by Ricky Tee, Writer/Producer/Composer (Minerva Artists) – 28/01/19
Let me start by saying that along with many I’ve been particularly sceptical about KRK G series budget studio monitors. Let’s say in 2011 I had a bad experience with a set of beautiful looking red KRK Rokit G2 6’s.
No matter what I did I just couldn’t get them to sound any good as there was to me a massive frequency gap in the upper mids that made them sound muddy along with an exaggerated bottom end. Whilst they looked great, I honestly thought they sounded terrible and inaccurate indeed a typical complaint from Rokit G series dissenters. So, I subsequently ebay’d them and that was the end of that….
Opinions about the KRK Rokit G series often generates vigorous discussion on FB groups and online forums on one occasion I shared my bad experience, let’s say it was pretty robust lol. Anyway, unbeknown to myself the product manager at Gibson (KRK’s parent company) saw my post and contacted me personally asking if I’d be prepared to Beta test a new model. Suffice to say I was surprised as I really wasn’t complimentary about the KRK Rokit G series at all. The product manager said that he needed people like me to join his Beta testing team to give an objective opinion to help them streamline their new product. After agreeing to join the testing team he then sent me some computer-generated images of the new Rokit G4,
Well what a surprise!! One thing it wasn’t was just a facelifted version of the Rokit G3’s well to me they looked like a complete cosmetic re-design. Gone were all the angular edges of the previous model. Cosmetically, KRK have given the new Rokit G4 series a new streamlined look reminiscent of the Presonus Eris range and the Behringer K series monitors. I thought it made them look more serious and more expensive than their predecessors. What I was particularly impressed with was the new aggressive looking front bass port kind of reminded me of my modded Ford Cougar front grill. I could see how the Hip/Hop EDM user market might be attracted to this look a clever change from the usual slit you get with front ported studio monitors. With the new design changes, they have retained their customary yellow bass cones but this time used Kevlar which I’m informed wasn’t coloured as using paint alters the responsiveness of the Kevlar drivers, so the result is a more pastelish yellow than the deeper yellows you’d see on the previous models. The tweeter is also made from Kevlar.
The rear panel had some new surprises, missing were the usual rocker switches or dials for treble and bass gain /cut we’ve become used to on active studio monitors. Of course, it did have a volume knob but not much else other than the power switch kettle plug socket and a combi jack input socket.
A very basic layout which initially led me to ask myself if this was an all look and no substance product and then realising that there was a screen on the back indicating this unit had a DSP chip integrated into the design sexy!!!
This did make me think about how car manufacturers present concept models but on actual release the production versions are often way more conservative than the concept version. I hoped that this wouldn’t be the case with these new Rokit 8 G4’s as this was something that Behringer did with their initial press releases on the new K series where some of the design features didn’t materialise on the production models. Assuming KRK would include a DSP chip in the production models this would represent new innovative features unheard of at this price point.
I had the feeling that there has been a deliberate move on the part of KRK to create something that was a significant departure from their previous offerings what they’ve ended up with is a much more streamlined and refined design.
It’s fair to say the KRK Rocket G series always had reasonably good cosmetic appeal but they have made a strong design statement by removing the shiny plastic from the design replacing it with a more grown up matte finish. It really does look like an interesting and exciting new product.
Cosmetic features dealt with I was still mindful of whether they would sound as good as they looked and whether KRK have addressed the common complaints of them being bass heavy and not being very accurate and patchy with mixes done on them translating to other audio systems.
Fast forward 6 months got an email notifying me that their arrival was imminent they arrived a day early
Well I think it can be said that they got the design right, something new and different from the previous generation, but the important thing would be is how would they perform?
My brief from the product manager was to “Beat the crap out of them” and to test them to their limits which was a bit disconcerting, but it was understood that he wanted me not to pull my punches with my appraisal of its performance.
I quickly unpacked them and was pleased that they had a solid build quality and looked every bit as good as the pictures I’d previously been sent. I plugged them in with the supplied power leads and hooked them up to an Alesis Masterlink. Switching them on there was no thump associated with cheaper models, I was greeted with a rear Oled screen lighting up with the KRK logo which then resolved to a home page of sorts.
Being a multi-genre writer producer, I had a good range of material to test the Rokit G4’s. So, I put the Masterlink into play and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest as it was bloody loud!! Rushing around to the back of the monitors I quickly turned the volume knob down and observed the Oled screen changing to show what the volume level was. Most active studio monitors volume levels aren’t shown in terms of DB but interestingly it was showing a value of “0 dB” (+4 in analogue terms). Turning it down gave a minus value in in steps of 0.1 Db. In this instance I lowered the volume to 0.8 DBU which was still plenty loud but more comfortable to listen to. I was struck by the fact that despite the initial volume there was no distortion whatsoever. Between resetting and restarting the audio material I took the opportunity to put my ear up to the monitors to check the noise levels and given where the gain pot had been set there was some noise but not enough to present a problem.
In the past one of the big criticisms of the Rokit G series was their inaccuracy especially at the bottom end and mid frequencies so given my previous experiences it was the area that I’d be scrutinising big time
Anyway, back to the big question, how did they sound?
Well my first impression was that they didn’t sound like their previous incarnations at all, not what I was expecting. Playing a dynamic Jazz fusion track which had instruments playing in all frequency bands the delivery was balanced and smooth. The highs were prominent but not harsh but the mids were I thought really revealing as I could hear things in the mix that I had not noticed previously when playing them through my Yamaha HS series monitors.
Given my previous aversion or even prejudice to the KRK Rokit G series I was surprised finding myself smiling at what I was listening to. I also tested them on other genres of material I had on the player, each time nailing the re-production of the tracks.
The interesting thing was everything sounded great and that was without changing any of the settings on the rear panel. It may have just been a fluke situation as in my haste to get these beasts out of their boxes I initially set them up on an ironing board lol. Not great acoustic decoupling but they were at roughly the same height I’d normally position my studio monitors.
What impressed me the most was the bass and low mid frequency response as I was not hearing the frequency signature of previous models where there was a tendency for exaggerated bass and low mid frequencies making them sound to my ears a bit muddy. The top end was significantly improved over its previous incarnations which sounded clear with enough “Air” to give the listener a nicely defined sense of space. Stereo imaging was also pretty good as I was able to hear where I had placed certain instruments in the mixes. The frequency response of the new Rokit 8 G4’s is rated between 36Hz – 40KHz this seemed to be accurate during my listening tests.
I initially tested them for about 5 hrs at various volumes but found that I didn’t experience any listening fatigue at all unlike with My HS series monitors as good as they are it was an accepted trade off when using them.
Being aware that my initial testing wasn’t done in a studio environment I set them up again in my recently acoustically treated workspace. After sitting them on Iso pads I repeated the testing with various genres, and I was again impressed with their versatility of handling the subtleties of different genres underlining that these new monitors can appeal to anyone, any genre and not restricted to Hip Hop/EDM producers.
I also played with the different EQ settings available which I’m sure would be suitable with different types of music spaces, but I found the setting it came out of the box with worked best with my studio acoustic profile.
This would have been a great opportunity to test the KRK app to be sold with this package. The app has a real-time room analyser tool included but it wasn’t available at the time of testing. But It’s good to see that KRK are encouraging good studio practice by getting people to do some acoustic analysis to get the best from their monitors and the spaces they are being used in.
Of course, KRK would not leave users without the ability to adjust the acoustic profile of the new monitors so they’ve addressed this by including a DSP chip which offers 25 different pre-sets for various room environments. They’ve also provided options for other settings on the monitor. Focussing on the options for a moment here’s a quick rundown of what you’re able to control.
The HOME SCREEN is what you see when you power up your monitor. It gives you instant feedback for volume and EQ settings. From here you can press the VOLUME knob to access EQ, SETUP and more.
VOLUME is set at the factory to 0 dB or professionally known as +4 dBu input sensitivity. Increase/decrease this equally on both monitors in .1 dB steps to set the volume to your desired level or to level match these to other monitors in your studio.
EQ From the MENU screen select EQ to access the EQ settings. LOW EQ L. SHELF Cut (minus) settings are wall-coupling filters.
These EQ settings roll off the low-end that can build up the closer you get to walls.
L. SHELF Boost (plus) setting will add low-end if you need more thump, set these to your taste.
L.PEQ is a parametric EQ with a wide Q. It does not cut your low-end as it cuts low mid-frequencies. It is called a desk filter and it helps you if you have a large mixing board aka “desk” or an actual large desk, you can get a build-up in the low-mids that can cause muddiness. Note: one setting utilizes both the wall coupling filter and the desk filter.
HIGH EQ H. SHELF and H. PEQ EQs are all for you to set to your mixing taste. If you feel you need more, or less high-mids or highs, adjust these until you are happy. Some studios are bright and need less highs, while some studios are dark and need more highs.
From the MENU screen select SETUP to adjust overall system preferences. BACKLIGHT In a dim studio, a darker backlight is easier on the eyes. To adjust your backlight to the lighting in the room, turn it down until it’s too dim, and then slowly bring it up until it feels comfortable to look at.
CONTRAST Once your monitors are in place, set for maximum image focus based on your viewing angle.
STANDBY Use this to engage or disengage the standby. If standby is engaged the unit will go into sleep mode 30 minutes after no signal is detected. The monitors will wake up once you send signal to them again.
LOGO Selects the front KRK logo; ON, DIM or OFF. Set it to your desired setting according to the ambient light in your studio.
FACTORY RESET Use this to restore to default monitor settings. LOCK Settings can’t be changed until you unlock.
All together I thought it was a well thought out and useful set of parameter controls. When I received them for review and testing no instructions were included in the packaging. So, it’s commendable that the programmers of the DSP chip and user interface got it just right as it was quite easy to get around and understanding how to use the controls was pretty straight forward.
Only one very minor gripe with it was the location of the Oled screen. I think it’s a shame that it wasn’t located on the front or even the side of the monitor as in truth most studio owners will locate the monitors close to a wall so accessing the DSP controls will mean manoeuvring the monitors that will often be located in tight spaces not making it easy if you need to make an adjustment to the settings.
That said this level of functionality belongs to products in a much higher price bracket so given the Rokit 8 G4 is to be priced at the budget end of the market making that change may have added a significant increase in manufacturing costs. Also, there might have been a concern that locating the controls on the front might have disrupted the overall design which in fairness looks very neat and refined. KRK have addressed this issue by developing an iPhone and Android app to control the monitor settings remotely. This will also include a real-time room acoustic analyser to assist with EQ, placement and monitor level matching.
The test of a decent monitor will be how well your mixes transfer to other systems. Well I had a couple of tracks where I applied some mastering treatment then creating a couple of mastered WAV files. After burning a CD, I then played the mixes on 3 or 4 systems I had around the house. I was reasonably pleased with the results as the mixes essentially retained their intended balance even on the grot boxes.
I started this review by saying that I have never been a fan of the KRK G series monitors. However, having tested these new G4’s over the last 3 months I am due for a huge portion of humble pie. So, you may see me shortly on “My 600lb life”
But on a more serious note the new Rokit 8 G4’s have more than exceeded my expectations of what I thought my listening experience would be. As hard as I tried, I could not find even minor faults with them and that was after following my brief to “Beat the crap out of them”.
I find myself scratching my head at how they’ve been able to do this without significantly changing the retail price an incredible feat given it’s capabilities. I’ve no doubt that these monitors will be extremely well received, it will be only a matter of time before the word gets out as to how good they really are. In making this judgement I’ve had the experience of using most of their current competitors so I’m able to confirm that these are in a different class to all of them bar the Yamaha HS series. The big question I had to answer was; Do I prefer the Rokit 8 G4’s over the Yamaha HS8’s?
Well the answer is; Though I thought they were in a similar neighbourhood the new G4’s edged it for these reasons.
- Overall sound quality, they sound great straight out of the box without any adjustment
- No ear fatigue after listening over long sessions
- Accurate bottom end and revealing mid frequencies
- Cleaner and more modern design.
- Front ported giving better positioning options
- Comes with a room analyser App
- Sheer value for money
- Last but not least, the DSP chip/Oled screen this new addition alone makes it a game changer at this price point.
You might be reading this review and be thinking it’s pretty one sided, well I can only tell you as I see it. Make no mistake these are serious monitors and are completely up to the rigours of professional use. I honestly think that KRK have addressed the longstanding issues with their G series monitors. The new G4’s now sounds very close to their VX4 series siblings which have a very respectable reputation in professional circles. I’ve long been a Yamaha HS series fan and I guess that’s where my yardstick would lie. I would put their overall sound quality in the same ball park or maybe even beyond.
At the end of the day despite all the technological improvements they have made with this product the bottom line is the sound quality, do they can deliver?
All I can tell you is that they do and with ease.
KRK already dominate the budget end of the studio monitor market but the new Rokit 8 G4 series can only consolidate that position even further. The new model I believe has elevated the G series into a higher performance bracket so the likes of Yamaha may be forced to give up some of their market share as the quality of this product can be directly compared to the HS series some might say eclipsed them including me. Best of all the product is also cheaper than the Yamaha HS Range, £229 per unit (I can see feathers flying everywhere!)
In my opinion KRK have produced a killer product without alienating their core users, so the average guy in the street can have access to a market leading product. If the performance of the Rokit 8 G4’s can be repeated throughout the whole G4 range I can see that they will not only be the first choice in terms of budget they will also be number one in terms of quality at this price point.
The only real market competition I can see on the horizon is from the new Kali Range of monitors which are getting great reviews they are projected to sell at a lower price point. But now KRK have upped their game with the new G4 series a mighty battle is about to ensue which in my opinion they are bound to win with this product
Ricks Rating: 9/10
More information on the Rokit G4 family can be found at http://itisrokitscience.com/
The full KRK RPG4 Family : 5”, 7”, 8” 10” 3 way
Btw I’ve now replaced my Yammies with the KRK’s as my main monitors 😊