On the internet on forums a lot of people are looking for information on monitors. A lot of people don’t know what to look for and how to listen when it comes to monitors. Before I will review I’d like to explain what I think is important to look for.
The primary function of a monitor is to listen what you are doing on a mix. Making a mix decision is based on what you hear on you monitors. What you cannot hear you cannot mix. Often the mistake is made that monitors have to sound awesome. You should look for look for the most truthful representation which means most linear sound. You get used to the sound of any monitor 9 out 10 times anyway. The most limiting factor usually is the budget anyway.
All monitors have a different sound and when you have sensitive ears that cannot get used to your current monitors you should look for others. You also can choose for adjusting the sound with use of EQ to your taste but that will cloud your sound and might influence your mixing decisions in a negative way. This problem has been solved by several smart people. Especially the KRK Ergo has a feature for this that is rather interesting for those that want to be sure that their sound is optimal adjusted in your room.
This product is actually has 3 functions. A firewire sound interface, a monitor controller and an EQ that can be calibrated. It can be used with any type of monitors you have. The backside has a power switch, power adapter socket, 2 firewire sockets, spdif input, cal mic input, L/R input, L/R output A, L/R output B/Sub, headphone output and an anti‐theft feature.
The sound interface function is optional since the unit doesn’t require the use of firewire. The fact that you can use it as a firewire sound interface makes it interesting for using it with a laptop. Especially in a live setup is an interesting application. It is also firewire powered so you do not need the power adapter when connected to a powered firewire connection. The adapter by the way is harder to use on grouped outlets. Using the adapter can be useful when you don’t want to have to turn on the computer to hear your monitors that are you hooked up to your mixing desk.
Installing the drivers (on my Windows XP machine) was relatively easy. You have to follow the instructions carefully on when to connect the firewire. After the installation you can setup your Ergo with the Ergo control panel application.
Ergo Control Panel
In the above screenshot you can see that the ASIO buffer is set at 1ms. Default after installation it was 5ms. After some testing in Cubase I found out that my Dual-core E6600 computer can handle 1ms. Lower 0.5ms gave serious CPU spikes. You also can adjust the sampling frequency to a maximum of 192kHz. Normally 44.1kHz is fine to use or 96kHz if you are more demanding. But doubling your sampling rate means doubling your CPU usage. So increasing your sampling frequency fourfold you will need some serious CPU power to handle this. Higher sampling rates are not a must.
The Ergo control panel application allows you adjust the crossover frequency for the subwoofer. It can be set from 40Hz to 200Hz. When adjusting you can hear some glitches but after adjusting they are one. Since KRK also has a subwoofer this function was implemented but when using the VXT8 you will not need an extra subwoofer.
In the past I have had a lot of problems with firewire interfaces in combination with firewire controllers. Now I do have an Intel motherboard with a TI firewire controller that is said to be one of the best options. But there are a lot of possible combinations with firewire controllers that may or may not work properly. I couldn’t test this setup for months but during testing I didn’t encounter any significant problems. Being able to update the Ergo’s firmware in this context is important.
The sound quality of the Ergo is amazingly good. I compared it to some of my gear in my studio and I liked it. To indicate the sound can be compared to RME interfaces but slightly less thin sound.
The second function of the Ergo is the monitor controller. The big knob for adjusting the volume. When turning it you can hear slight glitchy zipper sounds. It is advisable to turn down the volume when turning on/off the Ergo because you can hear plops. Not that it will damage your monitors but simply because
the sound is awkward.
Next to the big knob there are 3 other push buttons. A for selecting or muting the A channel output. B for selecting or muting the B or Sub channel output. The Focus/Global push button is for usage of the EQ section. When pressed longer it starts blinking to turn off the EQ section entirely. The blinking I don’t like that much since it can be distracting.
The spdif input can be used when you have a digital mixer. Or any other digital source and bypass the DA converter. On the right side there is a volume control for the phone output. So you can use your headphones and turn the volume of your monitors down. The phone output itself isn’t that loud so if you’re a DJ make
sure that isn’t a problem for you. There isn’t a mute button for the phone output but turning down the phone volume does the job.
If you want to use the Ergo with firewire and analog inputs you’ll need to be a bit creative. Unhooking the firewire cable works but isn’t that practical. You can turn off the firewire controller in your OS might work too. When I tried to test this it several times in a row I noticed that L and R levels got skewed. Turning off/on the unit solves this by the way.
The third function of the Ergo is the EQ section. Like I said you can turn it off. Personally I’d prefer this since the default EQ setting isn’t optimal. It has too much of a ‘smilie’ curve since it boosts the lows and highs too much.
The calibration function is interesting to a lot of people. When you have a room that acoustically less optimal for a studio you can make up with this to a certain extent. You still cannot make up for it entirely when it comes to standing waves, flutter and reverb. This you need to solve by treat your room acoustically. But there is a major price tag attached to this. With EQ’ing you can adjust the sound a bit more to your room when it comes to the sound spectrum.
The Ergo comes with a measurement microphone with a very short cable that you can hook up on the back and turn on the calibration switch also on the back. Then you have to start up the KRK cal application and start calibrating. This application also requires having a firewire connection.
Calibration program KRK Ergo
Step by step you are being guided through the application and you have to walk through your room listening to weird sounds. It takes about 5 minutes and then you’re done and the EQ curve is saved into the Ergo and you can hear if it helped by using the Focus/Global push button. In my case I noticed some improvements that made the VXT8’s sound more natural which I personally prefer.
I was wondering if after calibrating you should be able to adjust the EQ. But I think KRK doesn’t allow this because it would negate the calibrating. You just have to learn to live with the sound or you don’t.
Good sounding low latency firewire sound interface with a volume control with a user friendly calibration EQ option. Interesting for people with laptop and/or people who like to improve the sound in their room. When it comes to the firmware there is room for improvement. The unit can have some glitches which you can get rid off by switch off/on to solve it.
Click here for the second part of our KRK review which features the KRK VXT8 monitors.