STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ neutral tuning with dry bass
+ Intuitive operation via three easily recognizable and tactile keys
+ Passive operation possible with enclosed cable
+ long battery life
- No ANC
- with Bluetooth a bit powerless without kick in the bass and with hung voice reproduction
Sound: naturalness / transparency7.1
Sound: Bass / Dynamics8.2
Practice / Connectivity8.2
The Mackie brand stands for Professional Audio, where they commonly use cables that will make any hi-fi fan’s eyes moist. But the new Mackie MC-40BT can play completely without cables. The first mobile Bluetooth headphones from the Americans can also be operated via the included cable with 3.5 mm jack plugs, for example when the battery is empty. But this should be seen only in a few cases, we gues. The mobile over-ear can play music for up to 30 hours before it has to be recharged via its USB-C port.
The over-ear finds room in the protective hard case with its folding mechanism – including accessories. The workmanship of the headphones can be summarized as “plain and good”. The product planners spared metal as well as genuine leather for the headband and the cushions surrounding the ears. However, look and feel are very decent for the class around 180 Euros.
The three buttons for power on/off, volume control, start/stop and track skip, which are highlighted in green (the Mackie brand color), also fit into the picture and offer a good mechanical feedback. Like the charging and jack sockets, they are located in the right ear cup. This functional section with color blob also makes it easy to distinguish between left and right once you know. The actual labeling is namely very low-contrast and also hidden on the inside of the temple.
The feature set of the Mackie MC-40BT remains manageable, there is no active noise cancelling through anti-noise. However, a microphone for using the over-ear as a gaming headset or for making phone calls is on board. The multiple function On/Off key is used to “pick up” and “hang up” incoming calls.
The wearing comfort of the Mackie circumaural headphones is quite good. The faux leather upholstery is soft and comfortable against the skin. However, especially with larger head circumference, the pressure around the ears is a bit high. After all, the isolation against environmental noise is also relatively high for headphones without ANC. The sound of its 40 mm drivers should therefore be able to unfold largely unaffected by the surroundings in the closed ear cups.
Listening test with gradual sound increases
For a closed headphone, the Mackie MC-40BT sounds relatively spacious. However, the latest offshoot of the sound professional equipment reacts relatively sensitively to the quality of the recording. In the studio area, a monitoring headphone is paid for this. In times of constant availability of the most diverse music programs and playlists, which usually goes hand in hand with a certain data compression, this is not necessarily a competitive advantage. Especially recordings that don’t exactly show special broadband and dynamics can sometimes appear a bit tired as a result. And even good recordings have something of a dullness about them. There is a certain lack of harmonics.
One could now speculate that there is some kind of brand philosophy or studio custom behind this. But that alone doesn’t make sense if, like us, you’re familiar with the Mackie Thumb Go, the Americans’ new mobile Bluetooth speaker (review coming soon on STEREO GUIDE). It goes off dynamically in a very impressive way and is not at all stingy with harmonics with its tweeter horn. Another suspicion would be more obvious: Is it possible that the wireless transmission is the eye of the needle through which the sounds have to force themselves? Or do the two small power amplifiers that bring the active Bluetooth headphones to life simply lack a bit of power and precision?
Hold the line!
The question could be answered quite simply in essence: One of the two or both together bear responsibility for this. That was the result of the countercheck via cable connection on the iPhone. With that, the Mackie MC-40BT seemed to ignite the afterburner. The music seems to really breathe at the wire, the dynamic leaps sweep you along and from voices more all at once. instruments and overtones, a veil seems to fall away.
This is a good message for the people responsible for the sound tuning of the quite balanced, and in passive mode also relatively clear over-ears. And they also demonstrate a flair for rich, precise basses that don’t come off as gimmicky. On the wire, drums also add a dose of punch. But hey: Even on the iPhone 11, the dynamics explode and everything from transparency to brilliance becomes better than over Bluetooth? Despite AAC codec? This is not a good report card for the amplifier electronics of the wireless over-ear.
Explore the true sound potential with the headphone amplifier
After all, there are supposed to be people who can afford a headphone amp for their desktop or who travel with a headphone DAC in their vest pocket. That’s why we wanted to see what’s really in the over-ear from a good company on the Aune BU2*. This control pushed the over-ear to significantly more punch with more contour in the bass. In addition to the better kick in the lower octaves, which should especially please friends of lush beats, the clarity in the midrange and treble range increased above all. If vocals via Bluetooth with the MC-40BT’s own amplifier electronics still sounded a bit artificial and foggy, melting really came into play here.
Mackie MC-40BT review: Conclusion and alternatives
Somehow, the Mackie MC-40BT reminds us of hybrid cars. You can drive it into the city and practically park it at a charging station. But they are actually just combustion engines with added benefits. So you can conveniently pack your Bluetooth over-ear without the hassle of tangled cables and take it on the bus or train into town. At the same time, you can be happy that the battery is designed for long “range”. But most of the time, or at least with the most enjoyment, you’ll be running your Mackie wireless headphones through a cable on your amp, old-fashioned style. Thus, the pure points score in our test report can also be seen as a mixed score in passive and active mode.
If you travel a lot, you can get the Valco VMK20 for a comparable price. The Finnish over-ear can also show its capabilities well via Bluetooth, and with active noise-canceling (ANC) it also has a goodie for outdoor use. However, the pecking order turns around at the high-quality headphone amplifier: Then the Mackie MC-40BT turns out to be more balanced and clearer in the upper pitches and more precise in the bass. However – it must be said clearly – this is not the most common use for a Bluetooth headset.
Specifications Mackie MC-40BT
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 180 Euro
- Type: Over-Ear
- Transducer principle: Dynamic
- Weight: 300 g
- Features: Folding mechanism, hard case, charging cable, 3.5 mm jack cable
- More at: www.mackie.com
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