KRK are back with the next generation of these all-too-familiar studio monitors. Alex Wilson cranks up a pair to see what’s going on.
Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #134. Subscribe to our print edition here!
The very yellow KRK Rokit series of speakers are infamous for two reasons. The first is that they are the world’s highest-selling line of nearfield studio monitors. The second claim to fame – that they are the ill-informed first choice neophyte home studio owners duped by the inaccurately hyped sound and low low price – is one that the bigwigs at KRK would very much like to bury.
KRK don’t appear content to cruise on the fact that people keep buying Rokits. The company is intent on leveraging its market advantage into a product that is not just the best-selling, but the best-sounding. Having already reviewed a pair of Rokit G3s among these venerable pages about a year ago, we have some context for assessing what improvements these new speakers have nailed. We’ll start with the sound itself, and then move on to some of the added features.
WHAT’S THE FREQUENCY, KENNETH?
If you’re new to the world of nearfield monitors, you may be asking what all this fuss about hyped frequency response is. In short, Rokits are known for exaggerating the treble and particularly the bass frequencies. This leads to a big, bright sound that makes music and mixing sound exciting (literally). However, an experienced mix engineer knows that a truly useful studio monitor is “flat” – representing the sound is it has actually been recorded, no extra flavour added or subtracted. Monitors like this can sound less good to an inexperienced ear but are far superior for the diagnostic and surgical tasks that mixing often requires.
The good news is that the Rokit G4s do represent a significant improvement in performance and accuracy. KRK’s promotional boilerplate states that these new Rokits have been “completely re-engineered from the ground up” in order to provide the best sound at the lowest price. And while no monitor in this price range is ever going to afford the specs to be truly flat, the Rokits nonetheless present a balanced, full-spectrum sound. The bottom end still feels nice and large, but also calmer than the hyped thud of the G3s. This difference is apparent in the improved punch and transient response of the bass instruments.
In short, the low-end accuracy is improved by reducing the exaggeration and increasing the detail. There’s also improvement to be found in the top end of the frequency spectrum. Compared to the somewhat dark G3s, the Rokit G4s simply have more brightness in them. This is not a bad thing at all – again, it feels more like a truer representation of the source material rather than a dial pushed too far. In terms of engineering, these new Rokits now boast full Aramid Fiber (aka Kevlar) composition for both the tweeter and the main speaker, so there is a solid basis for why we’re hearing these improvements.
Apart from the significant performance improvements, the other noteworthy feature of these new Rokits is the onboard DSP for tuning your room. On the back of each speaker is a backlit LCD display that allows you to customise the frequency response. The amount of detail and user-friendliness built into this system is usually not available in products at this price point. It’s a great incentive for beginning engineers to learn about acoustics and room treatment when their entry-level speakers can handle this kind of sophisticated correction.
To make this feature even better, KRK has also release a companion Audio Tools app, boasting useful diagnostic tools to help an engineer identify and eliminate phase and stereo imaging issues, as well as an automatic calibration feature that will help your new monitors perform best in your studio space. While I didn’t personally have access to this tech, beta-tester reports from the internet suggest these tools are in good shape and will provide genuine value.
THE BOTTOM LINE
KRK have used their position as a market leader to significantly improve a flagship product. The company has struck a tremendous balance here between great performance and an awesomely low price. With this new generation of Rokits, we can now feel assured that the new generation of audio engineers have access to a great product so early on in their careers.
• Aramid Fiber speaker and tweeter
• Foam base padding
• Front-facing ports to reduce noise and resonance
• Excellent onboard DSP
• Forthcoming KRK Audio Tools app
• Massive improvements in audio performance compared to the prior generation
• Incredibly affordable
• A great introductory product
• Will never have the same accuracy of a more expensive high-performance monitor
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