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Can you really get accurate, good quality nearfields at a reasonable price?

By Phil O'Keefe


KRK is the top selling monitor brand globally, and there have been a ton of their Rokit monitors sold over the years. KRK has made some changes to this long-running line of speakers in the past, and the third generation (G3) of the popular Rokit 6 active two-way near field monitors under review here are significantly different than the second-generation models that preceded them, with several new features and changes designed to improve their performance even further.

 

KRK Rokit 6 G3 main.png

To me, quality monitoring is one of the most important aspects of any studio rig, but unfortunately not everyone can afford top-of-the-line speakers. Still, it's wise to get the best monitors you can afford since every decision you make in the studio is based on what you hear - sonic accuracy is essential when recording and mixing, and it makes little sense to skimp on something as important as monitors. Several companies offer inexpensive near field speakers for those who are just getting started and who are working with limited budgets, but many of them have left me rather unimpressed with their sound quality. I get a lot of questions from folks seeking advice about affordable nearfields, and there have been few "budget-friendly" monitors that I've felt comfortable recommending to people in the past - will KRK make the list with their third-generation Rokit 6?


What You Need To Know

  • KRK Rokit studio monitors are also available with 5" (Rokit 5) and 8" woofers (Rokit 8), as well as the 6" version under review here. The three models are different in several other respects, such as the wattage of their amplifiers, overall frequency response, and of course, the price. In this review, we'll focus on the middle model of the line - the KRK Rokit 6 G3 powered nearfield studio monitors.
  • The low-resonance MDF enclosures feel substantial and sturdy. They measure 11.4" D x 8.9" W x 13.1" H and weigh 18.5 pounds each. Looks, like sound, is always a matter of subjective opinion, but I think they're a sharp looking set of monitors. The distinctive and classic yellow KRK 6" woofer is made from a lightweight glass-aramid composite, and it pumps out a surprisingly punchy and articulate-sounding low end. Frequency response is within +/- 1.5dB from 47.5Hz - 35kHz, and with a 10dB tolerance the response extends from 38Hz - 35kHz.  
  • The crossover frequency is at 2.3kHz. The Rokit 6 G3 active two-way monitors have new Class AB amps that are designed for high-headroom and low distortion, with 25W for the tweeter and 48 Watts driving the woofer. Maximum peak SPL is 107dB, which is plenty loud enough for their intended use at near field listening distances. Best of all, they stay clean and rattle-free, even when you crank them up.
  • The tweeters are another area that's been changed from the second-generation Rokits, and the G3's feature a new 1" extended-frequency silk soft-dome tweeter. I liked the sound of this tweeter; it's fairly smooth and open-sounding, and there's plenty of detail and air in the highs. They're not overly hyped or strident-sounding either, which is equally important - especially when listening to them for long periods of time.
  • The tweeters sit in a new proprietary waveguide that KRK says is designed to optimize imaging, and the stereo imaging is indeed pretty respectable - it's easy to localize sounds within the stereo soundfield with these speakers.  
  • The front baffle edges are radiused to help prevent diffraction distortion, and the look of the third-generation Rokits is a bit cleaner than the second-generation speakers overall, and lacking the front panel screws that were visible on the older models.
  • These are ported monitors, which helps the bass extension. The front-firing port is also a big plus since it minimizes boundary coupling and the issues with placement that you could run into when setting up monitors with rear-firing ports. Port turbulence is low, and I wasn't distracted by any significant "air blasts."

 

KRK Rokit 6 G3 front port.JPG

  • On the rear panel you'll find the connections and controls. The Rokit 6 G3's are well-equipped with both. There are controls for overall volume (-30dB to +6dB), High-Frequency Level adjustment, and Low-Frequency Level adjustment. Unlike the volume knob, which is continuously variable for all intents and purposes (the knobs click through 41 positions in their rotation - yes, I counted), the HF and LF adjustment knobs are actually four-position rotary switches. The available settings are -2dB, -1dB, 0dB, and +1dB for the high-frequency adjustment, and -2dB, -1dB, 0dB, and +2dB for the low-frequency adjustment. This allows you to tailor the response of the monitors to better suit your room conditions and personal sonic preferences. The controls all feel solid, and functioned perfectly on both monitors.

KRK Rokit 6 G3 rear panel main.jpg

  • Power is supplied via an IEC power connection on the rear panel, and a power cable is included with each monitor. The power switch is also located on the rear panel, which makes it a bit of a hassle to reach when turning it on and off. I prefer power switches mounted on the front, but to be fair, adding that feature probably would have added to the price.
  • KRK lit-up logo.pngThe front panel KRK logos are actually power-on indicators that light up - and look quite cool - when the speakers are turned on.  
  • The connectivity on these speakers is very good. There are RCA, 1/4" TRS and XLR inputs, so they'll hook right up to just about whatever you've got, with the exception of directly connecting to the 1/8" output of your MP3 player or phone - for that, you'll need a 1/8" stereo TRS or TRRS to dual-RCA male adapter cable or something similar, depending on the specifics of the device you want to connect to the KRK Rokit 6 Gen3's.
  • The XLR and 1/4" TRS input connectors are balanced, and the RCA inputs are unbalanced.
  • While there are three different inputs, the manual cautions against connecting more than one input source at a time.
  • Speaking of the manual, while it is fairly brief, it is well written, and it provides not only useful step-by-step information about how to properly set up a pair of Rokits in a nearfield monitoring configuration, but also a handy troubleshooting guide - both of which are bound to be useful to first-time monitor owners.  

 

Limitations

  • The foam rubber pads on the bottom of the monitors are intended to provide some isolation from the surface you set them on, but they're pretty thin, and don't offer as much isolation from sympathetic resonances as some dedicated monitor isolation pads do. Still, the rubber does keep them from scratching your desktop or monitor stands (which is nice), and it does help reduce unwanted vibrations to some degree - but you still may want to budget for some beefier iso pads to set them on.
  • Midrange detail could be a bit better, especially in the low midrange, where things can sound a little congested.
  • The KRK Rokit 6 G3's sound noticeably better after a decent break-in period, so you really can't make an accurate, informed decision about "how they sound" straight out of the box. The manual does caution users that these speakers do require a break-in period, and recommends playing a favorite album through them for 15 to 25 hours. I used an iPad and Spotify to stream music to them for about two days straight with the monitors set to a moderate volume level, which worked fine - just be aware that you're not going to be able to pull these out of the box, set them up, and immediately start working on an important mix with them.

 

Conclusions

First, remember that powered speakers are only part of a good monitoring system. Using properly positioned nearfield speakers and modest monitoring levels can reduce the effect of the room acoustics on what you're hearing, but won't eliminate it entirely - the room that they're functioning in will still have a significant effect on the way any speakers sound. When trying to improve your monitoring system, adding better monitors is a good place to start, but you may also need to consider a few room acoustic treatments too.

Second, as with any new monitor you'll need to acclimate your ears to them; the better you "know" your speakers and the way that they interact with your room acoustics, the better the results you'll be able to get from them. Ideally you'll want to spend a few days just enjoying listening to some of your favorite recordings on them in order to get a handle on how they sound in your environment before getting down to work with them.

As to the speakers themselves, as a certified high-end monitor snob I was a bit taken aback by the performance of these reasonably-priced, compact, powered nearfield monitors. The third-generation KRK Rokit 6's are surprisingly good-sounding speakers, especially considering their modest cost.

While there are subjectively nicer sounding powered monitors on the market - including other models from KRK - the KRK Rokit 6 G3's sound much better than I was expecting, and more accurate than you'll normally find at this price point. The build quality is quite solid, and I was able to work with them for long periods without experiencing significant ear fatigue. Just as crucially, the test mixes I did on them translated well.

The Rokit 6 G3's can push out stout SPLs in small to midsize rooms, and although their overall frequency response is admirably broad and reasonably flat, you can adjust the EQ balance to suit your setup and tastes. They're very solid and punchy sounding, with good detail and imaging, and a relatively wide stereo "sweet spot." They provide honest, accurate sound quality that most headphones, computer speakers, and "hi-fi" systems can't come close to measuring up to; their price makes them an attractive entry point to the world of professional studio monitors.

I'm impressed enough that in the future I'll be recommending these speakers to people who ask for suggestions about good-sounding, affordable, powered nearfields, as well as to folks on a tight budget who want to make the transition from mixing on headphones or computer speakers to using real studio monitors. The third-generation KRK Rokit 6 offers real improvements over their highly successful predecessors, and with their solid performance and entry-level price, they'd make a great pair of "first monitors" - and due to their sound quality, they are also worthy of your consideration when upgrading from lesser-quality budget monitors too. Great job KRK! 


Resources

Musician's Friend KRK Systems Rokit 6 Third Generation powered monitor online catalog page ($339.00 MSRP each, $199.50 each "street")

KRK Systems Rokit 6 G3 web page


Harmony Central Review Preview video - KRK Rokit 6 G3

 

 

 

Phil\_OKeefe HC Bio Image.jpgPhil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.

 

1 comment
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roostersinthemorning  |  January 24, 2017 at 1:45 am
When it comes to the KRK Rokit studio speakers, I've learned that people either love it or hate it. I have been using the Rokit 5 monitoring speakers for a while now and while they may not be the best on the market, they still do the job right. I'm actually satisfied with their performance considering the low price tag. This site also names the Rokit 5 as their best budget studio speakers. However, I've also noticed that there are those who are not impressed by the Rokit 5 monitoring speakers. I've never tried the 6s, but I think I'd like them like I like the 5. 
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Mikeo  |  September 10, 2014 at 11:27 pm

I saw your youtube clip on the main HC page a few weeks ago and was waiting for some kind of write up them. I have been using the KRK Rokit 6 unpowered speakers in my home studio for several years now. I only chose the unpowered one cause I have a power amp that I run mine through. I love em. I also told a friend about them an he ordered the powered ones a year or so ago.

 

Great bass responds from a rather small speaker, without being boomy. I have seen them in some pretty nice studios too. For the price they are hard to beat.  It's hard to miss the yellow drivers too.

 

 

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