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Review

Mackie Thump & SRM active speakers

Issue #36

SRM350 V3 and SRM450 V3

Although LOUD Technologies’ Mackie brand was originally associated primarily with mixing consoles, it has also built up a well-deserved reputation in the portable PA arena for delivering high-quality sound across a wide range of price points and power outputs.  Never content to rest on its laurels, Mackie has a history of consistently improving the performance of their products and the latest, V3 revisions of both the SRM 350, its larger sibling, the SRM450, and the more price-conscious Thump Series form the latest chapters in that book.

The original SRM350 was the active loudspeaker that established Mackie as a force to be reckoned with in the portable PA market and it was quickly followed by the larger SRM450, which featured a 12” bass transducer and 400W output as opposed to the SRM350’s 10” driver and 195W rating. This second revision (from V2 to V3) ups the output power of both loudspeakers to 1000W peak (500W RMS) and adds the functionality that is expected nowadays from a portable PA active loudspeaker.

The power increase comes courtesy of Class D amplification that delivers 400W to the loudspeakers’ respective 10” and 12” transducers and 100W to their 1.4” titanium-domed, high-frequency compression drivers. As with the previous versions of both the SRM350 and SRM450, a precision two-way crossover time-aligns and phase-corrects the high and low frequencies. In conjunction with patented high-definition acoustic correction from sister company EAW, the 350 and 450 are designed to deliver a high level of clarity and definition.

The original and V2 versions of both loudspeakers had no operational features or control functions other than a power switch, a volume control and a few LEDs. In V3, functionality is expanded considerably.  A one-button Speaker Mode selector optimises the loudspeakers for PA, DJ, Monitor and Solo use, a four-frequency Feedback Destroyer with one-button control helps eliminate feedback and a 2-channel on-board, volume-only mixer handles anything from microphones to guitars to mixers on either input and also includes a stereo RCA phono input for easy connection to a mp3 player or similar.

The Mode function tailors the bass, mid and high frequency output for each of the four selections.  In DJ mode, the bass comes more to the fore, PA is balanced across the frequencies, Monitor voices the output so that it cuts through when the speaker is angled horizontally on the floor and Solo sets the SRMs up to help balance the projection of instrument and voice for singer/songwriters in particular.

If you get carried away, protection DSP ensures that the loudspeakers are protected from excitement-driven volume excesses and, finally, you can turn off the illuminated Mackie logo on the front panel if you want to.  Personally speaking, I like being able to tell if a speaker is on or not, so I wouldn’t use that last function myself.

In Use

These new revisions have retained all the good bits from their ancestors - their wide dispersion, precise time-alignment, servo-controlled bass and the asymmetric monocoque construction that make them as useful as monitors as they are as FOH speakers.

The new Class D amplification, DSP-enhanced acoustic correction and servo-controlled bass give these V3 versions a sense of solid power and the high 1000W peak capability mean that they also sound very dynamic, handling transients in the programme material with ease.

Unless you’re pretty picky, the single button mode selection eliminates any need for overall EQ on your mixer’s output signal in order to tailor the sound for the four operational set-ups.  The Feedback Eliminator worked really well and its four bands are narrow enough to cut feedback without adversely affecting the loudspeakers’ overall sound.

The 2-channel mixer with combo XLR/Jack inputs on both channels (and RCA phonos on Ch2 only) allows you to balance the levels of the two inputs, and so you’re going to have to have some EQ at source if you need it.  I think that, at a push and with the mode set to Solo, you’d get away with running just mic and guitar into either speaker at a small, low volume gig such as a restaurant or folk club.

These latest revisions to the venerable SPM350 and SRM450 should certainly ensure  their continuing popularity in the portable PA live sound market.  In V3 form, these active speakers deliver enhanced performance, more power and greater flexibility than their forbears - and they weigh slightly less! Pairing either of them with a couple of matching SRM Series subs would give you a very powerful, high-quality sound reinforcement system. If you’re in the market for a PA at this level of quality, the new Mackie SRM350V3 and SRM 450V3 are definitely worth considering.

Mackie Thump Series

The Thump Series TH-12A and TH-15A started out as 200W RMS active loudspeakers - later upgraded to 500W RMS - designed to deliver midrange clarity and an abundance of powerful bass in a lightweight, easily-portable cabinet - and all at an attractive price point.

This latest revision is accompanied by the introduction of the Thump 18S subwoofer, a 1200W peak (600W RMS) Class D-amplified behemoth with an 18” loudspeaker lurking in the depths of its black, catalysed-polyurethane finished, 15mm plywood cabinet. With no controls other than a power switch, a polarity (phase) switch and a volume control, the Thump 18S is simple enough to set up.  Its two XLR-equipped input channels are combined and band-passed (30Hz to 140Hz) to give the mono bass signal that is amplified and reproduced by the Thump 18S itself.  Each channel has its own twin XLR pass-through outputs, one of which is full range and is intended to allow multiple speaker systems to be daisy-chained. The other XLR output is high-pass filtered at 140Hz in order to crossover the signal’s frequency spectrum between the 18S and its top cabinet (a Thump 12A or Thump 15A). The polarity switch and volume control have no effect on the two high-pass signals.

The updated Thump 12 and Thump 15 both carry the same 1000W peak (500W RMS) Class D amplification. Both also feature new, high-output transducers. A precision 2-way crossover splits the signal load and the high and low frequency transducers are time-aligned to ensure signal clarity. Their similarly-shaped polypropylene-moulded enclosures are designed to allow them to be used both as stand-mounted main FOH speakers and as stage monitor wedges.

The input to both versions is a single XLR that accepts both microphone and line level signals. Both also retain the 3-band, sweep-mid EQ section which, in this revision, is permanently active. A useful graphic gives sensible suggested settings for PA, DJ, foldback and speech usage. 

In Use

Mackie’s Thump Series active loudspeakers are designed to deliver a solid bass performance and even without the addition of the 18S subwoofer, the Thump 12 and Thump 15 don’t disappoint. There’s plenty of bass response available, the midrange is clear and the high frequencies aren’t overshadowed.  The suggested EQ settings are good starting points for the various operational scenarios although they do need to be tweaked to get the best fit for their surroundings.

The Thump 18S subwoofer is an impressive performer and adds a palpable sense of extra weight in the low-end.  If you can transport one or two (each weighs in at 37.2kg/82lb) it would be well worth the effort to have their solid low-end reproduction to hand.

Whilst they don’t have quite the same level of overall performance as you’d get from the SRM350 and SRM450, Mackie’s Thump Series active loudspeakers are very cost-effective alternatives – especially if you’re looking for an enhanced depth and level of bass reproduction.  They also have the added benefit of being somewhat lighter than their SRM equivalents and that, for some users, will add to their attraction.

If your budget won’t quite stretch to the SRM series, the Thump Series offers good value for money, delivering a high level of performance at a price point that is relatively affordable in today’s market. They’re well worth having a listen to.

iG36_Cover_Med

Issue #53

Black Country Communion

Out Now

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