If you are looking for great sounding equipment a good place to turn to are recording studios since their everyday activities depends on high fidelity sound gear. Usually, studio monitors can cost an arm and a leg compared to most MP3 player docks or the cheap studio monitors don’t have a big sound advantage. But there is a little gem made by KRK that does fall into great sound quality at a reachable price.
The KRK RP5 was routinely popping up as a best buy studio monitor for under $300 so I wanted to see how these would translate into a consumer environment. This review is not geared towards music producers but towards the average MP3 player owners looking for a future proof way to “dock” their player to speakers. Additionally, it is geared towards computer user that has a little bit of extra desk real estate for great sounding speakers.
Update: Just after finishing this review KRK introduced the RP5G2′s which are the second generation to these. They say they are more accurate than gen one so the G2′s should be a welcome improvement for the same cost as the G1′s. I also mentioned previously that these were $200, but that was the old stock they were clearing out. I still stand by these opinions at the $300 price tag.
- Tweeter: 1″ Neodymium Soft Dome
- Woofer: 5″ Glass Aramid Composite Cone
- Built in Amp: 45 watts Bi-amplified Design
- Frequency Response: 53Hz to 20kHz
- Peak SPL: 106dB
- Dimensions: 10 7/8″ x 7 1/4″ x 8 7/8″ / 27.6cm x 18.5cm x 22.5cm
- Weight: 16 lbs / 8 Kg
- Product Page
What’s the Difference Between a Studio Monitor and a Speaker?
A studio monitor is a speaker, but the characteristics of how they are built to sound differ. A studio monitor is typically tuned so that no frequency is more pronounced than another or in other words, they have a very flat response. This is not to say that one is better than the other but it is more of a personal preference. Some prefer the raw representation of music while others like their EQ to smile.
Unless you are familiar with music production or studio recording you probably have never heard of the KRK brand. The KRK brand is well known and revered as one of the top brands for inexpensive studio monitors. Even though you may be unfamiliar with this brand it is highly regarded not by their marketing but by the performance of their products.
Design / Build Quality
Weighing in at 16lbs each, these speakers are built like cinderblocks. The housing is made of a dense fiberboard wood material, but is finished with a very hard epoxy-like paint coating. They are finished with perfection appearing to be carved out of a single piece of material. The round corners and edges tie in the overall clean and modern appearance.
But also keep in mind that this heavy build quality and size are not exactly friendly to small to moderate desks and will take up more space than a typical set of speakers. So do realize you are sacrificing some desk of shelf real estate.
The tweeters are neodymium soft dome and the woofers are made of a glass Aramid composite. If this means nothing to you; don’t worry it means nothing to me as well. I don’t care what they are made of as long as they sound good.
Setup & Use
The main reason I wanted to review these speakers was to find a really great sounding universal setup for a portable MP3 player and to avoid the proprietary speaker dock. Your MP3 player (or any audio source for that matter) simply plugs into the back of the speakers though the headphone jack. If you wanted to you could also make your own speaker dock system by purchasing a standard dock for your particular player and running that dock into the speakers. It may not be the same compact setup as an all in one dock, but a far superior way to dock your MP3 player.
On the back there are three different inputs, balanced XLR, balanced TRS 1/4″, and RCA. Most likely you will only be using the RCA input since those cables are the cheapest and you may already have one. Likely a standard 3.5mm to dual RCA cable will suit you fine, but keep in mind that one RCA input is on each speaker so you may have to split the cable down the middle. Also each of these speakers will need to be plugged in since each of them has their own separate amp.
On the back you will also find two knobs. The HF Level will adjust the high frequencies (-2dB, -1dB, 0dB, or +1db) and the Volume knob will continuously adjust between -30dB to +6dB. For the beginners keep the HF knob on 0dB and adjust to your preference when they are all set up. With the volume knob, turn it down to -30dB and adjust from there. If this is set too high it will create a unwanted buzz from source.
Admittedly I have little experience with studio monitors. While I have been in a few studios and auditioned a few, I have only done critical listening to the KRK RP5. This is comparison to consumer products and not others intended for studio use.
The KRKs sound true to their marketing claims as coming across as a very flat across the spectrum. No one frequency is more pronounced than the other. This lends to a nice separation of each track on the song; no one instrument drowns another. The sound stage is fantastic and most of the time disappears especially with bi-aural recordings. I still get fooled into thinking someone is behind me or in the other room when listening to some recordings. I tend to enjoy this way to listen to music and typically stay away from the EQ – however, they do respond well to a proper EQ.
If you want something with heavy bass, keep looking, these are not for you. The response range of the KRK RP5’s are rated at 53Hz – 20kHz. They are true to the specs with everything less than 50Hz is really lacking or inaudible. It is not that there is no bass, but you will not get that deep carrying bass. For my case, this works out well for me since I’m in an apartment where that kind of bass will do nothing but upset the neighbors. However, that deep bass can be added with one of KRK subs. The RP10 is a 10 inch subwoofer that retails for $300 and will match up nicely with these RP5’s. I do miss the bass, but I easily forget about it since everything above it sounds incredibly smooth. However, the RP10 is likely in my future.
Bottom line is you will not get that kind of clarity out of anything in the $300 price range. Yes, they lack
the low bass. Many will be dissuaded by this fact, but keep in mind that they can also be accompanied by the $300 RP10 10” subwoofer if dissatisfied. While $300 will buy you a pretty good sounding set of speakers plus a sub at your local big box retailer, but with the KRK RP5’s will show you things you may have never heard in your music before. Your ears will thank you.