Mackie CR5-XBT Gaming & Studio Monitor Review
When we reviewed the bigger brother to the Mackie CR5-XBT, the CR8-XBT, we found them to be a spectacular audio solution befitting of their Studio Monitor designation within the Mackie range. On a quest to see how good the audio you could get would be without having to bust the bank we hoped that the more affordable, and indeed smaller, CR5-XBT pairing would see a similarly great showing, especially when you take into account their rock-bottom pricing. We did, however, keep the CR8S subwoofer on hand should they require a bit of extra help at the bottom end.
If you have ever looked into the audio world then you’ll be aware that there are loudspeakers, but there are also studio monitors. The key difference is in their audio profile. Loudspeakers tend to colour their reproduction, usually negatively biased towards the bass end of the spectrum at the cost of clarity in the other frequencies. Mainly because people who don’t know any better think that lots of bass equals quality. See anything that has a “turbo bass” function from the 80s and 90s. Studio monitors on the other hand have a flat profile. Their job isn’t to colour the sound to the taste of some speaker builder, but to reproduce what has been recorded exactly the way it was recorded. In simple terms they are far superior, as they give you the freedom to muck about with your EQ settings without having first to overcome some engineers idea of a good sound profile.
The Mackie CR5-XBT are studio monitors and it shows. The sound is glorious. It’s the aural equivalent of having your brains smashed out by a lemon wrapped around a gold brick, to quote Douglas Adams. Even the CR5, significantly smaller main speakers when compared to the CR8 we loved so much, doesn’t remotely give up anything in the audio department. They’re plenty loud enough, with a super wide frequency range that means that the top end is still glassy and crisp, the midrange beautifully broad and focused, and the bass easily capable of bringing your neighbours round for a talk. Indeed we got out their Subwoofer just in case, but it’s fair to say we didn’t need it at all. That isn’t to say it cannot bring you a little extra, of course it can, merely that you’re never left feeling short changed when blasting through the lastest Van Buuren mixtape. What is cool is that when you connect the subwoofer it automatically handled the bass frequencies, leaving the CR5-XBT themselves to handle the midrange and higher frequencies. This gives you more headroom overall, allowing you to run them at peak volume without getting into slight breakup issues. So if you want things super loud then maybe invest in the CR8S Subwoofer, but otherwise the regular setup has more than enough for even the most demanding listener.
It might only be a small thing but we’re big fans of the selector switch on the back of the powered speaker that allows you to tell it whether that speaker is on the left or right. We moan until we’re blue in the face that PC case windows are on the left, and thus our systems on our right hand side, but nearly all cabled headphones have the cable mounted on the left, forcing you to have it draped across your chest. Similarly the placing of the power sockets on our walls can mean that behind our desks is a spaghetti nightmare, whereas the Mackie CR5-XBT lets you plug it in either left or right hand side and then just tell it where it is. Glorious. Everyone else take note. Flexibility = a good thing.
Where we’re left totally slack-jawed is the combination of honey-smooth audio at, and we’ll shout this, Â£109. The Mackie CR5-XBT, with their multiple input sources, easily setup Bluetooth connectivity, glorious audio reproduction and ear-splitting volume are the perfect choice for a desktop speaker setup. Perfection can result in only one award, and they achieve the rarified air of our Ultimate Award.