In collaborative music production (multi-artist or full-band tracking, for example), the most important control room playback sessions often begin via request from behind you: “Put it up on the big speakers!” It is how crucial production decisions are made in real time, in what you could call groupthink sessions, where all the detail of your laborious nearfield mix continues to matter, kicking up worthy discussions and debates.
It’s an experience nearly opposing the stricter confines of what we most commonly consider the act of “monitoring” today (i.e., listening alone, most likely in a small space, and at comparably lower levels). In “big speaker” monitoring, rather than for just one pair of ears, the details are now presented to many — to inform, yes, but more importantly, to excite before another layer is added to the production.
It’s essentially why modern mid-field, three-way monitors — like the pair reviewed here, the ROKIT Powered 10-3 — exist: to properly engage artists while providing an accurate, “listening room” translation of your own sonic vision within the nearfield mix. And, if they’re affordable, accurate and fun enough to use, a big, second pair in your own audio workspace may reclaim their most common moniker of yore: “the mains.”
The KRK ROKIT Powered 10-3 is a threeway speaker featuring a one-inch, neodymium, soft-dome tweeter, a 4-inch glass aramid composite cone midrange, and a 10-inch glass aramid composite cone woofer. Below the woofer resides the front-firing port, approximately the same width as the woofer and 1.5 inches tall. A standard front-panel KRK Systems logo glows when the 10-3 is on.
ROKIT 10-3 cabinet dimensions are 21.2 x 12.7 x 14.3 inches and each weighs 46 lbs. (yes, these are big, heavy speakers). Thoughtfully, they are built for vertical or horizontal positioning thanks to a circular, rotatable, upper-driver assembly featuring both the tweeter and the midrange driver; this seamless subbaffle can be rotated to keep the tweeter and midrange vertically oriented regardless of how the speaker is placed.
Power is provided by a built-in Class A-B three-way amplifier with 140W total output: 80W, 30W and 30W for low, mid, and high frequencies, respectively). Crossover points are 350 Hz, 350 Hz to 3.5 kHz, and 3.5 kHz (for low, mid and high frequencies, respectively). Frequency response is 31 Hz to 20 kHz (+/- 3 dB) with some tasty peaks and valleys; 100 to 250 Hz gets a notable bump, while a fairly flat dip runs between 750 Hz and 3 kHz. Maximum peak SPL is 113 dB.
Rear-panel features include balanced XLR, balanced TRS quarter-inch, and unbalanced RCA inputs; a power on/off switch; a standard IEC power socket; and three useful level adjustments via rotary knobs: -30 dB to +6 dB volume, 4-position, low-frequency settings (-2 dB, -1 dB, flat and +2 dB) and four high-frequency settings (-2 dB, -1 dB, flat and +1 dB).
Over a 3-month run, I mostly used the ROKIT Powered 10-3 pair positioned vertically, which worked perfectly in my rectangle- shaped audio workspace. I did try them horizontally configured, however, following the directions for changing the tweeter/midrange sub-baffle as carefully detailed in the provided user’s guide. It’s worth noting that “any damage from the configuration change is not covered under warranty,” as noted in the guide; however, the most basic (yet careful) handyman skills should suffice in this Phillips head screwdriver-only task.
Though I’ve had the opportunity to hear some incredible three-way monitoring systems of all types and sizes, I have only used two-way monitors in my own workspace, up until now. And full disclosure, I’ve been a happy KRK user for some time now; I bought my first pair of KRKs following my VXT8 review for Pro Audio Review in 2007. Since then, I’ve used other KRK models in review, from the passive R6 nearfields to their flagship Expose E8B active nearfield monitors.
As ubiquitous as the KRK brand has become in the pro audio landscape, all of our industry’s KRK users will be pleased to know that the ROKIT Powered 10-3 is similarly and/or complementarily voiced to the rest of the line, notably in its high-frequency response, while enjoying the sub-like, low-end reach that this “mini main” can provide. The cabinetry of the 10-3 is nowhere near as rigidly built as VXT or Expose speakers, yet they fit perfectly within the build quality standards of the ROKIT line, which are quite good for the price.
Only a minor quibble, but these speakers are so big and so KRK Yellow that their aesthetics might be their weakest trait. They do seem built to last, and I’ve already thought about how they might look better in the room if made invisible behind some acoustically transparent fabric. Of course, this is completely doable, possibly even adding extra wow-factor when you finally reveal the source of the sound to the more “audiophile” amongst us.
Ultimately, it’s the ROKIT Powered 10-3’s large, space-filling sound and price (at $1k street per pair) that will whet the appetites of prospective buyers. For “newbies” that have never had the experience of working in a room with big (and often-soffit-mounted) monitors, this product is an ideal entree to the experience. In a word, they are “fun!”
Price: $499 street, each
Contact: KRK Systems | krksys.com
Strother Bullins is the editor of Pro Audio Review.