KRK Systems VXT8

With a street price that’s a fraction of KRK’s Exposé line, I mistakenly assumed the VXT line was a cosmetic redress of old KRK technology. Wrong. The VXT series has benefited from the R&D that went into the Exposé in ways that are not always apparent to the eye, but are sonically obvious.
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IN PERSON

The VXT Series (VXT4, VXT6, and VXT8; the number signifies the main driver’s diameter) features an almost egg-like shape, with no sharp edges. Each sports KRK’s Kevlar driver and a slotted bass port that runs along the front bottom. Rear panel toggle switches (protected by plastic overhangs from accidental changes) let you adjust high and low response, as well as clip and power settings.

The VXT8 is no bookshelf speaker—it weighs 36.5 lbs., and approaches 18" in height. With its non-skid, neoprene-like bottom pad for acoustic decoupling, this speaker won’t start bouncing around in the middle of a track.

IN USE

We set up the VXT8s in the main tracking room next to our main 8" active monitors (we’ll call them “Brand X”). In a shootout a while back of eight different models, the entire staff agreed on Brand X; we know them well. In comparison, we initially thought the VXTs had a strange midrange and that we wouldn’t have much nice to say. Nonetheless, we grabbed our standard test tracks, and got methodical.

In formal listening tests, we immediately noticed the VXT8’s wide sweet spot: We could sit high or low, and slide far left or right along the console, and still hear a consistent high end. Chalk up part of this even dispersion to the cabinet’s rounded edges.

Listening to mixed tracks, we started to appreciate the VXT8’s extended low end. We could hear when tracks were bass-thin, and when we had gone overboard. By coincidence, we were considering a subwoofer to augment our current speakers; we assumed our room was too big for an active 8" monitor. Nope: The VXT8s can throw serious bass at your skull.

I further noticed more detail in the VXT8’s upper-mids (for example, reverb decays had greater clarity, and vocal nuances were more evident), and came to the startling conclusion that our beloved Brand X monitors were “flattering” and soft on many key elements of a mix. Instead of letting us hear what was going on in the mids, most things were diffuse or even scooped out. Yes, they were more fun to listen to, but we don’t need “fun” from audio monitors.

"Several elements contribute to the VXT's sound quality." For example, the silk (not cloth) tweeter and woven Kevlar (not paper or polymer) woofer cone allow for faster transient response, and more accurate stereo representation.The ABS structural foam cabinet allows more internal volume, which provides significant bass extension. And the lack of internal parallel walls reduces image smearing, common in less expensive designs. In isolation, the VXTs sound solid, but these design improvements are glaringly obvious when compared to other brands.

Worried that I had lost my perspective, I sought the opinions of Sean McDonald, a local guy with national credits, and Claus Trelby, who has worked with projects ranging from the London Philharmonic Orchestra to Iggy Pop. They noticed what we noticed; everyone I asked had something appreciably positive to say about the VXTs.

Finally, we used the VXT8s for some mixdowns. When we checked mixes in the car, on iPod earbuds, or a home stereo, the sound translated consistently—no surprises, other than that mixes also sounded better on other, less-accurate speakers.

CONCLUSIONS

Imagine an NS-10 with all of its midrange accuracy, but with immense low-end extension and accurate, but non-fatiguing highs—that’s the VXT8. However, carefully choose the right size for your listening environment; the VXT6s were too big for our mixing suite and too small for our tracking room, but the VXT8s were ideal—work with a dealer who allows exchanges. And note that these are accurate, revealing speakers, with perhaps a slightly forward midrange. If you want something that smoothes over errors or makes mixes sound nice, look elsewhere.

After using these speakers for a few months, I believe the VXT line is poised to be the new “stand-up-and-take-notice” speaker on the market. Get the right model for your studio and work with them for a few weeks—I bet you’ll agree.

Product type: Near-field monitor.
Target market: Recording studios and production suites.
Strengths: Great bass extension. Tall, wide sweet spot. Can play at LOUD volumes. Configuration toggles protected from accidental changes.
Limitations: Rear panel power switch. Speaker must be positioned vertically. Accurate midrange might seem overly-forward for those used to hyped monitors.
List price: $799 each
Contact:www.krksys.com