The Mackie MR monitor series is a new lineup that’s designed to be more affordable than the flagship HR series, without sacrificing Mackie quality and versatility. In June 2008, I reviewed the MR5 and found it to be a great bargain monitor for personal and project studios. Recently, I received a pair of Mackie MR8s, the big brother to the MR5. This review digs into the similarities and differences between the two.
What it is
The MR8 is a biamplified, rear-ported monitor that features an ABS molded baffle and an MDF cabinet. The MR8’s driver construction consists of an 8” steel-frame woofer coupled with a 1” silk dome tweeter. A Class-AB amplifier powers the MR8 in a 100W/50W configuration.
Connections to the MR8 are straightforward with balanced XLR, balanced 1/4” and unbalanced RCA inputs. The RCA jacks are a nice touch for home users or DJs needing to connect prosumer devices like hi-fi amplifiers, turntable mixers, or iPods. The control section on the MR8 includes high- and low-frequency filters, an input-level control , and a toggle on/off switch. The MR8 streets for about $280 per speaker.
The MR8 is a good looking monitor with lines similar to the MR5. The satin-black cabinet and low-sheen baffle go well together and create a look that’s understated and professional. A single white light glows when the MR8 is powered on, and a Mackie badge adorns the baffle. Like the MR5, the MR8 blends in well on a monitor bridge without screaming “budget speaker”. Weighing in at just under 28 lbs, the MR8 is quite heavy for a speaker this size.
I listened to, tracked, and mixed with the MR8s for about three weeks. The MR8 is voiced very similar to the MR5 but with an extended low end response due to the larger 8” driver. High-end response is smooth without sounding crispy or artificial, and for users who need to tailor the highs a control switch allows ±2 dB of HF boost or cut. In my review of the MR5 I preferred the HF control set to the –2 dB position and my leanings carried over with the MR8. There wasn’t anything “wrong” with highs in the default position, I just prefer a darker sounding monitor.
The low end is definitely more extended than the low end on the MR5 and I found the usable range to run to about 60 Hz (this is also what the spec sheet claims). An LF boost control adds either 2 dB or 4 dB to the low end. In either of the boosted positions the MR8s took on too much of a “boom box” flavor for me, but the options could be useful where neded.
Mixing on the MR8 was very similar to my experience with the MR5. The stereo imaging of the MR8 is surprisingly good for a speaker in this price range. I found the resolution to be about average, similar to that of the MR5, with some transient details in the very high end getting lost. However, unless you’re working on finger cymbal symphonies this isn’t a deal killer.
The MR5s had a noticeable dip in the midrange and the MR8s do inherit this anomaly. The midrange dip isn’t unusable, but it does take some getting used to. During playback on several reference systems I did have to go back to my mixes and correct for some “ambitious” midrange eq adjustments. The midrange isn’t ruler flat, but it’s not bad and with a little ear adjustment the midrange shouldn’t be an issue for most listeners. Other than the aforementioned midrange issue, my mixes on the MR8s translated well across iPods, car stereos and (most importantly) alarm clocks.
In my MR5 review I noted that the monitors would be a good fit for home and project studio users who need reliable, accurate monitoring without taking on a second mortgage. The same holds true for the MR8, and this speaker is a great fit if you need an affordable monitor with just a little more bottom end bump. For less than $600, the MR8 is a rocking pair of monitors for the up and coming musician, DJ, or sound engineer.
Price: $359.99 each
More from: Mackie, 16220 Wood-Red Rd. NE, Woodinville, WA 98072. 425/487-4333, www.mackie.com.
Nick Casares (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a musician, producer, engineer, and web designer living and working in Colorado.