KRK, one of the leading makers of studio monitors, are back with a new line. The V Series 4 includes three models : the V4, V6, and the one on review here, the V8 (the number, naturally, refers to woofer size).
The V8 like all three V Series 4 models is equipped with KRK’s signature Kevlar drivers : a 1” Kevlar dome tweeter and an 8” Kevlar woofer, both sporting the bright yellow coloring that makes KRK speakers instantly identifiable. I should point out that I’ve always been partial to KRK’s speakers and for many years my main monitors have been an older pair of (passive) KRK 7000s (studio) and 6000s (home), which I like for their combination of smoothness and clarity and I always look forward to seeing what the company has on tap, referencing them to those models. So how does the new V8 S4 stack up? Let’s take a look.
The KRK V8 Series 4 studio monitor
The V8s are 2-way powered speakers with a 1” Kevlar tweeter and 8” Kevlar woofer in a front ported enclosure. Size-wise, they’re in the ballpark of most powered 8” designs (17.13” H x 11.18” W x 13.66” D; 31.75 lbs) but with their extra depth they do seem somewhat imposing in a typical nearfield placement. For more industrial applications, there’s an optional protective metal grille assembly included in the box, along with the power cable.
The juice is supplied by bi-amped Class D amplifiers, with 30 watts for the highs and 200 watts for the lows. Class D is a particularly efficient amplifier design. KRK rates the frequency response of the V8 as 35Hz to 19kHz ±3 dB, and it is immediately obvious that they do have good low end extension : not boomy or tubby, just deep and solid, as it should be. There are no controls on the front panel, just the illuminated KRK logo which serves as a power indicator. But around the back you’ll find a lot of useful features.
On the back panel, besides the the On/Off switch and input jack (a Neutrik combo TRS/XLR connector) there are a number of well-thought-out options provided.
The KRK V8 S4 rear panel
A panel of 5 dipswitches lets you set a number of preferences including Standby and Ground Lift. You can choose input sensitivity, with the usual -10 or +4 settings. There are even two switches that control the appearance of the front panel illuminated logo/power indicators. You can dim them, or shut them off entirely which is actually a welcome option since they’re pretty bright in a darker room. A USB port is included, reportedly reserved for future upgrades. There’s also a stepped Attenuator which goes from 0 dB down to -3 dB in half-dB steps. And then there are the two EQ controls, for optimizing the speakers’ balance.
KRK advertises 49 different EQ curves and this is in fact correct : the stepped high and low frequency knobs each have 7 positions, so in various combinations you can achieve 49 different overall curves as promised. But these controls are particularly well designed and thought out, making them much more useful than the overly aggressive ones you find on many speakers. All of the curves on tap are very subtle in their action and provide highly useable settings for getting the best balance out of these monitors.
The low frequency EQ, as with most on-board speaker EQs, is intended to compensate for room placement anomalies in the bass response. The middle position (L4) is the Flat setting. 1, 2, and 3 are all cuts, and 5, 6, and 7 are all boosts. There are two EQ types : a shelf at 60Hz and a broad peaking EQ at 200Hz. Positions L1 and L2 dial up 60Hz shelving cuts of -3 dB and -1 dB, respectively, while L7 and L6 are 60Hz shelving boosts (+3 and +1.5 dB).
L5 offers a peaking cut of -2 dB at 200Hz, while L3 combines both a low shelf (-2 dB @ 60) with a mid cut (-2dB @ 200). It’s easy to see how these particular curves could help with positional response issues : the low shelves can address overall low end when moving between free-field placement and a position closer to a room boundary, and the 200Hz cut can target vocal chestiness and general tubbiness from wall/boundary reflections.
The high frequency EQ offers a similar layout. It’s another 7-position knob, with two different frequencies addressed. Once again, the middle position (H4) is Flat; H1 and H7 provide, respectively, -2 and +2 dB shelving EQ at 10kHz. H3 and H5 dial up -1 and +1 dB of peaking EQ at 3.5kHz for control of the critical presence range. And H2 and H6 combine the 10k Shelf and the 3.5k Presence peak/dip : H2 gives you -1dB @ 10k along with -1dB @ 3.5k, while H6 does the opposite, +1dB @ 10k with +1dB @ 3.5k. These choices let you shape presence and high treble to taste, and they’re quite effective. I’ll talk more about that in the field test section of the review.
I set up the V8s in a free standing placement next to my KRK 6000s and ran some familiar tracks through them.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve always liked my older KRK monitors because they manage to provide great clarity, depth, and detail while still maintaining a smoother high frequency balance that most modern monitors, which often seem to offer clarity at the cost of a crisp, somewhat clinical high end sheen. So when I come across a speaker that has that depth and clarity without that hyper-detailed quality, I’m very happy, and these new KRKs made me happy. They delivered a familiar sense of depth and clarity on background parts and subtle details in the mixes I played through them, and though at the Flat EQ settings they were a hair brighter and bassier than my references, it was all good.
The bass was deep and solid and revealed itself only when there was suitable low end in the mix, rather than imposing an overall boominess on everything as many lesser speakers are prone to do. And the high end was detailed without being clinical, which makes for less fatigue in longer sessions. In fact I ended up spending a couple of hours cranking up music, picking out details in familiar mixes that the V8s did a particularly good job of revealing. Now to be fair, I’ve auditioned a number of good speakers over the last year, but these seemed to have the kind of detailed smoothness that I personally find very musical.
Of course the V8s have their own distinct tonal balance as all speakers do. Compared to my old standbys, they were a little less nasal (even without engaging the presence EQ), but they had a nice, full midrange rather than the scooped mids that many studio monitors and many excellent mixers prefer. As I said earlier, that’s a character that seems common to some of KRK’s higher priced offerings and so these fell into my comfort zone. I’ve always been able to make mixes that travel well on my older KRKs, and I could see mixing on the V8s without needing any significant adjustment period.
In a nearfield listening position (3-4 feet), the V8s did seem to have just a hair more presence than I felt was needed, although it didn’t bother me. But when I backed up to a mid-field distance (5-6 feet), I thought the sound came together better : the sound field opened up, there was a greater sense of depth and the mids and presence range smoothed out nicely. For a speaker this size, a mid-field placement would make sense. In a traditional studio layout, that would mean mounted on stands just behind the console, a couple of feet out from the front wall.
I started tweaking the EQ settings to see how useful they’d be and I was pleasantly surprised. All of the settings were much more subtle that the numbers suggest, and I found that I was able to easily compensate for position, match the overall brightness of other speakers and tame any slight presence when monitoring up close. With both the high and low frequency EQs set Flat, the V8s were bright but not overly clinical. With the broader shelf and peak EQ cuts set for both high and low EQ, the speakers took on a very subtly more midrange-type balance, but without sacrificing any high end clarity and solid low end extension.
I liked that I could get two slightly different perspectives on a mix : how it would sound on speakers that tend toward a little bit of a smile curve, or how it would sound on smoother, more mellow systems. In my room, I never felt the need for any of the EQ boost settings, but I could see how the high end boost curves could be useful for rooms that are overly dead, and since the entire V Series 4 line shares the same EQ options (with suitably adjusted low frequencies), the low end boosts could probably be very helpful for the smaller V4 and V6 models.
So, I’m sure it’s obvious that I liked these speakers a lot. Part of that, as I said, is probably that they fit right in to my comfort zone, but even those whose taste in monitors leans the other way from mine should be able to subtly tweak the sound of the V8s to their preference. Regardless of personal preferences, these new KRK V8s provide the kind of warmth and clarity that any mixer or studio denizen would welcome. They’re not cheap, but they do offer the kind of extra quality and flexibility that, provided you can afford them, makes them well worth the price.
Price: $799.00 each (Street)
Pros: Clear, transparent sound - smooth and detailed without overly clinical highs. Deep, solid bass extension without boominess. Very useful EQ options.
Cons: Nit-picks only - fairly big and heavy. Somewhat flimsy dipswitches and EQ screwpots.