Time to replace your old monitors? Consider getting a model with the latest technology in drivers. For example, the new KRK ST8 provides amazing sound for the price, thanks in part to its drivers based on advanced materials and design.
Product PointsApplication: Studio.
Features: Two-way; 8-inch DLDA aluminum woofer; 1-inch silk dome tweeter
Price: $498 per pair
Contact: KRK Systems at 805-584-5244, Web Site.
The two-way ST8 employs a dual-ported 8-inch aluminum/ceramic composite cone woofer and a 1-inch -textile dome tweeter. The smaller model in this series, the ST6, is like the ST8 but with a 6-inch woofer. Both low-cost models are aimed at personal studio owners.
The ST8 is finely crafted. Its dense 7/8-inch MDF cabinet does not ring when you knock on it. Cabinet dimensions are large bookshelf size: 15 inches x 9.75 inches x 10.5 inches (HWD). The cabinet has a dark satin gray finish and is rounded on all edges. This reduces the secondary sound waves generated at the edges by the discontinuity in acoustical impedance. On the front baffle are the two drivers and two triangular ports. On the back is a recessed, angled pair of five-way binding posts that accept up to 14 gauge wires.
KRK says that the dual-port tube design improves airflow and bass response, and reduces vent distortion. Surrounding the woofer is a ring that is said to improve the frequency response in the midrange. When I tapped on the woofer cone, its resonant frequency sounded higher than most other woofers I have tested.
Of special interest are the improved drivers. The woofer cone is made by an aluminum alloy forming a layer of ceramic on both sides of the cone. This construction is intended to enhance stiffness, reduce resonance, and lower the intermodulation distortion. In the tweeter, the voice coil wires are copper-clad aluminum. According to KRK, this reduces the moving mass, which improves detail and transient response. In addition, the tweeter employs a neodymium magnet which increases magnet motor strength thereby controlling the voice coil more effectively. Magnetic ferrofluid in the voice coil gap is said to improve thermal power handling and reduce distortion. KRK notes that the heat sink on the tweeter’s magnet structure further raises power handling and lowers distortion. The drivers are magnetically shielded.
As for specs, recommended amplifier power is 60 – 120 watts per channel into 8 ohms. Impedance is 8 ohms and sensitivity is 90 dB/W/m. Claimed frequency response is 52 Hz to 20 kHz ±2 dB, while distortion measures less than 1 percent at 1 watt. Shipping weight is 26 pounds.
The ST8 owner’s manual is clear and to the point. It covers connections, cables, adding a subwoofer, specs and troubleshooting. However, no placement suggestions are included Ð a serious omission.
I use the same listening tests in all my reviews. That’s because, when doing comparisons, only one variable must be changed at a time for the results to be scientifically valid. In my reviews over the years, the only variable in listening tests has been the speaker model and its distance from the nearest wall.
I placed the ST8s on stands behind my console, two feet from the rear of the speakers to an absorbent wall behind them. Here are my impressions of the ST8 reproducing some musical instruments:
Kick drum: Tight with good impact, but not very deep.
Cymbals and percussion: Sweet and smooth with extended highs. Not peaky or exaggerated.
Piano: Natural, not metallic or harsh.
Electric guitar: Good balance between body and edge.
Electric bass: Full but tight. Well balanced with the rest of the audio range. Deep notes are weak but are handled gracefully. A sub could help with the deep bass.
Acoustic bass: Full but not overwhelming. Tight and well controlled.
Acoustic guitar: Gentle. Detailed but not “etched” in the highs.
Sax: Pleasantly warm and mellow.
Strings, brass and woodwinds: Natural, realistic timbres.
Flute: Natural, with just the right amount of breathiness.
Voice: “Human” sounding. Not too much sibilance.
My own mixes: Originally done using NHT Pro A-20s, my mixes sound about the same on the KRK ST8s. The mixes have less deep bass and sound a little more “mellow” in the upper midrange on the ST8 monitors.
I did some mixes on the KRK ST8s. The mixes translated well to other speakers. I quickly got used to the sound of the KRK ST8s and found them pleasant to work with.
Overall, the ST8 monitors sound musical and neutral. They have very low distortion and low listening fatigue. Imaging is sharp and the sense of depth is impressive. Multiple tracks remain distinct in loud, complex mixes. The sound is so refined, I liken these monitors to high-end audiophile speakers. Instruments sound “organic” rather than “electronic.” Plus, the ST8s are efficient and produce plenty of loud, clean sound.
To my ears, early models of KRK monitors had a slightly hyped, sizzly high end. I’m happy to report that this situation is now totally under control. The KRK ST8 provides some of the smoothest highs and overall musical, uncolored sound of any monitor regardless of price. I’d say that it could compete with monitors costing two-to-four times as much. The ST8 has a gentle but detailed sound with fine imaging. Its distortion is extremely low, both measured and audible.
As for drawbacks, the deep bass notes lack weight but can be enhanced with a sub such as the KRK S8. The monitor should be placed away from room surfaces, otherwise the midbass can overbalance the rest of the range.
Congratulations to KRK for designing such a fine monitor at a low price. You owe it to yourself to hear what modern driver technology can do for the sound of low-cost monitors.