KRK RP7 ROKIT 7 G4 Nearfield Monitors
By Phil O'Keefe |
Do you get even more with version 4?
KRK's long-running ROKIT series of studio monitors have occupied a rather coveted place in the studio monitor world for quite a while now - they're the world's best-selling line of studio monitors. And it's no wonder why - the line has been offering studio quality sound and pro-level features at home studio-friendly prices ever since it was first introduced way back in 2003. Since then, KRK (which, like Harmony Central, is a Gibson Brand) has periodically updated the ROKIT series to add new models with new features, enhancements and other modifications aimed at improving their sound quality, adaptability to different rooms, and to increase their overall performance vs price ratio. I reviewed three speakers in the previous ROKIT G3 lineup - the two-way ROKIT 4 G3 and ROKIT 6 G3 models, and the three-way ROKIT 10-3 G3, so I was very interested in seeing what KRK had to offer in the latest update to the ROKIT series. Let's fire up a pair of ROKIT 7 G4's and see what's new.
What You Need To Know
- The new G4 series of KRK ROKIT monitors have been completely redesigned from the ground up based on their critically acclaimed V Series 4 monitors. The ROKIT 7 G4's are ported two-way biamp-powered nearfield monitors designed for home, project and professional recording studio use.
- The ROKIT 7 G4 uses a 6.5" woofer and a 1" tweeter, and they are housed in a vinyl-covered low-resonance MDF cabinet measuring 13.35" H x 8.86" W x 11.19" D. Each one weighs in at 16.76 pounds.
- KRK is calling this a 7" woofer in some of their marketing materials (thus the "7" in the product name), which has become fairly common within the industry of late; for example, ADAM Audio refer to their 6.5" woofer-equipped models as 7's too, but this is really just marketing inches - if you pull out a tape measure, they actually measure 6.5" from mounting hole to mounting hole, which is the correct way to measure them. A minor point, but one I need to point out in the interest of accuracy.
- The bottom of each cabinet is covered with a high-density ISO foam pad to help decouple the speakers from whatever you have them placed on (meter bridge, desktop, etc.), reducing vibrations and improving clarity.
- Besides the ROKIT 7 G4 under review here, KRK's ROKIT G4 series consists of the two-way ROKIT 5 G4 and ROKIT 8 G4 models (with 5" and 8" woofers, respectively) and the three-way ROKIT 10-3 G4. Unlike the previous G3 series, there is no current model with a 4" woofer.
- The biggest news is that the ROKIT G4 series now come equipped with Aramid Fiber (more commonly known as "Kevlar®") drivers all the way around, with a new Aramid Fiber tweeter replacing the soft dome tweeter of the G3 series. This is a significant update, and definitely improves the overall sound quality of the speakers. The rest of the system components have been fine-tuned to work with the new drivers too.
- The amplifiers in the ROKIT 7 G4 are also new; this time, KRK went with highly efficient Class D amps (which help keep both heat and weight down) that are rated at 145 watts RMS total, with a 97W RMS amp dedicated to the woofer and a 48W RMS amp driving the tweeter, making them noticeably more powerful than the amps used in the ROKIT 6 G3's. The crossover frequency is set at 2.04 kHz.
- The frequency response of the ROKIT 7 G4 is 42 Hz – 40 kHz, and it is within +/-3 dB from 54 Hz - 40 kHz. Like to crank your monitors up a bit sometimes? These monitors have enough power and efficiency to get fairly loud, with a maximum SPL of 110 dB. A built-in brickwall limiter automatically engages whenever the amps hit their maximum rated power level to protect the speakers.
- The large scientifically-designed bass ports of the G4 series are mounted on the front, near the bottom of the cabinet. Their size and shape is such that wind blasts are a non-issue even at high playback volume levels, and the front panel location means you won't have any of the monitor placement concerns that come along with rear-ported monitors. The large ports also help with the bass response, which is subjectively beefier, more detailed and punchier sounding than the earlier G3 series.
- The front baffle design has been changed a bit from the more angular baffle of the G3 models, and the new Aramid Fiber tweeter sits in a new waveguide.
- The KRK logo on the front panel is actually a power indicator - it lights up when the speakers are powered up. Additionally, the monitors feature a automatic low-power consumption mode, which they enter when they have received no input signal for around 30 minutes. When they're in low power mode the logo illumination fades in and out to let you know. You don't need to "do" anything to bring them back up to full power mode - just play some music into them and they spring back to life nearly instantly and completely automatically.
- The audio inputs are mounted on the deceptively sparse looking rear panel. These are limited to a single combo 1/4" / XLR connector. Both are balanced inputs, although you can use the 1/4" input with unbalanced sources if you need to.
- An IEC power connector is also mounted on the rear panel, along with a power on/off switch. An IEC power cable is included with each speaker, along with a multi-language Quick Start Guide.
- A rotary volume control can also be found on the back panel. This is actually a multi-function control with a built-in pushbutton switch that serves as a controller / selector when adjusting the monitor's other features.
- Other features? That's the other big news: The new G4 series now has onboard DSP, and a built-in LCD display on the back panel that displays a graphic representation of what the EQ adjustments you're making will do to the overall frequency response. This is a very cool feature - one that isn't available on any other series of nearfield monitors at anywhere near this price point.
- There are a total of 25 different EQ setting combinations possible, so it's fairly easy to adjust the ROKIT G4's to your room and personal preferences. There are both Low Shelf and Low-mid Peaking EQs, as well as High Shelf and Mid-high Peaking EQs available, and you can boost or cut as needed to compensate for different monitor positions within the room, such as when placing the speakers closer to a wall or a large mixing console.
- The LCD is backlit and adjustable, so it's easy to see, even in a dark control room. You can adjust the backlight level, the contrast and even defeat the built-in low power standby mode as well as select dim or off for the front panel logo power indicator if you wish. There's even a lock feature that prevents you from making accidental changes to your carefully dialed-in settings.
- The stand-alone KRK Audio Tools app that's mentioned on the product website and on the box the speakers come in is not available for download yet. This doesn't restrict your ability to use the monitors, nor does it prevent you from accessing all of their features, but it may make setup and fine-tuning a bit harder, especially for the less-experienced user. I was able to beta-test a pre-release version of the KRK Audio Tools App, and I was really impressed with it. It has a FFT-based Spectrum RTA, a level meter to help you calibrate your monitors to the same playback level, a Monitor Align tool to help you get the placement and toe-in angles of the speakers positioned properly, an EQ Recommendation tool that analyses your setup and makes recommendations on which of the monitor's built-in EQ presets you should use, a Delay Tool to help you time-align your monitors, and a polarity tester so you can make sure your monitors are wired correctly so that they're not out of phase and causing a loss of bass and stereo imaging issues. This is a really cool collection of tools, and once it's released, it's something that everyone should download and check out. You're bound to find it helpful - especially if you use KRK monitors - but owners of other brands of studio monitors will find it very useful too. It should be available as a free download for iOS and Android devices "soon."
- There's no RCA or 1/8" inputs, only the combination 1/4" / XLR balanced connector. You can use unbalanced sources, such as when connecting a MP3 player or smartphone directly to the monitors, but you'll need the appropriate adapter cables.
- There are no protective speaker grilles included, but grilles will soon be available as an option. They'll use magnetism to attach to the cabinet's front face, with separate grille units for each of the drivers. Reportedly, no tools will be necessary for grille installation, although I was not provided with any grilles, and did not test them personally or directly confirm that as part of this review. Like most engineers, I tend to pull the grilles off my nearfields and leave them off, so I suspect that KRK's decision to make them an optional purchase isn't going to turn off too many users.
- Power switches on the back of nearfield monitors can sometimes be a bit of a pain to access. Fortunately the inclusion of the automatic low-power standby mode means you don't have to use the power switches as often - if you want to save power, you don't have to power down completely just because you're taking a lunch break.
Here's the headline: KRK's popular ROKIT series gets a major fourth generation update, making them even better than their predecessors. Making direct comparisons to all of the models I've previously reviewed wasn't possible, but I'm familiar enough with the G3 series to make some observations. Many people will feel right at home on the ROKIT 7 G4, although some will no doubt be thinking "hey, why not get the 8's instead?" And that's a reasonable question - it's part of the reason why I asked to check out the RP7's instead of one of the other speakers in the ROKIT G4 series. And the answer is that while it will really come down to your individual needs and preferences, there are some differences to take note of. While I haven't heard the ROKIT 8 G4's yet and therefore can't make any sonic comparisons, a quick look at their product page on the KRK website shows me that they've got a bit more power (203 watts total), and that they're a little larger (15.75" H x 10.47" W x 12.17" D) and heavier (22.6 lb). A quick Google search shows that they cost a bit more too… currently around $299.00 "street" per speaker, or $598 per pair for the 8" model. While their maximum SPL ratings are nearly identical, the ROKIT 8 G4 does offer a bit more bass extension, with a frequency response that is rated from 36 Hz - 40 kHz.
So why would you want to pick the ROKIT 7 G4? Because it's a really good sounding nearfield monitor! First of all, they really do hit the sweet spot in terms of cost vs. performance, and they give you a very balanced full-range sound without being excessively large. It's sort of like a the previous RP6 G3 monitor in terms of overall size, but with a bit more bottom, more volume, and more punch, giving you some of the advantages of an 8" model, but without the extra space requirements - and cost. The bass is a bit more extended and subjectively bigger and punchier sounding than their ROKIT 6 G3 predecessors, with really nice transient response all around - including in the high frequency range, which sounds even sweeter than the G3's too. The new Aramid Fiber tweeters are definitely a major upgrade. True, the promised KRK Audio Tools app isn't quite ready yet, and that's a bit of a disappointment since it really will help make proper setup easier for neophytes and pros alike, but it doesn't keep you from using the monitors themselves in any way, and the app should hopefully be released fairly soon. Once it is, users of not only KRK monitors but other brands as well will probably find it to be a useful tool. And hey, it's going to be free, which is always nice!
If KRK keeps adding features to the ROKIT series, they might start biting into the sales of their own excellent V-series monitors. While they still sound a bit more refined, detailed and expensive, and there are still some features the V-series models have that the ROKIT G4's lack, the ROKIT 7 G4 definitely reminds me more of the V-series than the previous G3 monitors, with faster and more detailed sounding transients, and an extended and smoother frequency response overall, with more than a bit of a sense of that expansive, nearly three-dimensional stereo soundscape that the KRK V6 Series 4 has that impressed me so much. Considering you can get a pair of ROKIT 7 G4's for less than half the price of the V-series, that makes them a terrific bargain, and definitely some of the best sounding affordable nearfields currently available from anyone. Don't think you can get accurate sounding monitors at a truly budget-friendly price? Give the KRK RP7 ROKIT 7 G4's a listen - they very well could change your mind about that! -HC-
Want to discuss the KRK ROKIT 7 G4 studio monitors or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
KRK ROKIT 7 G4 studio monitors ($239.00 "street" for a single monitor, $478.00 per pair)
KRK's product web page
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Phil 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.