Since its release, the updated Mackie DRM series has rapidly become one of the most popular loudspeaker options on the market. An excellent range of features and modern design has cemented it as one of the best. This review looks closely at the largest powered PA subwoofer in the range, the DRM18S.
The Mackie DRM18S ticks all the right boxes for a PA subwoofer. It features bold, punchy bass response, flexible installation options, and comprehensive controls.
The refreshed DRM series offers an extensive range of modern features that make it a fantastic choice for a variety of potential applications. Let’s dive into the details.
I don’t want to exaggerate my assessment, but the first time I heard the DRM18S at full blast, the only word that came to mind was WOW! This 18-inch powered PA subwoofer packs a mighty punch.
Beyond just the sheer power that this 18-inch subwoofer offered, the precise and satisfying clarity level brought the biggest smile to my face. Far too many times, I’ve tested PA subwoofers and found them to be a little messy in their delivery. Loud but sloppy; that’s not the case with the DRM18S.
The DRM18S features acoustic correction via the advanced Impulse DSP module. This keeps the sound quality at an optimum level even when you approach the upper end of what this subwoofer can output. Slick control and execution that helps avoid that odd drop in sound quality that some other subwoofers suffer from at higher output levels.
With ample extension and a range of tuning options, the DRM18S provides satisfying output levels that can easily handle smaller venues. A pair of these is also more than enough for larger spaces.
The Mackie DRM18S performed just as well with prerecorded music as with live instruments. As a DJ that spins a lot of heavy electronic music, I was more than satisfied with the results both in a closed space setting and in an outdoor environment.
If you demand high-quality output, you’ll instantly fall in love with the DRM18S. No distortion, clean and punchy delivery, and enough volume to fill a dancefloor with epic chest-thumping bass.
The Mackie DRM18S also features excellent build quality. Touring gear needs to be robust enough to handle the rigors of frequent transportation, and the DRM18S is up to the task.
The thick 18mm plywood cabinet is as solid as they come and features a texture-coated finish that doesn’t scuff easily. Supplementing the tough cabinet is a heavy gauge steel grille that helps to protect the 18-inch high-excursion woofer.
Touring grade quality.
The high attention to detail is also evident at the rear of the unit. The bright full-color screen is superb, and the control knob is equally excellent and inspires long-term confidence.
The connection points are also fantastic, as are the integrated handles. This is a solid and dependable subwoofer that will not let you down. While some of Mackie’s more budget-orientated offerings have sometimes left me wanting more, the DRM18S is a premium piece of kit I have complete confidence in.
The DRM18S also sports some impressive specifications that solidify its position as an enticing 18-inch subwoofer option.
First up is the power rating. It offers 2000W of Class-D power at Peak, but if you’ve spent any amount of time with audio gear, you’ll know this number is rarely an effective representation of actual power.
Mackie doesn’t try to obfuscate the actual numbers and openly states that the unit features 500W of continuous power and 1000W of program power. This is more than enough output level to generate some seriously epic bass.
The DRM18S features loud and punchy output.
With a Max SPL of 135dB, this subwoofer is an excellent choice for mobile DJs, bands, and even venues that require a high output level.
The frequency range is also impressive, extending to 30Hz and up to 120 Hz at -10dB. As a comparison, most 15-inch loudspeaker tops tend to cap out around the 40Hz mark, so that is an ample amount of additional extension to bring out the low-end rumble of sub-bass.
The Mackie DRM18S also features variable crossover for maximum control. This ranges from 40 Hz to 160 Hz. For quick and simple integration with Mackie DRM loudspeakers, there is also a dedicated crossover at 90 Hz.
The Mackie DRM18S subwoofer gives you total control over an extensive range of features. Not only is the unit flexible, but it’s also straightforward enough for beginners to get to grips with.
At the rear of the unit, you’ll have access to a full-color screen and a control knob. Diving into the menu highlights the vast amount of features on offer. This base screen also instantly gives you a visual reference to levels and core settings.
Bright full-color screen for easy setup and configuration.
Diving deeper into the settings, you’ll gain access to Mode, which allows you to invert the subwoofer. Next up is the crossover selection section that allows you to define your crossover point.
The next row of options features Cardioid options to create a directional null point ideal for stage setups and general monitoring applications. Next, you’ll have access to Delay settings and various configuration options, including a Pin Lock, six Memory presets, backlight, and LED controls.
It’s a comprehensive suite of options that ensures the DRM18S can integrate into a broad range of potential applications. More importantly, it’s easy to understand and a breeze to navigate.
Mackie has stepped up their game in the design department in recent years. While I never had a problem with their previous designs, they did come across as a little overly bright due to the extensive use of green.
However, the latest batch of products retains the eye-catching nature of Mackie products while incorporating a more sophisticated and modern aesthetic that oozes style.
Seamless integration with the rest of the DRM series.
While the DRM18S is fundamentally a big black box like most subwoofers, its slick front grille panel and grille design give it an angular and appealing edge that helps set it apart from some other options.
Beyond appearance, the DRM18S also has some other notable design elements. It offers extensive installation options. It features an M20 threaded pole point for easy integration with tops and the ability for flyable installation. Highly versatile and easy to integrate.
This 18-inch subwoofer also features several circuitry protections to ensure long-term life—a must-have feature to prevent the possibility of blowing the unit.
There is no denying that the DRM18S is a chunky unit. It doesn’t stray too far away from other 18-inch subwoofers. Still, it is noticeably deeper than some other popular options on the market.
The DRM18S is a large and heavy PA subwoofer.
As for the weight, it comes in at 90 lbs. (40.8 kg). This is not an easy unit to pick up and move about. Where possible, I always suggest you work with someone to transport it. The two handles are comfortable, and you can pick up a Caster Kit if you prefer your subwoofer to be on wheels.
The Mackie DRM18S features a standard set of connection options you would expect from a PA subwoofer. You can connect this subwoofer to loudspeakers and chain units accordingly without hassle.
Combo jacks are more versatile than straight XLR connections.
You’ll have access to two combo jacks for Input which is a nice touch, as some subwoofers only offer XLR as an input option. Supporting this is an XLR output option for Direct Out and High Pass Out.
Mackie has an excellent reputation for excellent value for money, and the DRM18S maintains this tradition. It’s not the cheapest 18-inch subwoofer on the market, but also nowhere near as expensive as some of the other recommended options.
The high build quality, superb output, and extensive modern features make it a great value choice. Add a pair of DRM loudspeakers, and you have a reasonably priced setup that delivers excellent sound quality.
The Mackie DRM18S has rapidly become a favorite. It consistently rates highly due to its powerful output and cutting-edge DSP. Reviews from professionals match up with positive reviews from hire companies, industry insiders, and musicians.
Benefits Of A Cardioid Subwoofer
PA subwoofers that offer a Cardioid mode can be a game changer and almost essential for live sound applications.
Most speakers tend to have a directional output. It is why you’ll often see dispersion specifications associated with loudspeakers. But the low frequencies that subwoofers provide are omnidirectional, meaning that the sound spreads evenly.
Cardioid subwoofers can cancel out problematic low-end frequencies on stage.
Omnidirectional sound can cause issues on a stage by introducing interference and feedback and creating a messier-sounding soundscape. One of the best ways to address this is to use a Cardioid subwoofer.
In simple terms, a Cardioid subwoofer setup will have some subwoofers pointing forward while other subwoofers will be pointing back toward the stage. After applying the correct settings, the subwoofer facing the stage can cancel out the low frequencies emanating from the forward-facing subwoofers.
The result is less interference and feedback and a cleaner sound environment for the DJ or band. If you operate a more extensive setup, I highly recommend exploring subwoofers like the DRM18S that offer the option for a Cardioid setup.
There is little to fault when it comes to the Mackie DRM18S, but there are some other options out there worth considering. Below we take a quick peek at these alternatives.
EV ELX200-18SP Review
The ELX200 range from Electro-Voice is another viable option for people that want a reasonably priced 18-inch subwoofer.
- Excellent definition and accuracy in bass tonality.
- Noticeably lighter than the DRM18S while retaining good build quality.
- It requires some tuning to get optimal performance for live sound applications.
PreSonus ULT18 Review
If you have a little more to spend, the PreSonus ULT18 is a superb subwoofer with excellent sound and reliability.
- A rich and dynamic bass output that is loud and accurate.
- An extended 6-year warranty gives you additional peace of mind.
- It doesn’t feature a screen like the DRM18S.
EV EKX-15SP Review
Some people might not need an 18-inch subwoofer and would prefer something more ergonomic. In that case, the EKX-15SP is worth considering.
- Ultra-rugged enclosure and high output level.
- It is much easier to move about at 55.7 lbs. (25.26 kg).
- More expensive despite only being a 15-inch subwoofer.
Should You Buy?
The Mackie DRM18S improves on the previous generation in nearly every way. It ticks all the right boxes for what I look for in a quality-powered PA subwoofer. The output is loud and punchy while offering low distortion and impressive accuracy. The robust cabinet combines well with slick styling and features all the modern bells and whistles you want. While it is a little hefty, it’s a premium quality sub that will surely put a smile on your face.