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The "Personal PA" goes professional

by Phil O'Keefe


In recent years a new category of PA system has emerged. Smaller than traditional PAs, with all of the components built into a single unit, these are often referred to as "personal PA systems." Mackie has waded into these waters previously with their popular FreePlay personal PA system. Today we're going to be taking a look at a new and somewhat larger and more capable offering from Mackie called Reach.



What You Need To Know

  • Reach incorporates all the essential elements of a PA system - from mixer to mains and monitor speakers to power amplifiers - into a single 31.4 pound unit measuring 28" H x 9.5" D x 8.6" W. The rear-ported cabinet is PC-ABS with a high durability black paint finish and an 18 gauge black powder-coated steel grille. Handles are built into the enclosure at the top and on the back, making it relatively easy to pick up and move around with one hand.

 

 

  • A pole mount hole is molded into the bottom of the housing, allowing for it to be easily elevated for better coverage and dispersion to your audience. While the unit can be set directly on the floor, an elevated placement is usually better for optimizing coverage.

  • There are multiple speakers mounted inside each Reach unit. Two 6.5" drivers take care of the midrange and low frequencies (with a crossover frequency of 2.6 kHz), and three 1" tweeters mounted in what Mackie calls an ARC (Amplified Radial Curve) array handle the "front of house" or audience. The ARC array uses a uniquely angled waveguide to provide excellent horizontal dispersion of 150 degrees. There are also two secondary full-range 4" speakers mounted into each side of the unit, which function as monitors for the performer(s). These can be turned on or off individually.  Up to 250 degrees of horizontal coverage is possible with the  use of these speakers.
  • The drivers are powered by highly efficient Class D amplifiers. Class D amps are not only efficient, but extremely light for the amount of power they pump out, and the Mackie Reach has 360W RMS (up to 720W of peak power) that it can draw on. There are multiple amps onboard, with a 100W RMS amp for each of the two 6.5" woofers, a 60W RMS amp to drive the three tweeters, and a 50W RMS amp for each of the side EarShot 4" monitor speakers. With this much power onboard, Reach can get surprisingly loud for such a compact and lightweight unit; it can hit peak levels of up to 126dB SPL at one meter!

  • Overall frequency response is better than you might expect, given the smaller drivers the unit utilizes, with a claimed 55Hz-17kHz response (-3dB tolerance).

  • Feeding the amps and speakers is a six channel mixer. On the rear panel you'll find the I/O for the Reach, which comprises four combo balanced / unbalanced XLR / 1/4" Mic/Line/Instrument inputs (with a red LED overload indicator for each), as well as a 1/8" Aux input. You'll also find a 1/4" headphone jack, a footswitch jack for a optional footswitch to mute and unmute the internal effects, which is handy for chatting up the audience in between songs without your words being washed out in reverb and delay.

 

  • The last two jacks on the rear are labeled Link In and Link Out. These allow you to connect two (or more) Reach systems together to form a larger system. The link out provides the mono signals of channel 1-4 and the right signal of the Bluetooth/aux in signal, as well as the effects. The Link In signal comes in post-main fader, allowing for a true stereo system using all input channels.  All you need is a pair of TRS 1/4" cables to connect the two units. Since I only had a single review unit, I was unable to fully test this aspect of the system.

  • On the left side panel (as seen from the rear) are a series of controls that allow you to adjust the unit's various settings. These include eleven pushbuttons and a single rotary knob. There is also a fourteen segment LED meter that allows you to monitor input and output levels.




  • Mixing is handled by the side panel controls, or wirelessly through the Mackie Connect app, which is available for iOS and Android devices. Users of earlier versions of Connect will need to update their software to version 2.0 or later in order for it to work properly with Reach.





  • Each channel (the four mic / line inputs as well as the stereo aux / Bluetooth input) has its own level fader, mute button and three-band EQ that can be adjusted in +/-3dB increments. You get low shelving at 80 Hz, peaking at 2.5 kHz, and a high frequency shelving EQ at 5 kHz. All three bands have a maximum boost / cut of 12 dB.


  • A reverb send is also included for each channel, and you can select from one of 16 different onboard effects, including eight different types of reverb (Bright Room, Warm Hall, Plate, Small Stage, etc.) three delays, a doubler, tape slap and combination effects like Reverb + Delay and Reverb + Chorus. These won't compete with a top end effects processor but they sound pretty good and add a level of polish to your performance.

  • There is also a system EQ with four voicing options - Flat, DJ (with boosted highs and lows) Solo (with a high pass filter on the lows, presence peak boost and midrange dip) and Voice, which has a similar curve to the Solo setting but with even more high pass filtering and without the midrange dip,

 

  • You also get a built-in feedback destroyer to help get more level out of the system with less annoying feedback issues. There's also three user presets that allow you to save and recall all of your Reach settings - perfect for getting up and running quickly in venues you've set up and played in previously.

  • The front panel "running man" logo is illuminated and acts as a power-on indicator, but this can be turned on or off by the user.



Limitations

  • While I was unable to test the Link feature, it would probably be somewhat unwieldily to use these for a larger and louder group. Yes you can utilize multiple linked units (with say, one or two assigned per band member) but that would make "mixing" the show more complex and difficult because you'd have to adjust multiple individual subsystems. Still, it's nice that Mackie gives you the ability to run more than one Reach for those situations where you need extra inputs and more power.
  • I found it much faster and easier to dial things up with the Connect 2.0 app than with the hardware controls, which are a bit less intuitive to use.

  • Unlike the smaller Mackie FreePlay, Reach can not be battery-powered; it's AC mains powered only. The IEC AC jack included on the rear panel is your only option for powering Reach.



Conclusions

I really like the Mackie Reach, but I think it's important to manage your expectations and use it in the right types of situations. If you're expecting a Reach system to serve as the PA system for your high-energy / high-volume Metal band, you're going to be disappointed. However, if you're playing with an acoustic trio at coffee houses, serving as the DJ for a party at your home, or need a powerful portable system for business presentations, Reach really is all you need in one compact unit.


The 150 degree horizontal dispersion is excellent, and if you need even more, you can configure the system to provide 250 degrees by utilizing the side mounted EarShot monitors. Of course for most users the more pressing need will be for monitoring, and unlike most personal PA systems the Reach system has you covered with its individually-selectable EarShot speakers. I was also surprised by how loud the system can get - it definitely puts out more SPL than I was expecting. While you can't expect earth-shaking bass from a system of this type, the frequency response is more than reasonable. And let's face it - an all-in-one system like this is far easier to transport and set up than using one with separate components.


Ideally this system is probably best suited to smaller groups who don't have the benefit of a soundperson and who need to handle setting up and running the PA themselves. With good power, excellent portability, outstanding horizontal dispersion (and side fill monitoring), Bluetooth streaming and wireless mixing from a variety of mobile devices, it should be a big hit with those who need a relatively powerful system that is still easy to set up and use.


Note: For a more indepth look at the Mackie Reach, please join the Pro Review at Harmony Central:

http://www.harmonycentral.com/forum/forum/Forums_General/team-hc’s-interactive-pro-reviews/31710149-mackie-reach-portable-pa-system

 

Resources

Mackie Reach Portable PA System ($1,249.99 MSRP, $999.99 "street"

Mackie's product web page  

Mackie Reach specifications (PDF file)  


Mackie Reach manual (PDF file)  

Buy from:

 Sweetwater   

B&H

Musician's Friend

Guitar Center

                                   

                                   

                                   


__________________________________________________




Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.  

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Féleo  |  April 19, 2017 at 12:47 am
I have had the opportunity to use a mackie reach in some of my events to check if it really works and the truth has a good sound good bass and a high volume, it is easy to load. The sound is clear and strong, I have worked in restaurants of 50 to 60 people, in venues for the same number of people and in some breweries in my town that are large (warehouses) and your response is great, I use one Guitar martin a voice live 2 and a BBE acoustimax in addition to a rc300 loop station, it is handled with an app (mackie connect) to use the EQ of each channel, in general it is a very good horn before using the bose l1 classic with two b1 But I work 5 days a week playing in different places and loading all that was a lot now is much easier and everything fits in the trunk of the car
Cons: the eq of the horn per channel and general are only handled with the app, there is no way to move it in the mackie reach, and the app closes followed becomes a little desperate,
Where it adapts the stand is very tight and at the moment of lowering the mackie reach it is necessary to get a stand with a less thick tube
Pros: it has a good loud and clear sound, the music or recorded tracks are very good, it is not heavy and fits most cars without getting in the way, bluethoot is a good tool. It is definitely a good buy !!!
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rabit1000  |  June 12, 2016 at 11:00 am
I have the Freeplay. I like the little ugly plastic thing,  its plenty loud & plenty clear too, but the channel EQ is only availably via blue tooth.  I presume the Reach is the same.  I would have a Reach tomorrow but for this.   Mackie is usually good & loud, clean sounding equipment (by my past Mackie purchases) & very reliable too.  Bluetooth doesn't impress me at all, streaming music only when the going is good and the 19 other bluetooth phones pairing at the same time as me.
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Spongeguitar  |  March 27, 2016 at 10:58 am
Where do the comments posted here go ? I do not see the one I posted 3 days ago.. or are only "favorable" product review comments allowed here ? ...in which case what is the point of discussion?  Thank you.. :)
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Mikeo  |  February 21, 2016 at 2:13 pm
Looks a bit like the Fishman solo amp I have used for years.Modern up dates .
Good info, but unfortunately the videos posted where to sales and marketing garbabge , and gave you no real feel for the product.
Mackie should have walked into almost any small coffee house and shot a video of a solo performer or small band using it. It's my number one complaint for new products. I know this is very new, but still.
I like the sound of this guy's acoustic. It would have been nice if he had a vocalist with him.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P0kNs4kbkaA

I don't know exactly what happens to posts like this, but I have never seen a follow up. So where these post get put who knows.
That's my 2 cents there Phil.
It's a more powerful version of the Mackie Playfree system that came out last year.

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