The Mackie CR5BT is a complete package which almost seems too good to be true at their price.
The build quality and design of these speakers is good, but not perfect. They have a wooden cabinet, and do have some weight to them, and you can really feel the quality of their construction.
These are a very pro-sumer set of speakers, and it is apparent in everything from the informal language used on their box, and the feature set they have, to their choice of colors to appeal to general consumers.
They obviously do not have a grill in the front, and have green rings around the drivers. Now in the pictures these rings may seem bright gamery green like Razer uses, but it’s actually a little dull and unexciting shade of green, and I really think that the aesthetics would have been greatly improved if they used a brighter green color. The green rings are the only thing that keeps these speakers from looking extremely boring, as otherwise they are completely black, and the drivers are completely black too without any texture on them. They have a power LED around the volume knob, and the Bluetooth button lights up too when it is connected to a device. I think that they look reasonably good when it comes to studio monitors.
Two minor complaints I have about the build is that the Bluetooth button is very poorly constructed and feels very flimsy, and that the finishing at the centre of the woofer isn’t good, and the joining point between the driver and the dust cap area has a rough ring of plastic, which looks kind of cheap if there’s light reflecting off it.
The tweeter is soft dome, and the woofer is coated with polypropylene, so moderate level of impacts should not damage these easily.
They are rear ported, which can create problem with the bass response if you are planning to place them close to the wall, in which case you should really go for front ported speakers.
In the box, you will find a complete set of accessories needed to get you going. Apart from the speaker and manuals, you get a 3.5mm to RCA cable, a cable to connect your active and passive speaker, and a set of split isolation pads which you can use to raise and tilt them up by a few degrees. You also get a free sticker if you feel like expressing your Mackie love.
The cable that comes with these to power the passive speaker isn’t very long, and even though I don’t keep them far apart from each other, I still have to take care while adjusting the position of these speakers because of the short length of the cable. It’s great that they have included split isolation pads, and while you can use them to raise these by an inch and can also control the tilt angle to some degree, these really work best when you raise them to the ear level, as they are nearfield monitors with directional sound reproduction. I use a set of acoustic foam panels for this purpose.
These speakers do take a serious measure of space on your desk, so make sure you are prepared before ordering these, as they do not have a speaker mount at the bottom, and can only be kept on the isolation pads that come in the box.
When it comes to the features, these really have all the bells and whistles, and are really an all-rounder of a pair of speakers. At the back you’ll find a balanced input of quarter inch jacks for left and right channels, which can also take unbalanced input. Then you’ve got RCA input for use with a PC, TV, or a smartphone. There’s a switch that lets you swap the left and right channels, so you can keep the active speaker to the left or right of your setup, which is really great to see, and then finally on the active speakers, there’s the output for the passive speaker along with the power button. There’s nothing on the passive speaker except for the input from the amplifier in the active speaker.
Now coming on to the unique features they have for a studio monitor, they have Bluetooth, a headphone out on the front, and an AUX in in the front along with it. This is a very good set of input and outputs. The aux in works as expected, you can of course use it with your phone, and it can even act as a secondary input from any other device. The great thing about these speakers is that all the inputs work together, so plugging in the AUX cable doesn’t mute the inputs from the rear, and even when you have Bluetooth connected, no other input is muted so you don’t need to switch or remove any input, so you can actually use up to 4 inputs at the same time, without having any one of it muted, which is a big convenience, and can really make your life easy if you have a complex audio setup.
Coming on to the Bluetooth performance, it is an area where I was a little disappointed with these. Bluetooth has improved a lot, and even though I don’t expect these speakers to have a great DAC, the low end over Bluetooth is not good, and you can easily hear the compromise compared to the wired connection. They would probably still be much better than any portable Bluetooth speaker that you might have, but these are not as good as they could be for listening to music over Bluetooth. For movies, TV Shows, and YouTube videos, this is fine and I use them quite often for that with my phone. Bluetooth is turned on automatically every time you turn these on, so that’s great as the only time you have to press the Bluetooth button is while pairing them with your Bluetooth devices for the first time.
Now you may have noticed that I have put a heatsink at the back of these, and that is because I read in many 1 star reviews on Amazon, that these stopped working after a few months. With their sale numbers, it is obvious that there will be more faulty units, and that you will find similar comments on most of the other studio monitors..
When I touched them at the back, they were getting very hot, more than I like, so I used a spare Intel heatsink that came with my CPU, and the heatsink was also getting hot, which means that it was working, which is good. It is normal for speakers to get hot at the back, because they have an internal amplifier at back, which loses a lot of energy as heat. These were getting very hot initially, but after a few weeks they stopped doing it, and now in the winters to do not get hot, so I don’t know what is going on. Still I’d prefer not removing the heatsink for those hot summer days. But of course, this is completely optional.
You can also turn off the speaker by turning the volume knob counter-clockwise all the way, but I found that the back of it was still heating up, meaning that it doesn’t completely cut the power, so it’s kind of pointless.
Now coming to the most important part, the sound performance of these speakers is really great. Generally I divide my sound performance reviews in different parts for Bass, Mids, and Highs, but these speakers are so neutral that I don’t feel the need to do that.
The fact that these speakers are so feature filled doesn’t make them compromise on their sound. These have a 5 inch woofer, and a 3/4th inch silk-dome tweeter.
A 5 inch woofer can produce a lot of bass, and I don’t think that these need a sub-woofer. If you are not getting enough bass with these, make sure that there’s no bass cancellation going on because of the shape of your room.
These really have a good enough range to handle anything, and adding a sub-woofer might actually have a very adverse effect if you work with sound professionally or create music, but for the consumers that are looking to use these primarily as media speakers, and do want those extreme sub bass frequencies below 80 Hz, and like the sub-woofer sound, you can add a sub-woofer, which could actually cost you more than these speakers.
The mids and highs are very well balanced, and there’s no emphasis or reduction in the mid to high range to talk about. The mids sound great and natural, and the highs have a great presence without being fatiguing even after long listening sessions.
The imaging of these speakers also is great, and these actually have a soundstage that can make you differentiate between close and far away sounds. This is great for general listening and music production, but it also makes these speakers good for gaming, and even in FPS games like PUBG, you can actually hear the footsteps and get a very good directional awareness of gunshots and other sounds. You can hear the background noise in your recordings, and these speakers are very revealing of the source, so I did hear a big improvement in sound quality after upgrading my DAC from Fiio E10K to an SMSL Sanskrit, so make sure you pair them with a decent DAC to get the most out of them.
One thing to note is that the imaging and soundstage depends a lot on your speaker placement and height. So for best results, you will have to raise or tilt them to the ear level, and angle them correctly.
These are 50 watt speakers, and that is a lot of power, meaning that they can go very loud, which they do without any distortion, and can easily fill a medium sized room with good quality sound. I have not been able to take them past the 70% level, as they get uncomfortably loud at that point, and these can damage your hearing, if you are not aware about the volume level before you play something, especially if you are experimenting with sine waves.
These are studio monitors, so of course, if you want to use them for mixing and mastering, they will work great too, they have the detail and neutrality needed for professional audio work, and can compete with higher end monitors. Now one difference between a more expensive and professional studio monitor and the Mackie CR5 is that the higher end monitors have adjustments at the back for bass and treble to make them have a neutral frequency response in a variety of rooms and placements. You are not going to find that here, though you can achieve a lot of it with an equalizer, so it’s not a big deal. These are good for professional use, and for the price it is really tough to beat them, but of course there are better 5 inch monitors out there when you start looking at ones which cost double of what these do.
A big limitation on the quality of room can be your room, even though I have used some acoustic treatment in my room and at the wall at back of the speakers, the room still doesn’t have the perfect sound and has a lot of bass cancellation. Room acoustics can have a big difference, they can be a complex subject, and in worst cases you might need professional help, so do keep this factor in mind while deciding on any set of speakers.
I actually really recommend watching their Studio Monitor Basics video, it is quite informative, has minimal advertising, and what really impressed me was that they tell you to not buy a sub-woofer even though they sell them, and that truly tells you that they are serious about the science of sound reproduction and aren’t only interested in getting you to buy their products.
So in conclusion, these speakers really deliver on what you expect, they sound great, can be used for making music, watching movies, and even gaming. Even though they have some minor flaws like the bass response over Bluetooth connection, these are really great all-rounder speakers that should fulfil all your audio and audio setup needs.
Mackie Studio Monitoring Basics Video: https://youtu.be/D9qyDM3Z_uY