(click thumbnail)Back in January of this year, a colleague and I visited the demo room of KRK Systems at the Winter NAMM Convention in Anaheim, CA. Within, I was thrilled to discover that KRK was displaying betas of the company’s latest monitor range, the VXT Series. At first glance, the VXT Series looked a lot like the Exposé Series; as it turned out, the VXT Series is intended to possess many of the aural attributes of the Exposé Series, which so many of us fell in love with during the late ‘90s, but at a far more affordable price point.
Of course, this news piqued my interest, as well as encouraged my doubts; was it true that for $1,200 a pair street I could have a pair of monitors that sounded even close to the Exposé 5.1 setup that Chuck Ainlay used to bring to Nashville’s Masterfonics’ the Tracking Room (the studio where I worked back in the day)? If so, I was excited to try them out. After waiting patiently for months, then listening to a VXT8 pair for another couple of months, I was convinced: KRK is back.
As I observed while peering into Nashville pro engineer circles in and around 1998, using powered closefields then usually meant Genelecs, or possibly the then-new and budget-friendly Mackie HR824. Later, innovative folks like Ainlay, amongst others, started to roll up with extra flight cases holding two or more Exposé E8 monitors.
To my ears, the KRK E8s were markedly different; they weren’t sweet and zippy as I personally felt Genelecs were, just incredibly natural, organic and powerful. Certainly the VXT8 isn’t the same monitor as the Exposé is (or was), but it does hold those same qualities that had me coveting the E8s of others.
The dual-amped KRK VXT Series includes three models (essentially something for every powered closefield monitor shopper): the VXT4, VXT6 and the aforementioned VXT8, with list prices of $399, $599 and $799, respectively. The number in each model name refers to woofer size; the series offers four-inch, six-inch and eight-inch Kevlar woofers, each in classic KRK yellow. Each model features a one-inch silk dome tweeter (in comparison, the new-design KRK Exposé E8B comes with an aluminum/beryllium composite inverted dome tweeter). Main features of the new series include active filter crossovers (subsonic, low pass and high pass), a defeatable limiter, a new design with radiused faceplate for reduced diffraction (According to the manufacturer, the greatest benefits are enhanced imaging and a huge sweet spot. — Ed.), and more. The VXT Series is manufactured in China.
VXT8 technical specifications are as follows: Reported frequency response is 37 Hz – 22 kHz +/-1.5dB. Maximum SPL is 111 dB music, 114 dB peak. Dual power comes from 60 W high-frequency and 120 W low-frequency amplifiers. (For more VXT8 tech specs, see Tom Nousaine’s full bench test following this review.)
Studio, project studio, broadcast, post
60 W and 120 W dual amps; eight-inch Kevlar woofers; one-inch silk dome tweeter; filter crossovers; defeatable limiter; Neutrik Combo input connector; Resonant Free Extended Low Frequency Enclosure Design
KRK Systems | 954-316-1580 | www.krksys.com
- Great imaging
- Good value
- Unmistakable, classic KRK pedigree
- None noted
The VXT8 is an accurate, organic-sounding, powerful and reasonably affordable bi-powered studio monitor.On the VXT8’s face, the woofer resides just above a rectangular slotted port, which, according to KRK, reduces “port turbulence and distortion commonly found in poorly designed round ports.” I’ve never been much of a fan of front panel round ports, so this was an appreciated feature. Above the woofer is the tweeter, and to its right is the KRK logo, which glows warmly when the VXT8 is on. A “clip limit” LED resides just below the logo.
On the rear, a Neutrik Combo connector accepts XLR, 1/4-inch TRS and TS inputs; it is accompanied by a variety of useful controls. System Level Adjust allows counterclockwise-reduced attenuation from +6 dB to -30 dB. The factory preset gain is +6 dB. A high-frequency adjustment toggle allows +1 dB HF Shelf, Flat and -1 dB Shelf settings. A low-frequency adjustment toggle allows whole (normal), quarter-space and half-space roll-off settings. Also available are auto-mute (on/off), clip indicator (on/off/limit) for KRK’s improved speaker protection circuit and ground lift (LFT is on, GND is off) toggles. Two well-conceived translucent plastic shields protect the VXT8’s various metal toggles.
VXT Series’ build quality, heft and design are notable features unto themselves. Most interesting is its sleek “Resonant Free Extended Low Frequency Enclosure Design,” built from ABS Structural Foam, which is touted to be far stronger than cabinets made of common ABS solid materials (and I believe it; a VXT8 physically feels far pricier and substantial than its $599 street price implies). (According to the manufacturer, the ABS Structural Foam allows for thinner yet stronger walls, providing more internal volume and bass extension, plus no parallel surfaces internally help reduce standing waves. — Ed.) The heft-as-weight of the VXT8 is considerable — 41 pounds — but nowhere near the weight of the current E8T, which is over 75 pounds (and for those of us without the benefit of a cartage services, over 40 pounds per monitor is more than enough heft).
I listened to the VXT8 for a number of weeks in a fairly large control room and in a smaller, damped edit space. Source material varied widely; I mixed, “treated” and referenced completely raw 24-bit/96-kHz tracks recorded via an Alesis HD24XR multitrack, and I listened to a number of my own mixes and normal collection of personal references.
After a few days of break-in time, I sat down for some truly critical listening and found what I hoped (and, after the last few days of not-so-critical listening, expected) would be there: smooth, natural highs reminiscent of the E8s, as well as a full and room-filling, yet tight and accurate bass wallop … the latter being exactly what I had forgotten about the E8s due to my preoccupation with its uniquely nice top-end. Vocals were natural with smooth transients and rarely.
My familiar audition tracks sounded as they should have, and each seemed to be more natural and, dare I say it, more “analog” (I challenge anyone to grab a pair of VXT8s, put on Tom Petty’s Wildflowers, and resist the urge to smile goofily before the first track is over).
To my ears, imaging was generally excellent, thus mixing was easier than normal while using the VXT8s. I even liked what I did more a few weeks later while listening back to the VXT8 mixes on a couple of other go-to speaker references. In my opinion, a mix made on a VXT8 pair will translate to other monitoring systems incredibly well.
Finally, the VXT8s possessed that certain “wow” factor most of us desire; they sound big, have a large, wide sweet spot and are capable critical tracking, treatment and mix monitors, as well as perfectly affordable “knock your socks off” mid-fields for impressionable clients. In my experience, a large control room with hardwood floors was no match for the VXT8s; closefields of similar size and price are regularly underwhelming in this environment, but even when I drove the VXT8s rather hard at times they always stayed clean and full without becoming sloppy or shrill.
The KRK VXT8 should be a notable contender in the mid-priced, close- to mid-field powered monitor market. It’s far more affordable than KRK’s premier E8T (or the new model the E8B), yet it looks, sounds and performs like a product built by the same people that brought us the Exposé E8 (which, arguably, many KRK fans still prefer to new E8 models with its next-generation tweeters). In my evaluation, the VXT8 performance was always accurate, natural and powerful. But don’t take my word for it; check out a pair and hear for yourself.
(click thumbnail)BENCH TEST
Bench Measurement Data
On-axis 66 Hz to 20 kHz +/- 2.8 dB
72 dB SPL @ 40 Hz @ 2 meters
HF +1 Actual Response +1.1 dB >2 kHz
HF -1 Actual Response – 1.1 dB >2 kHz
LF Adjust (relative to Whole Space)
Half Space Actual Response -1.4 dB < 200 Hz
Quarter Space Actual Response -2.1 dB < 200 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 percent distortion. The 10 percent 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 percent 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 then gives equivalent anechoic results above 200 Hz including front panel reflections and cabinet diffraction; overall results give true acoustical summation of all drivers and passive radiating elements.
The KRK VXT8 has remarkably smooth response on axis marred only by a 2.3 dB elevation between 600 and 1800 Hz and a 1.6 dB rise above 3 kHz. However the HF Adjust of -1 nearly perfectly accommodates the latter anomaly. There is relatively moderate off-axis lobing beginning just above 1000 Hz when the microphone is moved outward in the horizontal plane to 30 degrees and beyond. The speaker low frequency dynamic capability is limited by port noise at 40 and 50 Hz.
— Tom Nousaine