|PRODUCT: KRK VXT Series
PRICE: (Per speaker) VXT4, $399; VXT6, $599; VXT8, $799
- Accurate performance at an affordable price
- Wide sweet spot
- Tight/clean/clear low-end
KRK has introduced high-quality, bi-amplified, near-field monitors for a variety of recording and mixing applications with the new VXT series. Available with four-, six- and eight-inch woofers, these self-powered speakers are surprisingly affordable. I was lucky enough to work on the VXT8 (eight-inch woofers). Weighing in at nearly 40 pounds each, the VXT8s are designed for any application, including music and post production.
PLEASING TO EYES & EARS
When I set up the speakers, I immediately noticed the curved edges of the speaker cabinets and the signature yellow woofers common to all KRKs. The yellow cones are not only aesthetically pleasing, but they are functional, too. They are made from Kevlar, one of the strongest, lightest, most rigid materials that can be used for speaker construction. The yellow cones looked wonderful in my studio since my walls just happen to be a similar shade of rich yellow.
Aesthetics aside, the rounded speaker cabinet shape offers a wider sweet spot for mixing. This proved to be ideal for my clients who sit behind me, or off to one side of me, as I am mixing. Having the stereo image hold up better outside my mixing chair made for an easier approval process with my clients.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much tighter, cleaner and clearer the low-end was compared to speakers I have used in the past. Often the low-end can be a bit hard to judge in many studios. Due to the slotted ports at the base of the speakers, the VXT8s handled the low-end so well that I almost thought we re-treated our room acoustically.
ACCURACY ABOVE ALL
I have been mixing TV commercials and records for nearly 20 years, and I look for one important thing from a speaker: an accurate sound rather than a "great" sound. I need a monitor to be accurate enough to enable my mixes to translate and playback on a wide variety of systems. The VXT8s are up to that challenge. Most mixers and engineers will agree: we don't want a speaker to "hype" or taint our mixes in any way where it sounds better (or worse) than it actually is. We need accuracy above all, and the VXTs fulfill that criteria.
The VXTs were versatile enough for the wide variety of mixing that I do. For a jazz album I was mixing, I needed to reproduce the sound of acoustic instruments as cleanly and as accurately as possible. And for a pop/rock band, I needed to do a dance remix that could stand up in any club, paying particular attention to the low-end. In both cases, if I heard any flaws, I knew they were issues with the recording or mixing, which I could address. I was never fooled into thinking my mixes were better or worse than they actually were.
The ultimate test came from mixing a TV commercial where my client was listening remotely on his laptop computer after downloading the spots from our FTP site. Since I knew his laptop would determine whether my mixes would live or die, I simply checked my mixes back on my own laptop prior to sending them to my client. Here, I could really experience how well the VXTs could reproduce a mix for the lowest common denominator. I am pleased to say that the mixes translated beautifully from the VXTs (with eight-inch woofers, mind you) to my laptop speakers.
BRIGHTNESS & INTERFERENCE
The VXT8s have some flaws that could potentially throw a mixer off. The high-end is emphasized a bit too much, which equates for dull mixes played back anywhere else. To account for this, there is a high frequency adjustment with a toggle switch to select between +1dB, flat, and -1dB shelving above 2kHz. I set the switch to its maximum roll-off at -1, but it had little or no effect. My job is to be in front of the speakers, not the back, so if I am going behind the speakers, you bet it's to make a difference. Therefore, I would suggest the amount of boost or cut to be more significant. This would help address any larger issues at hand rather than subtle ones.
The emphasized high-end did prove to be a benefit during tracking and recording. I could hear any sibilance problems during voice recording and any editing by-products during mixing, such as clicks and pops with the in/outs of Digidesign Pro Tools regions. Therefore, I was able to track and edit a little bit cleaner than I normally would. But, I knew I needed to mentally adjust for the extra high-end during the mixing stage.
A second and more problematic flaw is the high degree of interference from BlackBerry devices and cell phones. I am so disappointed, almost saddened, that the VXTs speakers are not shielded properly for today's wireless technology. To me, this is a fatal flaw because there is nothing I can do in my studio to compensate for it. The constant buzzes, clicking and other electronic sounds generated from the hand-held devices used by my clients, completely distracted me from recording and mixing.
I found the price point of only one speaker rather than a pair to be very telling of the times. With the rise 5.1 and the upgrades from stereo, people are purchasing any number of speakers. KRK is quality audio, and I would recommend these speakers to any project studio looking for high-end performance without the high-end budget. I would never expect to get this level of accuracy for anything less than $3,000 a pair.
Ron DiCesare is Audio Engineer at Ultra-Sound Audio Post in New York City. He can be reached at: