What We Like
- Simple yet attractive design with front facing controls.
- Performance that can easily get the job done for home studios.
- Great value for the money even to this day.
What We Don’t Like
- Weak low end that kicks in a bit late.
Mackie CR4 have been around for a while. Over time, they have acquired a reputation for being ranked among the best budget studio monitors you can grab for less than $200. Let’s find out what these really have to offer.
At their very core, Mackie CR4 studio monitors are pretty simple. Cabinets are made of a reasonably decent material and come in that classic Mackie dark gray/fluorescent green combination. In terms of pure aesthetic design, CR4 are engaging but not over the top as some other budget monitors out there.
This is actually a good thing since the lack of excessive aesthetic details kinda tells you that the manufacturer focused on more important aspects of the speaker. With that said, those who do find appearances to be important can rest easy knowing that a set of Mackie CR4 monitors will fit in just about anywhere.
Since these are powered speakers, Mackie went ahead and put the volume/power controls at the front of the active unit. Same goes for 3.5mm headphones out. While this may not be a game-changing design decision, it sure makes life easier, especially if you are using these as standard speakers too.
Whenever we are talking about affordable speakers, the features are going to be severely limited. Same applies to Mackie CR4. However, these monitors do offer some things that make them super convenient for everyday use. To start things off, we have the 4“ woofer that is paired with a .75“ tweeter.
Neither of these transducers really stands out in any particular way. You could say that they are average at best. Power is limited to some 50 Watts, which is about as much as you will need for a cozy home studio setup. Just keep in mind that these monitors come with rear-firing ports, so you have to leave some space between the wall and the back of the speaker.
Aside from these core components, you also get Bluetooth connectivity as well as a whole bunch of accessories. These include buffer stands which are meant to reduce the vibrations spreading from the speaker as well as a number of cables.
The thing that really made Mackie CR4 so widespread and popular is their performance. We are talking about a rather affordable set of monitors which offer a surprisingly transparent tone. Sure, you won’t get the same type of a flat response as you would with professional or even semi-professional sets.
That wouldn’t even be physically possible considering the woofer cone is only 4“ in diameter. However, when put against most of its immediate competition, you will be hard pressed to find something that sounds as good as Mackie CR4 does. If you were to look at the graph, you’d see a lack of response right until 50-60Hz.
Then we have a spike right around a 120Hz that starts equalizing in the mid frequencies, only to sink right around 20kHz. Between these two points, the signal is about as flat as you can expect it to be in this price range. There is a clear bass bias, but that can be explained as compensation for the smaller woofer cone.
Overall, with Mackie’s CR4 monitors, you get your money’s worth of performance and then some. They work great both as monitors and references speakers, while some DSP correction can really do them good. These are great for budget home studios.