Typically, there weren’t many products that span across the pro and consumer markets. One company that has always addressed “prosumer” users however is KRK. The new KRK Classic 5 is the latest example from the Gibson family of brands member that enable dealers to address everything from home studios, to 2.0 home AV systems without compromising performance.
KRK’s new, reasonably priced powered monitor can be used for music/audio production tasks that include tracking and mixing, and through its reasonably sized footprint and selection of inputs, the Classic 5 can also be used for residential applications too.
Sending me a pair, I tried the Classic 5 as a monitor to help me track and mix, as well as a stereo pair of speakers to listen to music, and I even connected the speakers to a Strymon Iridium amp and cabinet IR device.
In each instance, the Classic 5 produced detailed, undistorted sound that I believe exceeded the monitor’s per pair price point.
Classic 5 Features and Setup
The Classic 5 is a two-way, bi-amped monitor that incorporates a Class A/B amplifier that drives a 5-inch glass-Aramid composite woofer and 1-inch soft dome tweeter.
KRK protects the speaker’s amplifier with a built-in, automatic limiter, and it also incorporates high-density foam pads on the bottom of the monitors to help decouple the Classic 5 from its resting surface. The tweeter resides in an “optimized” waveguide to help the unit play smoothly up to 35kHz.
Other features built into the Classic 5 include separate low frequency and high frequency controls, a volume control; a choice of RCA, XLR and TRS balanced inputs, and an optional +2dB KRK bass boost. The inputs, along with the low- and high-frequency and volume controls are located on the monitor’s rear panel. The power switch is also located on the rear panel.
Aesthetically, the Classic 5 omits any sort of grill cloth, and its front port allows integrators to place the monitor in locations that some speakers cannot live.
CE Pro Features
- Internally the Classic 5 uses Class A/B-based amplifiers
- The speaker employs a ported design with the port residing in the front panel
- Speaker includes a choice of XLR (balanced) or RCA (unbalanced) inputs
- The Classic 5 provides low and high frequency controls
- Two-way design with 1-inch tweeter and 5-inch midrange driver
- Price is $149.50 each
Following up on the different system setups I used with the Classic 5: I used it as an audio production monitor. For this appplication I setup the monitors with a Focusrite Scarlet 2i4 USB interface and an Apple MacBook Pro computer.
For my consumer audio listening I simply ran a mini-pin 3.5mm to RCA cable and connected it to either my iPhone Xr or iPad Mini using a Lightning adapter.
For a different usage of the speakers, I Used it with the Strymon pedal. This configuration was similar to iOS audio setup. All I did was plug the 3.5 mini-pin connector in the headphone output of the Strymon Iridium. The RCA ends of the cable were connected to the RCA inputs of the Classic 5 monitors, and from there I used the Iridium in tandem with guitar effects from Xotic and Earthquaker Devices to reproduce my guitar audio without having to run it through my desktop setup, headphones; a PA system or guitar amps.
Each setup took a few minutes and there were no real technical difficulties in each of these configurations.
Performance and Conclusions
I’ll say upfront I found the Classic 5 an extremely versatile loudspeaker. Through its active design and reasonably sized footprint I think the speaker can be used for any number of applications.
Starting my usage of the monitors in a consumer application—Using it with my iOS devices to play music from Apple Music and other sources, I set the rear-panel low- and high-frequency controls to “flat” and the volume level at “0dB.”
I was comfortable with the balance of those settings and the volume level, which was loud, but not overpowering in the live side of my live end/dead end multimedia room.
Listening to music from Van Halen, Black Sabbath and Lisa Loeb, and the final mixes of the CE Pro All Star Band performances from the CEDIA Expo Virtual event I was immediately impressed. From a listening distance of roughly seven feet, I thought the lower midrange region was full, with clear midrange and, and the top end was warm and extended high frequencies.
Displaying nice audiophile traits, I also thought the imaging of the Classic 5s was extremely precise. Having listened to the mixes of the CE Pro band content and knowing what our engineer Jeff Gardner did with the mix I found it easy to pick out individual electric guitar tracks of myself, Vince Luciani and Richard Charschan.
Moving on to some recording applications, I opened up GarageBand on my MacBook Pro and dropped a drum loop into a new track. Creating a quick bass line by plugging in directly to the Focusrite interface I laid down a rhythm bed in the key of C. Plugging the Strymon Iridium into the Focusrite I then created a couple of guitar tracks with a Charvel San Dimas Type 2 guitar.
At a nearfield distance of approximately three feet I was able to have freedom of movement that I don’t normally have when I use my headphones to monitor, which I found really convenient.
As I got into the tracking process and without even looking at the Focusite’s LED status indicators I could hear my guitar signals clipping through the Classic 5s. After finding a suitable input level I was able to lay a couple of tracks down, add a little bit of delay and reverb to the guitars, and reverb to the drums and bass.
I was happy to find a nice balance with the tracks to get them to sit well with relative ease. Now this was just a quick demo, and it certainly wasn’t a densely recorded Dream Theater record, but I was still impressed nevertheless with how well the Classic 5 serves as a recording tool.
The final application in which I used the Classic 5 powered monitors was as a means to play guitar through the Iridium using the Strymon’s headphone output.
In this application I was surprised at how different the audio experience was when compared to the computer speakers I normally use. The Classic 5s were fuller sounding, more dynamic and generally more open sounding. By comparison, my computer speakers were darker sounding with less top end, and less punchy low end.
My only complaint with the Classic 5 monitor is its ergonomics. Placing the controls on the rear panel is not conducive to on-the-fly adjustments. I was happy with the settings I first dialed in, but if I were to have fine-tuned those settings, it would have had to duck around the speakers, which could perhaps upset the optimum placement of the speakers. Acoustically, speaker placement is very important in a small room environment so this isn’t ideal.
Anyway, beyond my minor ergonomic complaints, I think the Classic 5 is an excellent product.
The Classic 5 can be used in any number of scenarios, including multimedia residential applications such as with turntables that incorporate built-in phono preamps to create a streamlined analog audio system. Other scenarios for example could be taking the analog output from a TV to improve the sound of an AV system without adding more components.
For dealers not familiar with KRK, my advice is to check out the Classic 5, as well as the company’s Rokit and V series products. Looking specifically at the Classic 5, for $300 per pair I don’t think you’ll find a better powered speaker value.
CE Pro Verdict
- Easy to setup with recording or consumer audio components
- Rich and balanced sound with smooth dynamics
- Performance is hard to beat for the price
- Industrial design leans on commercial audio side of the spectrum
- Rear panel controls provide limited access to volume, and low- and high-frequency controls