Mackie MP-120, MP-220 and MP-240 In-Ear Monitors
By Phil O'Keefe |
Mackie MP-120, MP-220 and MP-240 In-Ear Monitors
Isn't it about time you made the switch to IEMs?
by Phil O'Keefe
In-ear monitors really have become all the rage, and today it's not uncommon to see them in use in a wide variety of venues, both large and small. The reasons for this have to do with the multiple advantages that In-Ear Monitors (IEMs) offer - including lower stage volume levels, increased monitor audibility and clarity for the singers and musicians, small size, and much less weight and space requirements when compared to side fill and floor wedge monitors - not to mention the elimination of stage monitor "spill" that can interfere with the front of house mix.
Mackie has long been known for their live sound and studio monitor speakers, but this is their first foray into the world of IEMs. Let's take a look at the three new models in the MP series that they've recently introduced - the MP-120, MP-220 and MP-240 - and see what features they have in common, and how they differ from each other.
What You Need To Know
- All three models share several design details in common. For starters, each earphone is built into a rugged black plastic housing. All three models share the same basic (roughly triangular) housing shape, with the Mackie "running man" logo printed in white on the outer shell. Visually, they're very similar.
- The model name and L / R indicators are printed in white on the inside of each IEM, near the ear tip for easy identification.
- All three models come with the same "audiophile-grade" cable. This is internally braided, with a solid outer shield. The cables are round and beefy, but not excessively thick or cumbersome.
- The cable is Y shaped, and a small slider can be adjusted to shorten the length of the Y arms to bring the cable closer to your head, if desired.
- The cables terminate with a right-angle, gold plated 1/8" stereo plug. At the other ends, the cables attach to the IEM housings with swiveling and detachable MMCX connectors. Not only does this allow you to rotate and adjust the cables easily, it allows you to replace just the cable should it become damaged without having to purchase a whole new set of IEMs.
- Additionally, the cable ends nearest to the housings are rigid; about three inches of their length can be bent to whatever curved or straight shape you want. This makes them easy to adjust to a curved shape for "cables over the ear" wear or straight for "cables in front of the ear" wearing styles - whichever you prefer.
- Three different types of ear tips are included with each of the MP series IEMs, including foam, double flanged silicone rubber and round silicone rubber tips. Additionally, three different sizes are provided for each style, giving you a wide selection of not only tip types, but sizes too - this is important because proper fit is the key to getting the best sound quality and isolation from the MP series IEMs.
- Mackie gives you other useful accessories too, including a rugged hard molded storage case with a large latch to keep it closed and a plastic carabiner style clip so you can easily attach it to a gig bag or other gear. You also get a gold plated 1/8" to 1/4" adapter, and a small, multi-language instruction manual, a safety instructions card, and a second card with "hip tips about your tips."
- That's a lot of design details that the three models have in common - what are the differences? The main differences are the drivers that each model comes equipped with.
- The MP-120 features a single precision dynamic driver. The MP-120 has a rated frequency response of 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 32 Ohms impedance, and a sensitivity rating of 102 dB.
- The MP-220 uses dual full-range dynamic drivers for enhanced clarity and improved bass response. It also has a rated frequency response of 20 Hz - 20 kHz, while the impedance is rated at 8 Ohms. They're also a bit more sensitive, being rated at 104 dB.
- The top of the line MP-240 also uses a dual driver approach, but this time it's a hybrid design. A crossover divides the signal and feeds a single dynamic driver that handles the low frequencies, and a balanced armature driver that takes care of the mids and high frequencies. Like the other models, they have a 20 Hz - 20 kHz frequency response. The impedance is rated at 16 Ohms, and they're even more sensitive, with a 108 dB rating.
- In addition to their intended use for in-ear monitoring on-stage, all three models are also equally useful and enjoyable for general purpose music listening with your phone or other portable audio device.
- Switching the ear tips can be a bit of a pain. They're relatively easy to remove, but getting the new ones put on can take a bit of fiddling around. I found that putting one side on at an angle, then rolling and gently stretching the other end over the end of the barrel while holding the side you attached first in place seemed to work best. Fortunately, once you find what fits and feels the most comfortable for you, you won't have to mess with this very often other than for the occasional tip cleaning or replacement.
- Since the storage case is fairly compact, care should be taken when wrapping up the cables and inserting them into the box so you don't accidentally close the case on part of the cable and crimp it. I like to use a twist tie to hold them together once they're wrapped to keep them compact and avoid the possibility of damaging the cables accidentally.
While changing out the ear tips is a bit of a hassle (as it is with most IEMs), with the wide range of tip types and sizes provided, chances are excellent you'll find a pair that fits well and feels comfortable to you. With the proper tips, fit and isolation are very good with all three models. It's not quite as good as what you might get with custom-molded earphones, but the price is far less too, and you don't need to make a trip to an audiologist to be fitted for them. Up to 40dB of isolation is available with all three models of the Mackie MP series, making outside sounds far quieter, and allowing you to hear the monitor feed with less interference from external noises.
The cables seem to be beefy and sturdy, and unlike some IEMs I've tried, noise transfer over the cable from moving around is not a significant issue. I like that they can be adjusted for different wearing styles - many people will probably prefer the over the ear approach, since it keeps the cable behind you, where it's not only less visible, but also out of the way of any instrument you might be playing. It's also great that they're detachable and replaceable - this means the Mackie MP IEMs will most likely still remain in service long after IEMs with permanently attached cables have been tossed out.
The single-driver MP-120's are nice sounding earphones, and if you're on a tight budget they'll get the job done and won't let you down, but there's a noticeable increase in sound quality when you step up to the MP-220's; no doubt due to their dual dynamic driver design. They're a bit louder and also a bit cleaner at higher volume levels too. A similar increase in clarity, fidelity and detail comes with a move up to the top of the line MP-240's, although you'll definitely be paying more for that performance too. Is it worth it? Only you can decide that - but for my money, the increased fidelity and sensitivity that comes with the top of the line MP-240 is definitely worth it - especially for engineers, audiophiles and those who are just plain picky about getting the best sound quality possible. For those on a budget, the MP-120's will be fine, while others will opt for the middle ground that the MP-220's offer, with their increased fidelity over the MP-120, but lower cost than the MP-240. No matter which model you pick, you'll be getting a rugged, good sounding, great fitting pair of IEMs that will be in it for the long haul. -HC-
Want to discuss the Mackie MP series IEMs or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Live Sound forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Mackie MP-120 IEM ($99.99 MSRP, $79.99 "street")
Mackie MP-220 IEM ($149.99 MSRP, $129.99 "street")
Mackie MP-240 IEM ($199.99 MSRP, $169.99 "street")
Mackie's MP series product web page
You can purchase the Mackie MP series In-Ear Monitors from:
Full Compass Systems
B&H Photo Video
MP Series IEM overview
Getting the best sound and fit
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.