REVIEW: Mackie CR Earbuds & MC Studio Headphones

Mackie’s been a huge player in the prod audio world for 30 years, and now they’ve unveiled a new lineup of in-ears and studio headphones for today’s musicians. How do they fare?

Mackie’s CR-series buds start things off with a sleek and very small form. They use a single driver in each ear, but don’t let that fool you. They’re certainly a big upgrade in sound from whatever earbuds get included with a smartphone, and they’re definitely more comfortable. For a listener who wants a great set of headphones for the gym or general listening and such, these are a great value in overall sound quality.

Taking things up a notch, the CR-Buds+ are designed more like a set of in-ear monitors, with dual drivers in each ear. The extra driver really makes a difference with tighter bass response than the standard CR-buds, and are really great for a big sound in a tiny package. These could easily handle the task of mixing audio for a home project, or even live-in ears for stage use in a pinch.

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Each set also has a cable that can handle calling functions, and microphone, as well as volume control. A selection of foam and rubber ear pieces are included in both sets. The big thing to note is making sure you have a good and tight seal against your ear with any set of earbuds. The first reason is comfort, and the second is a loose seal doesn’t give proper bass response, and it also allows in external noise.

Now for over the ear headphones, Mackie has unleashed their MC Series: the MC150 & MC250, They’re quite similar in form and design, but very different listening experiences, and each shines in their respective worlds. They both use 50mm drivers, with soft leatherish ear cups and headbands. The cables detach, and have a twist lock to prevent the cable popping out inadvertently. A nice touch is included — the ever important 1/4” to 1/8” adapter that screws on to the end. Using them while on the go is easy, and they collapse down for easy storage in a backpack or a drawer.

The MC150 is meant for more personal listening and light recording work. They work great as a set of DJ headphones, with a very comfortable set of earpieces. With an excellent depth of bass response, even at high volumes things do not get too muffly or soft. A guitar player connecting to a headphone jack on an amplifier or a modeling system will certainly love these. Tracking during a long session is super comfortable and the frequency response is also comfy, with no ear fatigue even after hours of use.

Now the MC 250’s serve a different master. So, do the 250s sound better than the MC 150’s? Well…these are meant for some big audio business, with a more sensitive frequency range that is specified for serious listening like mixing or mastering. That means the bass isn’t tuned for dubstep, it’s more meant for clarity and articulation across the entire frequency range. The high end is super smooth as well, with no spike-y harshness, even after a long mixing session. Now a set of MC-150s AND MC-250s would be great in the studio, to go back and forth just to see what adjustments to the mix really sound like on both sets. For the user who wants to get into a set of reference headphones, but not spend a ton of money, this is the perfect place to start!

It’s hard to do our usual PRO/CON epilogue on these, as each set is slightly different, and has their specific applications so the best way to summarize is:

CR-Buds:

Excellent upgrade earbud that won’t break the bank, great for the gym or personal listening.  $19.99

CR-Buds+:

Fantastic earbud that’s more like an entry-level in-ear monitor at a ridiculously low price point. $39.99

MC-150:

Perfect for personal listening. $69.99

MC-250:

Professional reference set of headphones for mixing and mastering, Great sound quality at this price level. $99.99

Overall Mackie isn’t going to break even the stingiest wallets, especially considering the sound quality that’s being delivered to the user. These may not be the most high-end, deluxe models we’ve ever tested. But they aren’t meant to be; the point is to deliver good sound for a reasonable price. And if that’s what you’re looking for, look no further.

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