MACKIE FREEPLAY PORTABLE PERSONAL PA
Review: Preshan John
It’s a hot summer day. You’ve got mates over, cooking up snags on the barbecue. Ol’ mate Baz gets a hankering for some music, and Jim puts in his request for Summer of ’69. You’re happy to oblige, but you’d rather sing it to them yourself than move the PMCs out to the backyard. Enter, the Mackie FreePlay; the modern boombox for the discerning soundie.
Dubbed a ‘personal PA’, the FreePlay is a battery-powerable portable speaker system. With XLR and line inputs on the back, this is more than a mobile iPod dock. It’s a mobile iPod dock on steroids… without an actual iPod dock. But we’ll get to that.
The speaker setup is not your average. A single eight-inch driver sits in the centre like the green iris of Cyclops’ peeper, flanked by two one-inch HF drivers on either side. It’s as solid (and heavy) as a brick, with a neat handle on top, freeing up your other hand to hold a 58 while you freestyle your way down the sidewalk.
While the FreePlay mightn’t qualify as ‘pro audio’ in the strictest sense, it sounds pretty impressive and has plenty of control. It’s also got doof for days, and will happily munch away at your party mix.
There’s no shortage of connectivity options. Only got a 3.5mm Aux cord? No problem. What about a mic and XLR? That’s covered too. You could even hook up a keyboard or sampler using the line inputs. And if you want to ditch the copper altogether, switch to Bluetooth.
Getting connected is easy — press the Pair button ensuring Bluetooth is switched on on your device. Scan for ‘FreePlay’, connect to it, and select it as your playback device if you’re on a computer. Remember Bluetooth isn’t UHF. It helps to keep a reasonably small distance between the paired devices so you don’t end up with non-stop glitch-hop.
While there’s a bunch of buttons and dials on the rear of the unit, the mini Mackie Control app for iOS and Android devices lets you drive the Freeplay without getting up from your deck chair. Each of the three input channels have faders, mutes, three-band EQ and a send for the built-in reverb. You can alter the global EQ between four pre-defined settings, and there’s a switch to flip the Feedback Destroyer on and off.
The FreePlay has seen its share of use around the AT office. Sometimes as a mix-checking tool, other times oozing Miles Davis jams while we have lunch. Whatever your scene, the Mackie FreePlay will probably fit into it.