Wow, time really does fly. It was all the way back in our August 2008 issue that I introduced our readers to KRK Systems' then new and upgraded ROKIT G2 monitors. Now I have the privilege to introduce the newest Generation 3 model.
The previous ROKIT G2 models have been the speakers in my office editing suite for the past five years. So, as you can imagine, I was very interested in seeing what has been changed in Generation 3. KRK sent me the 5" version; I received one of the first pairs in the country a few months prior to launch and was sworn to secrecy!
Third time around
Out of the box at a casual glance the new model appears similar to its predecessor. The 1" soft-dome tweeter, 5" yellow glass-aramid composite woofer, and the glowing backlit KRK logo (which indicates power) are all in the same place and appear unaltered.
Putting the G2 and G3 models side by side, however, one can see quite a bit has changed. The contours of the body are tighter and sharper, and the bass port has been completely redesigned, as has the waveguide around the tweeter. There are no longer any screws on the faceplate and even the ROKIT logo has been updated. The G3 is made of MDF with a black vinyl wrap, measuring 9.7" x 7.4" x 11.2" and weighing 13 lbs. The G2 weighed 14 lbs.
Around back the ROKIT 5 still offers a trio of input choices -- balanced XLR, balanced 1/4" TRS, and unbalanced RCA. The power switch and 3-prong power socket is still there, near the controls to adjust the high-frequency range by -2 / -1 dB / 0 / +1 dB, and volume which can be adjusted from -30 dB up to +6 dB. A new feature on the back is a third stepped knob for adjusting the low frequency: -2 / -1 dB / 0 / +2 dB.
Looking at the technical specs reveals further enhancements:
Frequency Response: 45 Hz-35 kHz
Max Peak SPL: 106 dB
Amplifier Class: Class AB
Power Output: 50 W (20 W High/30 W Low)
Input Impedance (Ohms): 10 K Ohm balanced
The big changes here are that the G2 only had a frequency response of 52 Hz-20 kHz and only 45 W of output, so the G3 has extended highs and lows and better power distribution.
First tests: in the workplace
After about a week of bass-thumping burn-in, I put the ROKIT G3s straight to work. One of my jobs is as the Audio and Technical Director of Grace Church in Racine, WI, and my tasks there include recording and editing podcasts, mixing sound for video, and mastering the music from Sunday morning services. As I mentioned before, this is where the ROKIT 5 G2 monitors have lived for the past half a decade, so I know them well.
The new ROKIT 5 G3 is very powerful for its size, sounding overall very clear and tight. The bass is full and punchy for a speaker this size, and I found the ability to boost the low end up a few dB very practical for moderate volume listening. As with the ROKIT G2, I found I preferred to boost the high frequency up a dB, which, while not drastic, helped open up the top end nicely.
After a few weeks of daily use, as well as just listening to music on them, I felt it was time to take them to my studio and see how they fared in side-by-side tests with the ROKIT G2.
A big difference
I spent an afternoon with the ROKITs, old and new, at my studio The Moss Garden. I hooked them up with Drawmer's MC2.1 monitor controller (reviewed September 2013) alongside their big, big brother, KRK's flagship Exposé E8b (reviewed February 2008). The E8b is a multi-thousand-dollar monitor that serves as my main system for mixing, mastering and sound design.
After listening to everything ranging from Sade to Ray La Montagne to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Porcupine Tree, Radiohead, Miles Davis, Bill Evans and more, I was quite surprised to learn that not only are these new ROKITs a complete sonic upgrade from the ROKIT G2, but they sound like a completely different level of monitor altogether. This became most apparent with four recordings:
I find The Oscar Peterson Trio's "Things Ain't What They Used to Be" off of 1962's Night Train to be some of the best recorded trio jazz ever laid to tape, from the clarity of the piano, the intimate close-up drums and especially upright bass. I was immediately impressed by how the G3 translated the low end. Not so much in a shake-the-room rumble, but in tightness and clarity. The finger noise and string slaps retained their detail without getting lost in low-end boom. On the high end the tape noise shone through nicely and the ride cymbal was present and clear, but not too bright or cutting.
Moving on to a modern piano trio, on Arild Andersen's ECM recording The Triangle I was again impressed by the improved clarity and detail that G3 offered over the older G2. Again the low end was nice and appropriate for speakers of this size. Even at extreme levels they were full and punchy, but not overblown.
One of my favorite test tracks is T-Bone Burnett's song "Palestine Texas" from 2006's True False Identity. This song has low end for days, again upright bass, but it also is a great balance of well recorded guitars, shakers and T-Bone's gritty approach to drums. Again the low end was nice, tight and detailed, but this recording really showed off the G3's overall balance, clarity and separation of the instruments.
Lastly, on the time-tested "Babylon Sisters" from Steely Dan's Gaucho, the vocals came through full and clear and the tom fills were distinct and round.
I was also pleasantly surprised how many of my own mixes translated on the ROKIT G3. This speaker has a tight, punchy and balanced sound. I also must mention that the mids sit nicely forward with a very "studio monitor" sound that helps place guitars and vocals in the mix. All-in-all these made the older model G2 sound a tad distant in the mids and mushy in the low end by comparison.
For their price, build and sound, the ROKIT 5 G3 completely impressed me! Bottom line, I feel I could trust these to work on, and everything I have done with them so far has translated very well, be it in my car, on computer speakers, earbuds or television speakers.
You can't argue with the ROKIT legacy. The ROKIT G2 is one of the most-used budget monitor speakers on the planet, and with this new model KRK has completely upped its own game. I am blown away by the improvement!
More from: KRK Systems / Gibson Pro Audio, www.krksys.com