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The front and rear panels of the RP10-3 demonstrate a no-nonsense design. This figure shows how the tweeter and mid can rotate for different placements.
The front and rear panels of the RP10-3 demonstrate a no-nonsense design.
This figure shows how the tweeter and mid can rotate for different placements.

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KRK Rokit Powered PR10-3 MidField Studio Monitors
By Lorenz Rychner
Date: February 2012

By now there are four Rokit models, and the 10-3 under review is the latest and largest. All are powered, with similar features and looks, with KRK's by now familiar yellow-on-black color scheme.

I can't remember having mid-field monitors of anything like this size in my room, and while I was looking forward to a different listening experience, I was glad to still have three nearfield monitor pairs to compare them with, since I figured that the sonic onslaught of this kind of cabinet may take some getting used to.

R stands for Rokit and P for Powered. 10 refers to the size of the larger woofer, and the 3 stands for 3-way. The manual names it the 10-3G2, as the Rokit Powered 10-3 has the same design approach as other "G2" (second-generation) Rokit monitors previously reviewed in these pages.

The hardware

The 10-3 is tri-amped. The three drivers are:

~ A 1" silk soft-dome tweeter, powered by a 30 Watt amp, operating above a crossover frequency stated as 3.5 kHz;

~a 4" Aramid glass fiber mid-frequency driver, powered by a 30W amp, operating between crossover frequencies of 350 Hz and 3.5 Hz;

~ a 10" Aramid glass fiber low-frequency driver, powered by an 80W amp, operating below the crossover frequency of 350 Hz and subject to a 30 Hz subsonic filter.

The cabinet is hefty, 21.2"x 12.7" x 14.3" and weighing 46.5 lbs. It is contoured with rounded edges, to avoid reflections, with a waveguide around the tweeter, and with a curved baffle to avoid diffraction distortion. The unit is ported on the front.

Notable is the design feature that enables the user to reconfigure the mid- and high-frequency drivers so that the cabinet can be operated horizontally. Quite ingenious -- if you're curious, look up the instructions on pages 20-21 of this PDF. For now, it shall suffice to show diagrams of the two configurations in Figure 2.

The rear

Next to the power switch, a standard IEC socket accepts a 3-prong AC cord, and the voltage can be set to either 100-120V or 220-240V, and making the change requires also changing the fuses. There are three audio input connectors, balanced 1/4" TRS and XLR, and unbalanced RCA.

Three user controls allow for volume and tonal adjustments. The faintly detented volume knob has a huge range from -30 dB to +6 dB. High frequencies (range not stated) can be adjusted by plus or minus 2 dB. Low frequencies (range not stated) can be adjusted by minus 2 dB to plus 1 dB.

In the room

Determining the physical setup is not trivial. It takes a certain size room to accommodate these cabinets in the manner of a remote but equidistant triangle where, ideally, the two cabs are spaced by the same distance from each other as they each are from the listener's head. That distance should be considerable -- the manual suggests "between 5 and 13 feet", and I think that, at the low end of those measurements, the recommendation about height placement should be taken seriously if accurate listening is important.

As far as the height goes, KRK recommends that the listener's ears be at the height of the (small) space between the 4" and the 1" drivers. Since that's at the very top of the tall cab, the entire cab needs to sit fairly low, definitely lower than a meter bridge or desk or some such location would allow. But placing it that low is likely to obstruct the 10" driver. KRK notes that the monitors can be angled to aim at the listener from a lower or higher mounting position, but my guess is that more than a few users will either rearrange their studios, or get busy with the hex- and Phillips screws and reconfigure the 10-3 for the sideways option.

In that case, KRK suggests that the tweeter and 4" driver then be on the outside in a mid-field arrangement, but if the cabs were to be placed up close, for nearfield use, then the tweeter and 4" driver should be on the inside. I didn't rotate the drivers, but I can vouch for the need for critical height placement -- most of the subtle stereo information is lost if the ear isn't in the right spot relative to the 4" and the 1" drivers.

KRK addresses optional nearfield use of these cabinets; I'm not convinced that this is a good idea, but -- to each his or her own, of course... The manual also suggests setups with a subwoofer, and as 5.1 and 7.1 systems, which I think would take a huge and well treated room to pull it off without creating a muddled mess of sound. If you're wondering about in-wall installation, the manual says nothing about that. With all I/O and controls being on the rear, you'd have to connect up, adjust the controls, and then place the monitors, which may not be ideal for some installations.

The sound

The first impression was the obvious one: A lot of sound coming at you from this much speaker displacement. Not necessarily brute volume, just a big "wavefront". Six feet of distance was the most I could reasonably achieve for the equilateral triangle, and without ceiling treatment in my fairly tall room I couldn't swear that I heard no room influence at that distance.

Another immediate impression: These drivers must be of a very efficient design. The spec sheet could make you think that the 10-3 is underpowered, but I had to turn down the volume knob a lot, just to tame the sound levels when I was trying to match the level of the 10-3 with the levels of the other two monitor pairs that I set up as a "sanity-preserving" reference -- they were nearfields and helped me keep everything in perspective.

Yet another early impression: There is not an over-emphasis on bass, despite the heft of the LF driver and the wide port hole. Sure, there can be satisfying bass, but adding a subwoofer and achieving careful division of labor in the low end would not be a bad idea if you like to operate at considerable loudness levels.

If 80 to 85 dB is where you're comfortable, you'll find lots of accurate and balanced sound here. The bass has no flab, and since it's not over-hyped, you can follow bass lines deep down and perceive accurate pitch and color without boominess.

The designers seem to me to have tried almost too hard to keep the upper bass/low mids, the "mudrange", free from, well, mud. I perceived a touch of dryness, a lack of roundness, in solo cello tracks that I know to have a fuller tone than the 10-3 let me hear. The difference was subtle, and less can be more, so if your mix gets thick in that range, the 10-3 will still let you hear what's there even if it may be a bit too much "there" there.

I wasn't always convinced that cymbals had the clarity and purity of transients that I remembered from the same sources on other playback systems. This may have been due to the distance and, hence, to room/ceiling splash.

All that said, as I heard it, the strength of the 10-3 is in the mids and upper mids. Voices, violins, winds, were all nuanced and distinct, and even massed brass sections didn't lose transparency.

Food for thought

As one who has used nearfields forever, I tried hard to get a handle on the listening experience presented by these large cabinets at the correct distance from each other and from my listening position. A conclusion I can draw is this: If you're considering the 10-3 as an option, be sure that you have a well-treated room that will not unduly interfere, since your ears will not have the benefit of proximity to the speakers as happens with nearfields.

To their credit, the 10-3 cabinets provide a generous sweet spot, especially on the horizontal plane (when used in the upright position).

Another "if": Should you wish to impress clients with volume, the 10-3 might well be a good candidate. I can't vouch for purity of sound at very high SPLs since I couldn't bring myself to drive them to those levels (not for want of power on their behalf).

So -- with a well-treated room that can take hefty levels and provides the space needed to set these cabs up correctly, you can be happy using the KRK Rokit 10-3 monitors, with or without a sub, and possibly just to provide an alternative listening experience in conjunction with an accurate pair of nearfields for that clinical up-close listening.

Price: $499 each

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