I am a composer who writes, records, and has to engineer his own projects unless there’s a big fee to include an engineer. I am not, on the other hand, an engineer (e.g., geek) who composes second and lives by specs first! So when I approach a pair of monitors where reading a bunch of engineering audio specs, or checking out the aerodynamically cool design or which fabric is used in the drivers is the main aspect of the presentation, I check out.
What I want to know is how they sound within the conditions in which they’ll be used. In short, save the mumbo-jumbo and get me straight way to the gumbo.
So what I did, with my lovely composer wife Caroline, was to set up a practical listening test reflecting how we work. So our practical test included samples, virtual instruments, MP3s, and two works with scores that I could compare to. The two works with scores were John Williams’ Battle of The Heroes from Star Wars 3 and Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis. With Mr. Williams, we looked at the score with mix direct from the CD. With Vaughan Williams, we compared the score to the realization done by Jay Bacal for the Vienna Instruments library.
For an A-B comparison, we listened to an older pair of Alesis Monitor Ones. I did this for two reasons – most of us came into film scoring or dramatic scoring without the aid of a rich relative. So in the beginning, you buy what you can afford and then move up.
Second, I learned from a wise engineer during that early period that you can learn to mix on anything provided you’re taking your mixes and playing them back on the worst sound systems possible, starting with a cheesy boom box, cheap car stereo et al for comparisons. A final mix is about trial and success.
And in today’s economy, with MP3 downloads now a mainstream digital distribution system, you have to know how well the mix works as an MP3 played through cheap computer monitors, laptop speakers, and headphones, because that’s where people are listening to final mixes. In some cases, artists are doing two mixes – one for CD and one for MP3.
This is the world in which we work today.
So, for technical specs and a companion review from EQ Magazine, follow the links below:
The speakers are very heavy, checking in at just under 40 pounds per monitor. Also, these monitors are packed extremely well for shipping. So if you order online, they should arrive in great shape. Once set up, as a non-musical consideration, the VXT 8s really give your studio a professional air. They’re very colorful, and the brightness of the woofer really gives the room a lift when you consider that most of the equipment we use is professional gray or black.
There are controls on the back of the VXT 8s to adjust settings for your studio, but we kept them at the factory settings which were fine for our studio.
The table summarizes our comparisons. I’ll use the same comparisons for each KRK sent over to test and for the E-MU monitor review in January.
Other Sample Library Tests
I also tested the older Garritan Orchestral Strings, Miroslav strings original (GS version imported into the EXS 24), Miroslav Philharmonik, Vienna Instruments Orchestral Strings 1 and 2, the Appassionata Strings, sounds from SONiVOX Muse.
Garritan and Vienna, which were both recorded using Sequoia from Magix, have great detail because they were recorded in programs whose audio engine brings out the exquisite detail of the sound. The transfer of detail and richness continued. The original Miroslav strings and the IK Multimedia version of them also sounded full and detailed.
The Violin highs of Orchestral Strings 1 are harsh, even on the Alesis Monitor Ones. The VXT 8s just bring out what’s there.
In comparing the Appassionata Strings to the Fostex NF1As (my usual monitors) or the Alesis Monitor Ones, the VXT 8s allow the Appassionata Violins to sound like 20 violins. Previously, compared to my time on the scoring stage at Warner Brothers or Sony MGM, they sounded more like 14 violins on the other monitors.
I also checked out various electric bass and percussion sounds. All I can say is, turn down the volume on the back of the monitors because you will get BASS and DRUMS.
TAKE A LISTEN
You should visit the KRK Dealer list and set up an appointment to bring in your own mixes, some CDs and MP3s. If you’ve got a laptop situation where you can audition some of the core sample libraries you’re now using, bring them, too.
As 21st Century composers, our task is to recreate a realistic orchestral sound and other types of ensembles depending on the projects and cues that come our way. KRK VXT 8s are like an electron microscope because they bring out the strengths and weaknesses of the sounds we work with, including reverb and other effects. How we hear the sound affects how we perform it, how we position it in the mix, and how we add effects. Unlike Joseph Haydn, we don’t have 16 “live” players at our disposal. Instead, we have artificial orchestral replications whose sound changes from one developer to the next.
In both orchestration and sound design, you learn quickly doing this kind of work that you have to know equally what something sounds like and what it doesn’t sound like. The KRK VXT 8s give your mixes an edge because you can hear all the detail.
Nor have I taken into account programs like WIVI and Synful, and keyboards from Korg, Roland and Yamaha where sounds are either pure synthetic or based on PCMs (Pulse Code Modulations).
The KRK VXT 8s are great monitors for media composers, game composers, sound designers and developers because they bring out a level of detail you may not be getting from your current monitors.
The street price for a pair is just under $1,200. Though pricey, I think the time you save in doing mixes will cause the VXT 8s to more than pay for themselves in a short period.