Mackie Showbox Review

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There are few things that strike fear into the heart of any gigging musician more than realizing a venue does not provide a PA system. Now what? Borrow your buddy’s old, beer-soaked system? Not ideal. Rent? That’s pricey and can be equally unreliable. 

Luckily, Mackie has you covered with their brand new Showbox All-In-One performance rig. 

If you’re a gigging musician, you’re probably familiar with Mackie, the long-running industry standard in mixing consoles and live sound for over 35 years. Well, their team got together and created a uniquely portable powerhouse, with 12 hours of battery life and 6 input channels for guitars, microphones, keyboards, and more. Sounds pretty sweet, right? Let’s get into it.

Showbox Overview

One of the first things you’ll notice about the Mackie Showbox is its discreet appearance. It looks an awful lot like your run-of-the-mill monitor until you turn it around. You’ll quickly notice its unique breakaway controller, which gives you full control over your sound all without moving away from your microphone stand. 

You’ll find six input channels - two XLR inputs for microphones, two ¼” jacks for instrument cables, stereo ¼” line inputs, plus an effects loop. All of this inside a 400-watt speaker with an 8” woofer, which can run on battery power or plugged directly into an outlet.

Between its intuitive design, easy set-up, onboard capabilities/effects, and portability, the Showbox is as close to a “must-have” for busking musicians as you’ll find on the market today. 

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Portability (only 21 lbs)
  • Versatile sound-shaping options
  • User-friendly interface
  • Bluetooth and USB connectivity capabilities
  • Cool and useful onboard effects

Cons

  • Why wasn’t this around decades ago??

Features & Benefits

Now that we’ve given you the elevator pitch, it’s time for a deep dive into what makes the Mackie Showbox so great.

Mackie showbox review

A Real Renaissance Rig 

The Showbox works great for solo artists or small ensembles. If you’re using it as an acoustic guitar amplifier, you’ll be impressed with its rich clarity and onboard 3-band EQ, one-knob compression, and onboard effects (more on those later). 

An auto-gain feature helps you get levels just right. If you’ve ever performed outdoors, you know how finicky PAs can be when it comes to feedback issues. The Showbox’s outdoor mode and feedback eliminator take care of those issues.

Connectivity and Features

These days, capturing a live performance is almost as important as the performance itself, whether it be via Livestream, video, or a sound recording. Thankfully, the Showbox once again has you covered. Easily record your set by connecting a microSD card into the provided card slot, or livestream straight from your smartphone with the built-in USB-C interface.

There’s also a handy USB-C charging port so you can keep your phone charged during your livestream.

What’s more, you can even record your performance to your computer by connecting via the USB-C port and plugging into your DAW.

Got backing tracks? That’s cool, the Showbox has Bluetooth capabilities so you can play your tracks or intermission music straight from your phone, tablet, or computer. Or maybe you’re more old-fashioned and prefer plugging in directly to the 3.5mm aux input.

The 12 hours of battery life is an appealing feature for musicians on the go, but if you’d rather go with a secure connection, the Showbox uses a standard IEC AC cable to connect to any outlet.

Tone Control

Each channel has a 3-band EQ, single knob compression, and 2 FX engines. The Showbox has 3-band parametric EQ shelving hi, peaking mid, and shelving low knobs. Channels 1-4 have an in-line compression circuit with a variable threshold, which can be very useful when compressing vocals, for instance. 

When the incoming signal exceeds the threshold level set by this knob, the signal is automatically compressed, which reduces the dynamic range and with it the chance that you’ll get unwanted distortion.

Another cool feature is the ability to switch between amp and PA modes to tailor the response of the speaker to better serve your auditory needs. At its core, the Showbox works as a fantastic acoustic guitar amp, and can also help amplify keyboards, bass, or (obviously) vocals.

Effects and Loops

You can choose up to two effects to run on each channel, from a list of powerful preset effect options like small/large chorus, fast/slow delay, reverse delay, overdrive, fuzz, crunch, flanger, phaser, tube model, tremolo or an acoustic guitar simulator. 

The available reverb settings are just as impressive with multiple plate, room, hall, or spring options. 

And get this, for all you buskers out there, there’s even an onboard looper so you can record your own accompaniment for electrifying solo performances. The looper can also be controlled by an external footswitch. An effects send/return loop lets you incorporate an external pedalboard into your chain.

You can save up to five settings as “snapshots” for later use. 

Design and Construction

The Showbox has been built very sturdily and will hold up to the rigors of the road. At just under 20” tall and 12” wide, and weighing just under 21 lbs, it fits comfortably in the backseat of any car, and can even be carried in a fancy backpack Mackie sells separately. Any traveling performer knows the worth of an inherently mobile rig, and this was something Mackie clearly kept in mind when their Showbox was designed. 

The Showbox is designed to be tilted at a 45-degree angle, much like a traditional monitor, or it can be mounted on a pole PA stand. 

Power Rating and Battery Life

The Mackie Showbox is rated at 400 watts peak, which makes it suitable for small indoor or outdoor gigs. Its lithium-ion battery takes about 3-4 hours to fully charge and then will provide you with up to 12 hours of battery life. 

The Verdict

Mackie has managed to take the stress out of performing solo. Well, maybe not the performance stress, but definitely the stress surrounding live sound. 

Between its rugged construction, versatile tonal capabilities, seemingly endless battery life, breakaway mixing module, and onboard effects, the Showbox has proven itself to be a worthy addition to any arsenal. 

When we say user-friendly, we mean it. If you’re a gigging solo musician, leader of a small ensemble, public speaker, or heck…even a karaoke enthusiast, the Showbox is all you need to ensure you’ll sound great, look great, and all with only one trip during load-in. Your drummer will be jealous.

Great sound in a portable, durable, and stylish package. We here at American Songwriter highly recommend the Mackie Showbox!

All images courtesy of Mackie

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