To my ears these are almost as good as some of the best monitors I’ve ever heard at any price. Frankly I’d have no hesitation in recommending the most demanding of producers give them a go. If you’re setting up a mid-sized studio or practice space, and especially if you collaborate with other DJs or musicians in producing your sounds and so want to “put it on the big speakers” as part of your production or rehearsal process, these should be right at the top of your list.
First Impressions / Setting up
I remember the first time I was in a professional recording studio, on work experience from school. (It was Strawberry Studios in Stockport, England, where Joy Division, the Stone Roses, The Smiths, and even Sir Paul McCartney recorded, if you’re interested…)
One thing that fascinated me was the range of different-sized monitors they had. As well as medium-sized monitor speakers of the type DJs today are familiar with, and smaller speakers more like those car radios use, they also had a huge pair of speakers – the “big speakers”.
These, I learned, were so you could hear the music as all kinds of people – from those listening on a kitchen radio all the way up to those experiencing it in a night club – might hear it.
The powered speakers I’m reviewing here today – the KRK Rokit Powered 10-3 Monitors – are “big speakers”. They’re the biggest monitors we’ve ever reviewed by quite a long shot, being a full 21.2 x 14.3 x 12.7″ (540 x 365 x 325mm) and weighing in at 46lb (21kg) each!
Why would you want monitors this big?
To understand who would use them and why, let’s look at how DJs and producers might typically use their powered monitors (powered just means they have built-in amplifiers, by the way, and is often used interchangabley with “active”, although some use the terms slightly differently).
You’d normally go for a pair of what we call “near-field” monitors; these are small to mid-sized speakers (maybe with a sub-woofer) that sit on your workbench or desk and make a rough triangle shape with your head as the third point of the triangle. Huddled over your controller or keyboard, you’d be monitoring your music close to the units, often in a medium or small-sized room, and often seated.
Most monitors are designed for this kind of use. They’re designed to work well close to your head, and not really intended to “fill a room”.
Now let’s look at an alternative: “mid-field” or even “full-field” monitors. These are designed to give optimum performance further away from the speaker; in the former case, say up to about four metres, and in the latter, they’re designed to “fill a room”.
They give a wider audience a chance to hear the music you’re working on, and so are suitable for bigger rooms, and for when there’s more than one person working on the project. “Put it on the big speakers!”, an oft-heard studio cry, gives everyone a chance to hear – loud! – what’s being worked on.
Such “big speakers” still have to provide transparency (ie the music should sound as it was intended to, with minimal colouring of the source) and good imaging (ie proper stereo so individual items in the mix are “placed” where they should be). In other words, raw power isn’t enough – they need to provide the “best of both worlds”.
That’s what the KRK Rokit Powered 10-3 Monitors attempt to do. Big, really loud (like, 113 dB each!), yet designed with the same sound characteristics as the whole KRK monitoring range, these are the daddies of the KRK family.
As we’ll see, though, they have a twist that means from DJs and producers using them to monitor in mid-sized rooms at close range, all the way up to their being used as classic mid-range monitors, they’ll have you covered. Could they be be the only monitor speakers you’ll ever need?
Setting up and in use
Man, these are heavy. And big. I could only just carry them up the stairs to our attic workspace; getting them on their pedestals was hard; and once I’d done all that, I wasn’t in a hurry to move them again. Frankly if you’ve got a small room, they’re not for you – smaller satellites and possibly a subwoofer would suit much better.
Frankly if you’ve got a small room, they’re not for you…
They look just like the other KRKs – they’re black vinyl-covered wood, front ported (bass “hole” under the woofer), rounded at the fronts and boxy at the backs, and with the distinctive yellow-coned woofer. In this instance, though, they have a yellow-coned mid-range speaker as well. Finally, there’s the usual soft tweeter up top.
Round the back are TRS, XLR and RCA inputs (the first two are balanced), a power socket, an on/off (large-style leads), a volume control, and low and high-frequency level attenuators to alter the behaviour of these extremities of sound slightly.
There’s one point to note is something that to my knowledge stands these apart from other mid-field speakers.
KRKs are marketed as affordable, exciting, reliable and respectable monitors. The brand isn’t trying to appeal to esoteric audiophiles or out-and-out professionals, who will pay multiple times what these are worth for more rigid cabinets, more expensive manufacturing processes and so on; it’s aimed at serious clients who nonetheless are working within a budget and thus want as much bang for their buck as possible.
To my ears these are almost as good as some of the best monitors I’ve ever heard at any price. Frankly I’d have no hesitation in recommending the most demanding of producers give them a go. DJs as a rule are slightly less demanding than producers in that we aren’t as meticulous about transparency (although clarity and imaging are good to have), and so even if picky audiophiles could find fault with any characteristics of these, I couldn’t – and I wager that my fellow DJs wouldn’t either.
If you’re setting up a mid-sized studio or practice space, and especially if you collaborate with other DJs or musicians in producing your sounds and so want to “put it on the big speakers” as part of your production or rehearsal process, these should be right at the top of your list.
They’re great value for what they are (at US$499 each for tri-amped, 120W studio-grade monitoring, you’ll be pushed to find this quality for less), and the clever “hack” that lets you use them horizontally as near or mid-field monitors, as well as vertically, makes them more flexible than most. It would have been nice to se a speaker link and remote control. though, like some Pioneer speakers have (for instance).
There is something worrying me about them, though. Do you think I’ll be able to persuade the UPS man to come up the stairs to collect them on their return?