Mackie SRM Powered Speakers

To say that Mackie has come a long way since they introduced their first self-powered speaker line would be a bit cliché. But none the less, they have.

In February of 2000, Mackie’s parent company, LOUD Technologies, acquired EAW (Eastern Audio Works). They also own Martin. In my opinion, this was one of the best moves the company has made. Why? Simple. Between Martin and EAW you have some of the best, brainiest and most forward-looking speaker designers. Martin makes the MLA and EAW makes Anya. These are two of the most advanced speaker systems on the planet. They take what we used to think of as “pattern control” to levels never dreamed of until the past few years. And these designers—especially the ones from EAW—have had a big hand in the design of Mackie speakers.

It started with the HD series of Mackie speakers that came out about 6 or 7 years ago and saw its first real fruit with the DRM coaxial models which we have already reviewed LINK and is bearing fruit once again with this update to the venerable SRM.

Fast forward to today and the new Mackie SRM series. While the SRM series has been around for a while (indeed, the SRM 450s and the JBL EON pretty defined the first wave of powered speakers made specifically with musicians and bands in mind), these three models (the SRM1850, SRM650 and the SRM550) are new. About the only thing that is the same is the SRM designation. They are not only new— they are very tough and very powerful. In other words—they rock!

Each of the SRM speaker boxes has a peak output rating of 1600 watts. The RMS rating is 800 watts. For this review, I was shipped a pair of SRM550 2-way boxes and a pair of SRM1850 subs. The 550’s sport a 12-inch low frequency driver and a 1.4 inch titanium high compression horn. On-board audio processing includes acoustic correction algorithms developed by EAW, a digital 2-way crossover, driver time-alignment and phase correction, one button speaker mode (PA, DJ, monitor and soloist) and one button feedback destroyer. The all-wood, internally braced cabinet has a 18-gauge steel grill to protect the drivers. On the back is a two channel mixer with 2 XLR inputs to accommodate mics, guitars and even RCA inputs for a music source. There’s also 1 XLR thru-put.

These new Mackie’s come with “Smart Protect” to protect your investment should you push the boxes to hard. Lastly, the enclosures are voiced to sound awesome as stage monitors.

The SRM1850 subs have their own list of features that starts with a high output 18” woofer driven by a 1600 watt (800 rms) power amp. The box is ported for extra punch—and these subs are plenty punchy. They also have “Smart Protect” so you will have a lot of difficulty blowing them up. And the even better news is that the boxes weigh in at only 64 pounds, which is normally not a feature of an effective sub. So that makes these subs tight, powerful, punchy and easy to load.

So let’s load ‘em up and hit the road. My first outing with the SRM speakers was at a bar called Friar Tucks in Pomona California. If you don’t know where that is, don’t worry. It was a dive like all good bars. I was singing and playing with the band for the evening so I brought the sound system.

The system is very easy and quick to set-up. Handles centered on the left and right sides, and weighing in at just under 37 pounds, makes for easy hoisting on to stands. We were playing quite loud but at no time was the sound piercing. The SRM550s are nicely voiced right out of the box and with a maximum peak volume of 132dB, they are powerful enough to give the end user (in this case me) a lot of head room. I never felt like I was pushing the system.  As I mentioned earlier the subs have power and punch—smooth and powerful.

My next date was with the SRM’s was a small speaking engagement with a special guest singer. I only used the SRM550’s for this particular event. Set-up was once again quick and easy and the speakers handled the spoken voice beautifully. When the guest singer came on she was impressed with the overall sound. As I mixed her song I could hear the quality of the voicing of these boxes. Again the EAW technology was evident.

If you are looking for powered speakers that can work as either monitors or mains, you have a ton of choices. And the tech built into the boxes gets more advanced all the time. Some of the stuff hitting market now will communicate directly with digital mixers on the same network and are even controllable via an iPad. The stuff available now makes the first generation of powered boxes—which was only, what, 15 years ago?—seem like relics of the Bronze Age.

With so many choices, picking the right box can be harder than you might think. And, especially in terms of flexibility and simplicity of use but DSP power for days, The new Mackie SRMs deserve a serious look.

Stay tuned—we’re not done with these yet.