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. Our opinion? Meh. Still junk, but they might be useful to pawn off at a later date.
Our verdict on the Mackie CR3-X
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.Available at: SweetwaterAmazon
Power and frequency response
The Mackie CR3-X has a frequency response of 80 Hz – 20 kHz at the -3 dB points, 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.
Unfortunately, we 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 us to say that this monitor should be used in any professional setting.
At higher levels, we 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
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 three TRS jacks, unbalanced RCA inputs, as well as a 3.5 mm stereo Aux input.
There is also a 3.5 mm 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.
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.
The green highlights along the edges give the Mackies a sharp look. They’re small and very lightweight.
The cabinets seem to be built of wood and finished in black. We wouldn’t say that they feel particularly solid, but overall, they appear to be well-built.
Compared to other monitors/speakers
Here are a few other options to compare against the Mackie CR3-X monitors. You can also check out our picks for the best budget studio 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, we still find that the CR3-X performs better.
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.
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 we can say.
- Insanely affordable.
- Small footprint.
- Good for mobile recording.
- No low end.
- Harsh treble.