Recording Reviews: Mackie XR824 8" Professional Studio Monitors - Recording
Mackie XR824 8" Professional Studio Monitors
Bang meets buck - with an HR heritage
by Chris Loeffler
T he Mackie HR series of monitors was (and continues to be) a wildly popular studio line for Mackie, and there are tens of thousands of them working in studios and work spaces around the world. It makes sense Mackie would see the value in expanding their monitor line to target serious reference monitor applications, but at a price point that will attract studio hobbyists who can’t swing $1,400 - the price of a pair of HR824s.
The Mackie XR824 measures 10”x10.5”x15.7” and weighs just under 19 pounds, making it sizable enough to be a substantive part of your mixing/monitoring area without being so bulky or heavy that you’d need to make special accommodations. The XR824 powers an 8” Kevlar woofer with 100 watts and a 1” aluminum tweeter with 60 watts, for 160 watts total of Class-D amplification (frequency response 36 Hz - 22 kHz), and features controls on the back for input sensitivity, high and low filters, and an acoustic space selector to tune the speakers’ performance to the room. The speaker can run in auto-on mode, where the monitor powers on and off based on whether or not it's receiving a signal.
What You Need to Know
The new XR series (I reviewed a pair of XR824s) seems to have a lot in common with its HR824 sibling on paper; both have the same rear panel filters and Acoustic Space control, and a similar form factor. Where the XR824 veers in different directions are its 8” woofer (the HR’s is 8-3/4”), an anodized aluminum tweeter (the HR’s is titanium), lower wattage (160 watts vs. 250 watts), and an ELP bass port rather than the HR’s passive radiator. Now let’s focus on what the XR series is all about.
The Mackie XR824’s 8” Kevlar woofer provides rapid transient recovery and articulate lows, full and slightly warm, even at low volume settings. However, the sound imaging really opens up at medium level volumes. The 1” anodized aluminum tweeter delivers crisp, tight highs that kept up even at the highest volumes, which impressed me. The woofer and tweeter blend very well, creating wonderful imaging at the crossover point - an attribute where many monitors at this price point fall short. Paired, the XR824s create a rich stereo field with clear sound and nuanced detail.
The XR824 lets you tweak the monitors to your mixing environment with the Acoustic Space three-way switch, which adapts the low frequency response to one of three presets: Whole Space (speakers away from the wall), Half Space (speakers against the wall), and Quarter Space (speakers in the corners of the room). I tested them in all three scenarios and found them to be practical and useful in sweetening the bass to the room, and likely a boon for beginning and intermediate engineers who don’t want to chase transparency by endlessly tweaking their monitors.
An HF filter provides a 2 dB cut or boost at the 10 kHz range to compensate for overly bright or dark rooms, while the LF filter inserts a low frequency rolloff into the response curve at 36 Hz or 80 Hz to emulate the smaller speakers through which the final fix will likely be played. Both controls succeed in their goals, without overly affecting the source audio image. These are especially useful tools for people who want to help tune their monitors to a room without delving into room acoustics.
The ELP Bass Reflex System is an extended-length port design that allows for deep low frequency response and increased output - in layman's terms, more bass at higher volumes. My limited experience with mixing has taught me the importance of understanding and hearing the entire composition of the bass frequencies to avoid cartoony, two-dimensional mixes with weird bass humps. There’s no doubt the ELP pushes the bass without getting muddy or woofy, and it certainly negated the need to supplement the pair of XR824s I reviewed with a woofer, even when running boomy EDM.
The XR824 did seem to add a bit of warmth and bass that was very musical, but added just enough color that a highly surgical mixer might find distracting.
The XR series does not accept RCA nor digital inputs.
It’s tempting to say the Mackie XR series was made for those aspiring for the HR series but short on cash, but that’d be downplaying what the XR824 brings to the studio. Taken on its own, the Mackie XR824 gives a lot of bang for the buck, with a wide sweet spot, intuitive and simple to use controls, and enough tight, precise bass to handle the low-end needs of modern music. Apparently, it learned a lot from its parents.
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.