The Mackie company is a genuine heavyweight in the audio sector. Whether it’s mixing consoles or studio monitors you’re using, the American manufacturer has just about everything a producer or musician might need in its expansive product repertoire. The range even includes in-ear monitoring headphones. It’s only been the consumer slice of the market that has been neglected so far. The aim is to change that with the release of the new CR-Buds series.
Mackie are introducing two in-ear models to the market, with one aimed more toward the musician and the other focused more on the everyday listener. The range includes the affordable CR-Buds tested here, plus the more expensive CR-Buds+.
Mackie keep it conventional with the CR-Buds series and equip them with dynamic single full range drivers. These drivers achieve a frequency response of 20 Hz to 60 kHz, resulting in a relatively low impedance of 16 ohms against the amplifier. Other features include a hands-free microphone that’s been integrated into the cable for convenience, with an accept/end button doubling up as a play/pause control when you’re playing media.
These compact plastic headphones come in classic black and are relatively inconspicuous. The black plastic housing looks stripped-back and serious. The Mackie logo brings a little detail, framed by that signature green ring for an added brand awareness. Mackie advertise the 1.2 metre flat connection cable as being tangle-free, although I have to say didn’t notice any real difference between this cable and a standard one in the test. In fact, the tangle-free cable tends seems to instead retain bends for longer than a usual one. Elsewhere in the package, you’ll find three interchangeable silicone earpieces, ranging in size from small to large.
Whenever a relatively established manufacturer puts out a pair of in-ears with an asking price of only 20 euros, there’s always a fair amount of scepticism. However, with these CR-Buds, any doubt you might have about price/performance ratio will quickly fade. Admittedly, the basic characteristics of these in-ears are rather neutral, but that’s no criticism. The CR-Buds pay adequate attention to the basses, without putting them too much at the centre of the action. Midrange and treble performance are both surprisingly clean on the stereo stage. When it comes to the very high range, sometimes known as the “air band” by sound engineers, things are slightly overshadowed by the sharp highs that can come into play at louder volumes. Nevertheless, the sound staging is incredibly welcome considering the ultra-low price. The only downer here is that the CR-Buds lack any real agility. Whether this is due to the lower input sensitivity or that most listeners, myself included, have been spoiled by 2-way driver luxury is up for debate. The fact is, at times you’ll find yourself wishing for more impulse power and pine for a bit of definition in the transients, giving the sound output a bit more life and vibrancy. However, there’s no doubt that with these added enhancements, the price would have to rise accordingly.
The call acceptance function and operation of the media player makes good use of integrated control keys. In the test, I was able to utilise both without any issue. Furthermore, speech intelligibility via the microphone was also satisfactory.
The Mackie CR-Buds are a no brainer for those after reliable performance and quality sound output at a low price. However, with an RRP of 20 Euros, you also need to be realistic in expectation. If you are, you’ll be pleased by what you find here. These are an ideal choice if you’ve just purchased a new smartphone and aren’t satisfied with the earphones included with the handset. It’s a common gripe with phone owners and these in-ears are a welcome upgrade for such an application, with a price that falls below what you’d expect for a much more limited peripheral. Sound is not sensational here but it’s of a decent quality that won’t disappoint, while the hands-free microphone does exactly what it needs to do.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance16 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)95 dB
- Weight with cable20 g
- Cable length120 cm
What's in the box
- 3 pairs of ear tips (S, M, L)