applications you  can add Mackie’s Big Knob as a convenient management system.


A final reason for the MR monitors’ appeal is their low prices. There  are plenty of economical monitors on the market, but until now, none  sporting the Mackie nameplate. The badge alone should help convince you  that these are affordable monitors that rise above the value-priced  crowd. Mackie has enthusiastic supporters by virtue of its innovative  and advanced engineering in the field of sound reproduction, and the MR  monitors will add many more.


Features & Specs

  • Studio monitor with true active design
  • Precision Class A/B amplifiers with active protection circuits
  • 55W for LF/30W for HF (MR5)
  • 100W for LF/50W for HF (MR8)
  • HF and LF acoustic controls for room correction
  • Balanced XLR, TRS, and unbalanced RCA inputs
  • Ultralow-distortion 5-1/4" steel frame LF transducer (MR5)
  • Ultralow-distortion 8" steel frame LF transducer (MR8)
  • Waveguide loaded 1" high-resolution HF transducer
  • Minimum-diffraction molded baffle for smooth, wide sweet zone
  • Magnetically shielded for safe placement near computer/video monitors
  • Precisely tuned for working inter-changeably with other MR units
  • Frequency response:
    • MR5 = 60Hz-20kHz (±3dB)
    • MR8 = 40Hz-20kHz (±3dB)
  • Maximum SPL:
    • MR5 = 113dB
    • MR8 = 116dB