In our best studio monitors guide, we’ve touched on the Mackie CR4 and added it to the list as an affordable option. This time we look at its little brother, the CR3.
The CR series by Mackie is an entry-level series of speakers with studio monitor pedigree. These are not really speakers that I would call with a straight face “studio monitors” but they are close to it.
They offer a very good value for the money for a beginner but also for people that already have a good set of larger studio monitors.
I say that because I also see them as a really great second pair to check your mixes and masters on.
Mackie CR3 vs “Real” Studio Monitors
If you are new studio monitors let’s do a quick recap of what these are.
Studio monitors are speakers that are meant to give you accurate sound in order to help you balance your instruments in a mix and take other mixing decisions as well.
The end goal of mixing is to make the mix sound good on a wide variety of speakers, some very good and detailed, others not so good and not so detailed.
Regular speakers try to make the sound as pleasant as possible while studio monitors don’t. This allows you to more easily find defects in your mix and fix them. At least on paper.
So, the Mackie CR3 compared to other, more expensive monitors will not be as detailed. They are decently detailed.
They will not have the same level of detail when it comes to sound stage. This sound stage allows you to hear kind of in a 3D way like the sound is not really coming from 2 speakers but rather from multiple sources in front of you and on the sides.
This in turns allows you to place your tracks more to the left or to the right of the whole mix.
Not sure how much you are into gaming but if you are, a parallel to this would be, if you have a good pair of headphones and you play something like CS GO, if you pay attention to the sound you are able to pin point the direction from which shots are fired or people are walking around.
It’s kind of like that but with instruments. Hope that made sense.
So, going back to the CR3. You will not be able to pin point instruments as well as you are able to with something like Yamaha HS8.
The point is, don’t expect 10x sound quality at a fraction of the cost.
But, they do sound good and for the price, they are quite hard to beat.
As the name suggests they have 3″ woofers that go down to 80Hz. This means that you won’t get much bass and depending on your studio situation that might actually be what you are looking for.
They are not going to make your neighbors throw potatoes at you which is nice.
They also have a .75 tweeter that goes up to 20kHz which is good enough and a power output of 50W total.
The way these are configured, one speaker houses the amplifier while the other is passive which makes things nice and easy. You plug one power cord in your outlet, two wires from the active speaker to the passive one and your audio source in the amplified one and you’re off.
The active speaker houses all the sound inputs and the volume. There are no EQ options here but I don’t expect them for this price. The one thing I miss though is the ability to adjust volume independently for each speaker but again, I don’t really expect that for the price.
A nice feature they offer is the ability to choose which side the active speaker is on. You just flick a switch and you go from left to right and vice-versa.
This can be really helpful if cables are short and of course, you don’t want to flip your audio because of that. Really handy feature.
Another nice thing is the front placed volume/on-off button. You don’t see that often with larger monitors, likely because manufacturers assume that you use other devices to control the monitors.
If that is not enough, you also have an input and an output on the front as well. This allows you to connect, for example, your phone as an input and your headphones as output on the fly without changing anything in the back.
Speaking of inputs, the CR3 can take RCA and TRS balanced or unbalanced which I think is really good in terms of flexibility.
In the Box
In the box, you get everything you need to get up and running and also a pair of speaker foam pads that match the size of the speakers. Nice touch.
You also get an RCA cable to be able to get audio to your new speakers right away and also a cable for your phone so if you got nothing but your phone you can still start using them.
Of course, you also get the cable for the passive speaker.
Who Should Buy the CR3?
These are great speakers for a wide variety of people that work with sound, musicians, filmmakers, vloggers and so on.
Also because they are not super flat in their sound, I think they are also a good replacement for your usual computer speakers or TV speakers.
It’s hard to go wrong with these if you set your expectations right. Just don’t think you figured out a magic trick to replace $500 monitors or hi-fi speakers.
They are just very good for the money.