Quick Hit: Mackie FreePlay Live Review

Room-filling sound from a PA that doesn’t quite fill a backpack.

  Recorded with Dell’Arte Dark Eyes with Bigtone pickup into Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 interface into GarageBand.
Clip 1: Slight bass cut, slight mid bump, slight treble bump.
 

Ratings

Pros:
Excellent sound for size, mic-stand mountable, can wirelessly link with a second unit for stereo operation, onboard reverb.

Cons:
I’m personally not a fan of relying on a phone for tone control.

Street:
$399

Mackie FreePlay Live
mackie.com


Tones:


Ease of Use:


Build/Design:


Value:
 

Portable sound options for musicians are aplenty these days, and the fact that some acoustic performers prefer a powered speaker/portable PA over an acoustic amp is nothing new. Mackie’s new personal PA in their FreePlay line, however, has upped the portability/power ante that’ll make smart-design nerds take notice.

The FreePlay Live is a 150-watt system that weighs under nine pounds and houses a 6" driver and a pair of high-frequency tweeters. It’s stealth in that it’s void of control knobs (adjustments are primarily made through Mackie’s FreePlay Connect app), and one doesn’t have to fiddle with finding a wall outlet since it has up 15 hours of battery life. When I first gave it a go with a Selmer-style guitar, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the clear, crisp, and full tone it projected. The bass response is decent for its size and the operation overall was super quiet with no hiss. Nope, it won’t shake the windows in your living room, but the volume belies its footprint. And projection is helped with the cool feature of being able to mount the FreePlay Live on a standard mic stand.

With a pair of TRS/XLR combo inputs, wireless streaming for backing tracks, and room-painting clean sound on battery power, it’s ideal for buskers, house-concert regulars, and coffee-house performers. It’s nothing short of a breeze to carry around—even with a couple of fingers—so your music goes wherever you’d like to perform it.

Test gear: ’97 Dell’Arte Dark Eyes with Bigtone pickup, ’77 Washburn W600 with L.R. Baggs iBeam active system.


The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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