Mackie has been a mainstay in the studio equipment world since the early ‘90s, making its early mark with mixers and making big inroads with the introduction of the HR824 monitors in 1997. The new MRmk3 series of monitors fits right into the company mission of quality and affordability.
The Mackie MRmk3 series comprises three self-powered near-field monitors and a subwoofer. The MR5mk3 uses a 5.25-inch woofer (50 watts), MR6mk3 a 6.5-inch woofer (65W), MR8mk3 an 8-inch woofer (85W), all with a 1-inch silk-dome tweeter. The MR10Smk3 Subwoofer (120W) is built around a 10-inch glass aramid woofer. The enclosures are all MDF, the knobs, switches and jacks are all solid, and nothing feels cheap about the MRmk3 series. All the fine-print specs are available on Mackie’s Website.
The first stage of testing was done in the professionally designed control room at Eclectica Studios in Austin. The playback system comprises Sequoia playing through my favorite Mytek Stereo192 DSD Mastering Version D/A, through Monster and Mogami cables. The speakers were placed on isolation stands, properly positioned for the room. I listened to many sources over many days; in this review I will mostly refer to Bonnie Raitt’s song “I Will Not Be Broken.”
I first tested the MR10 mk3 Subwoofer and admit that I was a little skeptical before listening. First, the rating is only 100W, but throughout the testing, the sub’s volume was never more than 25 percent. Second, phase choices are limited to only 0 or 180 degrees of polarity shift. I am used to the ability to dial in the phase. And third, the crossover is very gentle—set to 80 Hz, 500 Hz was still very present in the output. All that said, I was able to dial in the sub with every combination of speaker and room, and it was clean, clear and punchy when called upon.
I then set up and dialed in the MR5mk3 with the sub. The system sounded evenly balanced and smooth, yielding a good stereo image. At 1:55 in the Bonnie Raitt song, there is some microphone preamp distortion on the electric guitar fill. On my Neumann KH Series monitors, it’s very apparent, but on the MR5mk3s it was not nearly as noticeable and I wonder if most would hear it at all. Overall the sonic detail is good, but not excellent; however, considering that the monitors sell for $150 street, it’s amazing.
At 2:13 in the Bonnie Raitt song, there is a guitar fill reminiscent of Brian May from Queen that is psychoacoustic or phase-panned to the left, and the MR5mk3 reproduced it wonderfully. The MR5mk3s without the sub sounded very impressive, solid right down to 40 Hz. The MR5mk3 monitors are very even sounding with only a slight hype to the bottom that is nice.
While dialing in The MR6mk3, I had to bring the high frequencies down -2 dB using the settings on the rear panel, but doing this made the preamp distortion at 1:55 on our test song inaudible. The stereo image was equally as good as the MR5mk3s. Without the subs, the MR6mk3s sounded very even. I can definitely work day to day using these.
Next up was the MR8mk3, the much larger 8-inch woofer model. When used with the sub, it resulted in mud—the low-midrange and bottom end were extremely hyped. The highs and detail were okay, but the stereo image was not reproduced well; the phase panning at 2:13 did not translate. I am afraid that mixing with these would never translate. I had the same result without the sub. They were too hyped in the low end. Pushing these also seemed to badly increase the 800 to 3k Hz range exponentially. None of these observations were subtle.
For this test I set up my laptop with Sequoia running through a $99 NI Audio DJ 2 USB bus- powered interface using cables from Hosa and Monster. The laptop was on a small table in this 10x12-foot room. The subwoofer sat out in front of the table with the two near-field monitors placed on Quik-Lok stands. The only bad node in the room at my listening position was at about 40 Hz.
The MR6mk3s sounded very good—still missing some high-end detail, but overall they sounded clear, punchy and even. The stereo imaging, however, was gone. The sound just came straight out of the speaker. The phase panning that occurs at 2:13 in the Bonnie Raitt test song was non-existent, but that’s the room’s issue and not the speakers’—score one for using a properly designed room. The overall sound was impressive and surpassed any other speakers I’ve tested in this price range. Running the MR6mk3s without the subwoofer yielded a much more boxy sound until I turned on the +3dB boost for the lows, which helped.
Next I listened to the MR5mk3s. Even with the sub I could not tame the monitors’ boxy sound, with too much of it in the 900 to 3k Hz range. There also seemed to be a big disconnect between the MR5mk3s and the sub; the sound never seemed to gel. Moving the crossover point on the sub up to 180 Hz helped, but at the cost of the stereo separation and image, as the sub produced a strong level up past 2 kHz.
The MR5mk3s by themselves with the bass boosted to +4 dB sounded very good! Bass extended down to 50 Hz before dipping out, partly due to the node in the room, I’m sure.
I tested the MR8mk3s without the subwoofer, and they completely overwhelmed this room. I also heard a lot more phase and room issues; there was a lot of phase cancellation from 125 Hz down to 55 Hz. I’m not sure whether this is due to how the speaker is designed and ported, but they did not work in this room.
The Final Verdict
I have been to many home studios and heard many monitors that are priced at $500 or less, and have rarely been satisfied. In my opinion the MR5mk3 and MR6mk3 are at the top. The MR10Smk3 subwoofer? I loved it, and I’m still loving it, as I bought the test unit. I can’t say I truly liked the MR8mk3. It always seemed overwhelming and way too hyped. If you are in need of good monitors, the MR5mk3 and MR6mk3 should be at the top of your list to try out. If you have yet to add a subwoofer to your system, or are looking for a new one, the MR10Smk3 is spot on!
Tim Dolbear is a producer, mixer and mastering engineer at Eclectica Studios in Austin, Texas.
PRODUCT NAME: MR mark3 Series Studio Monitors
PRICE (each): MR5mk3 $199; MR6mk3 $259; MR8mk3 $329; MR10Smk3 $449
PROS: Excellent value. Good choice for A/V and edit bays. Clean and clear subwoofer. Input capabilities.
CONS: No LF cut adjustments. Only balanced ¼-inch outs on the sub to feed the satellites with.