Mackie FreePlay Personal PA review

  • £329

A busker's dream?

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Our Verdict

As a standalone unit, FreePlay is a stunning small-gig aid, either as a mini-PA or acoustic amp, not to mention a handy mp3 player amp.


  • Great sound. Fantastic app integration.


  • No mid-sweep or compression.
Buying options

FreePlay? It's a small ghetto-blaster-sized moulded-plastic unit boasting 300 watts of class D (max peak) power, dual combi XLR/jacks for mic or line level inputs, a mini-jack – or Bluetooth – aux input, along with mains adapted (adaptor included) or battery power: a Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery pack (£82) is available, or it runs on eight D-size batteries.

As supplied, the lightweight (5kg/11lb) unit can sit easily on a chair or table, but there's a kickstand/pole bracket accessory available at £29 and a carry bag for £66. Anyway...

All of FreePlay's controls are mounted at the rear, which initially doesn't seem that convenient. However, along with those inputs and a large rotary level control (for setting input levels, FX send levels and overall output level), we have a monitor out if you wanted to plug into a larger system.

Along with an illuminated LED input/ output segment meter, FreePlay offers four digital effects – Verb 1, Verb 2, Dly 1 and Dly 2 – which can be independently selected and the level set for each of the twin channels. The master EQ has a similar push-button selection; it's pre-set for Flat, DJ, Solo or Voice. There's a 'feedback destroyer' push switch, plus master-output push switch and BT/Aux switch that allows you to pair with a Bluetooth device.

So far, so good, but the FreePlay concept is expanded by a free Android or iOS app that takes over the control. Connection via Bluetooth is easy and now we can set input/output levels via the mixer page on the app, along with numerous additional features like three-band EQ for each channel and a choice of 16 effect programs. Very neat.


Firstly, there's a big, detailed sound that emanates from this pretty small unit thanks to its onboard eight-inch woofer, but setting the master preset EQ is essential to make the most of FreePlay.

So, if you're running your mp3 player, you'll need the bass/treble boost of the DJ mode, or you can set Voice or Solo both with low-end attenuation – the former with an upper-mid lift, the latter adds a tight mid-scoop, ideal for steel strings.

The app also adds three-band (high, mid and low) channel EQ. There's no mid-sweep, which would've been handy, nor any compression. Overall, we easily dialled in pretty much our standard gigging sounds. You can also plug in from your own pedals/ outboard preamp and FX setup.

Whether the FreePlay 's loud enough for gigging really depends on the venue, whether you have a captive audience or, more likely, general ambient noise (espresso machines et al) to battle with. Via that app and plugged into a powered monitor, it could easily replace the need for a small mixer – again, ideal for bigger solo or duo gigs.

With the optional battery power, you can go mains-free, which makes it ideal for busking in the park or on the beach. Back home, while you relax, it's a use-anywhere full range system for your music, YouTube videos or films. FreePlay, indeed!

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