Most musicians who work in the electronic realm probably don't concern themselves all that much with P.A. equipment. With so much synth and plug-in tweaking

PLUG AND PLAY >The Mackie SRM350 delivers the clarity and response of a studio monitor in a durable, road-ready active loudspeaker that works equally well as a stage monitor or as a main cabinet.

Most musicians who work in the electronic realm probably don't concern themselves all that much with P.A. equipment. With so much synth and plug-in tweaking happening in a controlled studio environment, by the time most get around to the performance and rehearsal side of things, they pretty much want to stay committed to the sound they heard in the studio. And for many people, when they finally do commit to buying a rehearsal or performance P.A. setup, the general rule that unfortunately seems to prevail is “cheap and loud.” Well, for the same the reason that you shouldn't mix a record on home-stereo speakers and expect professional results, using quality P.A. equipment can have a tremendous effect on the way your music comes across in a live environment.

Released in 2004 and now available in ample supplies worldwide, the Mackie SRM350 active loudspeaker brings studio-grade components together with a road-ready design that won't completely destroy your checking account. The 350 uses a two-way, biamplified design. The low-frequency driver comprises a 10-inch woofer that is driven with 165W of continuous power; likewise, the high end is covered by a 1.4-inch titanium compression driver that is powered with 30W of continuous power. The internal crossover is set at 2,400 Hz with a 24dB rolloff. The unit's enclosure is constructed using a molded high-impact, die-cast composite that includes weather-resistant metal grilles.

Hooking the 350 up is about as stupid-easy as things can get. The unit uses a combination XLR/¼-inch input jack with a gain knob and two selectable EQ settings (flat and a loudness contour, which has a slight bump in the lows and highs). For power, the 350 uses a standard three-prong AC power cord. A power switch resides on the back of the unit next to the input jack, and a small blue LED on the front glows when the unit is turned on. For ease of transport, the unit has two handles: one on the side and the other located on the top, directly behind the high-frequency driver.

For testing, I set up a pair of 350s as floor wedges inside of an 18×16-foot rehearsal studio with a 10-foot ceiling and some modest acoustical wall treatments. Using a small line mixer for volume control, I simply ran through the Apple iTunes playlist on my laptop and auditioned anything and everything that struck my fancy. My first impression was that the 350s didn't sound in any way like what I've grown accustomed to hearing out of compact P.A. speakers. Instead of a muddy, bottom-heavy mess, the 350s had the kind of clarity and presence that one would expect out of studio monitors. Next, I tried the 350s in a real band-rehearsal environment with a live drummer, two guitarists, a laptop, a keyboard rig and a vocalist. I fed the vocal to the 350s along with a track of sequenced synth bass off the laptop and the DI from the keyboard. To keep up the live drums and two Marshall 4×12 cabs, I got the chance to really crank the 350s, and they were certainly up to the task. The entire band remarked that, for first time, the rehearsal finally started to sound like the record. The low end of the 350s handled the bass with ease; the vocals came through with crystal-clear clarity; and even with each band member playing at full volume, I had power to spare with the 350s.

Overall, the Mackie SRM350 delivers on everything the company promises. Although P.A. gear may not seem like a must-have item like that shiny new Access Virus synth, if you're serious about honing your skills onstage and presenting the best-sounding performance, you can't afford to be without an accurate P.A. setup. The Mackie may cost a tad more than that flea-market special, but you'll know where that money went the first time you plug it in.


SRM350 > $699 (EACH)

Pros: Excellent sound. Highly portable. Durable. Very accurate response.

Cons: A bit pricey.