Portable PA systems are becoming increasingly popular. Whether you are a band, DJ, or solo performer it’s a great piece of gear to have up your sleeve. But one of the challenges is selecting the right one for your needs.
In this review, we check out the Mackie FreePlay LIVE. The largest offering in the FreePlay lineup. A portable and compact PA system that is perfect for intimate performances.
Mackie FreePlay LIVE
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE offers a range of excellent features in a convenient package. Check out the highlights before we take a deeper look at this nifty little unit.
So is the Mackie FreePlay LIVE the best portable battery-powered PA system currently available? Let’s check it out in more detail.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE sounds great. At first glance, I wasn’t expecting much from such a small system. But it impressed me. It offers a well-balanced and pleasant audio experience in a compact package.
The highs are crisp and clear. No harsh tonality in the upper region. While the highs are great the mids are the FreePlay LIVE’s strongest feature. Rich and warm without distortion or overt colorization. It’s transparent and satisfying. The low-end was also surprisingly solid for a unit rocking a small 6-inch woofer. Don’t expect earth-shattering bass but there is depth and warmth here. Kicks are clean and offer just the right amount of thump.
For a compact battery-powered system this unit does an excellent job of delivering great sound.
A portable unit needs to be tough. Especially a unit like this that is ideal for buskers or solo performers. Luckily the Mackie FreePlay LIVE is up to the task.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE offers excellent build quality.
The molded durable enclosure is robust and dependable. The grille is also exceptionally tough and not prone to dings.
The control panel is also well designed. The main highlight here is the panel. No protruding buttons that will wear out or attract dust and grime to accumulate.
Internally the component quality is also high. Both the high and low-frequency drivers offer ceramic magnets for maximum durability. This is a unit I feel comfortable taking outdoors. A must for a portable battery-powered unit.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE is no slouch in the specs department either. The 150W Class D amp does a great job of distributing power. The unit offers a 6-inch woofer and two 1-inch tweeters. Combined they deliver excellent sound.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE is loud for its size.
At -10dB the unit offers a frequency response of 60Hz – 20kHz. Ample room to deliver a pleasing representation of the source material. It may not be able to deliver excellent sub-bass but you can’t expect that from a 6-inch woofer and 150W of power.
This unassuming little box also puts out some serious sound. At 115dB Max SPL it is loud enough to easily handle smaller gigs. The dispersion is also decent with a wide 90-degree throw range. Even at higher volumes, sonic integrity is still there. If you are playing larger spaces the FreePlay LIVE does start to show its weaknesses. If you play in a larger space, loud environment, or to more than twenty people I would suggest you look elsewhere. The LIVE doesn’t have the power to handle these gig types.
For its intended use, it offers an impressive list of specs in an affordable and feature pack unit.
Another excellent feature of the Mackie FreePlay LIVE is the depth available in tuning options.
The unit itself offers a few basic controls. There are two EQ settings available that allow you to switch from LIVE to MUSIC mode. LIVE mode is ideal for performances while MUSIC mode alters the EQ curve to suit general listening. These settings are effective and work as you’d expect. You’ll also have access to Reverb.
The control panel is simple and effective.
But the onboard features are just the beginning. The true power is the FreePlay Connect App. This opens up the full range of options. The app is available for both Apple and Android devices. Pairing is simple and quick. Once paired you’ll have access to three sections. Mixer View, Channel View, and System View.
The FreePlay Connect app gives you access to heaps of features.
Mixer view gives you control over levels, metering, and mute options. The Channel view opens up granular EQ controls which is ideal to tailor the output of connected devices. Finally, the System view gives you access to even more features. You can connect to another FreePlay device and control stereo sound. You’ll also have information on hand concerning battery level. Plus you’ll also have access to save presets. This is perfect if you play in at certain locations frequently.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE gives you full control. While it could have some more controls on the unit itself the App is a joy to use and a real highlight.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE offers a simple and refined design. Gone are the trademark splashes of Mackie green. Instead, it presents you with a clean black box. The only embellishment is the Mackie Running Man logo. It’s an understated design that helps it blend in without drawing too much attention. A good option for solo performers that want the focus on them and not their gear.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE offers a simple yet refined design.
The rounded edges are an excellent addition. When transporting the unit you don’t have to worry about uncomfortably sharp edges digging into you. The integrated carry handle is also incorporated well making it easy to transport.
The unit also offers both a DC power supply and a lithium-ion battery. It recharges quickly and lasts up to 15hrs. While that may sound like a lot it is noticeably shorter if played at higher volumes. Despite this, you can still get through most gigs without having to plug it in. A great option for impromptu gigs in remote locations. It is also perfect for buskers that can’t hook up to mains power. Full flexibility with all components included.
Further additions include the option to mount the speaker on a microphone pole. A further example of the versatility of the unit. The included adapter is also a thoughtful addition.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE can be mounted on a microphone stand.
It’s intelligent and thoughtful design. The appearance is both smart and professional. It also looks great as a standalone unit in any home sound setup.
One of the most appealing aspects of the Mackie FreePlay LIVE is the compact nature of the unit. This portable PA system doesn’t take up a great deal of space. An ideal choice if you already have other gear you need to bring to your performance.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE is compact, lightweight, and portable.
It’s also exceptionally light at just 8.8 lbs. (4.0 kg). If you are looking for a compact system that is easy to carry look no further.
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE delivers on the connection front as well. Channel 1 and Channel 2 offer combo jacks for XLR/TRS. An additional ¼-inch TRS AUX in option rounds out your choices. Perfect for connecting media players for backing music or a warm-up tracklist.
Combo jacks offer good flexibility to connect to most gear.
The unit also supports Bluetooth. Both for connecting to the FreePlay App and for direct streaming. Once again a flexible option for both casual listening and backing music at performances.
There is plenty to be happy about on the value front. While the Mackie FreePlay LIVE is not exactly cheap it offers lots of features. More than what other comparable systems offer. The solid build quality, refined design, and great sound make it worth the price point.
What Others Have To Say
People love the compact and lightweight design. Many are also surprised at how loud it can get. Most are happy with the battery life but some would like it to last longer.
Play Without Limits
One of the best aspects of a battery-powered system is the freedom it provides. Buskers already know how difficult it can be to gain access to a power source. But other performers can also take advantage of the battery power. Here are just some of the ways you could use a device like the Mackie FreePlay LIVE.
A battery-powered PA system allows you to play anywhere.
Remote gigs are a fun option. You can set up and perform anywhere. This is a great way to get out into nature and play. You may even want to record your performance and share it on social media.
If you perform at weddings you don’t need to scramble to find out if the venue can accommodate your gear. With the rise in popularity of outdoor receptions or ceremonies, you’ll be ready to put on a great performance anywhere.
The possibilities are endless when you are not shackled to a power source. Play and perform with no limits with a battery-powered system.
If you are looking at buying a portable PA system there are some interesting alternatives available. Here is a small selection of other options.
Roland BA 303 Review
The Roland BA 303 is another solid battery-powered PA system. It packs a solid punch and delivers good audio quality. But it is heavier than the FreePlay LIVE making it not as ergonomic to transport.
- Solid construction. Built to last.
- Runs with AA batteries. Lasts all day.
- Doesn’t offer Bluetooth.
Samson Expedition XP106w Review
The Expedition XP106w is a battery-powered portable PA system from Samson with some solid features. It comes with a wireless microphone but it isn’t amazing. A good range of inputs and solid sound quality are among the highlights.
- Lightweight and easy to transport.
- Good clarity especially in the mids and highs.
- Short Bluetooth range that can lead to dropouts.
Samson Expedition XP106w
Korg KONNECT Review
The Korg KONNECT offers a similar appearance and feature set as the FreePlay LIVE. You can mount it on a microphone pole and it handles the same types of gigs that the Mackie is good for.
- Lightweight with excellent sound quality.
- Excellent presets and further control via the Konnect App.
- Doesn’t offer battery power.
Should You Buy?
The Mackie FreePlay LIVE is a fantastic battery-powered PA system. It has a distinct purpose and it fills that need perfectly. But it isn’t for everyone. If you need to fill larger spaces or want booming bass you’ll need something larger and less portable.
But for its intended use, it has a lot going for it. A solid range of inputs. Excellent Bluetooth functionality. Long battery life, and loud clear sound. Ideal for buskers and intimate gigs. Also a great choice for impromptu performances at remote locations with no power. If you need a battery-powered portable PA system the Mackie FreePlay LIVE is one of the best options available today.
Mackie FreePlay LIVE