Mackie CR4 Review
It’s the era of podcasters, YouTubers and indie artists with soaring ambitions on a shoestring budget.
And manufacturers have been on the overdrive trying to cater to this ever growing niche audience.
Mackie was one of the first brands to jump headfirst into this segment, with the launch of its ‘Creative Reference’ or CR lineup of budget-priced studio monitors.
The CR4 is the mid-level entrant from the range and brings the casual but discerning listener, one step closer to a professional setup.
It boasts of an impressive feature list and reasonably good audio quality packaged into an attractive, all-wood design.
Detailed Mackie CR4 review
The Mackie CR4 is a budget-priced nearfield studio monitor with plug & play capabilities, that can also double up as a desktop speaker if need be.
Think of it like a middle ground between a multimedia speaker and a nearfield monitor.
The perfect setup for beginner music producers and indie performers seeking studio capabilities in a home setup.
The design, features and performance are aimed at ease-of-use more than critical music production.
But at this price point, it brings unbeatable value, which is the USP of the range.
The CR4 retains the subdued, but attractive, dark gray cabinets with the florescent green halo on the transducers, that is now uniform across the range.
The speakers stand 8.5” tall and are about 6” across and deep. That’s a pretty compact footprint for a nearfield.
The build quality is top notch. Thick MDF cabinets with heavy duty plastic baffles ensure that the speaker doesn’t do the ‘crawl’ that flimsier models are guilty of doing at high volumes.
There’s no vibration or unwanted resonance either.
The partial control panel on the front is a step towards making this appealing to the average desktop user. There’s a volume knob that doubles up as the power switch and two AUX ports so that you can connect your smartphone and start playing music instantly
Thankfully, the more important controls are reserved for the rear panel. There are the standard unbalanced RCA and balanced 1/4″ TRS input jacks and an output to connect to speakers. Sadly, there’s no room acoustic control.
Instead, there’s the active unit placement switch that allows you to select the orientation of the active speaker.
The CR4 comes bundled with some useful accessories including acoustic isolation pads and a couple of cables to connect to speakers and media players.
Budget-priced studio monitors sound great in theory. But come peppered with tradeoffs that affect performance.
But the Mackie CR4 boasts of some pretty neat specs.
Both the cabinets produce about 50W of power to drive the 4” polypropylene coated woofer & .75” ferrofluid cooled silk-dome tweeter.
The frequency range is wide enough from 70Hz to 20kHZ and is well suited for a wide range of applications.
The rear-firing ports might limit your speaker placement choices in the absence of dedicated room controls to fine tune the bass.
While the setup sounds basic, the audio quality is pretty decent.
A lot of you might be wondering the reason behind the ongoing appeal for a set of studio monitors with such a basic set of specifications and features.
That’s because the CR4 stands out with its audio quality when pitted against the competition at this price point.
The 4” driver kicks-in during the mids and lows and you get excellent details on the low end.
The mid-range sounds natural.
The overall response is reasonably flat, although there are a few spikes and lows at some frequencies.
Well, that is to be expected given the small diameter of the woofer cone.
Also, the overall tone is pretty transparent.
A bit bass-heavy maybe. But you’ve got to keep in mind that this isn’t a professional set up. Not even a semi-professional one to be fair.
Who’s the Mackie CR4 for?
Well, we’ve seen the CR4 occupying prime real estate in mixing studios that are crammed with equipment that’s priced 10x more.
That speaks volumes about its acoustic performance.
We’d say that almost anyone would be pleased with the audio quality.
That includes beginner musicians, DJs, sound engineers, casual music lovers. There are no reasons to complain if you have realistic expectations.
Moreover, if you tweak the settings around a little, there’s no reason why you cannot produce some great mixes on these.
Mixes that will translate into great audio quality on other systems.
Our Verdict: There are two ways to look at it. If you are a professional, then the Mackie CR4 is a great beginner studio monitor. It’s compact and ideal for small-sized studios and home set ups. It offers reasonably flat response and is particularly good in the mids and the lows.
On the contrary if you are looking for a great set of speakers to connect to your computer or your TV, then this will be a massive set up from your old, stock multimedia speakers. You won’t be disappointed one bit.