What We Like
- Good build quality.
- Decent frequency range.
- Great I/O cluster.
What We Don’t Like
- A bit shaky in the lows.
- Power cable not removable.
Mackie’s CR3 series has been the around for quite a while now. During that time, these monitors have secured the title of being one of the best set you can get for less than $100. Let’s find out why.
When you are dealing with affordable monitors, you can count on seeing some pretty basic designs features. However, Mackie’s CR3 breaks the monotony by completely avoiding that standard cheap looking plastic. Instead, they have designed a set of speakers that looks decent, to say the least. Each unit features a matte black finish with bright green details. Drivers are aligned one on top the other which is to be expected. Overall, Mackie’s CR3 come across as fairly simple but stylish looking monitors.
Even with those bright green design elements, you can still fit them in with just about any environment. In terms of build quality, things are pretty impressive. You’re looking at all wood cabinets put together in a way that makes them solid. As we are about to find out, CR3’s smaller size has no impact on its performance. On the contrary, these little monitors pack a more than a decent punch.
The core design of Mackie’s CR3 revolves around a powered speaker set that is good enough for its intended purpose, but still versatile. This is a 50 Watt set that powers a 3″ polypropylene-coated mid-range driver and a single .75″ tweeter. The latter features a ferrofluid-cooled silk dome design, which should make it a bit more responsive on paper. The left speaker is where all the goodies are at, including power and volume controls.
One of the things that make Mackie’s CR3 monitors so awesome is the fact that the back panel features just about any type of inputs you could possibly need. We are talking unbalanced RCA as well as TRS ports. Interestingly enough, Mackie included a switch that allows you to choose the position of the powered speaker. You can set it to be left or right unit depending on your needs. It is subtle details such as this that have earned Mackie their reputation.
In terms of performance, things get a bit tricky. One thing that defines studio monitors is their ability to give the user a transparent rendition of the music they are mixing. Are Mackie’s CR3 super transparent? Not really, but they will get you about as far as you can get for this type of money. The deal is in that 3″ driver that goes all the way down to 80Hz.
Even though it is supposed to make up for the lack of a more serious bass solution, a 3″ driver can only do so much. If we had to compare it to any particular thing we would say that this 3-inch unit is more of a tweaked out full-range driver. It goes low enough, but further down the freq range you go, the worse it gets. Is that a deal breaker? Definitely not. Bang for the buck, Mackie’s CR3 will get the job done.
Although Mackie’s CR3 are far from a perfect studio monitor, they are still a decent solution. If you are using them in a smaller room, these could deliver a performance well within the limits of acceptable.