Mackie CR3 Review: Great Beginner Monitors

Finding the right speakers for your home studio is not easy. There are so many options on the market and it can be hard to choose the best ones. I recently tested some Mackie CR3-X speakers, and after using them for a while here is my Mackie CR3 review…

mackie cr3 review

I tested these primarily for use in my home studio, but they work great with any computer or laptop! The reason I went with this model is to see if something this inexpensive and small could provide good results for my music.

The Mackie CR3-x is a set of small studio speakers that are designed to take up little space and deliver high-performance sound. The claim is that the cr3x is the speaker for you if you’re looking for precision engineering, simple design, and clean lines. It’s great for home recordings because it has a wide frequency range of 80 Hz – 20 kHz which allows it to produce exceptionally clear audio even at loud volumes.

In this review, we will discuss the pros and cons, the features and specifications and also mention a few alternatives to consider. So let’s jump on into our Mackie CR3 review.


The Mackie CR3-X speakers promise to deliver a flat response for use in a studio setting. I found this not to be the case. In fact, the Mackie CR3s seem to have a very weak low end which I really didn’t like. It is not surprising because of the size of the woofer. Smaller speakers generally have a problem reproducing good bass. However, they are loud and can handle high levels of volume without distorting. The design of the speaker is nice, especially with the headphone out and volume control on the front of the speaker.

There are plenty of input options that help the Mackie CR3 to live up to its name as a multi-media speaker. Overall they are a good entry-level speaker for those producers who are on a fixed budget.

Let’s move on with the Mackie CR3 review.

Pros and Cons

There are some great features of the Mackie CR3-X speakers and there are some not-so-great features.


  1. They are loud for their size (up to 97dB)
  2. Great price point
  3. Sleek design
  4. Front headphone out and volume control
  5. Decent sound quality


  1. Missing the low end
  2. Build Quality
  3. The volume knob is not smooth


Let’s take a look at some of the features that make these speakers stand out in this Mackie CR3 review.

Sound Quality

These are decent for a 3 inch-sized speaker. The mids and highs are well-defined. Although the bass is lacking, the overall sound quality is excellent. It’s not particularly surprising given that they’re a tiny monitor. You may want to invest in a subwoofer if you make bass-heavy music.

These speakers can produce a surprising amount of volume. They are rated at 97dB. They are quite clear at higher volumes but there is a point where they start to fall apart. I would suggest that they are best used at a moderate volume.

They are not as flat as their higher-priced counterparts. Because of this, they shouldn’t be used for the final mixing of tracks unless you have spent a considerable amount of time getting to know them.

Build Quality

The cabinets are constructed of wood-based material and painted black, with a brushed-metal front panel with a bright green outline design. The build is pretty solid and doesn’t seem to have any resonating issues.

The volume knob has some issues. When you start to increase the volume, it jumps from quiet to loud immediately and then smooths out. This can be annoying.

One of the speakers contains the amplifier and crossover and the other is a passive speaker. This is a very common configuration for speakers of this size. There is a switch to choose which side of your setup the powered speaker will be on.

Overall the build quality is good. You should always treat your speakers with care and if you do so you will have these for a long time.


The powered 50W speakers include a 3-inch polypropylene-coated woofer and a 0.75-inch ferrofluid-cooled silk-dome tweeter with a frequency crossover of 3kHz. The frequency response is 80Hz to 20kHz. As mentioned earlier the speakers can produce a lot of sound at 97dB SPL.

Being the small speakers that they are they come in at a weight of 7.8lbs. This makes them very portable and an ideal solution for producers on the go.

They come equipped with all the necessary cables.

As you would expect for an inexpensive speaker, there are no tuning options included with the Mackie CR3-X. This is not a huge loss as there is software that a person could purchase to tune them. Check out Sonarworks Sound ID Reference for speakers.

Connection Options

At this price point, there aren’t really a lot of connection options available in most speakers. This is where the Mackie CR3-X shines. There are many input options on these speakers.

On the front is an input for your headphones. When the headphones are connected the speakers are muted and the volume control is used for the headphones.

The back panel of the powered side offers 3 different input options. There is 2 1/4″ jacks for right and left, RCA jacks, and a stereo auxiliary input that you can plug in a smartphone.

The flexibility of all these inputs is a great feature for a speaker at this price point.


the Mackie CR series has a smooth and sleek look. The flat black sides and brushed metal look on the front are eye-catching. Equally as eye-catching is the green trim around the speaker. They just stand out and say “look at me”.

The volume knob also lights up when the speaker is powered on. All in all, I think the Mackie CR3-X are nice-looking speakers and definitely stand out in any studio.


The Mackie CR3-X speakers are affordable, perhaps the most affordable speaker with these features and specs. They are an excellent value and will give more expensive speakers some solid competition.

For the bedroom producer on a budget, these speakers are definitely worth buying.


There are always competitors in whatever space. Here we have listed some good competition for the Mackie CR3-X.

PreSonus Eris E3.5

The Presonus Eris E3.5 is a 3-way active studio monitor with 3.5-inch (89 mm) Kevlar® low-frequency transducer and a 1-inch silk dome tweeter. The speaker offers consistent, accurate listening for mixing or mastering, and its compact design makes it easy to place in any room of your home or project studio. The E3.5’s high and low-frequency controls let you tune the speakers to your room while the rear panel features both balanced XLR/TRS combo jacks or unbalanced RCA inputs.

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors

IK Multimedia iLoud Micro Monitors are the perfect desktop studio reference monitors for critical audio production listening, delivering surprising bass response and high-resolution sound. These highly accurate near-field monitors were designed to provide an ideal mix environment for small spaces like home studios and project or professional recording facilities. The iLoud Micro Monitors feature a super-near field design that places the sweet spot right at your ears when you’re sitting at a typical desk, so you can hear every detail of your music with exceptional clarity and precision. The extended frequency response from 45 Hz – 20 kHz delivers a surprising bass response. Advanced digital crossover and careful time alignment for precise stereo imaging. All this is in a small package for easy portability.

JBL Professional 1 Series 104-BT

The JBL Professional 1 Series 104-BT is a powered, two-way reference monitor with an integrated 60-watt Class D amplifier. The proprietary coaxial driver combines a 4.5-inch (118 mm) woofer and a 0.75-inch (19 mm) soft-dome tweeter for transparency and a wide sweet spot. Three sets of inputs allow connection with professional equipment, personal music players and consumer devices. Front panel input control selects Bluetooth, aux, RCA or TRS sources; the front panel volume control also integrates speaker mute capability. Compact and powerful, these speakers are great for home studio producers.


Considering the price point that these monitors are at, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to the bedroom producer who is on a budget. They are a great price and will give way more value than a pair of computer speakers.

If you are setting up a new home studio and you need a good monitor to fit your budget then you should buy these. They are a great start. For more info on what you need to get started check out these articles, Best Keyboard, Best Microphones, and Best Headphones.