So today we’ll be reviewing a pair of multimedia computer speakers, the Mackie CR4’s. I chose these for review because I was looking for a new set of computer speakers after the left speaker of my maudio av40’s started to go out on me after having owned them for only about 2 and a half years. So not wanting to buy any more m-audio crap, I decided to give the Mackies a try out.
Mackie is best known for making music studio equipment like loudspeakers, monitors and mixing boards and these are their entry level speakers, the cr4’s. They sell for a 150 bucks, and their main competitor in this price point are the maudio av42’s, which are the successor to the av40’s I previously owned.
The cr4’s are small stereo speakers designed to be used on your desk with your desktop or laptop for all types of media consumption like watching movies, listening to music, and playing video games, or for the amateur music producer looking for monitors on a tight budget.
So lets get these unboxed, go over some of the design and features, give you my sound and listening impressions and finally, let you know if they’re a good choice for use as your main desktop computer speakers
As you can see, these speakers have a simple, clean design and is one of the reasons I picked them. These are the limited edition version which just mean they have the silver trim here instead of the usual green color. The green color isn’t really my thing, but could look cool if you have certain razor branded products like a laptop or death adder chroma mouse or some kind green themed computer setup.
As far as included accessories, they include some red and black color high gauge (aka thin) speaker wire, a pair of rca’s and an 1/8 inch audio cable. One cool thing is they do include a nice set of foam isolation pads, which are good for keeping desk rattles and speaker vibrations to a minimum. And you can set them in a few different configurations, aiming them at a very slight upward or downward angle depending on how you plan on arranging them on at your desk.
The outside of the speakers have a nice powdered coated black matte texture to them, with a plastic baffle on the front. They measure 8.8 inches tall, 6.1 inches across and 7.3 inches deep. They use 4 inch woofers and ¾ inch tweeters. On the front we have a nicely dampened on/off volume knob that has a white light ring around it. I don’t prefer lights on the front of my speakers, but ultimately its not distracting or blindingly bright.
Moving down the speaker you have a convenient auxiliary port for plugging in a phone or other audio device and a headphone out. and then you have the Mackie logo on the bottom left, a stick figure man jamming out, a logo which I personally think is pretty cool, and kinda makes me wish they included a free sticker.
One added feature of these mackies (at least for speakers in the price range) is that they include balanced trs inputs. If you don’t know what balanced inputs are they are just an audio input with a ground wire included inside. So as rca’s just have a positive and negative wire inside the cabling, balanced inputs have a positive negative and a ground, and having the ground basically just reduces noise and reduces interference in the audio signal. If you are going to be using these to mix or produce audio, then that is a nice feature to have.
On the back you also have your rca inputs, the bass ports, and spring clip speaker terminal mounts, which actually feel very sturdy for spring clips. Then of course you have an on/off switch and a non detachable power cable. Finally, one cool feature they have on the back is the ability to select which side you prefer your powered speaker on which is convenient for cable management or for choosing which side of your desk you prefer to have the speaker with the volume knob on.
I thought the sound quality on these speakers were nice, as I found them to be much clearer and louder than my maudios. With the volume control at max, these speakers did not distort until I started getting into the high 70s in the volume control in windows. With the volume knob set at 50%, the speakers played loud (easily into the 90 decibel range) and distortion free even with windows at 100% volume. So no complaints at all in the loudness department
I would have found these to be a good replacement set of computer speakers if I hadn’t unfortunately been spoiled by a pair of vanatoo t1’s that I auditioned just prior to these. But since those are more than 3x the cost, its really not a fair comparison. Listening to a variety of different music for many many hours, I was happy with how the Mackies performed but just I found them a bit too lacking in the low end for my taste. Given that they’re only rated to play down to 70 hz, this shouldn’t come as too big a surprise as its about all you could reasonable expect for speakers with only 4 inch woofers.
There was also a slight hiss similar to the audioengine speakers I tried out (which was ultimately a deal breaker for me with those), but this isn’t noticeable at all unless you are putting your ear right up to the speaker, and would not have been a deal breaker for me at this price point.
For $150 bucks, these are a good set of desktop computer speakers but ONLY if you plan on doing any kind of audio or production work with them, as they do provide very clear and detailed sound and play decently flat. But I think if you mainly play a lot of media on your computer like music listening, movie watching, or video gaming you would be a lot happier getting a nice 2.1 speaker system like the Logitech Z623. The paired subwoofer in that system will give you a more robust and better listening experience overall at a slightly better price, although won’t be quite as accurate. But the logitechs are my goto recommendation for computer speakers under $150 bucks.
However, if you already have a decent subwoofer in your setup to pair with these mackies, then I would definitely recommend giving them a try.
I actually ended up purchasing an 8 inch martin logan subwoofer to pair with these, and as you can imagine that made a really huge difference. Much more full and complete sound, but it also nearly doubled the total system price so at that point I decided to go ahead and spend a little more scratch and keep the vanatoo’s transparent ones, and I was happy that I did.
Now the Mackie cr’4s are definitely not a bad set of computer speakers and would be a great choice for music producers who are looking for an inexpensive pair of studio monitors, but I just think for most people and what they use their computers for a dedicated and matched 2.1 speaker setup would be a more ideal and cost effective solution.
- clear and accurate
- good inputs/controls
- decent studio monitors for price
- not enough bass for typical computer user
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