REVIEW: KRK ROKIT 8 G3 Studio Monitors
One of the most essential components of any home (or professional) studio is the ability to hear what you’re working on, of course, and to that end, a pair of quality studio monitors is a must-have. Since the 1980s, KRK Systems has been recognized for its innovation in the space—a tradition that has continued under the ownership of Gibson Pro Audio, having acquired the KRK brand in late 2011.
KRK recently rolled-out the latest update to its ROKIT monitor range. This latest generation of this line of active, near-field monitors—named G3 to denote its third-generation status—is positioned like its predecessors as a more affordable entry to the overall KRK product mix, and I recently had the chance to take the 8-inch version of the ROKIT G3 for a spin.
To put the market position into perspective, the ROKIT 8 G3 model has a street price of around $250 (each), while KRK’s VXT series in an 8-inch version checks in at about $600 (each). For those DJs seeking top-line performance, KRK offers the Exposé E8B—also with an 8-inch main driver—at a proud $2,500 a pop.
Not everyone has the budget to go high-end, of course. And while my advice is usually to buy the best you can realistically afford—to the extent it’s justified anyway, because more expensive is not always actually better—that leaves us with the question: What does a street price of $500 a pair actually get you with the KRK ROKIT 8 G3s? Let’s take a look.
Hands-On: To begin, the KRK ROKIT 8 G3s start with a cabinet that’s roughly in line with other 8-inch studio monitors on the market. But compared to others I have around, they seem less daunting in stature, in large part due to the sculpted, beveled front panel. The enclosure itself is substantive and, according to KRK, designed to minimize distortion and to avoid coloring the sound. (For the record, the dimensions are roughly 12-½- by-15-½-inches and just a hair under 11-inches overall, and they weigh in right at 25 pounds each.)
The units are dominated by the classic, vibrant yellow-coned main driver, constructed of a glass-Aramid material. Directly above is the 1-inch tweeter, and below, the front-firing cabinet port. KRK says that the front-positioned port reduces “boundary coupling,” a phenomenon where bass response can be exaggerated due to speaker design and placement.
My main concern about the design of the front of the units is the positioning of the tweeter driver. With its exceptionally soft cone, its forward placement would seem to make it excessively vulnerable to damage; I would have preferred it to be recessed. But in truth, the exposed drivers of all studio monitors leave them somewhat vulnerable in general. In this case, it seems to justify some extra care, both in unboxing the units, and general handling in the studio.
On the back side, the ROKIT sports the expected controls; adjustments for both high-frequency and low-frequency response, enabling you to tailor the sound a bit to the listening environment. There’s also a gain control, along with the expected trio of inputs: RCA, ¼-inch balanced, and XLR balanced.
From the spec sheet, KRK quotes a peak SPL of 109 dB, 100 total watts of power, and a frequency response range of 35 Hz on the low end, to 35 kHz on the high end—perhaps roughly what one might expect from a unit with an 8-inch main driver. (By contrast, the ROKIT model with a 10-inch driver drops the low end a few more kilohertz downward.)
Without a room full of diagnostic gear, I’m left to evaluate the ROCKIT 8 G3 the way most people do: subjectively, with my own ears. Unplugging my usual studio monitors and dropping the G3s in their place (power and audio connections were the same), then loading-up some familiar material in my DAW, my hope, frankly, was that I’d not notice any change. (Had I noticed one, either my existing monitor investment was ill-placed, or the KRKs colored the sound in less-than-desirable ways.) To my satisfaction, the sound was precisely what I’d expected. Dropping some filters into a project to do some informal evaluation of frequency response, along with some playing around with pure sine waves across a wide spectrum appeared—again subjectively—to confirm the relatively even, flat response I would have expected.
As I used the ROKIT 8 G3s in my studio over the weeks that followed, I continued to be impressed with them as much for the fact I didn’t notice the change (vs. my usual 8-inch monitors with a higher price point), as anything else. I also grew rather fond of the aesthetics. (I think I might actually miss that shocking yellow driver cone now that the review units are on their way back to KRK.)
It’s worth noting that KRK ROKIT series is also available in more compact 6-inch and 5-inch form factors (each roughly $50 cheaper than its larger sibling). But the frequency response tradeoffs just don’t seem worth it for serious studio, use in my view.
Conclusions: Producing and mastering in less-than-ideal environments (like many home studios) can be have its challenges to be sure and, for my money anyway, while decent, professional monitors are a must regardless, I’m not sure that investing huge amounts of money produces an end that justifies the means. (Your mileage may vary, as the saying goes.)
Thus, given the roughly $500-a-pair street price of the KRK ROKIT 8 G3, this newly-updated choice in studio monitors strikes me as a solid, affordable choice for those looking to upgrade from monitors with smaller drivers, or those building out their first home studio.
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