(click thumbnail)As I grow older and wiser, and my gear collection improves, I now find myself drawn to products that are not so much innovative, but simple. Or I should say simply beautiful, both in their quality components and straightforward design. My opportunity to review the Exposé E8B powered monitors by KRK Systems has confirmed these values for me and reminded me that top quality monitoring is priority one.
The Exposé E8B is KRK’s top of the line, near-to-midfield monitor, boasting impressive specs, an eye catching look and an equally eye catching MSRP of $6500 per pair ($5k street). First released in 1998, some significant changes have been made to the E8 monitor, although none are major or ‘downgrades.’ The biggest change is the new “AlbeMet” tweeter, made of a combination of aluminum and beryllium (previous versions used Kevlar or titanium), which is rather rigid, very fast and ready for high sample rate reproduction (response out to 30 kHz!) With a resonant frequency well above human hearing, distortion is reduced, and extended, flatter response is achieved. This new tweet uses the same inverted (concave) E8 design, an interesting look further complemented by the E8B’s yellow woofer. This yellow woofer is effectively KRK’s ‘branding’ — here it is two layers of Kevlar with a central layer of Rohacell, which contributes both stiffness and dampening.
The E8B cabinet is not to be ignored; it is hefty and overbuilt to the degree of weighing in at over 70 pounds! The old hexagonal design is now more like a pot-bellied, rectangular cabinet, and these curved and smooth lines serve a number of acoustic purposes. First of all, the external radius edges reduce diffraction around the cabinet, improving imaging and helping create a wide sweet spot. Internally, these smooth lines and lack of parallelism reduce standing waves. Unwanted resonances are reduced through cabinet rigidity, excessive mass and a rubberized ‘footing’ that helps isolate the E8B from its mounting surface.
Marketed for both near and mid-field monitoring, powerful amplification is in order and the E8B features 120 watts for the tweeters and 140 for the woofers. This bi-amplification is courtesy of two discrete, Class A/AB power amps crossed over at 1.9 kHz. Below 8 watts of output they operate at Class A, above 8 watts at Class AB, reportedly increasing detail at lower volumes.
Studio, project studio
New one-inch “AlBeMet” tweeter; eight-inch Kevlar with Rohacell woofer; hefty and overbuilt hexagonal cabinet; Class A/AB bi-amplified power — 120W for tweeters, 140W for woofers; XLR input, high frequency shelving control, high frequency level control, system level control, and HPF switch
KRK Systems | 954-316-1580 | www.krksys.com
The rear panel is familiar and traditional, with a singular XLR input, high frequency shelving control (from -2 dB to +1 dB, in .5 dB steps), high frequency level control (again from -2 dB to +1 dB), system level control (from -30 dB to +6 dB), a HPF switch (-3 dB at 45 Hz, 50 Hz or 65 Hz) and the ubiquitous IEC power connector.
The E8B pair was accompanied by KRK’s V12S subwoofer, a 12-inch self-powered design, which I incorporated into my system but not this review; the sub was not essential to the review, per se, but essential to my successful work habits and listening preferences. Rest assured, the V12S performed admirably with plenty of output, headroom and a pleasant puffiness to its punch.
Upon powering up the E8Bs I heard one of my favorite sounds: the satisfying click of a sturdy relay switching on, as I noticed that attractive backlit glow of the KRK logo. With no time to interrupt my workflow, I had to jump right into overdubbing and editing a heavy metal project that has been testing the limits of my new JBL LSR4328 monitoring system and the limits of my critical listening abilities. With new monitors, my ears immediately gravitate to the mids; here I was delighted to hear flatness, accuracy and a complete lack of personality (of course, this is meant as a major compliment). The high end was ample but completely unobtrusive; no distortion or shrillness was present as I envisioned long hours of work without fatigue.
Overall, I was looking for a little more sheen when I noticed the rear panel high frequency controls are not flat at the ‘midnight’ position, but actually at -.5 dB. I adjusted these controls to flat and got all that I asked for.
Many of my clients like an occasional blast of high SPL, so I slowly pushed the E8Bs. At lower levels the bottom end detail and overall balance was impressive and these qualities continued as I slowly cranked the control room volume pot. I’m sure I gave up before max output, but the point is nearly academic as I was at 105 dB; it was all I could stand!
The E8B’s delivered quantity and punch in the bottom end that was surprising, but not hyped. Apparently, the measures taken by KRK to reduce cabinet resonances have paid off; the amount of definition in the low end was astounding, allowing detailed mix decisions (i.e. kick drum vs. bass guitar vs. floor tom) with confidence. In particular, I don’t think I’ve heard 200 to 400 Hz with such pleasantness and honesty (outside of mastering).
- Sonic excellence in imaging, clarity, dynamics, and frequency response
- Ample headroom and power
- Non-fatiguing and translatable
- Relatively high price
- Too heavy for meter bridges
The E8B has it all: precise imaging, frequency response, accuracy, dynamics, and power … and a relatively high price.
I worked on a huge variety of projects over the next month, including classical piano, bluegrass, rock, and pop, and the E8Bs always seemed comfortable. As I carefully mastered a bluegrass project — one that had employed far too many cheap condensers and an inconsistent upright bass — lesser monitors would have smeared the top end and blurred the bass notes. Not these KRKs — I applied surgical EQ and meticulous multiband compression to tame the sonic inaccuracies. Detailed changes of less than .5 dB were clearly audible, allowing me to fix problems that would have normally vexed me or been overlooked.
The bottom line is that the Exposé E8B is the best sounding nearfield monitor I’ve ever heard. They rank right up there with mastering monitors for accuracy, imaging and trustworthiness. The switching Class A/AB design is brilliant and will be helpful to those who value truth at low listening levels. Those who value sheer butt-kicking volume will not be disappointed either — in the words of my client (whom I proudly thrust into the sweet spot), “Wow, I can feel the pressure and everything is so there and so real … I’ve never heard anything like this!”
The E8B’s simply have it all: precise imaging, frequency response, accuracy, dynamics, and power. There were only two negatives for me, and they are not performance related: a lack of room diagnostics and a hefty price. However, those who are now used to ‘intelligent’ monitors and still desire analysis and corrective room EQ can look to out-of-themonitor solutions for such features. And, as good as the E8Bs are, their MSRP may prohibit many potential users. That’s such a shame because — as one finds truthful monitoring, resulting in effortlessly translatable mixes — informed listening will inevitably become priority number one. In use, the Exposé E8B will have you feeling very informed, indeed.
Soundcraft Ghost console; Digital Performer 5.12 DAW; Apple Mac Pro quad-core computer.
(click thumbnail)BENCH MEASUREMENT DATA
On-axis 90 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 6.7 dB
71 dB SPL @ 62 Hz @ 2 meters
HF Shelf Half dB Steps +1.0 to -2.0 dB
Steps > 10 kHz
+1.1 dB to -2.0 dB > 8 kHz
Half dB Steps +1.0 to -2.0 dB > 1.9 kHz
+0.8 dB to -2.6 dB >1.9 kHz
-3 dB @ 45 Hz; Actual Response 90 Hz
-3 dB @ 65 Hz: Actual Response 103 Hz
-3 dB @ 50 Hz: Actual Response 117 Hz
BENCH MEASUREMENT COMMENTARY
The Bass Limit of the speaker is the Sound Pressure generated at 2 meters in a 7600 cubic foot room with less than 10% distortion. The 10% distortion limit is used because operating characteristics of drivers (using DLC Design DUMAX) shows that when a speaker has reached the end of its linear operating range (BL product has fallen to 70% of the rest position value or the suspension compliance has stiffened by a factor of 4) the unit will still sound clean, but distortion increases exponentially with further drive. However, port and suspension noise and with powered speakers amplifier output or limiting may also constrain sound pressure capability.
Basic measurements here have been taken at a full 2 meters in a large room on a 6-foot stand. Using time windows gives equivalent anechoic results above 200 Hz including front panel reflections and cabinet diffractions. Overall results give true acoustical summation of all drivers and passive radiating elements.
The E8B has less low frequency extension and dynamic capability than the large and relatively heavy cabinet and specifications would lead one to believe. The Low Frequency Adjust function has a curious effect when the switch is set to -3 dB @ 50 Hz; unlike the 65 and 45 Hz settings, response begins falling below 300 Hz and is less than half power by 117 Hz. The high frequency controls are reasonably close to marked action, which serves to make them easy to use, but the limited range probably makes them less useful overall than one might think.
Directivity is well controlled but the frequency response basic shape has some obvious errors; the largest of these are a large +10 dB peak centered on 14.8 kHz and a 4 dB bump between 700 Hz and 1.1 kHz.
— Tom Nousaine