Hands-On Review:
Mackie MR5 and MR8 Studio Monitors

A big sweet zone and small sweet price
By Jim Gault

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.

Mackie MR5 & MR8
MR5 and MR8 Active Studio Monitors

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.