Equipment Review: Mackie SRM-Flex Column Portable PA System

Performing songwriters, especially those that leverage acoustic instruments when they perform, should pay attention to this lightweight, all-in-one PA from Mackie. It has a great, full-range sound for such a small, easy-to-transport package.

It’s perfect for single or duo performance entertaining in small- or medium-sized rooms, but great sound isn’t all it offers. I tried out the SRM-Flex at several types of events and it performed admirably in each.

If you don’t have a huge room to cover, there’s a lot to like about the the SRM-Flex. It is certainly lighter than most small PAs that can provide enough bass and high end sound to make acoustic instruments sound ‘real’. It also has a particularly small footprint, doesn’t take up a lot of room in the car or in the venue, and, like other popular column designs, it tends to blend it with the surroundings wherever you set it up–another nice touch for acoustic performers. The all-in-one design of the SRM-Flex means fewer wires, too. So, easy setup and a professional look even if you aren’t lucky enough to have a stage to perform on at every venue.

Advertising for the SRM-Flex claims that it provides ‘Ultra-Wide Coverage’. I didn’t compare it to other ‘stick’-style sound systems to see if it covers a wider area, but I can say that I and other group members were impressed at how well the sound from the unit seemed to travel equally through the rooms we played. The combination of six 2” wide-dispersion drivers in an array, a 10” subwoofer, and 1300 watts of power worked well for us in every situation. Those performances included ensembles with guitar, vocals and electronic keyboard. Assembly of the column’s sections allows for adjustable height of the array in order to direct sound at ear level to get the best coverage and clarity.

A built-in 6-channel digital mixer provides two multi-purpose inputs with knobs to control high and low tone settings and reverb level. Mackie also provides an interesting IOS app (or Android 6 or better) called SRM-Flex Connect that allows you to remotely control the SRM-Flex. While it provides all the control you see on the all-in-one unit, you can also use the graphic interface of the app to shape the system’s EQ to get the sound you want. The app also allows you to take a ‘snapshot’ of your settings to make set-up even quicker. A stereo channel provides an additional input that’s handy for keyboards, along with an aux/Bluetooth channel so you can stream break music from your phone. An XLR output makes it easy to connect to an additional SRM-Flex to expand your sound or to get into a front-of-house mix, should you be using the SRM-Flex as a monitor on a larger stage.

For overall control of EQ, the SRM-Flex provides Music, Speech, and Live Application voicing modes that let performers tailor the system to your application and venue. I noticed a huge difference in how the system performed with these different settings. It made a particular difference for improving sound quality when playing at lower volumes in ‘live’ rooms. I also thought that all three choices of reverb were good sounding. 

My only reservation about the performance of the SRM-Flex was that it didn’t seem to get as loud as its 1300 watt rating might lead one to expect. That said, when working with a percussionist and volume was required, I was able to turn the unit to its extreme and the unit never faltered or distorted.

The SRM-Flex seems to be well thought out for professional musicians and has a solid build quality. Overall weight for the unit is marked as 29.6 lb in the documentation, but it certainly feels like less, since it breaks down into a sub/control unit that comes with a protective cover and column pieces are carried in a separate padded bag with a handy shoulder strap. The unit looks good, travels well and does a great job with acoustic instruments.

Street Price: $999.99

Behind the Song: The Beatles, “Helter Skelter”