Mackie MR5MK2 Active Studio Monitor Review

Jun 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Michael Cooper



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The MR5mk2’s internally braced cabinet has open-cell foam inside to absorb internal reflections and help damp standing waves. It’s also magnetically shielded.

The woofer’s amplifier provides up to 55 watts of continuous power. The tweeter’s amp is rated at 30W continuous. Both amps are Class-A/B and provide active protection circuitry. While they are the same amps as those used in the original MR5, they’ve been re-voiced to match the mk2’s new drivers. The crossover frequency has been lowered to 3 kHz from 4 kHz in the original MR5.

The speakers have internal fuses to prevent damage from excessive levels, and the drivers’ amplifiers automatically and independently shut down if they get too hot. A highpass filter is situated before the woofer’s amplifier to prevent over-excursion; it provides 12dB/octave roll-off below 50 Hz. The resulting frequency response is 50-20k Hz, ±2 dB—phenomenal for such a small monitor. The maximum output level per pair is 116dB SPL at 1 meter—loud enough to dry your hair!

I placed a pair of MR5mk2s on Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers to decouple them from the shelves of my Omnirax Mixstation (console furniture with sidecar racks for outboard gear), upon which they were situated. Behind the monitors, an ASC Attack Wall (a modular array of tube traps) tightened up the impulse response in my tuned control room, which is meticulously treated with additional acoustic products.

I listened to a variety of country, folk, alternative and pop-rock mixes that I was intimately familiar with. With all its built-in filters nulled, I was instantly impressed by the sound of Mackie’s new monitors. The MR5mk2 doesn’t strive to be a proxy for a consumer playback system by providing a window into the midrange band like the Yamaha NS-10M and Avantone MixCube, for example. Instead, it aspires to produce the more full-bandwidth and balanced sound expected from much larger monitors. And it mostly succeeds. Reproduction in the upper-bass range was slightly exaggerated and flabby (probably due to the ported design), but much less so than with most other near-fields I’ve heard mounted on shelves. That deviation aside, these monitors sounded fantastic—so good, in fact, that one could consider using them as a main reference with the addition of a carefully matched subwoofer. Listening to one of my mixes, a sampled sine-wave bass disappeared when playing a low F note (44 Hz) but was clearly heard and in good balance on a higher B-flat (58 Hz).

Imaging, depth and transient response were all outstanding. I was very impressed with how detailed—yet sweet and smooth—the high-frequency range sounded. These monitors won’t fatigue your ears during long sessions unless you crank ’em up.

I wish the low-shelving filter could cut bass response. The monitors already put out plenty of mid-bass with their filters nulled and cabinets acoustically decoupled. I can imagine that suboptimal placement near a wall or corner would push the bass balance out of whack without an attenuating filter. Some users may also bemoan that the XLR connectors don’t latch.

But give me a break! We’re talking monitors that sell for around $300 a pair on the street. I’ve never heard monitors that sound this good for such a miserly price. Throw in all the connectivity, built-in filters and protection circuitry, and it’s hard to reckon how Mackie can offer these babies for so little dough. Attention, bargain hunters looking for a big sound in a small package: The MR5mk2 should be first on your shopping list.

Mix contributing editor Michael Cooper is the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Mackie MR5mk2 product page.

Click on the Product Summary box above to view the Mackie MR5mk2 product page.

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