Mackie’s battery powered PA system is great for musicians on the move.
Item: Mackie Free Play, Portable PA System
Price: $399 (US), £320 (UK)
Mic Rating: 4/5
At A Glance: Mackie’s Free Play is a small, portable stereo PA system with integrated 4-channel digital mixer. It has a 150W (RMS) output and can be battery operated for up to 10 hours, so you can use it to perform wherever you are. At only 5kg, it is also very lightweight and a carry case is available for when you are on the move. Inside the unit there is an 8” Woofer and 2 x 1.2” high frequency drivers that are capable of a frequency range of 65 Hz – 20 kHz, which is well suited for voice reproduction or guitars (although probably not bass guitars).
High Notes: The Free Play features a useful range of connection including; two combo inputs for mic, guitar or line, a 3.5mm stereo input, Bluetooth connectivity and a 1/4″ line-out. The unit also features 16 DSP-effects (reverb, delay, etc), a 3-Band EQ for each channel and a feedback destroyer. These are accessed via a mobile app that allows you to adjust your mix via your phone without the need to touch the device. There are also 4 speaker voicing-modes presets for different performance applications and the unit can be attached to a mic stand while performing if required.
Off Pitch: The FreePlay Connect App is available for iPhone/iPad and Android devices; however if you do not have one of these devices with you at your gig, you will not be able to access all the features of the device. It can also be a problem if your phone runs out of battery at a gig for example. Also, like most battery powered systems, it is not capable of the volume and sound quality of, albeit less portable, mains powered systems.
VoiceCouncil Reviewer Says: The Free Play is a nicely designed portable PA system that offers a useful array of functions and good value for money. That said, if you do not need a device that can be battery powered, there are many better PA choices on the market. It is particularly well suited to vocal applications in small rooms or where the music only needs to be in the background; however it could also be useful for street musicians looking for an all-in-one PA solution. I’m not entirely convinced of all the merits of controlling your mix via an app, however it does enable the unit to be small in size and yet have a wider amount of mix control options than would likely be available with hardware buttons. Overall, the Free Play works well for its intended application and as long as you are not expecting extreme volume levels, or massive amounts of bass reproduction, you are unlikely to be disappointed.
Manufacturer’s Website: Mackie