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Review: Mackie CR3-X 3-Inch Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors

Affordable, stylish desktop speakers bring professional audio quality to your home studio

The Mackie CR3-X 3-inch Creative Reference Multimedia Monitors pack studio-quality sound in an affordable, stylish pair of desktop speakers that are perfect for at-home workers, gamers and content creators. Having quality audio gear for your PC, creative audio studio or working from home setup is a top priority, especially with the increase of time spent with home workstations thanks to the global pandemic.

Mackie’s CR Series comes in four sizes, with woofers ranging from three to eight inches. The sleek, black all-wood cabinets with brushed metal faceplates outlined with a bright “CR green” strip make these desktop style speakers a handsome addition to your home studio setup. Bluetooth enabled models are also available.

We had the opportunity to test the 50-watt CR3-X with our home office PC setup, replacing a low-end Logitech set of speakers we’ve been using for the past five years. Listening to the first track with the CR3-X speakers was like removing cotton balls from our ears, and we spent the first two hours of testing in audio heaven jumping from genre to genre, rediscovering and exploring the crisp, clear sounds of our favorite songs. Why didn’t we replace those old Logitech speakers sooner?

Mackie CR3-X

Setup was easy, taking under five minutes to connect a couple stereo wires, power cord and the included 1/8″ to RCA cable into our PC. Additional connection options include 1/4″ TRS and 1/8″ to 1/8″ for setups with different needs. Additionally, all CR-X monitors have a built-in headphone output on the main front panel, making it easy to connect your headset and mute the speakers when you need to listen without disturbing others. Our previous speakers had an awkward aux jack on the side, and we much prefer the CR3-X’s easy front access option, as did the rest of our at-home workers when we needed to plug in a headset quickly when they had calls or were trying to sleep.

These PC desktop speakers have balanced lows and mids, but if you want more punch to your bass, you can purchase a separate eight inch, 200-watt CR8S-XBT subwoofer. We weren’t able to test the subwoofer, but based on the dimensions, you may want to make sure you have the room on the floor or your desk before committing to adding the boom and thump you desire. Fortunately, the subwoofer is Bluetooth enabled, so you have more placement options available.

In addition to upgrading your current desktop studio sound system, Mackie includes a professional recording software and plugin package called ProTools First with your CR-X purchase, to help budding audio content creators get started. We think this is a great bonus from Mackie, and we were able to poke around in the software a little and try the available features. It may not be the best sound production suite, but ProTools First is a great introductory software package to include.

Mackie CR3-X

After using the Mackie CR3-X speakers daily during work hours, and while we gamed or listened to music or shows as we tidied up the home office, we noticed the clarity continued to be well balanced during extended listening sessions, with no hiss when the monitors were left on with no sound. We were particularly impressed with the CR3-X’s ability to reproduce ambient background noise we never would have noticed with our previous speakers. For example, we looked around to see if someone was moving dishes nearby while watching a café scene in a movie – it sounded that clear and natural – and brought a new level of immersion.

While the Mackie CR3-X monitors produce excellent sound, these entry-level speakers aren’t going to compete with full size pro-audio monitors anytime soon. And that’s OK. The CR-X line, in our opinion, is one of the top selections for anyone starting their home audio studio, or wants a great pair of monitors for gaming, relaxing to their favorite tunes, or needs professional desktop sound on a budget. With an MSRP of $99.99, this setup won’t break the bank.

We are very impressed with the sound quality, design and connection options of the CR3-X studio monitors, and highly recommend them for anyone looking for an affordable audio upgrade to their home computer workstation, or for their personal listening needs.

CR3-X Multimedia Monitor Specs

  • 3″ Polypropylene-Coated Woofer
  • 0.75″ Silk Dome Tweeter
  • 50W Amplifier
  • All-Wood Cabinet
  • Custom-Tuned Rear Port
  • Specially Designed Waveguide
  • 1/4″ TRS, 3.5mm TRS, and RCA Inputs
  • Front-Panel Stereo Headphone Output

Included With Each Pair:

  • 1/8″ to stereo RCA cable
  • 1/8″ to 1/8″ cable
  • Speaker wire (for connecting main speaker to the other)
  • Pro Tools | First recording software and Mackie exclusive

See also: Dolphin Audio Introduces STINGRAY Portable Stereo Speaker System