Mackie has added three more headphones to their MP series: The MP-460 I am testing here is their new top model in this series.
This high-quality in-ear-monitor headphone (IEM for short) is actually intended for use by musicians or sound engineers, but thanks to the new optional Bluetooth adapter “MP-BTA”, the MP-460 can also be used as high-end wireless headphones away from the stage and studio. In this test, we shall find out whether the balancing act between professional IEM and everyday headphones is successful.
Four drivers, three ways
In contrast to the existing MP headphones (which have black housings), the MP-460’s transparent ear pod allows a view of the driver technology. In this top-of-the-range model, Mackie rely entirely on balanced-armature drivers with a powerful sound. The BA drivers used are from Knowles and consist of a dual bass, midrange and treble driver. So although we are talking about a quad headphone, the MP-460 operates in three frequency ranges.
For in-ear headphones, good sound always starts with a good fit: the bass can only develop fully if the earplugs seal the ear canal tightly. Mackie has always been aware of this and so the MP-460 comes with a selection of ear tips: a total of four different ear tips in three sizes each! These include a set of Christmas tree-shaped ear tips and even a set of Comply foam pads. As with the previous MP headphones, changing the ear tips on the MP-460 is extremely tricky because of the large sound outlet. I got the general impression that the MP-460 react very sensitively to the fit and type of ear tip, so you should take some time and try them out thoroughly!
Accessories = still exemplary
The other accessories that Mackie packs into the box with the MP-460 are as generous as the ear tip selection: a sturdy plastic hard case for transportation, a 6.35 mm jack adapter, an additional black Smartphone cable with remote control, a small microfibre cloth and a tool for cleaning the sound channel. Thanks, Mackie, really exemplary!
With IEMs the cable is usually worn behind the ear and the MP-460 can only be worn in this way. This is important for musicians as the headphones fit very securely and can be quickly removed from the ear without dangling on the instrument in front. The spectacle wearers among us are always a little annoyed by having to put the cable behind our ears, but you get used to it. The rotatable MMCX plugs are standard on IEMs and allow a quick cable change in case of a defect. The MP-460 is delivered with a high-quality transparent cable plugged in, I call it the “stage cable”, and it appears to be very durable.
The “street cable” is black, looks very stylish and has a remote control, including a hands-free microphone for making telephone calls. Both cables are pleasingly resistant to handling noise and structure-borne noise.
Since experience shows that MMCX plugs wear out over time with frequent plugging and unplugging, the constant changing of cables was a bit of a headache. Want to come off the stage and plug in the street cable for the journey home? It’s possible, but I wouldn’t do it too often According to the specifications, the MMCX connector is only designed for 500 mating cycles.
As usual, I started my listening test with the song “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams and immediately I had a grin on my face: the bass hammers pounds in my ears as powerfully as it is precise! Thanks to the speed of the BA drivers, every bass tone is reproduced so vividly, you’d think Nathan East was sitting in front of you plucking the strings! How finely the MP-460 is able to resolve is then demonstrated by Billie Eilish’s song “Bad Guy”: in the second verse several finger snaps are added, but they are edited wonderfully imprecisely. Where other headphones only reproduce an arrangement detail, the MP-460 resolves the individual signal sources and you are immediately tempted to count the number of snaps. But this Eilish production shows up yet another highlight of the MP-460: the spotlessly clean stereo image, good when listening to the beginning of the piece, in which you can hear two vocal tracks, from the far left and far right. In general, spatial imaging is not generally a strength of in-ear headphones, but the MP-460 offer a wide sound stage, and when “listening in” to the reverb of Alison Krauss’ voice in the song “New Favorite”, the BA drivers’ attention to detail show their full potential. This sound quality has two sides, however, as the MP-460 is very honest – one could almost say analytical. Badly ripped MP3s or low-quality streams may not sound good with the MP-460, and tracks that are not so well produced don’t sound so great either: smacking vocals, ambient noise on recordings, inaccurate editing, buzzing guitar strings – all these can be heard extremely clearly with the MP-460. This will please a sound engineer who needs to hear exactly what’s going on, but is perhaps a bit too much information if you want to listen to music in a relaxed manner.
Bluetooth adapter MP-BTA
For those who want to enjoy listening with the MP-460 off stage, Mackie have developed a Bluetooth adapter, the MP-BTA. It doesn’t turn the Mackie headphones into True Wireless headphones, but at least you don’t have to plug the cable into your Smartphone. The adapter has two short leads – including remote control and a hands-free microphone for making telephone calls on the right cable – and a battery pack with a clip. The MP-BTA connected easily to my Smartphone and I could listen to music wirelessly for up to ten hours (the adapter is charged via micro-USB cable). Practical detail: when you switch it on, no battery capacity percentage is shown, but a female voice does announce the remaining battery life. The MP-BTA is technically up to date as it is compatible with SBC, AAC, aptX and aptX HD codecs and supports Bluetooth version 5.0.
Just how honest the MP-460 actually sound can be demonstrated by using them with the Bluetooth adapter: here they mercilessly show what is lost in stereo width, richness of detail and precision in wireless operation. One could say that the MP-460 sounds too good for Bluetooth operation. On the way to work on the underground, the difference in sound was less significant, but in a direct A/B comparison at my desk the difference was quite clear.
Much more than this difference in sound, however, in practice I found it annoying that the remote control button was attached so high up on the cable. Since the adapter cables are also designed to be worn behind the ear, the remote control dangles under your chin and cannot easily be seen.
The MP-460 lives up to its reputation as the top model in Mackie’s MP series! With their high sound quality, they not only outshine the other models in the series, but they earn a place in the highly competitive IEM market. However, I see the MP-460 more as a professional tool for the ears of a FoH/monitor mixer in live performance situations or for a sound engineer in the studio, i.e. whenever decisions have to be made about sound design and sound modification. For the “normal” music consumer the accuracy required for this may be too much of a good thing: the MP-460 detects any weakness in the sound, which can make pure music listening tiring, depending on the quality of the music production. But if you really want to hear what’s going on in your favourite tracks, you can also use the MP-460 to listen to music – but be prepared for a few surprises in terms of sound.
- Ear couplingIn-ear
- Transducer principle4 balanced-armature drivers (3 ways)
- Frequency response (headphones)20 - 20.000 Hz
- Impedance(+/- 15%): 15,5 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)±3 dB, 1 mW @ 1 kHz: 118 dB
What's in the box
- 4 types of eartips in 3 sizes each
- Cable with MMCX connection
- Cable with remote and microphone
- 6.35mm stereo jack
- Microfibre cloth
- Cleaning pen
- Hard shell case
- Bluetooth cable MP-BTA sold separately