Size matters, especially when you're short on space — hence the appeal of compact close-field monitors. The problem, though, is that small monitors tend to have severely limited bass-frequency response. That was one of my main concerns when I agreed to review the new KRK V-4 monitors, which have woofers only 4 inches in diameter. But a quick glance at the specifications quelled my apprehensions somewhat: the V-4's frequency response is rated down to 65 Hz — almost as low as some models using 6-inch woofers. Those who require an accurate assessment of what's going on below 65 Hz can always add a subwoofer to a V-4 setup. KRK offers three models: the S8 ($749.99), S10 ($1,199.99), and S12 ($1,499.99).
The V-4 is a two-way, biamplified, active monitor that can be used in close-field or midfield applications. The monitor is magnetically shielded, making it especially suitable for small, digital audio workstation-based studios.
Construction quality is first-rate. The V-4 cabinet feels solid and reassuringly heavy at nine pounds. Each cabinet is constructed of internally braced, ½-inch medium-density fiberboard (MDF) and finished in an attractive gray fingerprint-proof material called Zolatone.
Two custom-made drivers are used in each cabinet. The 4-inch woven-Kevlar woofer features a high-sensitivity voice coil. A 1-inch fabric-dome high-frequency driver is inset in a smoothly curved wave guide. Moreover, all front and side cabinet edges, including the front-firing bass port, are heavily radiused to minimize diffractive effects that would otherwise compromise imaging and high-frequency linearity.
Hooking up the V-4s is a cinch. A Neutrik combo connector on the rear panel accepts balanced as well as unbalanced signals. That means that you can patch the control-room outputs of your mixer to the V-4s using cables fitted with ¼inch TS or TRS connectors or with XLR connectors (pin 2 is hot).
The rear panel has a continuously variable sensitivity trim pot that allows for as much as 6 dB of speaker gain or as much as 30 dB of attenuation. That trim control, which comes after the fixed 28.7 dB of amplifier gain, can be adjusted with a small slot-head screwdriver to optimize output levels for the control room. Owners of surround-sound studios will especially appreciate being able to fine-tune each V-4's output level.
The included power cable, roughly seven-and-a-half feet long, attaches to an IEC receptacle also located on the rear panel. When you switch the V-4's rear-panel power switch to the on position, a yellow LED on the front cabinet face lights to remind you the juice is flowing.
The V-4's active circuitry is a crucial part of this speaker's success story. Separate 15W and 30W amplifiers power the V-4's high- and low-frequency drivers, respectively. Three active filters are employed in the design, including 12 dB/octave highpass and lowpass Butterworth filters tuned to a 1.7 kHz crossover. The third filter is a 12 dB/octave subsonic filter that provides a -3 dB down point at 32 Hz. Thankfully, no signal compression is used in the electronic circuitry.
The V-4 employs a toroidal power transformer to minimize hum, and the monitors are some of the quietest active monitors I've heard. They're also quite efficient — the drivers are rated 90 to 91 dB SPL at 1W and 1 meter.
I began testing the V-4s in a stereo monitoring setup by tracking drums and electric bass guitar. For this application, I had the V-4s positioned on top of Acoustic Sciences Corp. (ASC) Monitor Traps. The Monitor Traps are part of ASC's Attack Wall acoustical system, which I use at the front of my control room.
The V-4s were plenty loud with my Yamaha 02R's control-room monitor pot turned up only about a third of the way. I was amazed by how much bass the little speakers pump out. Although they are just half the size of Yamaha NS10Ms, the V-4s sound quite a bit bigger.
Drums sounded articulate and tight except for a little blurriness in the upper-bass and low-midrange regions. The bass guitar and drums sounded a tad flabby in the upper-bass region but otherwise natural. Although I could clearly distinguish the pitches of bass notes down to low E, the V-4s could not reproduce the bottom-most octave in the audio spectrum (20 to 40 Hz). Note, however, that most other two-way, close-field monitors are also deficient in this range, so this is not a criticism specifically of the V-4. Again, should you need a truer picture of what's going on down in the thunder zone, you can always add a subwoofer.
Overall, I was impressed that I heard no holes in the midrange response while tracking with the V-4s. Also, the V-4's transient response proved outstanding. I wish that the monitors had a tad more zing in the top octave of the audible spectrum, but that is more a personal preference than an indictment.
MIXING IT UP
I also mixed some rock and country projects using the V-4s, and I listened critically to several mixes I'd already finished. Initially, I mixed with the V-4s sitting on my ASC Monitor Traps; later I moved the monitors to the top shelves of my Omnirax 02R MixStation — a positioning more akin to meter-bridge placement.
Placed on the Monitor Traps, the V-4s sounded a tad boomy and veiled in the 150 to 300 Hz zone. But imaging, depth of soundstage, and especially the reproduction of transients were good. The V-4s are not even slightly fatiguing to listen to during the course of long sessions.
As expected, moving the V-4s to shelftop placement hyped the monitors' reproduction of upper-bass and low-mid frequencies. Placing any monitors on lightweight shelves produces less-than-optimal coupling, which, in turn, can lead to flabby bass and blurry mids. Overly bright monitors, such as Yamaha NS10Ms, can endure some added low-end muddiness and still be quite revealing; the V-4s, however, sound much warmer than NS10Ms and thus offer less latitude in regard to how placement causes them to couple to furnishings and to your room.
For the tightest bass, clearest mids, and best imaging possible with the monitors, place the V-4s on substantial monitor stands. With the monitors situated in that fashion and with the addition of a subwoofer, you should be able to get terrific results with the V-4s, once you've learned their subtle colorations.
The KRK V-4s are a good choice for anyone looking for warm, nonfatiguing, big-sounding active monitors with small footprints. The pint-size units transcend the usual shortcoming of small cabinets — insufficient low end — to produce an amazingly extended frequency response. In fact, I've never heard monitors this small sound so good. At $400 apiece, the V-4s are a good value, as well.
compact active monitors
FEATURES4.0EASE OF USE5.0AUDIO QUALITY4.0VALUE4.0
RATING PRODUCTS FROM 1 TO 5
PROS: Warm, nonfatiguing sound. Superior reproduction of transients. Very good imaging and depth of soundstage. Compact. Affordable. Magnetically shielded. Neutrik combo connectors allow quick, hassle-free setup. Sensitivity trim pot permits output-level calibration for each monitor.
CONS: Upper-bass and low-mid frequencies sound slightly boomy and full, resulting in a somewhat veiled sound. No high-frequency “tilt” adjustment. Weak response in low-bass region.
Frequency Response65 Hz-20 kHz (±2 dB)Peak Output104 dB (@ 1 meter)
Power Rating15W (high frequency); 30W (low frequency)Signal-to-Noise Ratio>90 dBInput Impedance10 k• balanced inputTotal Harmonic Distortion<0.05% (@ full output, 1 kHz)Gain28.7 dB (fixed)Input Sensitivity Range+6 dB to -30 dBPower Consumption60 VA
High-Frequency Driver1" fabric domeLow-Frequency Driver4" woven KevlarInput ConnectorsNeutrik combo
Crossover Frequency1.7 kHzCrossover Slope12 dB/octave Butterworth (LF and HF)Subsonic Filter-3 dB @ 32 Hz, 12 dB/octave
Material½" MDFDimensions6.00" (W) × 9.25" (H) × 7.75" (D)Weight9 lb. (each)