This is a modern, powerful and relatively compact powered PA system that will work well for small to medium-sized events in the configuration we tested, namely two 212XT full-range cabinets and one 115S subwoofer. The speakers are keenly priced, and are relatively easy to transport – the full-range cabinets, being moulded plastic, are light, and the 115S subwoofer is smaller than most. Add a couple of stands and some XLR cables and you’re good to go for a first or budget PA system, that you could add to as needs dictated.
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First Impressions / Setting up
The Thump PA system reviewed here – 2 x 212XT powered speakers and 1 x 115S subwoofer – felt like a “modern” PA on unboxing. I mean, I’m old enough to remember carpeted speakers! These units, by contrast, are moulded, curved plastic (in the case of the 212XT) and a rounded, relatively compact wooden box (the single 115S 15″ subwoofer that was provided to us for review). They have smart metal grilles, with the green “running man” Mackie logo on the front of each. In each box is the enclosure itself, plus an IEC cable, and a few pieces of paper, including a quick start guide.
Unless you’re propping your speakers onto tables, you’ll want to budget for speaker stands. We have a set of pretty standard tripod stands we use for testing speakers, so we pushed them into use here for the 212XTs (the speakers have a standard socket underneath to accept such stand poles).
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As far as subwoofers go, of course, popping them on the floor is fine. The 115S actually has a thread on the top for you to attach an optional pole in order to have a single set-up with the sub-woofer on the floor and a full-range cabinet above, which would be a great set-up if you had two sub-woofers, a 212XT atop each.
Next thing is to get everything wired up. You’ll want a balanced XLR output from your DJ mixer or controller, a cable each for the left and right channels of course. Both channels get fed first to the subwoofer, using inputs A and B on that unit, and then you run two extra XLR cables from the two “high pass out” sockets on the subwoofer, one to an input on the back of each of the 212XT units. That way, the subwoofer takes care of the bass, letting the other cabinets do the rest.
Of course if you chose to forego the subwoofer and just go with two 212XT units, you’d simply feed the left channel’s XLR cable to the left speaker directly, and the right to the right.
Set up wise, that’s about it. There is an app for your phone that supposedly gives you extra control, but I took a quick look at it and didn’t see anything of importance you can’t do on the speakers themselves.
We tested the PA outdoors (at our outdoor swimming pool, in fact!) mainly to play with the different voicing and audio setting options to get a sense of how you can alter the PA to suit your requirements. We set up the gear we’d been sent to review fully, ie two 212XTs and a 115S.
First thing: This set-up is loud! I’ve always looked at watts RMS as a measure of loudness for speakers, which is a stat unfortunately not provided here, but Mackie does say that the units are 1400W “peak power” (ie loudest possible, for short times). Maybe more useful is the sound pressure level info, rated at 131dB for the subwoofer and 128dB for each 212XT. That translates to very loud.
With just a single subwoofer, the sound was deep, full and never harsh. I could see this system working out fine for mobile DJs playing small to medium-sized venues, maybe up to 150-200 people, as long as the speakers were properly positioned.
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For DJ use, the first of the two input channels makes sense, as it has a number of “voicing modes” (think preset tone controls) to cycle through, “music” and “club” being of particular interest to DJs – there are graphic equaliser diagrams printed on the speakers themselves to show you what they do. (This channel can also be switched from Line to Mic, something DJs wouldn’t really be using, because your mic would be coming through your single mixed output from your own mixer.)
The second input channel also offers an 1/8″ minijack input and, interestingly, Bluetooth – potentially useful for a bit of background music before DJing, maybe, especially because there is one-touch linking wirelessly between speakers available (such a quick “get some music playing” set-up would exclude the subwoofer, though). There’s an overall “outdoor mode” too, which I am going to guess substitutes subtlety for brute volume. Also, a “thru” socket lets you wire speakers together directly if you wish – so you could have four full-range cabinets, with three and four “ganged” to one and two.
A couple of interesting controls on the back of the subwoofer: There’s a stereo/mono switch for ganging the output to your full-range cabinets to mono if wished, and a phase invert switch, which can often improve the fullness of the sound. Interestingly, there’s also a set of controls for tweaking the high-pass mode – in other words, the signal sent from the sub-woofer to the full-range cabinets. The most interesting of these controls is a knob to move the crossover frequency from 80Hz through to 160Hz.
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Playing with all of these didn’t radically alter the sound, but did offer enough obvious differences to mean that for different environments you’ll definitely have your favourites. But there isn’t enough EQ adjustment here to replace having a small live mixer between your DJ gear and your PA.
This feels like a perfectly competent, good enough-sounding PA system at a realistic price for many DJs, especially those starting out or who typically play smaller venues, and also for whom portability is a concern.
Make sure you budget in for decent tripod stands – you need to get those full-range cabinets at head level. You’ll need XLR cables, too – and just bear in mind that the provided mains electricity cables are not very long, so decent extension leads too.
And also, in my view, don’t skimp on the subwoofer, which really does make a difference, not only substantially filling the sound out but also taking a lot of the strain off of the full-range cabinets, allowing them to sound sweeter.
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These aren’t genuinely innovative like, say, the Soundboks speakers are (those have low latency wireless usable for DJing, switchable batteries and a much better app, for instance), but the Mackie Thumps are modern insofar as they’re light (the 212XTs) and – for a subwoofer – small (the 115S), while still delivering the required “thump” they’re named after.
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They’re relatively cheap but don’t compromise too much, and for us they hit a balance between portability and volume that we think will be a sweet spot for many DJs.