The KRK ROKIT monitor is, to my mind, connected with the boom of serious home studio recording that roughly follows the calendar of the 21st century. The sleek contours and yellow woofer are instantly recognizable as a KRK product if you’ve been around the block so often your tricycle is wearing out, like mine is. On first inspection, this Generation 3 looks much like its G2 predecessor, but side-by-side, it’s obvious this box has had a makeover.
That makes me nervous. I like the G2. It’s a tiny monitor packed with great value and big sound. It’s a speaker that I would never hesitate to recommend. While 300 bucks is a great price for a good pair of studio monitors, it’s not chump change either, so I approached the G3 with a wary eye and critical ear since it seemed to me that KRK might have been pulling from the Apple playbook and updating a product that didn’t really need it.
While resembling the previous generation, it’s superficial. The profile of the G3 is changed, not a screw head to be seen on the cabinet front. Scanning the spec sheet there are some changes there, one of which raised an eyebrow. The hype for this version of the ROKIT 5 is bringing out my cynical best before plugging in and listening. If these can impress me when I’m in that mind set, they are worth the beans.
THE QUICK ASSESSMENT: Spill the beans. These are the real deal.
Some studio reference monitors get a little snobby and provide only XLR inputs. Most, however, provide both XLR and ¼-inch balanced inputs, sometimes using a hybrid connector that accepts both, most commonly made by Neutrik. The KRK ROKIT 5 has always offered both. However, in a rare show of solidarity with the plebeian, an unbalanced RCA connector is also offered. Though not used much in the analog realm in studios anymore, the RCA connector means you could hook these up to home theater systems to give your high def TV experience probably the snazziest sounds it’s ever had.
Beyond the basics, the ROKIT 5 G3 has three trim knobs. These are used to fine-tune speaker performance to fit both your taste and your recording space. A harsh reality of many home studios is that acoustic conditions are less than ideal. These trim knobs allow volume changes up or down and both high and low frequency adjustments. For example, if your mix position is a little boomy, dropping the LF level adjust or boosting the HF level adjust may bring a little more sonic clarity. It’s a nice touch.
The raised eyebrow came when scanning the G3’s specifications. Frequency response is listed as 45Hz to 35kHz, while the G2 version quoted 52 Hz to 20 kHz. The seven points lower response is substantial in a monitor with a 5-inch woofer, meaning there should be some pretty substantial improvement in bass reproduction. Similarly, the 15 kHz increase in the top end was worth a double-take. Human hearing effectively ends around 20 kHz, and while I don’t read speaker specs daily, 20 kHz is usually the top end to the point it’s meaningless. The extended frequencies mean your dog will really enjoy the Sgt. Pepper runout groove, in which the Beatles placed a hypersonic tone to pander to the canine crowd. Ultra-high frequencies do contain useful information, though it’s more felt than heard.
And it may well be felt with the G3. The improved bottom end is notable immediately. As well as the extended frequency range, the G3 adds another 5 watts of power versus the G2, upping the ante to 50 watts. The feel about the sound is increased clarity across the entire sonic spectrum, with deep, satisfying bass, good presence in the mids and crystalline highs that aren’t harsh or fragile.
These are both useful and flattering speakers. Some monitors will make your tracks sound amazing in your home studio. You get your mix to the car stereo and it sounds like your dog ate your homework and upchucked it over the music. This is called translation, in this case, poor translation. Where the ROKIT 5 has always shined for me is its ability to make work sound good in the studio, thus keeping motivation high during the construction phase, yet maintaining good translation. Your tracks are less likely to disappoint you when you hear them on other systems.
I should point out that translation is not directly connected to speaker performance. It’s not directly connected to any one factor. From personal experience I can tell you that I’m able to make a dog’s breakfast of any mix, no matter how good the equipment. But man, it feels good when you get one right. What it comes down to is this: you can’t blame these speakers for the bad apples.
The build is simply everything you want in a studio monitor of this size and price. Construction is MDF covered with black vinyl. The face of the cabinet is extensively contoured. While it does make the ROKIT quite suitable for the bridge of the Enterprise, the shaping is functional. The rounded corners and molded transitions affect the conversion of speaker motion to sound waves in the air. Rather, the smooth curves minimize that effect. The G3 is a little sharper than its older relative. Whatever it adds to the sonic mix, it works.
The G3 is actually one pound lighter than the G2, but it’s still a good weight for a cabinet that’s approximately 7-1/4 inches wide, 11 inches high and 9 inches deep. I would recommend isolating speaker stands for these, with a non-skid surface. The G3 might produce bass that causes it to dance on slippery desktops.
The ROKIT 5 is a bi-amped, powered monitor. Each speaker has two amps, for high and low frequencies respectively. Powered monitors are ideal for home studios, since there is no guess work or mathematics necessary to match amps to speakers or set crossover frequencies. Plug these into your DAW, mixer or audio interface and you’re ready to go.
Usually, when user reviews recommend NOT buying equipment, the review is accompanied by few stars. When a five-star review advises not to buy, something is up. Well, the ROKIT 5 has this rare honor, as one user advises apartment dwellers to take a pass on the G3 if you share walls with a neighbor.
Scanning three-star and below reviews reveal no particular concerns, just the usual gripers with one-off problems or issues with customer service relating more to where they bought than the speakers themselves. Most telling is the 84% 5-star rating on Amazon, typical of most user review results for this speaker.
If you are in the market for mid-priced nearfield studio monitors, make sure the ROKIT 5 G3 is on your list. The G3 is a substantial upgrade to the already formidable G2. It’s a robust and flattering monitor without being misleading. No subwoofer is required to experience deep bottom end.
Those in the market for a single pair of studio monitors should definitely include the ROKIT 5 on the shopping list. If you’re adding a second set for reference comparisons with larger monitors, you may also find the ROKIT 5 suitable. I still have no hesitation recommending this monitor. Buy the KRK ROKIT Today!
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