Mackie MC-40BT review | PCMag

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The Mackie MC-40BT wireless headphones don’t produce the rich, booming bass typical of consumer models, but their clear, detailed sonic signature should appeal to studio musicians and engineers who want a relatively crisp presentation for checking mixes. However, they don’t support high-fidelity Bluetooth codecs and don’t offer a companion app, so their value is questionable even at the relatively affordable price of $149.99. The Jabra Elite 45h ($99.99) and Sennheiser HD 450BT ($199.99) remain more compelling options on either side of the price scale with greater customization and, in the case of the 450BT, active noise cancellation.


Some disadvantages of connectivity

The MC-40BT over-ear headphones are available in black and grey. The light green buttons on the right ear cup stand out in the design, as does the Mackie “running man” logo on the outside of each ear cup. Their memory foam earpads feature leatherette lining and are exceptionally comfortable even during long listening sessions.

Internally, the 40mm drivers deliver a frequency range of 20Hz to 20KHz with an impedance of 32 ohms. Headphones are compatible with Bluetooth 5.0 and support AAC and SBC codecs, but not AptX. This means Android users are stuck with the default SBC, which doesn’t mesh well with the focus on accuracy. iPhone users get AAC of course, but can’t take advantage of the included 3.5mm audio cable without an adapter. Plus, you don’t get a quarter-inch adapter in the box to connect to pro gear. These various omissions give the impression that the headphones are incomplete and limit their potential audience.

The three green buttons on the right earcup are unfortunately not as intuitive to use as the audio cable’s in-line controls. Here, the green multifunction button only handles power and play, while the plus and minus buttons control volume (press) and track navigation (press and hold). We’re not a fan of combining these functions on the same button as it’s a recipe for accidental misfires. By contrast, the aforementioned roughly 4-foot audio cable for passive listening uses the multi-function button for playback and track navigation and keeps the outer buttons strictly for volume control, which is a much better solution. If you want a better control interface without relying on inline cable controls, check out the sleek Marshal Major IV ($149.99).

Near the green buttons there is a USB-C port for the included USB-C to USB-A charging cable as well as a 3.5mm connection for the audio cable. Mackie estimates that the headphones can last around 30 hours on battery power, but your results will vary depending on your volume levels.

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

The headphones fold into a hard zippered protective case. An interior mesh pocket with a Velcro edge stores the included audio cable and charging cable.

Notable omissions include an app with a setting equalizer and the ability to install firmware updates. Many other competing models have both of these features. The option to change highs and lows here, in particular, would have added value.


Precise sound but light on the bass

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, such as The Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the headphones deliver a precise thump – we have a good idea of ​​the power of the sub-bass in this track, but the speakers don’t amplify things extravagantly. The result is a balanced presentation that leans towards the mids and highs without giving up the deep bass.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, a track with much shallower bass in the mix, reveals the sonic signature better. The drums on this track almost sound like subtle tapping here and Callahan’s baritone voice commands the most attention in the lower frequencies. Her vocals also exhibit a generous presence in the upper mids, which helps maintain her definition. High-register percussive hits and acoustic strums also have a bright, airy presence. Our main takeaway is that the headphones cut the bass a bit too much for tracks that don’t pack a powerful punch in the first place. Yes, they sound more accurate than most bass-boosted models, but many users will probably think they go a little too far in the opposite direction. So the inability to tweak things to taste via an in-app equalizer is a bummer.

Mackie MC-40BT On-Ear Controls

(Credit: Tim Gideon)

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop is given the perfect upper-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its punch, while the high-frequency vinyl crackles and hisses in front out of the background. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat sound a little thin – we get less bass depth here than on our bass test track. In fact, the drum loop seems to contain a lot more bass punch than the sub-bass hits, which is usually not the case. On the other hand, it leaves plenty of room for the vocals to shine, with just a little extra sibilance.

Orchestral tracks, such as John Adams’ opening scene The Gospel According to the Other Mary, brilliant sound and full of detail. The instrumentation of the low register plays a more subtle anchoring role than usual.

The built-in MEMS mic provides reasonably good intelligibility – we could understand every word of a test recording from an iPhone, but the signal sounded a bit less clear and loud than we prefer. Either way, you shouldn’t have any issues with calls over a reliable cellular signal.


Pure audio and not much else

The Mackie MC-40BT headphones lean towards precision and focus on the mids and highs, putting them in stark contrast to many competing consumer models that boost bass to an intense level. This approach to sound is commendable, but the headphones don’t support high-resolution Bluetooth codecs and don’t offer an app with an equalizer. We don’t like their control layout either. For under $200, the aforementioned Jabra Elite 45h and Sennheiser HD 450BT are solid alternatives with more comprehensive feature sets. The $69.96 Sennheiser HD 250BT headphones are also worth your attention due to their balanced sound and companion app with an equalizer.

The essential

The Mackie MC-40BT wireless headphones opt for sound inspired by professional audio, but don’t support high-end Bluetooth codecs and don’t have a companion app.

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