Setting up a home studio can be a costly process. Finding a pair of studio monitors that can tackle the job on a budget is a challenge. In this review, we check out a set of studio monitors that offer to do just that.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT are the newest versions of Mackie’s CR range of studio monitors that cover everything from 3-inches and up to 8-inches. Let’s see what this latest 4-inch model has to offer.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT are appealing options for a beginner studio. Let’s dive into the details.
For an aggressively priced set of speakers, both the Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT offer decent sound quality.
The low-end response is a little forward and pronounced. It’s meaty and full. While excellent for general listening it isn’t as analytical as you may want for music production. They are more suited as reference monitors and for general multimedia editing. For music production, they will do a reasonable job. But, at this price point, it’s nearly impossible to find a pure set of studio monitors.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT pack a big punch for a 4-inch set of monitors.
Even with the more pronounced low end, you may be wanting deeper bass. If this is the case I’d suggest investing in a subwoofer to compliment your setup. Alternatively, you can look at a large studio monitor that has a bigger woofer.
The mids come across clean with good distinction between tonal properties. Both male and female vocals present well. High frequencies remain crisp without any jarring tinny high notes.
The included cables could be better and switching to more premium cables did make a noticeable difference in sound quality. But, this is often the case for most studio monitors.
The original Mackie CR range did suffer from some build quality issues. The speaker select switch was prone to failure after a while. This new range of Mackie speakers appears to be better built. But, appearances can be deceiving. I’m hopeful that the original issues are no longer present but only time will tell.
The Mackie CR4-X offers better materials than previous models.
The MDF cabinet feels solid and the finish is much better than the original range. The included cables could be of higher quality but at this price point, it’s hard to expect top-of-the-line inclusions.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT offer a 4-inch polypropylene-coated woofer that handles the low-end frequencies. Excellent warmth and punch. This coating is often used in car speaker systems thanks to its internal damping. Plus it offers solid resistance to weather issues. The rear port does an excellent job of delivering a more pronounced low-end response.
As for the tweeter, it has a 0.75” ferrofluid-cooled silk dome tweeter. Silk tweeters are extremely popular since they deliver excellent reproduction of higher frequencies.
The Mackie CR4-X features popular and well-regarded speaker materials.
The frequency response is also great at 65HZ – 20kHz (-3 dB). There is plenty of depth here in the low end. The more depth the smoother and fuller the bass response is.
The class AB amplifier offers up to 50 watts at peak with a max SPL of 100 decibels. Plenty of loudness here if you like to turn your speakers up. This also makes them an option to use as TV speakers. The forward projection is pretty good but they are still ideally used as near-field monitors.
There are no tuning options available. You’ll be hard-pressed to find other monitors that offer tuning options at this price point so it isn’t a great surprise.
But, considering the slightly over-pronounced low-end I would have loved to have some basic controls. Bass and Treble adjustment would be ideal to help smooth out low-end response for more analytical listening.
This is one area that Mackie has always excelled in. The striking and familiar Mackie green sticks out and creates a unique focal point for your studio. While not to everyone’s taste it is a welcome departure from the generic black monitors that litter the market.
The Mackie CR4-X is an attractive and eye-catching set of speakers.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT take it up a notch over the previous generation. With a brushed steel front, it now offers a more sophisticated design. The iconic green is also incorporated into the Mackie “Running Man” logo which offers an illuminated ring when powered. A speaker placement switch also allows you to switch which side you prefer the primary speaker to be on. A handy feature that other monitors don’t offer.
An attractive set of speakers that is sure to catch the eye of anyone that enters your studio space.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT manage to maintain a reasonable footprint despite the 4-inch woofer. Well suited to a workstation. Keep in mind that if you do have a large screen you may have a hard time fitting these in.
The Mackie CR4-X is the second smallest monitor in the CR range.
The two units combined weigh in at 10.1 lbs (4.6kg). A reasonable weight that opens up the choice of using these as bookshelf monitors.
Connectivity is also a strong feature. The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT offer an unbalanced RCA connection or a balanced/unbalanced TRS connection. Where possible use balanced connections to avoid interference and improve sound quality.
The Mackie CR3-X offers both balanced and unbalanced connection options.
A ‘Stereo In’ unbalanced option is also available at the rear of the speaker. You’ll be able to easily connect you smartphone or another source. A front-facing headphone connection rounds out your choices.
The second speaker is a slave/passive speaker.
Cables are also included so that you can plug and play straight away. While not the best cables they are good enough to get you started without extra costs.
The Mackie CR4-XBT takes it a step further over the CR4-X by offering Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing is quick and simple with the running man logo doubling as a pairing button. Streaming music has exploded over the last few years so it is great to see Mackie offer a compatible set of speakers.
If you already stream music the CR4-XBT is a no-brainer. The slightly higher price tag is well worth it for the added convenience and flexibility.
The CR range from Mackie is a firm favorite due to the excellent value they offer. Aggressively priced they are an excellent option for beginners. With very decent sound output, improved build quality, and a striking design. They are among the best value creative reference multimedia monitors currently available.
The Mackie CR4-X and CR4-XBT come with everything you need for instant plug-and-play action.
They may not stand up to more professional-level gear. But, it’s hard to fault the value proposition on offer here.
What Others Have To Say
The consensus on the CR range from Mackie is that for the price you get plenty of value. Professionals will point out the flaws. But, they still command an excellent reputation as budget reference monitors.
Top 3 Uses For Studio Monitors
Studio monitors provide a distinct alternative to the large range of computer or hi-fi speakers available. Here are the top 3 ways that studio/reference monitors are a better choice.
Studio monitors are specifically aimed at music production. They deliver audio in the purest form possible. This makes mixing and mastering more accurate. It helps ensure that the end audio has the best chance of sounding good on a range of systems.
This flat response can feel unusual to people not familiar with studio monitors. Often the bass is not as pronounced as you’d experience with consumer-level hi-fi systems.
Likewise, studio monitors are a popular choice for multimedia editing. From YouTube videos to podcasts and beyond. Once again the flat response allows for better editing and mastering of the audio in these multimedia projects.
Reference monitors are ideal for multimedia projects like podcasts.
In a highly competitive market, it is important to be able to offer clean audio. Studio monitors help guide you in the right direction when editing your projects.
Studio monitors are also excellent for listening to music. The flat response and attention to clarity allow you to experience the music you love like never before.
High-quality studio monitors give you the closest representation of the original recording. It’s like you were in the studio when the music was originally recorded.
Often you’ll pick up on the nuance that goes into professional music-making. A treat for music lovers no matter what type of music you prefer.
Beginners face a large number of options when it comes to studio monitors. Here are some alternatives to the CR4-X that are worth considering.
PreSonus Eris E4.5 Review
Another excellent beginner set of monitors. They are larger than the CR4-X due to the increased woofer size. Good sound balance also makes these on par with the Mackie offering.
- Excellent value for money with decent sound quality.
- More understated design if you prefer a more traditional-looking monitor.
- Can suffer from interference. Be sure to keep your other electronics at a distance.
Presonus Eris E4.5
Pioneer DM-50D Review
The Pioneer DM-50D is another popular set of monitors. Offering plenty of power and output they are a great choice for beginner DJ gear to create an all-in-one package.
- Distinct and clean low-end that is very satisfying.
- Reasonable price point with the backing of the world’s most prolific DJ gear brand.
- The more pronounced low-end make these not ideal for analytical listening.
Yamaha HS7 Review
If you need a larger monitor and have a higher budget the Yamaha HS7 is an excellent alternative. Considered among the best studio monitor brands in the world the HS7 delivers on all fronts.
- Clean, clear, and crisp audio output with excellent balance. Perfect for mixing and mastering.
- High build quality with excellent materials used throughout.
- Substantially more expensive than the Mackie CR4-X
Should You Buy?
The Mackie CR range continues to impress. They provide an affordable entry point for new producers. While not as refined as true studio monitors they are an excellent choice as reference monitors.
The distinct design coupled with solid connectivity makes these a great choice. If you are on the lookout for budget-minded monitors for beginners the Mackie CR4-X and the CR4-XBT are both solid buys.