My Impressions of Mackie MR5, MR8 and Audioengine 5
I really appreciated the reviews that people have made on this site so I wanted to provide my own. I hope it helps someone. Note that I normally listen to headphones and this is the first time I've ever owned speakers more than $100. If you want me to add anything to the review, let me know.
Audioengine D1 DAC
Denon AHD2000 (headphones)
Notice I did not get the Mackie MKII series or the new Audioengine 5+ because I found great deals on the prior models.
Audioengine 5 Impressions:
Physically these have a nice, solid build quality. They're noticeably smaller and lighter than the Mackie MR5s though.
Sonically, they sound pretty good, but not great. The highs are slightly more pronounced than either of the Mackies. In certain songs the highs sounded overemphasized and made the song sound uncomfortable to listen to. The midrange sounds pretty good, but at times I still felt they were overpowered by the highs. The bass is good... for 5inch drivers. I can't help but always feel disappointed by bass response coming from small drivers. They can sound decent but they just can't ever compete with high quality headphones or larger speakers. These audioengines don't extend quite as low as the MR5s but are pretty close.
My biggest problem with these, and why I'm returning them, is that the soundstage is absolutely terrible. Everything that you play on these sounds almost like some gimmicky SRS surround effect has been turned on. What I mean by that is that when you play a song where the vocals should be come from a position directly in front you, you instead hear the sound coming from all around you. Initially I thought it was totally weird but kind of cool to have that surround sound effect, but that wore off really fast. I can't tell the difference from when the lead singer is singing and when the lead is being accompanied by backup singers. In the first case, the vocals should come from directly in front and in the latter, it should sound like a cohesive harmony of voices coming from all around you. This attribute of the audioengines is extremely noticeable compared to Mackies and was a deal breaker.
Mackie MR5 Impressions:
These are physically larger and heavier than the audioengines. They feel very solid.
The bass on these extends slightly further than the audioengines, but as I mentioned above, I still feel somewhat disappointed by how low they go compared to my Denon headphones or the MR8s. The midrange and highs sound great to me on these. Vocals and instruments sound very realistic. Thankfully, these don't have the soundstage problem of the audioengines. Vocal and instrument positions are clearly positioned and separated. That said, neither Mackies are as good as my headphones when it comes to clear separation of instruments/sounds in any given song.
The only gripes I have with these are minor. First, the sweet spot for these is smaller than the MR8s obviously. Since they're physically smaller than the MR8s, they sound smaller at lower volumes. Finally, the bass extension just cannot compare to the larger MR8s or my headphones. Additionally, the bass response isn't as tight as on my headphones. By that, I mean that when I play a song with a variety of low frequency sounds/instruments playing simultaneously, the bass can sound a little muddled together.
Mackie MR8 Impressions:
Christ these things are huge! I could not believe how physically large and heavy they were, but they feel extremely solid.
The mids and highs on these sound identical to the MR8s to me. If there are any differences, they're just too subtle for my ears. Luckily that's a good thing because I loved the mids and highs on the MR5s as well. The bass extension on these is impressive. They can go almost as low as my headphones. In terms of quantity, I was pretty blown away. They can make my entire room shake if I want them to, and I definitely do appreciate a deep, reverberating bass on certain songs. Finally, these are large speakers and have a large soundstage and sweet spot which I much appreciated.
Sonically, the only problem with these was that they emit a low hiss even without any sound playing. I think it was related to my DAC, but the MR5s and audioengines do not have this issue.
Unfortunately, and very reluctantly, I returned these. They were just too damn big! I will definitely admit I miss the low end response when I listen to my MR5s.
In terms of accurate sound, here's how I'd rank things:
1. Denon AHD2000
2. Mackie MR8
3. Mackie MR5
4. Audioengine 5
If you have a big enough room to hold the MR8s, I'd recommend getting those. They're everything the MR5s are but with noticeably better bass extension. Both sound great in the mids and highs and have a good soundstage.
The audioengines are significantly behind the others. I would seriously recommend listening to them first before you buy them or buy from a place with a good return policy. Their inability to accurately position sounds was a serious letdown.