Gear Review: Mackie CR8-XBT

With the Mackie CR-X Multimedia Speaker Series, you can choose between 3-inch, 4-inch, 5-inch and 8-Inch speaker configurations. Specifications for the CR-XBT speakers shown here are (1) 160-watt peak Class AB power amplifier, 40 Hz low frequency up to 20 kHz @ 108 bd maximum headroom. There is also an available subwoofer, Mackie’s CR8S-XBT, that is designed to work with the CR-X Series through its 5-inch models. The Mackie CR8-XBT speakers have RCA, Balanced TRS inputs and Bluetooth in some models of the range. None of the speakers in the range have XLR balanced inputs.

The Mackie CR8-XBT speakers have been designed for maximum flexibility and to appeal to as many end-user applications as possible. Depending on the configuration and the level of audio sophistication you are requiring, the Mackie CR8-XBT can be used as multimedia monitors, a step up for whatever speakers came with your desktop PC, gaming, and yes, music production, which means the Mackie CR-X series speakers can also function as primary or secondary studio monitors for at least some professional applications.

The major trade-off for the CR8-XBT’s affordable price point is that the pair of speakers has only one, as opposed to two amplifiers, which means that one speaker is active, the other passive. You can via a switch (on the back of the speaker) select which side the active monitor is on. The second speaker is passive and needs to be connected with the included speaker wire (fine for connecting the speakers next to your computer, but you will probably have to use your own for any kind of studio application).

All the monitors in the CR series share similar construction and features and are offered at a highly competitive price point. The CR8-XBT monitors shown here are available for $349.99 MSRP for the pair. They feature all wood construction and, in general, feel high-quality and solidly built. All the speakers in the Mackie CR-X Series have a distinctive design and feature a green ring around the edge of the speakers. There is a power switch on the back of the active speaker so you can leave it in a “permanent standby mode” as well as a rotary power switch / volume control on the front of the active monitor. There is also an integrated 1/8th headphone jack on the front of the active speaker volume that can be controlled by the rotary volume control.

To be honest, my thought when I first heard about the CR-XBT was something like “How much of a studio monitor can I possibly get for $349?” I used to own a pair of Mackie HR 824’s, which in hindsight were great monitors and I wish I had never sold them. I was wondering how CR8-XBT Multimedia Speakers would be in comparison. I was pleasantly surprised by how good the CR8-XBT sounded with the different sound sources I played into it. As the CR8-XBT speakers do not have frequency roll-off switches, I was expecting exaggerated bass response. (The speakers come with an accessory package that includes RCA cables and foam pads to decouple the speakers from whatever surface they are placed on as well as angle them slightly upward if you want to do that.) The CR8-XBT speakers are ported on the rear, so you will have to take that into consideration when placing them, as that will significantly affect the overall frequency response you hear back from your listening position.

All the source material I heard back from the Mackie CR8-XBT always sounded clear, never exaggerated, and accurately reproduced. The overall feel of the sound coming out of the speakers felt more like high-end stereo speakers than uncolored studio monitors, but sounded sufficiently color neutral so that they could be used for at least some professional applications. More to the point, the overall frequency response from the Mackie CR8-XBT compared favorably with my primary studio monitors: a pair of Neumann KH 120’s that cost almost four time as much. Low-end frequency response of the Mackie CR8-XBT, when connected via Bluetooth, was a little less pronounced to my ears rather than connected via a pair of balanced TRS Quarter Inch cables, but in either case the sound coming out of the speakers was clear and distinct, the low end remained tight, never flabby, the midrange clear and pronounced and the highs distinct but not shrill or over-exaggerated.

The Bluetooth connectivity available on all models in the range opens some interesting possibilities. From the standpoint of production, when I first heard about the Bluetooth capability in the CR8-XBT monitors I must admit my first reaction was, “Bluetooth in a Studio Monitor?” (Yes, I am thinking from the standpoint of audio production.) The answer to that question is, as I found out, that the speakers can be placed anywhere in your listening field without having to deal with the speaker cables. This was a lot more liberating than I thought it would be. I can move the speakers anywhere in the room, monitor a mono or stereo source (I am using in my home studio Mackie’s “Big Knob” passive as a monitor controller). I put the speaker or speakers in places I never would have thought of––like, for example, I put the active speaker in the bathroom or hallway next to my home studio and listened to a mono mix etc. This flexibility makes the Mackie CR8-XBT useful as a “second opinion” for my mixes. I did hear an obvious difference in the range of frequency response I got when the speakers were connected via Bluetooth or a balanced TRS cable, but that was to be expected.

With the Mackie CR8-XBT Multimedia Speakers you are (for $349.99 MSRP) getting a “real-deal” pair of studio or multimedia monitors with as many connection options as you would likely need, the one exception being there is no XLR balanced input. You also get with the CR8-XBT a download card that gets you a free download to ProTools First ®and the Musician Collection ™ Plug-Ins. Mackie has clearly done a lot of research into how many features you can get for this price. The result is an intelligent compromise that gives you tremendous value and offers a lot of flexibility for what they cost.

Find out more at Mackie .com