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Review: Mackie MR5mk3

June 30, 2014
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Excellent performance for a bargain-basement price

The MR5mk3’s redesign includes a novel front baffle and waveguide.
THE MACKIE MR5mk3 is the twice-updated version of the company’s MR5 active monitor. The changes made since offering the preceding model, the MR5mk2, are substantial and include a new waveguide for the tweeter, redesigned front baffle, and differently configured bass reflex port.

What’s Changed As with its antecedent, the MR5mk3 features a 5.25" polypropylene woofer and 1" silk-dome tweeter. However, the mk3’s tweeter is ensconced in an all-new waveguide, the likes of which I’ve never seen before. The bottom lip of the waveguide protrudes slightly forward where it extends into the circularly extruded bottom portion of the MDF cabinet’s front baffle. The woofer sits inside the extrusion, presenting a moon-crater profile. The front baffle is also slightly bowed along its midline. And unlike the mk2, the mk3’s front baffle has curved edges all the way around: sides, top, and bottom. Such a diffraction-trouncing design should improve imaging. The cabinet itself is also rounded laterally.

The drivers are powered by 50 watts RMS of Class A/B amplification (unspecified per driver); 55W drove the mk2. The same versatile set of input connections graces the rear panel: balanced XLR and ¼" TRS-jack connectors, and an unbalanced ¼" jack. Two filter sets are adjusted using three-position switches: The LF Level Adjust control produces 0, +2, or +4dB shelving boost below 100Hz, whereas the HF Level Adjust control provides -2, 0 or +2dB shelving equalization above the monitor’s 3kHz crossover point. (The mk2’s HF control had a 5kHz corner frequency.) The mk3’s continuously variable level-control knob is beefier than the mk2’s Lilliputian affair. But the biggest change on the cabinet’s rear involves the bass reflex port, which is now a tube. (It was an oval slot in the mk2.) The six-foot AC cord is detachable.

The MR5mk3 measures an accommodating 11.3" x 7.8" x 10.9" (HxWxD) and weighs 12.1 pounds (a couple pounds lighter than its progenitor). Its frequency response is stated to be 57Hz to 20kHz, but that’s a fairly useless spec as no tolerances are given. (Who knows how much the response deviates over the stated range?) The MR5mk3 produces a maximum 108dB SPL per pair (at an unspecified distance). The monitor is not magnetically shielded but provides thermal and over-excursion protection (preventing the woofer from clipping mechanically).

How Does It Sound? I placed a pair of MR5mk3 monitors on Primacoustic Recoil Stabilizers situated on the shelves of my Omnirax MixStation (furniture for my mixing console). The Recoil Stabilizers decouple monitors from shelves, preventing sympathetic resonance that would otherwise boost upper-bass frequencies.

With the MR5mk3’s filters nulled, the improvements wrought by the monitor’s redesign were immediately audible. The mk2 had suffered from slightly exaggerated response in the upper-bass range, whereas the revamped mk3 sounded more even and clearer. The bottom end still sounded a tad flabby, probably due to the cabinet’s ported design, but the detraction was subtle. I could readily identify the fundamental pitch of bass-guitar notes down to low G (49Hz).

Imaging was excellent and transient response crisp. I only wished the low-shelving filter could cut bass response. That would help correct the monitor’s response with suboptimal placement near a wall and potentially help integrate it more seamlessly with a subwoofer (such as the new Mackie MR10Smk3). Bottom line: The MR5mk3 is the best-sounding monitor I’ve heard to date for less than $200 and a remarkable performer for the money.

Michael Cooper is a recording, mix, mastering, and post-production engineer, a contributing editor for Mix magazine, and the owner of Michael Cooper Recording in Sisters, Ore. (myspace.com/michaelcooperrecording).

SUMMARY

Strengths Laudable imaging and transient response. Good spectral balance. Small footprint. Excellent value.
Limitations Slightly flabby bass response. No bass-cut filter setting. Imprecise specs.
Mackie MR5mk3: $199.99
mackie.com

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