Oh boy. Reviewing speakers is perhaps even harder than reviewing headphones. As I’ve said many times over, your anatomy as well as your individual experiences and preferences influence the way you perceive and interpret sound. So me saying “product X sounds good” tells you exactly nothing.
You can read all the reviews you want, in the end, you’ll really only form an opinion once you’ve checked it out yourself. So, in rating things like these, from now on I’ll only ever try to conclude whether they’re worth a listen or not.
For the KRK Rokit G4 series, I’m going to spoil the rest of the review by saying yes — they’re very much worth it, and I’m saying this as someone who never really liked the previous offerings from the series. Those speakers never really sounded like I wanted them to, especially the bigger models felt like they were lying to my ears around the low end, and they were generally quite “meh” and untransparent.
They were OK as DJ monitors, but I’d probably not want to rely on them when working on my tracks. That being said, many producers with actual careers (unlike me *cough*) did mix their tunes on Rokits — it’s hard to tell how much more work it meant for the mastering engineer though.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE
When we started talking to KRK about reviewing the G4s, I had complete freedom to choose the model I wanted to take a look at — all the way to the behemoth 3-way 10″. The ones I went with were the 7″, with the 10S sub to match. I wanted a speaker that would extend far enough into the low end to still offer useful reproduction when the sub is bypassed.
This isn’t as overly an educated decision as the above may sound — I’m not a professional mixpert, just a guy who works on music at home, in an untreated room. I assume the same is true for most of our readers though. The truth is, this combo just felt good to me — plus, the 7″ are just tall enough to perfectly hold my studio camera in place right above the screen I sit in front of. Completely irrelevant to my rating, of course, but an added bonus.
The reason I chose this 2.1 setup over a pair of the 10″ models is that these monsters aren’t near-field, but mid-field monitors. They just wouldn’t have had a whole lot of room to breathe in here, so I’m not the right person to properly review them.
ROOM AND REFERENCE
Up until now, I’d been using a pair of Neumann KH120s with a Subpac M2, so you can assume this combo as my point of reference. I’d say it’s a decent one, once you’ve found a balance between the Subpac and the speakers that doesn’t overemphasize the low end.
The KH120s themselves are excellent speakers and an almost unfair comparison to anything affordable with the KRK logo on it (they’re roughly 3x the price of the Rokit 7s) — or so I thought. I’ve now used the G4 KRKs for more than 3 months, and I’ve used them for everything — from watching Netflix through gaming and DJing to, perhaps most importantly, working on my own tunes.
All of this happens in my completely untreated 30 m² studio room a producer friend (jokingly?) refers to as “sounding alive”. Of course, furniture and curtains absorb a bit of the reflections in here, but the situation is far from optimal — as you’ll no doubt hear when you listen to my mixdowns (they’re OK at best).
The best part of my signal chain is the mighty RME FireFace UFX+ though — few audio interfaces on the market can compete with the quality this beast delivers, so the speakers definitely sound as good as they possibly can. When I DJ in here, the mixer — usually either a Rane Sixty-Four or an Allen & Heath Xone:96, sometimes the NI Kontrol S4 MK3 — loops through the FireFace as well.
There’s a ton of confusing content on the intarwebz about setting up your monitors properly. You’ll see people recommend the equilateral triangle, and then a huge pile of comments about how that’s not really the ideal setup, with each person giving their own slightly different and very opinionated take on how to absolutely, definitely do it right.
The truth is, I just don’t know — ask two different engineers and you’ll probably get two different answers. I ended up positioning the speakers equilaterally, but with their focal point about a record’s width behind my head. This was relatively easy, given that I work on a monstrous Humpter Pro console with well-positioned monitor shelves. The setup sounds good to me when listening to reference material — and seems to be the most recommended positioning on producer forums as well.
However, I also have a wall behind me which I can’t put absorbers on because it’s a green screen, so there’s bound to be some unwanted reflections there no matter what I do. Feel free to correct me in the comments — again, I’m no expert and go purely by what my ears tell me.
TWEAKING THINGS WITH THE KRK APP
The KRK companion app Audio Tools, free on both iOS and Android, does two things to help you finetune your setup. One — it uses the accelerometer to facilitate a makeshift compass to help you check the speakers’ angle. This is somewhat inaccurate unless you tape a laser pointer to the exact centre of your phone and point it at the exact centre of the speaker while sitting in the exact centre of your listening sweet spot (the likelihood of all this coinciding is obviously very low), but it’s better than nothing.
The other feature sends out pink noise, records what comes back, and ends up spitting out an EQ preset for you to select from the control panel on the speakers’ back. When I first heard of the app, I wondered if it perhaps communicated with the speakers via BlueTooth to apply the EQ settings, but it doesn’t — it just tells you what EQ preset to apply manually.
In order for this to work, I had to loop my phone through the FireFace and crank it quite a bit. I did it several times, and consistently got the same preset recommendation (leaving the low end untouched, rolling off by 1db at both 3.5 and 10 kHz), so I went with it — but I have to honestly say the difference is barely audible with the stuff I use as a reference.
My impression is of course mostly affected by the fact that I have to get up from my sweet spot and wander around to the back of the speakers to tweak or disable the EQ, and can’t do proper A/B listening like you would with a room correction system that spits out a sophisticated EQ preset for the master bus in your DAW.
Because of this, when compared to “big” room correction systems, the KRK app is obviously not going to hold up — but these speakers are, in my opinion, aimed at people like you and me whose production ambitions are mostly met when they deliver a workable downmix to a mastering engineer, so you have to adjust your expectations accordingly. Bottom line — the app seems to work, however limited it may be. I’d say it’s better to have it than not to have it, but comparing the overall capabilities of a phone to 16- or 32-point measurement systems that come with dedicated mics is simply unfair.
If you want to learn about how the KRK app works and how it is actually supposed to be used, watch their official walkthrough video at the top of this section.
As I said earlier, I went with the combo of the 7″ Rokit G4s and the 10S subwoofer, with the speakers looped through the sub and the frequency crossover set at 70 Hz. I make and spin bass-heavy music, so I need to have some idea about what’s happening in the low-low end of the mix.
For that purpose, the 7″ Rokits aren’t going to cut it on their own. They will quite accurately tell you where things are in the stereo panorama, they’ll expose transients (the “punch”) in a way that sounds much better to me than the previous generations, and they deliver pressure when you just need to headbang to your own stuff (or a DJ set) for a bit. But unless you go for a bigger model, the low end “oomph” has to come from a sub, and I honestly wouldn’t recommend the 5″ or 7″ Rokits without one.
Sometimes you want to bypass it though, and luckily KRK has thought of that — you can hook up any regular old footswitch (of course they make one, too) which quickly turns the sub off and on again. All in all, it’s very easy and pleasant to work with once you’ve set things up.
You may have noticed small pucks sitting under the speakers in one of the pictures. Those are IsoAcoustics absorbers called Iso Puck Mini. They didn’t come with the speakers, of course — but seeing as my Humpter Console is a massive frame with metal sheets on the outside, I figured it would make sense to minimize all sorts of vibrations that might be going into it, and got 8 of the little things.
My previous speakers were sitting on isolated stands — for the KRKs, I got a pair of official shelf accessories from Humpter which enabled me to position them better. The effect the IsoAcoustic pucks is staggering — with the speakers on full blast, there was NO vibration I could sense in the shelf they’re sitting on whatsoever. While they’re a small accessory not necessarily worthy of a full review (see also our Decksaver video — you know what it does, what could we possibly add), they’re most definitely worth a mention. I’m curious to test them as turntable feet.
LISTENING AND VERDICT
If I were to sum up my experiences, I’d say I’m mostly… surprised and impressed. Because those are most definitely not the KRKs of old. They sound so much better that I’d go as far as saying they outclass everything in their price range I’ve listened to so far, and can probably compete with some of the more expensive offerings on the market as well.
On a side note, they get almost unreasonably loud. I never used them at high volumes consistently, but listening to a drop you’ve worked on for the past 4 hours and having it hit hard definitely feels awesome — especially with the sub backing it up. So DJing on these is obviously a lot of fun, and overall it’s a more satisfying combo than the Neumann KH120s and the Subpac. Neumann fans will call this blasphemy, but this is what my brain tells me.
Listen to them and see what your brain tells you — our results will inevitably vary.
One thing I like in the context of everyday use is that the speakers go into stand-by on their own. The sub doesn’t seem to do that, but you can flick it off with the footswitch as you get up from your desk. Of course, you could walk around and turn the speakers off manually — but the auto-standby makes up for not having an easy switch on the front, and I admit I’m usually too lazy to remember to turn them off.
They wake up in about 2 seconds once you send a signal through again, but the best part is that they won’t turn off accidentally when you’re working at low volumes — which I do most of the time (the master of my FireFace is rarely set louder than -30db). If this feature annoys you though, you can disable it entirely from the menu on the speakers’ back. You can also turn off the LED backlight for the KRK logo if you want.
If I had to nitpick, I’d say it would be quite something to have the app actually talk to the speakers rather than force you to walk up to the panel. I mean, that would be so cool, maybe even with a touchscreen EQ for making your own presets and going A/B at the push of a button.
I’m not sure if this is technically feasible, but most current phones can connect to two BlueTooth devices for audio already — maybe this feature can be exploited to push settings to two speakers at the same time.
It should however also be feasible for one speaker to act as the master and the other unit to duplicate its settings (it works that way with some prototype modular controllers I’ve recently tried, and my studio LED panels do it too) — but I’ll leave the guessworx to the comment section. Maybe something like this will appear from KRK further down the line, but we have to remember what price range this product is in and treat this as an acceptable trade-off for the speakers sounding as good as they do, which is almost unbelievable.
I like them so much I’m probably going to buy them after this review, because putting anything more expensive in this room without treating the room first makes absolutely no sense.
The reason I’m recommending you give them a listen is that you, dear reader, may be in the same situation as me. I believe most of us don’t have ideal environments to work in — but we still need something decent to listen to.
The KRK Rokit G4s definitely meet that target with excellence. But trust me — if you’re going for the 7s, get the sub. My neighbours listen to great music — whether they want to or not 😉