Big Studio Punch: KRK Monitor Subs
It wasn’t that long ago that for these pages I reviewed the then-new ROKIT 4 studio monitors from KRK Systems, part of the Gibson brand family.
Those units have a relatively tiny 4-inch main driver (paired with a 1-inch dome tweeter) and, while the sound is excellent, as I mentioned in the review, any serious user would want to match them up with a suitable subwoofer. I recently had the chance to do exactly that, testing those same ROKIT 4s with two different active subs from KRK: The 8s and 12s. (There’s also a 10s model.)
The 8s and 12s, as the names suggest, sport 8-inch and 12-inch subwoofer drivers, respectively. For all intents and purposes, the basic design, shape, overall approach, connectivity and configuration options are identical. The variation is in the driver and cabinet size, along with the frequency response range.
KRK reports that the 8s reproduces between 35 Hz and 133 Hz, while the 12s pushes the low-end down another 6 Hz, all the way to 29 Hz, while the top rolls off at 97 Hz. Either option, then, would obviously complement the ROKIT 4s, given their 53 Hz bottom-end limit, and the ability to give that low-end significantly greater punch.
The 12s is, to be blunt, an absolute monster. Just getting it out of the box made me a bit smug for spending more time in the weight room in the past few months, and it tips the scales at 66.5 pounds. Resistance training aside, it was an awkward unboxing, and hefting it into place in my studio was a workout by itself. But once it was in-place and connected… wow! Features include bass management using a full phase adjust and reverse, LFE input capability, internal and defeatable limiter, both balanced/unbalanced inputs and internal crossover.
The 8s was considerably more manageable. At just over 25 pounds and much slimmer all around, it proved itself quite capable, as well.
The connectivity and configuration options for both the 8s and 12s were the same, and extensive, and both units featured a front-firing bass port, and the usual KRK trademark yellow drivers (constructed of Kevlar in these units), protected by a painted metal grille.
Set-Up & Use
Connecting the 8s or 12s to my existing set-up was, for me, exceptionally easy, as it involved unplugging my existing studio sub, and dropping one of these in place. For those not currently using a studio sub, master-output cabling will travel first to the subs, and then to your studio-monitor pair. You can wire everything up with standard XLR cables, or ¼-inch TRS cables, whatever your preference. (They do provide RCA connectors too, although I’m hard-pressed to understand why a professional user might avail themselves of those.)
Also provided is ¼-inch jack for a footswitch which lets you bypass the sub, and hear the full frequency spectrum from your top units — something that’s useful in evaluating your mixes under a range of conditions, and highly recommended.
Both units have internal crossovers to manage frequency, making it relatively foolproof, but you do have an ability to tailor the behavior of the subs, and that crossover frequency point is variable between 50, 60, 70 and 80 Hz, depending on your preferences or response of your top-end units. Switches are also provided for enabling and disabling the auto standby feature, ground lift, polarity reversal, and input sensitivity. There’s also a gain knob provided. The owner’s manual provided gives the details on how to utilize the various switch options; in my case, factory defaults were appropriate.
The only viable option for sub positioning in my space is also the generally recommend one — straight in front of me, under my desk, on the floor. Both the 8s and 12s performed admirably, providing plenty of low-end that’s otherwise missing from the bare ROKIT 4s, and allowing me to work on studio projects with confidence.
It’s always difficult to objectively evaluate speakers without a rack full of high-end diagnostic gear — something I don’t happen to keep around in my closet. Let to the best tools I have available (my ears), subs are one of those things that are perhaps not “in your face” when they’re present, but their absence is certainly noteworthy. Regardless, I found both the 8s and 12s did their assigned job well.
Adjusting subs (primarily the level) can be a little tricky; of course, you want the bass response to be authentic, not exaggerated or under-represented. The owner’s manual has some tips for setting them up, but at the end of the day, the key in my view is to listen to plenty of known material, make adjustments slowly and deliberately, and listen carefully to a wide range of material to evaluate the effects before performing more tweaking.
I was impressed with the performance of both the KRK 8s and 12s studio subwoofers, and frankly, either would make a great choice for virtually any producer. Pressed to pick a favorite, I’d have to go with the 8s. It has almost as low of a low-end as the 12s, but is easier to handle, takes up less space, and, of course, comes at a more favorable price point — about $350 street price.
That said, if you have the space, want even more punch, and need that very low-end better represented, then by all means consider the 12s, which will set you back about $800, street price.
Given the two-drawer-file-cabinet dimensions of my current studio sub, I’m pretty sure either option would be a welcome replacement in my own studio.
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