Audio Monitors - Isn't flat, flat?

I was using an older pair of “Event 20 20s passives.” I was told by several individuals powered monitors are a bit more precisely tuned for a flat response, (which incidentally is what my question’s about). Anyway, I was lucky enough to come across a pair some “KRK Rockit 8 G2s” powered monitors" on ebay for $299, Which is a little over what you would normally pay for one. Apparently from a pawn shop. The listing said they were “used”, but they look spanking brand new.Think they had been on eBay for about 8 min. I quickly read the details to see if they were working, checked the feed back score and swooped them up. When they arrived I plugged them in to see if the old Cliché applied (if it sounds too good to be true it usually is). Fortunately it didn’t apply in this case. These things sound great!!! :smiley:

I had no intentions of buying these monitors I was going to go for something in the price range of the KRK6 or 5s. But here’s my question; I know something about frequency, I was a science and physics major in school. Isn’t flat sound absent of any extended bass, treble or mid-range and totally uncolored? I mean in other words flat it flat right? How can there be a huge difference in the way flat sounds on a expensive or inexpensive monitor (of some quality)? In other words, what would be the difference of flat sound on a KRK5,6,8 or 10?? Flat and uncolored is flat and uncolored, right?. So what’s with all these big price wars on monitors (meaning from $200 to several thousand dollars)? When all you need is flat. I know there may be slight characteristic differences? But is that really going to change the quality of the mix as long as it is flat? Is that really worth paying two or three more thousand dollars for? I know people can do what they want with their money. But does it make sense?

Can anyone answer this for me? Is there is a significant or huge difference between one flat and another flat on a professional monitor? Or is all of this just a marketing scheme to make more money? I wold like to know for our my personal use. Because or clientele is growing and the money is starting to come in. It looks promising. I would like to know, for what reasons and basis someone should be considering more expensive monitors. I understand the concept of most all other recording equipment, it’s just the flat thing with the monitors that throws me for sort of a loop. I would truly like to know what are the advantages other than personal preference if any? Just trying to learn here. You know, pick some brains. Get some opinions.

Thank you-

Well, I’m definitely not the most knowledgeable here, but here are my 2 cents on it;

Flat is flat. That’s correct in and by itself. The problem is how it’s measured though. If you’re comparing two sets of speakers, both hypothetically equally flat but measured at different loudness, then they likely won’t be equally flat when you play both at the same level. So I’m not so sure there’s actually an industry standard on that.

Even if there is, on the measurement, there’s likely going to be a difference between the speakers as you move away from that number. So if your RP8’s measure pretty flat at say 85dB @ 1 meter, if you like to listen louder than that and have the speakers further away, the speakers will have to work significantly harder to give you what you need, and they’re going to measure differently at that point. So you could argue that expensive speakers (hopefully) will retain that aspect - frequency response - better at different levels.

And I’ve got RP8s in one room and I have to say they sound quite decent contrary to what many think but only at a certain level. In my personal opinion the sound deteriorates quickly once I move out of a particular range of loudness.

The other thing to consider is how this response is measured. Suppose you measure it by outputting a sine wave that sweeps across the spectrum, slowly, and that the response is then measured. That’s tell you nothing about how your speaker responds to a kick drum, right? Because a kick drum is momentary and very different from a sine wave. And music indeed is made up of many many transients so it’s important for the speaker to respond properly to them and not ‘ring’ after they’ve ended. So there are other measurements that hint to the ability of a speaker to deal with this (I think it’s called a cumulative spectrum decay, CSD).

And then there’s the distortion. When feeding a sine wave it may register a certain level, but what about by products on actual content? If you’re feeding your speakers a Hammond B3 in all its glory, what harmonics will the speakers themselves produce, and how loud will they be?..

So in the end I actually think that “flat” ironically are the least of our concerns. Contrary to some people here I’m not hung up on filtering a signal in the monitoring chain to change the frequency response perceived by us engineers, I actually think that’s ok, I think it’s more important to get speakers with low distortion that aren’t ringing, at least not in important ranges…

As an aside I seem to recall that the NS10’s, while being anything BUT flat, had a very decent CSD and low distortion… but I could be wrong about that…

If flat would be “flat”, then an cheap EQ would be sufficiant to tweak a bad (non-flat) speaker system into a High End Speaker system with the most extrordinary flat response you have ever seen.

It’s not because all frequencies, at all frequency ranges are “present”, that these frequencies are represented in a correct way. See it at a 4 page math-formula. There can be 4 pages of complete BullS**, though with the correct end result. I’d say that the end result is less important than the intermediate math in those 4 pages.


I know what you’re trying to say, but that’s a confusing analogy that doesn’t really work. If you get an output that is correct in relation to the input then indeed it’s of no consequence what happens in the middle, save for say the issue of efficiency.

See what you guys mean and it helps a lot. But there has to be some criteria for a useful monitor. But what knowledgeable person (which I’m not) is going to go our a pay several hundred dollars for a monitor with those flaws, even if it is low-end ? For instance, just about ever studio engineer deals with keyboards. Why deal with a monitor that rings on a hammond? Why would a manufacturer even make such a monitor and expect to sell it to a knowledgeable person.

I do get the idea of what you’re were saying Lydiot and it helps a lot. I think you saying in short, that the’re ar differences in characteristics (hopefully in the higher priced monitors). such as distortions, stabilities at variated levels of volume, distance, exactness without noise, ringing etc. in musical reproduction. If I got it right I think you’re saying flatness is not the only issue involved in a good monitor.

I guess that’s where I made my mistake. Being inexperienced in this field I thought monitors were the devices of choice because they had all of these qualities based on a criteria for a monitor. I felt there must be a criteria for monitor construction if it going to be useful for editing. All the things you mentioned that could be wrong with a monitor seemed like it would make editing difficult. So i think you’re saying there is no exact criteria as far as the quality of the characteristic are concerned, but the basic criteria is that the frequencies are flat.

I had not idea there was any negativity expressed about the KRK line, whenever I see a pro studio in a magazine they seem to be sitting right there (an article not an advertisement). I know tons of people the use them and people who don’t but want them. I see them everywhere, TV, documentaries, Youtube and in the background of most every musical industry discussion. What do they say bad about them? Or are you referring to the KRK8 G2 specifically? Thank you-

Well, I actually think there’s a couple of ways to look at the question of what is a “useful monitor”. One is from a technical standpoint, which is sort of what you’re doing. And if you are, then “yes”, you can look at all the different measurements and see what is “best” in each case. The other way of looking at it is very simple: Can you achieve your goal with the speakers? If “yes”, then they’re useful. Of course you then have to figure out what your goal is and how to measure if your goal is achieved.

Well, the “ringing” isn’t necessarily “audible”… I mean, it is, but it it’s hard to pinpoint. A lot of what makes speakers “sound great” is what’s not there, and it can be hard to understand what that is until one has heard a recording without it. So this “ringing” I’m talking about gets baked in with the music and in a lot of cases isn’t that easy to single out. It’s just part of “the stew”. If you consider a full mix of instruments and then move from cheap monitors to “better” pricy ones the way you might hear it is an improved stereo image and greater depth. Instruments may sound cleaner and you might be able to work for longer hours at louder levels before you get tired.

You understand my point correctly for the most part I think.

Just to be clear; I’m actually not saying that the frequency response should be flat. It’s enough if you know what the curve is and know how to compensate for it (and remember that the room also contributes). I know some engineers who can’t stand “bright” speakers, so they need speakers with no emphasis on the higher frequencies. Others prefer that sound. Some like a lot of bass. Some hate it. Not everyone loves “flat”. I’ve worked a lot in a specific room and it took me a while to trust the fact that what didn’t sound great to me in the room actually gave the “correct” result I was looking for, simply because the speakers/room was bright. So I had to mix more high-end into the material. The proper way to deal with such a situation is to fix the monitoring, but sometimes it’s not up to you as an engineer (i.e. not your studio and money).

If you’re talking about editing (dialog in particular I’d say) then I actually agree that there are technical issues that are important. You need a “clear” picture of what’s going on. But this could be very different if you’re “only” editing music, in my experience at least.

As for the KRK’s, I was talking specifically about the Rokit series. I know that your speakers are the 2nd generation and they may be somewhat better than the first gen that I’ve worked on. The Rokit model is their budget line and they also have a pricier “pro” line. Some people hate the Rokits, and some think they’re great. I don’t mind them in a properly treated room, except for when I play loud on them, which I don’t think they handle too well.

But again, to a certain extent it’s personal. Only you can decide if the speakers work for you. If you like the way they sound and you can do your job then they’re fine. Don’t let anyone else tell you they’re not. And remember that the speakers are there to fill a function, and that the entire process of producing audio involves different functions.

You are a very explanatory fellow. You should seriously consider teaching! Thank you-

Hey Lydiot, you were right, the KRK did get some complaints but it was the G1s that caused the bad publicity. I did a little researching, I could hardly find anybody that liked the KRK G1, but could not find anyone that didn’t like the KRK G2 line. Good reviews from everybody, could not find one bad one at all. Reviews from studios that record major stars use and compliment them. Every single Youtube video raves about them. Never heard a KRK G1 but the G2 can’t seem to do any wrong. I know I liked them as soon as I heard them. Was confused when you said they’re were complaints with such good audio quality. But from what my research shows, it all was directed to the KRK G1s. Although several people did give the G1 some compliments.

Found a review of the differences between the KRK Rockit G1 & G2

Let me try again.
Sending a static signal to the speakers might result in a flat response.
Sending a dynamic signal to the same speakers can result in total chaos.

A flat response is measured by sending a static (non-dynmaic) signal to the speakers and measuring the output over a period of time. The conditions in which speakers are measured are not al all representative for what speaker actually must do: representing dynamic material over an extremely short period of time.


Well said. And more concise than my ramblings.

Not at all. Your ramblings are totaly correct.


Thanks. I do think there are others here than know a lot more though…

I forgot to add one thing: Better speakers are better at dispersing sound horizontally. As you go “off-axis” you tend to lose high frequency content, and the better speakers have addressed that using the shape of the enclosure. On the other hand we can see this more and more on cheaper speakers though, and the difference isn’t as large as it once was I’m guessing…

Good to know.

Thanks again good buddy and you too Fredo! I really love editing on these KRKs!! WOW!!!