KRK Systems, part of the Gibson Pro Audio division, is a leading provider of accurate and reliable monitors and control room solutions. KRK Systems was founded in 1986, by Keith Klawitter. He had been an engineer for years working on such films as “Brainstorm” and “The Doors”. Frustrated by the fact he couldn’t find a monitor that gave him clarity and accuracy, he began building his own monitors. Other engineers and producers began to take notice of Keith’s high-end studio monitors, a groundswell began and a company was born. During that time, KRK’s studio monitors, subwoofers, headphones and accessories have become synonymous with quality design and unparalleled performance. With a wide range of monitoring systems, available in multiple sizes and configurations, KRK offers products that meet the diverse needs of professionals and audio enthusiasts across the globe.
AT : Many of our readers will be familiar with the common audio performance parameters such as frequency response, distortion and colouration but there’s quite a bit of confusion about what are the really important performance issues with regard to monitor loudspeaker performance. What do you consider these to be, and how have they influenced your design philosophy?
KRK : At the heart of our design philosophy is accurate reproduction. There are so many ways audio can be affected by all of the technology in our products, such as signal handling, amplification, the electromagnetic and physical attributes of our drivers, the crossovers used, the enclosure shape, material, the porting, the waveguides, the list goes on and on. Our job is to ensure the negation, and removal if possible, of each and every point where the source signal has the opportunity to change the final audible result. Frequency response and distortion are common metrics that most users will review in order to ascertain the performance of a product, but these metrics in isolation can often be misleading. Ultimately, we encourage users to spend enough time listening to the gear to ensure that any monitoring solution meets their requirements. Listening to different material, both raw and processed, is one way to ensure that you get no surprises after a purchase, but if specific needs exist, such as a wider sweet spot, critical listening is a key component of making the best choice.
AT : Do you favour designing professional monitoring speakers for a listening environment which is fairly dead or for a more ‘natural’ listening environment (assuming for this point that the listening room has been treated to diffuse standing wave responses). Please explain the reasoning behind your preference.
KRK : We enjoy the challenge of ensuring our monitoring solutions work just as well in an acoustically treated room as they do in the more typical home studio of today, which represents the mass of the market. In the space available to most musicians, engineers, composers and artists, there are a lot of compromises and expensive room treatment is not always an option. In this instance, where budget is restricted, features of studio monitoring products are becoming more and more important.
AT : Is there a significant difference in design approaches for nearfield loudspeakers as opposed to for ‘whole room’ monitoring?
KRK : We try, where possible, to ensure that designs are scalable so that with a certain technology set we can deliver a comprehensive range. This allows us to deliver a solution from modern environments, such as the desktop home studio, through to large professionally treated music and post-production facilities. Our recent launch of the Rokit 10-3 reflects the demand found in music production to have an accurate monitoring rig that allows the engineer to work at higher levels while listening in the mid-field without compromise, something very important when you also have artists who want to hear their music played back at the power levels to which they have become accustomed.AT : How important are the frequency sensitive directional properties of speaker systems and are there other important issues to consider when designing monitor speakers to offer a stable stereo image?
KRK : Imaging accuracy is linked to the size and dimensions of the sweet spot; the larger you try to make the sweet spot the more difficult it becomes to deliver accuracy and balance in the space. Waveguide geometry and the reduction of diffraction caused by traditional square enclosure faces are important physical factors. Ensuring the repeatability of HF drivers in production is also a key factor. By performing extensive sampling and measurement, we control the performance of these critical components
AT : Coming back to listening environments, a reality seems to be that many people are trying to monitor in less than ideal acoustic environments. They may make an attempt to deal with the worst of the room’s standing waves and may sometimes over deaden the listening environment. Is there anything which can be done within the monitor speaker design to lessen the effects of poorer listen environments? Can DSP processing play a useful part?
KRK : Our room correction audio interface called ERGO is our solution to this issue. Of course many environments are less than ideal, but we find that, without engaging an experienced acoustician, random attempts to resolve issues often cause more detrimental problems. ERGO uses a patented algorithm called “RoomPerfect” which is developed by Lyngdorf in Denmark and is considered to be one of the most advanced room correction DSP systems available to date. ERGO will not only correct two sets of monitors, known as a 2.1 system, but it will also allow the user to store these calibrations on a room-by-room basis, making it a highly flexible solution.
AT : Are there significant advantages in designing monitor speakers and their power amplifiers as a ‘matching pair’?
KRK : We find using tight tolerance components in the critical path it negates the necessity for matching pairs of monitors. That’s not to say the endeavour is futile, matching is an essential element in any stereo or surround reproduction, but with today’s component accuracy, this is becoming far less of an issue.
AT : What advice would you give to readers in respect of selecting and installing monitor speakers (and power amps) for their studios?
KRK : Spend as much time listening as the store guy will allow. Listen to material you know and trust. If you have heard the same song throughout your life, you have a solid impression of how it should sound and that will help you assess if something sounds good.
If possible, try the monitors in your space first. Positioning your monitors is just as critical as your choice of product. Therefore, ensuring that you choose the best position/direction in the room is imperative if you want good results.
Isolation between the monitor and any resonant object is also important. Making sure that the audio you hear is coming from your monitor and not the desk it is placed on is a good example.
Educate yourself in the art and science of acoustics and audio. Many educational institutes offer course which will help improve your knowledge, the Audio Engineering Society and their online E-Library is a wonderful resource.
Use the ever growing range of audio analysis FFT applications available for smartphones and tablets to detect any room issues and build your experience. Knowledge and understanding of the space you listen in is critical to attaining perfect audio. (Beware that the amplitude accuracy of these devices is limited, but the frequency resolution is sufficient to give you an idea of what frequency bands are problematic).
The relationship between user and studio monitor is a very personal one. Building trust between your mind and your choice of monitor takes time, but this time is a sound investment (excuse the pun) which you can capitalize on throughout your career.
Many thanks to KRK for their insight and advice. Check out the KRK product range at www.krksys.com