The first time I connected these tiny speakers to my console's outputs, I couldn't believe the size of the sound I was hearing. After playing through a few more songs, I had to walk out of the control room and relate my disbelief to my brother who was working in the next room over. Sitting back down at my console, I heard strong bass notes-not just the initial attack-from the kick drum, the tone of the bass guitar, and lots of low-end presence. I also heard rich midrange and plenty of detail in the highs. I found myself staring at one of the MR5's trying to convince myself that a speaker small enough to hide behind an 8.5" x 11" sheet of paper was actually making all that sound!
The MR5 (alongside its bigger sibling MR8) is Mackie's new affordable active monitor. It features a 5.25" woofer driven by a 55 W (continuous into 4 Ohms) internal power amplifier. A 30 W amp drives the 1" soft-dome tweeter, which is mounted in a waveguide with a minimum-diffraction baffle. There's no doubt that the waveguide contributes to the huge sweet spot, while the minimum-diffraction baffle gives the MR5 a very focused sound, without it sounding beamy. The sound is generally neutral and unhyped, with a usable low end that extends all the way down to 50 Hz (from a friggin' 5.25" woofer!!!), which for me means that mixes completed on the MR5 would translate well to other speakers and systems. At loud volumes, the tweeter does get a little harsh around 8-12 kHz, adding sibilance and some crispiness to the signal. But at low volumes, this isn't a problem.
Like all Mackie products, the MR5 comes with an excellent user manual with the typical Mackie humor thrown in (e.g., a black circle labeled "Dark Side of the Moon" appears in the block diagram next to the LF power amp), and everything from the rear-panel controls to the caddy-equipped packaging is well executed. At a street price of $180 each, the performance/price ratio is incredible. These have replaced the TASCAM VL-S21 monitors and subwoofer (Tape Op #48) at my wife's Final Cut Pro workstation. ($229.99 MSRP; www.mackie.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.