Mackie CR3 Review: Is It a Good Buy?

Mackie CR3 Review

All audio engineers and audiophiles know that they need to invest in a good pair of speakers or studio monitors. But your average listener also prefers hearing their favorite song on a good pair of speakers. That’s one of the reasons why the speaker sector of the multimedia market is worth $8.2 million alone.

The speakers you buy depend on your purpose. If you want high-quality sound when watching TV or listening to music but don’t need professional studio quality, you’re likely looking for speakers with great sound that also aren’t too expensive.

If this sounds like what you need, you may be looking at the Mackie CR3. These are studio monitors and have sold extremely well on online marketplaces such as Amazon.

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But are they really what they’re hyped up to be? Most importantly, are they ideal for professional use?


  • Clear sound
  • Affordable
  • Switch from left to right channel
  • Cool design
  • Loud
  • Front input options


  • Have to pay extra for a Bluetooth model
  • Not ideal for professional use
  • Doesn’t have good balance
  • Volume controls aren’t smooth
  • Lacks bass
  • Not a quality build

Sound Quality

Let’s start with the most important part first — the essential questions that all users will ask. Is the sound quality good? Are there any feedback, distortions, and other imperfections such as buzzing and popping? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for.

Clear Audio

Mackie Studio Monitor

The Mackie CR3 studio monitors are ideal for casual listening, such as those who have a home theater or just want better speakers when listening to music. That’s because the speakers deliver overall clear audio.

There is one major issue for those who use these monitors casually. The volume knob is badly balanced. When you first increase the volume, it goes from soft to extremely louder. As you increase the volume, it does get smoother, but it definitely doesn’t glide through the different volumes the way other speakers do.

While the monitors are very loud, they work best when using them at moderate volumes. That’s because these monitors produce distortion at high volumes. We will cover some specific issues in the next section

You should also consider your listening preferences. If you don’t have a preference as far as bass and other elements go, then these are ideal. But if you want flexibility in your speakers, then the Mackie CR3 isn’t a good choice. There’s no subwoofer output and the bass is thin, which isn’t ideal for those who prefer rumble.

Not Ideal for Professionals and Audiophiles

While the speakers do their job, they don’t offer a lot of balance. This makes them a less-than-ideal option for anyone looking for speakers for professional use.

For example, upper bass dominates lower bass. The treble also doesn’t balance with the bass. This also doesn’t make them an ideal option for audiophiles, who can easily pick up these imperfections.


The Mackie CR3 speakers have a 3-inch subwoofer, which is ideal for near listening and for small studios. The frequency response is 80Hz to 20kHz, which produces clear sound at a decent frequency range. They’re also pretty loud, supporting 97 dB.

You’ll also receive all necessary cables, a power cord, and even a Pro Tools first software package.


The speakers look sharp. They have a matte black cabinet with green detailing. Another nifty detail is the volume knob and Mackie logo light up when on.

However, many audiophiles won’t care for the design — the speakers align with your torso at desk level and there’s no option for them to face upward. For many, this ruins the listening experience.

Keep in mind, this is a pretty common design with bookshelf speakers. This isn’t a glitch in the construction, it’s just something based on personal preference. If you prefer the speakers facing upward, you can use specialized stands.


Before we judge the speakers on initial sound quality alone, let’s take a look at the individual components of the speakers.


Mackie Black and Green

The Woofer is a poly cone, at about 3.5 inches. They have an exposed dome with no grill.


One plus with these speakers is they look cool, thanks to the tweeter. The tweeter is a ¾ inch textile dome. If you turn the speakers around, you’ll see the back has a makeshift enclosure. Looking online, many have speculated it’s to stop air leaks, but it’s kind of an odd feature.


The port is the reason why the bass is off. It’s 1.25” in diameter and 3.5” deep. Even though it’s firmly attached, it’s tuned higher than normal.


The speakers include little foam stands. This helps prevent vibrations. However, the foam stands don’t do much on their own. It’s recommended you use them in conjunction with other stands.

Tuning Options

Unfortunately, the speakers themselves don’t have tuning options. If you use audio software, you can adjust the sound levels that way.

Build Quality

The materials used for the build are decent. Other entry-level studio monitors are often made of plastic. The Mackie CR3 is largely made of wood with a black vinyl wrap.

However, the components aren’t completely high-end. Because of this, many other reviewers reported these speakers have failed — especially if you jump between the left and right speaker.

Because of this, we specifically recommend using these speakers if you’re looking for something affordable or in-between speakers until you get another pair. Even if that’s the case, we recommend using your money toward better quality speakers that will sound better and will last longer. These usually only last a couple of years.


The Mackie CR3 speakers are eight inches tall, making them decently sized. These are ideal speakers for a desk, bookshelf, or another surface.


mackie 3

The Mackie CR3 speakers can hook up to many different devices. From your phone to your turntable, you can use these speakers for just about any purpose.

There’s a 3.5 mm headphone jack, RCA inputs, TRS quarter-inch inputs, and a 3.5mm stereo aux input. Included is a power cable, 3.5mm-to-RCA cable, 3.5mm audio cable, and a speaker wire.

While we recommend using an audio interface, these speakers can connect to your computer’s 3.5mm output.

Keep in mind, these speakers don’t include Thunderbolt or USB ports.


The price for the Mackie CR3 varies. It’s available at Musician’s friend for $109.99 but is available at Guitar Center for $89.99. It’s definitely a good price, but you pay for what you get.

With that being said, you do get a lot for these speakers. The Mackie CR3 has impressive features and a decent sound. They’re also better than other bookshelf speakers.

If you only want simple speakers for casual listening, you’ll prefer these speakers. But those who want professional-quality speakers should spend the extra money.

Best Music for These Speakers

All audiophiles know that certain speakers work well with specific styles of music. So, what’s best for the Mackie CR3?

We recommend anything with less bass. Certain styles of rock music work well, as long as the song isn’t too powerful. The speakers tend to make drums and bass sound thin, but these speakers make vocals sound extremely rich and clear.

Because of this fact, these speakers are ideal for classical music. As long as the score doesn’t have a lot of thunder, the speakers will make your favorite orchestral piece sound clear and bright.

We don’t recommend listening to hip hop on these speakers. The bass is too modest, lacking the oomph that good speakers give a solid beat.

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Question: What Is Mackie?

Answer: Mackie is a professional audio brand that specializes in making speakers and studio monitors. They’re also well-known for making pro audio compact mixers.

Their products are very popular due to their affordable price and quality. They offer products for both home and professional use. Most of their speakers and audio mixers are small, ideal for portability and for use on a variety of surfaces.

The company was founded in 1988 by Greg Mackie. They’re currently based in Seattle, Washington.

Question: Are Other Mackie Monitors Good?

Answer: Mackie overall has good quality speakers. They have an extensive catalog and anyone can find speakers that they need, whether you want speakers to watch TV or are mixing music. If the CR3 speakers aren’t to your liking, take a look at other Mackie speakers.

Question: Where Are Mackie Speakers Made?

Answer: Mackie speakers are assembled in Mexico. The parts come from the US and Canada.

Question: Do I Need Studio Monitors or Speakers?

Answer: The Mackie CR3 are technically studio monitors. How do they differ from speakers? And are studio monitors a better option?
Studio monitors are ideal for, well, the studio. They’re used by mixing engineers to get clean sound when mixing tracks.

However, the Mackie CR3 studio monitors are entry-level, so they sound more like good speakers as opposed to professional studio monitors.

On the contrary, traditional home speakers enhance and boost audio levels. They usually bring out rich tones in whatever you’re listening to. Some speakers also specialize in upping the bass without creating distortion.

This is why Mackie CR3 studio monitors are ideal for those who want good speakers and don’t care about super-rich tones or powerful bass. Studio monitors flatten what you’re listening to, resulting in more clarity.

Question: How Do I Connect My Mackie Speakers to My Computer?

Answer: Your Mackie speakers include 3.5mm cords that you can plug into your computer. Look for the headphone jack on your computer — it usually has a little headphone symbol. There’s a corresponding 3.5mm jack on your studio monitors, as well.

Question: Are There Similar Brands and Products?

Answer: If you’re looking for affordable studio monitors, Mackie CR3 monitors aren’t your only option. Here are other recommended products:
• M-Audio BX5-D3
• IK Multimedia iLoud Micro
• Presonus Eris E3
• JBL One Series 104
• KRK Rokit RP5 G4
• Alesis Elevate 5 MKII

Question: Are the Best Studio Monitors Expensive?

Answer: Mackie CR3 may not be the best and longest-lasting studio monitor for professional use. Does that mean better studio monitors are extremely expensive?

Professional audio mixers should find studio monitors that have excellent construction and design. This ensures the speakers will deliver clear audio — no matter the complexity of the music.

While the best studio monitors don’t always have a high price tag, the better studio monitors typically do have higher price points because of the quality that goes into making them.

Looking for More Speaker and Sound Monitor Recommendations?

The Mackie CR3 studio monitors are an ideal solution if you want great studio monitors for music and aren’t picky about bass. You can use these speakers with a variety of devices and they include all of the necessary cables and cords.

Even though these are studio monitors, they’re better suited for entry-level audio engineers and not professionals. They don’t offer the quality that other Mackie products and brands have.

If you’re still shopping for excellent speakers and sound monitors, take a look at some of our other reviews and buying guides.

Mackie CR3-X 3-Inch Creative Reference Multimedia Professional Studio Monitors - Pair
Check Price
We earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase at no additional cost to you.
02/23/2024 02:26 pm GMT

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