This week we’ve taken a look at Mackie’s line of professional in-ear monitors. From the top-of-the-line MP-240 to the midrange MP-220, I now focused on the entry-level MP-120. Retailing for a sweet low $99, this inexpensive earphone offers an enticing proposition to professionals on a budget. But how does it sound?
Mackie MP-120 Review
Arriving on my review desk in the standard Mackie box, the packaging holds the earphones and a rugged plastic carrying case, as well as a carabiner clip, a 1/4” stereo adapter plug, and nine pairs of eartips.
Designed with an ergonomic mold, the earpieces fit well, with no discomfort from my large, sensitive ears. Sporting a dynamic driver, the sound is straightforward with no gimmicks or tricks.
Cabling on the MP-120 seems nothing less than fantastic for a $99 earphone. Designed to be worn looped over the top and down the back of the ear, the supplied cable measures a liberal five feet (1.5 m). Of particular note, too, is the MMCX connection – allowing the easy swapping of third-party cables, including Bluetooth models from Shure and Westone.
Frequency Range: 20-20,000 Hz
Nominal Impedance: 32 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 102 dB
As you can see from these specs, the MP-120 utilizes a standard frequency range that mirrors human hearing. The low nominal impedance of 32 ohms will work perfectly with smartphones or computers, as well as personal audio players. Finally, sound pressure lands at 102 decibels, so finding decent volume shouldn’t be an issue under most circumstances.
Lifelike and accurate, the low end on the MP-120 generally smacks of fidelity. A slight whisper of compression presents itself, but that’s pretty much expected on any earphone selling for under $100. And at this price, the sound remains amazing. Bass may sport very little impact, but this subdued nature fits perfectly with the natural, analytical precision of this model.
The mids sound somewhat forward-leaning, but deliver strong detail and excellent fidelity. There’s a strong sense of accuracy at play here, and the resultant sound comes across as incredibly clean. Really, these are the cleanest mids you will find in any earphone at the $100 price point, and to get anything cleaner would require upgrading to Mackie’s own MP-220 at $149.
Slightly bright, yet seething with detail, the high end on the MP-120 strikes me as near-perfect. Very emotive with plenty of nuance, the highs remain tempered and well-controlled. Forget about sloppy frequencies waxing piercing or uncomfortable; the Mackie MP-120 tip-toes a razor-thin line between maximum resolution and harsh over-zealousness.
With good depth and decent placement, the soundstage on this earphone is acceptable. While no match for an over-ear open-back headphone, there’s still enough headroom to suck you in and carry you away.
Fidelity and clarity are very present with the MP-120. Enough so that I would highly recommend this earphone for anyone who needs a go-to sound signature for serious classical listening sessions.
For audio professionals, this is a sweet entry point to Mackie’s sound. But for beginner audiophiles, the MP-120 also offers a relatively flat sound profile that seems all-too-rare at this price.
For those seeking a dynamic sound with high highs and low lows, I would recommend skipping the Mackie MP-120 in favor of something more emotive, like the Final Audio E3000 for $54.
If you can skimp on detail in the mids and highs in return for more low end oomph, you should consider the Shure SE215 at $99.
However, for uncolored, analytical sound, there is no other earphone at this price point that sounds this good. The MP-120 can easily offer a rich and subtle performance where classical tracks are concerned, but may wax too reference-like for some rock and hip-hop tracks.
Audio professionals who need a solid monitor will rejoice at the MP-120, but I also recommend this model to beginner audiophiles who may need a benchmark sound to compare against other models.
At an inexpensive cost of just $99, the Mackie MP-120 delivers fantastic value for its price. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but to quote Oscar Wilde, “To be popular, one must be a mediocrity.” And this headphone is far and above mediocrity, folks. Audio professional? Get the Mackie MP-120. Beginner audiophile? Get the Mackie MP-120. Just love a detailed, well-crafted sound? Quit reading this review already, and get the Mackie MP-120.
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