Mackie XR624 by Arthur Stone
What is it?
The XR624 is a new 2-way monitor from Mackie; 2-way refers to 2 speakers: a 1” aluminium tweeter and a 6.5” Kevlar woofer. The XR624 is bi-amplified, meaning that the line-level input signal is split (at the crossover point of 2.7 kHz) into 2 amplifiers: 60 watts for the tweeter and 100 watts for the woofer.
The tweeter and woofer output (sound) is distributed via waveguide (shaped front) and the bass frequencies are further assisted by a rear-ported Bass Reflex System which reduces turbulence associated with low-frequencies. The XR624's frequency range is 45 Hz to 22 kHz.
How does it work?
The XR624's are mains-powered and the audio signal (e.g. from a mixer or interface) enters via a jack socket or XLR socket. The rear panel has an off/on power switch and controls to fine-tune the output. These controls allow the user to adjust the output for their room and positioning of the monitors.
The ability to fine-tune the output allow the user to enjoy accurate and pleasing audio at a reasonable price-point.
Differences from previous Mackie monitors:
For many years, and still, the Mackie HR range has been a popular and cost-effective studio monitoring solution. The major difference between the HR and new XR ranges, as with many other manufacturers, is the transition to digital amplification.
In the S3V review we saw ADAM accomplish this masterfully; whilst this isn't a comparison between the high-end S3V and the affordable XR624 we can ask whether good digital amplification can be attained at the price? Whilst the S3V and XR624 occupy different relative positions on the cost/quality scales the ADAM serves as a useful benchmark and in comparison reveals what the XR624 does well and what it might struggle with. Can the transition to digital offer some advantages over the previous analogue models?
Price (each): approx. $400 US/ £315 UK/ Euro 360
MSRP is higher and these are the current retailer prices.
Build quality is very good; solid, light and deep. Some delicacy like a home hi-fi speaker but I'm sure these could also take a hammering through time and situation but still function perfectly. Mackie's tradition as a gear manufacturer (big dude standing on the mixer) and the trickle-down tech from the company's various audio interests is evident.
The XR624 is relatively light (in part due to the lighter digital amps) which will be useful for some circumstances (e.g. travel/mounting); the downside is that there is less mass to anchor the unit to push out the audio.
Stylish but not clichéd or specific. Modest character. A good guide is the longevity of the HR design: form following function.
So in a nearfield position (say 3-6ft/1-2m) there is plenty of clean bass (aided by the 3-position room modes and filters), a good workable mid-range and a non-harsh tweeter. At this distance the XR624's can be loud and full without a sub. The only downside of the nearfield position is the XR624's self-noise – an inoffensive low buzz made more noticeable by its absence when monitor standby kicks in and cuts the circuit, although this is masked when audio is playing.
In a more midfield position (say 6-9 ft/2-3m) the XR624's energy and balance is still good at low to moderate levels but at higher levels I begin to hear the cabinet (resonance) and some distortion, quite harmonic, in the upper bass. It's not unpleasant to crank these but what separates the XR624 from inferior monitors is that they have some musical quality, like a fine instrument, and this needs to be catered for with room position, basic acoustic treatment and realistic energy levels. This isn't the power of the larger XR824 but with a sub the 624's usefulness opens up.
This makes the Mackie XR624's good monitors to build on by adding a sub later if needed. Even listening at lower levels the sub increases the efficiency of the XR624's and there is less strain and more mid-range clarity.The room mode switch worked very well especially with some help from good room position (height, width, depth) and acoustic tiles and cloud at first reflection points. As the XR624's are rear-ported and with average monitor depth, they need some physical distance from the rear wall; also it will help to find a good balance between rear wall coupling and monitor position but overall Mackie's choice of 3 filter positions (off, near wall, in corner) worked well in my medium sized home studio: 13 x 13ft/4 x 4m and around 2m/ 7 1/2 ft.
I settled on a position 1ft from rear wall, forming a 5ft triangle. In this position I found a good balance between mono image (e.g. bass guitar or kick in the centre) and the side (left or right) and far side images (e.g. FX that appear to come from beyond the monitors). In fact the stereo image, the soundstage, was very good; I felt immersed by the side information, and in general. Very plausible and a great backdrop or canvas on which to paint the music. In the same way that the texture of the canvas material affects the way the light reflects from a painting, so the XR624's revealed some tonal colouration (which is usual in this class of monitor) in comparison to the high-end benchmark monitors.
As a monitor during tracking e.g. electric guitar DI'd into an amp sim with the monitor acting as an guitar cab or getting some vibe from a Moog, the XR624 did well within limits. Enough to get the track done enjoyably but not at real amp levels. Fine detail is also heard during tracking use, so soft VST strings and piano dynamics have some sense of energy and solidity, and the presence of the instrument's body.
After reviewing several high-end monitors and making direct comparisons with the XR624, I was surprised at how good they are within a smaller range of use. A sweet spot. They're not as good when as loud as monitors costing 10 times the price, but in their comfort zone they are very usable and non-fatiguing. I did notice some slight hiss when very close (within 3ft in a pin-drop quiet room) but that disappeared when music was playing and, in general, the XR624's are not fatiguing and don't sound hyped.
Ideally, as with any other 2-way monitor I've tried, things improve with a sub. The sonics are good up to a level but, as with most monitors of this class, things start to deteriorate when cranked (without a sub). This isn't a criticism of the XR624; it deteriorates very well – more an observation of the behaviour of a typical monitor in this price range.
So, the XR624 is a good value studio monitor that has excellent sound in the sweet spot (i.e. not super-loud).
Sound quality 5/5 Very capable for the price; good soundstage and dynamics, some slight colouration when cranked. Bright and clear; good bass for the money. Generally non-fatiguing; some slight noise. A great monitor at modest levels especially with thoughtful positioning and at least some basic room treatment; also a good buy to develop into a larger system with a tight sub(s): I think it will be at it's best then for more powerful monitoring...but they do go loud but ragged and glassy.
Features 5/5 Pretty good controls and very effective in fine-tuning for your room and requirements.
The hardware, switches and dials feel robust and good-quality in the price-range. Accepts balanced XLR and un/balanced TS or TRS. Lack of RCA input shouldn't be an issue for most applications.
Ease of Use 5/5 Everything is straightforward (even if you're new to studio monitors); good written manual and online info. The back panel printed legends are useful. I think there's a smaller window of use/power than other monitors I've heard in the price range but there is a sweet spot in which there is a naturalness of unforced sound reminiscent of monitors costing a lot more. I didn't find them fatiguing. In my room I had difficulty in defining the bass tightly. YMMV.
Bang-for-Buck 5/5 Mmm. Lot of competition in the price range. The XR624 doesn't have any obvious USP or novel technology over other monitors but they do the job perfectly well and there's nothing that feels cheap. Nice foam pads to get you started with positioning and isolation. Mackie have a great reputation for audio gear and there's a lot historical and current trickle-down tech and know-how involved.
Credits and Links:
XR Series Professional Studio Monitors - Mackie