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Mackie CR3-X review

In today’s world, of all the hurdles musicians must face, the most pressing matter is, of course, money.

In between the debts of touring, selling merch, being strangled by record labels, and selling your soul just to be featured on some 17-year old’s Spotify playlist, musicians must constantly ask themselves whether they’re willing to starve for weeks or buy a decent piece of much-needed gear. What’s worse is that the affordable gear is often junk.

Enter the Mackie CR3-X, a pair of which cost less than $100, and at a glance, may serve as a potential solution to the whole food/gear conundrum. My opinion? Meh. Still junk, but they might be useful to pawn off at a later date.

About the author

I’m a producer and audio engineer with a decade’s worth of experience with a wide range of gear and recording techniques. I’ve worked with a huge variety of monitoring systems, including Genelec, Neumann, Adam Audio, Focal, JBL, and Yamaha, among others.

Mackie CR3-X monitors review
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the Mackie CR3-X 3.4

While these monitors are incredibly cheap, their performance could have been bolstered quite easily had Mackie taken the time to do so. They make an okay option for beginners, hobbyists, or even for computer desktops and gaming. What they don’t make a good option for, is music-making at any professional level.

What I like

  • Insanely affordable.
  • Small footprint.
  • Good for mobile recording.

What I don’t like

  • No low end.
  • Harsh treble.
Buy Mackie CR3-X at: SweetwaterAmazon

Power and frequency response 2.6

The Mackie CR3-X has a frequency response of 80 Hz – 20 kHz at the -3 dB points (and 70 Hz – 20 kHz at -10 dB), which is fairly respectable for speakers this size. Powerful enough for close-listening, a pair of them has a peak level of 97 dB SPL.

Mackie CR3-X tweeter
Image: Higher Hz

Unfortunately, I can’t recommend these speakers for any serious audio mixing purposes. Besides offering little to no information in the low end, the smiley-faced frequency response shape and boosted high end makes it nearly impossible for me to say that this monitor should be used in any professional setting.

Mackie CR3-X woofer
Image: Higher Hz

At higher levels, I can hear a lot of distortion, particularly in the “low end”, aka the lower mid-range in Mackie’s case. The upper bass honks, there is no lower bass, the treble runs hot, and overall the speakers sound harsh.

I/O and controls 4.0

A pair consists of one active and one passive speaker. On the rear panel of the active speaker is an On/Off switch as well as several input options. Featured are two TRS jacks, unbalanced RCA inputs, as well as a 1/8-inch stereo Aux input.

There is also a 1/8-inch stereo headphone input upon the front panel of the active speaker, as well as a volume knob that controls the gain for both the headphones and monitors.

Mackie CR3-X inputs, outputs, and controls
Image: Higher Hz

The speakers mute themselves whenever a headphone jack is inserted, and it should also be noted that rotating the volume knob counter-clockwise to mute will turn the speakers off.

Build quality 3.8

The green highlights along the edges give the Mackies a sharp look. They’re small and very lightweight. I wouldn’t say that they feel particularly solid, but overall, they appear to be well-built.

Compared to other studio monitors

While a pair of Mackie CR3-X is probably the best choice under $100, here are a few other options to compare against these monitors.

Mackie CR3-X vs PreSonus Eris E3.5

Neither of these monitors should be bought for serious mixing applications, but if you must pick out of the two, the Mackie is slightly more neutral which gives it the upper hand. Even though the Mackie lacks the EQ controls that the PreSonus offers, I still find that the CR3-X performs better.

Read the full PreSonus Eris E3.5 review

Mackie CR3-X vs Yamaha HS5

If you have the means, please buy the Yamaha HS5. The Yamahas are actually usable for professional mixing, not the Mackies. If you’re looking for a cheap, and over-glorified computer speaker, the Mackies will do, but that’s the most I can say.

Read the full Yamaha HS5 review

Mackie CR3-X vs Behringer MS16

Let’s save everybody the headache here and just say that the CR3-X is better. Behringer has plenty of other products that may be worth your consideration, but these aren’t.

Who are the Mackie CR3-X speakers best suited for?

The Mackie CR3-X speakers are best suited for beginner bedroom producers looking for a pair of monitors on a very tight budget.

Buy Mackie CR3-X at: SweetwaterAmazon