Mackie has unveiled a number of clever designs in compact PA speakers over the last few years, stepping outside the box and changing the way in which musicians look at portable sound reinforcement. The Mackie FreePlay LIVE has arrived on my desk, and it is certainly a welcome addition to the range and one that I gave a good working out. It’s a fairly simple design, but still offers plenty of possibilities for a wide range of applications.
The FreePlay LIVE is an all-in-one live audio solution for a solo or duo act. It almost has a bit of a ‘boom box’ vibe to it—for those of you who grew up in the ‘80s dragging your music down the street to the power of eight C-cell batteries, you’ll know what I mean. But gone are the bulk packs of Duracell’s as the FreePlay LIVE comes with a built-in Lithium-ion battery, so you can get mobile with recharged power instead. For those of you just wanting a great compact music player, it allows you to run an auxiliary lead in from any device or stream via Bluetooth to take your music anywhere.
It’s light enough to carry around, and has no controls extending out from the housing that might be damaged in transit. Cleverly, all the volume, EQ and reverb controls are on a flat panel with slightly raised dimple buttons for adjusting your settings. Simply select the input channel and use the plus and minus buttons to adjust the sound. EQ presets and reverb are turned on with the press of a button, and Bluetooth pairing is quick and easy for most devices. The recessed handle is well balanced too, so you don’t have to struggle with the weight on one side of the box when carrying the unit.
For those wishing to perform, there are two inputs that will take microphones or instruments on combination XLR/TRS connectors, along with a monitor out for joining other powered speakers to this device. A handy stand adaptor allows you to mount the unit onto any straight microphone stand to raise it up for performance use. With the preset EQ settings and built-in reverb, the FreePlay LIVE works wonders for guitar and vocals combined with backing tracks from the auxiliary input. There’s plenty of volume for a small café style gig or for busking should you wish. The sound is quite good too, with a decent stereo spread coming from one box and plenty of low frequency.
Great for rehearsals, small gigs, busking or just listening to music at home, at the park or on your tricked out BMX with the assistance of a couple of occy straps. There’s a lot this little powered speaker can do and very little places it can’t go.
Hits and Misses
Big sound from a compact box
No protruding controls