On one hand, I like Behringer’s philosophy of providing effective equipment at affordable prices. On the other hand, I’m not fond of KRK monitors in general. What do the two have to do with each other, you might wonder.
Behringer’s NEKKST K8 Studio Monitors, eight-inch monitors affordably priced around $200 each on the street, are designed by the same guy who’s responsible for the KRK monitor line. I’ve never been happy with any KRK monitor I’ve tried. They often make good first impressions, but they don’t wear well. There’s a hyped feeling to the models I’ve used that ultimately sounds as though it’s a reasonable facsimile of, but not really, my tracks coming back at me. They are loud and solid in the low frequencies, which certainly must win them fans, but the bass seems phony and the midrange suffers. Often there’s a feeling of little headroom in KRK active designs that makes me feel the music is about to fall apart.
So it’s with trepidation that I approach the NEKKST K8. I want to like a Behringer product at a great price, but I roll my eyes over this need the designer has to build his initials into every monitor. Granted, if I were a successful designer rather than a lowly product reviewer, I’d probably do the same thing. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d have my name spelled in neon on every speaker. However, I digress.
One thing immediately caught my eye. The bass port is long and narrow, across the bottom of the monitor cabinet. The NEKKST K8 resembles — rather closely — the PreSonus E8, a monitor that very much impressed me. Front-firing ports generally sound better, tighter than rear-firing ports, and something about the PreSonus design really came together, particularly in the Eris E5, providing natural low-end reproduction that was amazing for a 5.25-inch woofer. Unfortunately, at time of publication, there weren’t NEKKST K5 or K6 monitors available to test, as these would compare more closely to the Eris E5. However, the E8 is no slouch and it’s a good target for the NEKKST K8 in both performance and price.
The NEKKST K8 is a serious studio monitor and this shows on the back panel. First of all, inputs include balanced XLR and unbalanced ¼-inch and ⅛-inch phone jacks. At most, you’ll be only one adapter away from connecting nearly any sound source.
Behringer ups the game a little when it comes to acoustic trim. Three switches and a knob permit customizing the NEKKST K8 for many placement conditions. First, the Input Trim is actually labelled and explained well on the speaker itself. Many users see a knob on the monitors and crank it fully clockwise out of the box because louder is better, dude, duh…! In fact, the correct position for these is almost always 12 o’clock, where the center detent is. As the screening on the K8 describes, there are situations where you alter that trim, depending on where the monitors are in the room.
From the top, the three switches adjust EQ. High Frequency offers 0, +2, -2 and -4 dB to match how live a room is in upper frequencies. Heavily treated rooms may suck up high, for example, so the +2 setting would add brilliance. The Low Frequency switch cuts bass response by up to -6 dB to use the K8 with a subwoofer. Room Compensation adds somewhat sharper bass reduction to account for wall or corner placement. The two levels of bass reduction, used in combination, provide somewhat more control than average over the bottom end performance in a wider variety of home studio settings.
The K8 is bi-amped, meaning both woofer and tweeter have their own amp. This removes the phase tricks that passive crossovers can introduce and permits tight matching between amp and speaker, a key to efficiency. The trough in which the tweeter sits aids the dispersion of high frequencies, providing a mechanical coupling between the motion of the tweeter itself and the induced motion of sound waves in the air. And, as mentioned, there’s the long, narrow port below the woofer, a feature I suspect of doing good things with bass response in monitors.
As fate would have it, there was not an Eris E8 available for A-B testing. While that probably provides a fairer test for the K8, I am curious how the two brands would compare side by side.
However, on its own, the NEKKST K8 is a very impressive monitor. In this age of hyper-extended bass and low frequencies as special effects, the first impression that the K8 gives is “all natural.” Bass is there, without a doubt. Even heavy synths in EDM music feel full and chest thumping at reasonable volumes, but they never threaten to kill the rest of the track, as so many bass-hyped monitors do. Middle frequencies don’t feel boxy. Voices and instruments stay clear and natural through the melody range. It’s very easy to feel that “in the same room” quality, where the source material supports it.
If I have a sound complaint, it might be that the top end lacks a little brilliance. Flipping the High Frequency switch to the +2 position added exactly what I thought was missing, though I should point out that this test was done on the floor of a carpeted music store. While I haven’t noted the lack of brilliance with other products in similar tests, there’s a distinct lack of science to this testing method. I’m not concerned about the level of treble the NEKKST K8 puts out. It’s in the neighborhood of similar monitors and the top end remains smooth and articulated. Overall, this is a monitor worthy of its place on a wish list of active monitors in the under $500 per pair price range.
Behringer calls the construction of the NEKKST K8 “high density composite.” Without taking a chainsaw to the thing, I presume that’s code for vinyl over MDF. It’s about 20 lbs. a speaker, feels solid with controls that inspire confidence.
Perhaps curious is the lack of fuse on the K8. However, I think it was 1983 the last time I encountered a blown speaker fuse. Matching amps to speakers within a monitor cabinet make for optimal conditions and, obviously, few blown fuses. The electronics include limiters on both high and low frequency circuits to prevent overload. While cranking the K8 fairly loud, there was no sign of a limiter kicking in sonically. With 150 watts on call, there’s plenty of juice behind the K8.
Once again, we encounter a monitor with few reviews, and once again no rating falls below 4 stars out of five. No trolls either. Usually the anti-Behringer crowd chimes in with a list of speakers they’ve never heard that they find vastly superior to the Behringer product, which they’ve also never heard. While the user reviews are quiet without their presence, I don’t miss them.
Behringer has a winner on its hands with the NEKKST K8 Studio Monitors. These might not be to your taste, however they will be a solid contender on most users’ short lists. The sound is accurate without being harsh and full-ranged without being hyped.
While I didn’t have a chance to test the K8 against similar PreSonus products, the performance level is similar, and that’s a solid plus for Behringer. I also prefer these as far more natural-sounding than any KRK models I’ve heard, so kudos to designer Keith Klawitter, too. You deserve your name in neon for the NEKKST K8.