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Kali Audio IN-8
Kali Audio IN-8

Active Monitor from Kali Audio belonging to the IN Series series

MGR/Brian Johnston MGR/Brian Johnston

« The Best Monitor Speakers for the Money... and then Some! »

Published on 01/05/21 at 14:12
Value For Money : Excellent
Audience: Anyone
Not long ago I was in the market for new monitor speakers. At the time I was using KRK Rokit 8s (RPG 2 series), and although I had nothing to compare them to (the only monitor speakers I’ve used), I knew they were slightly muddy or dark, and after a few hours of playing, recording or mixing, I had ear fatigue and music started to sound muffled. There were a few companies I was considering, and then Robert Jackson (Robert’s Guitar Dungeon – YouTube channel) recommended Kali Audio, and that he was very pleased with them and had no interest in searching out other speakers. Surprisingly, Kali Audio monitor speakers are very budget oriented, particularly for the apparent quality in sound (based on several reviews). The company released its IN-8 speakers in 2020, as an upgrade to its acclaimed NP-8s, which were a perfect replacement in both size and power. The demo video below is an overview of the speakers, together with audio that was mixed with the IN-8s (I do not have the gear or expertise to record and present the difference between the KRKs and the IN-8s).

The first thing I did upon receiving the IN-8s was to set up one speaker opposite a single KRK speaker. I then played music (backing tracks and also live guitar playing) so that I could hear the difference between the two speakers. I also played pre-recorded music from CDs through the speakers, and the conclusion was the same regardless. In essence, it was like having sacks over a set of speakers and then removing one of the sacks – the difference in clarity, detail and sound spectrum was day and night between the two speakers. The IN-8s stood out with its tight bottom end and crystal-clear highs, both of which stood apart from the rich and broad midrange frequency.

Kali Audio’s IN-8 speakers do boast a number of tech features, which make them highly desirable for the price, including a midrange driver and tweeter that are coaxial or coincidental, thus allowing them to share the same acoustic center (movement of the midrange is only about 1mm at peak output, and so there is no interference with the tweeter). Together with the woofer’s crossover to the midrange (330 Hz), the IN-8s produce an acoustic point source, which is “an ideal directivity characteristic for a studio monitor,” as Kali Audio puts it. This configuration also eliminates areas of peaks and dips or ‘off-axis lobing.’ Additionally, the tube port shape was designed to allow air to leave at the same velocity, thereby avoiding that ‘chuffing’ sound caused by heavy bass in a mix, and to promote better low-end response so that the bass can remain clean and tight. Another impressive feature is that each speaker includes boundary compensation EQs (adjusted via dipswitches in the back) that accommodates speaker location, e.g., on stands, near walls or in corners, on a desk, etc. There also are dipswitches to facilitate LF and HF trimming and to bypass RCA input when not in use (to prevent interference, like radio reception).

Again, all these features are what make the IN-8s such great value, in that they produce full-spectrum sound with incredible detail and clarity that can be heard among individual instruments when mixing. And it’s super low (-6 dB) distortion adds to that clarity of detail. All this results in less ear fatigue while mixing or listening to music, or jamming with some backing tracks for a few hours or more. As important, a mix sounds fairly accurate when compared to other speakers. For example, when mixing on my KRKs, the result was very different on a set of Bose computer speakers. Conversely, I can mix on the IN-8s and the result is very close, and convincingly so, when played back on the Bose speakers.

Now, it should be noted that the IN-8s are very flat sounding, making them ideal for mixing and playing certain genres of music for enjoyment, such as jazz, classical, ambience, etc. They are not as ‘exciting’ when playing rock, metal, etc., although Kali Audio’s new subwoofer would take care of that limitation. Also, I use these speakers for guitar practice and play with backing tracks, and so I prefer their larger size. Small studios that focus more on mixing may only require the IN-6 monitor speakers. Finally, the only con I’ve read or heard about with the IN-8s is the minor hiss or ‘ssshhhhh’ noise emitted from the speakers when everything is quiet. At 55, my ears are not what they used to be, but I had to sit still and listen carefully for that noise. It was very insignificant, and utterly nonapparent when audio plays through the speakers; I think some reviewers needed to find something negative to say, since most reviews are based on pros and cons. Regardless, I find the IN-8s somewhat addictive to use, since the sound is so rich, vibrant and comprehensive, and a set of speakers is very reasonably priced at $799 USD a pair.

For those wanting to hear a better explanation of the tech features, I recommend Nate Baglyos’ interview with Sweetwater. Although the discussion is based on Kali Audio’s NP-8 speakers, the R&D information is very much the same with the IN-8s, except the IN-8s do NOT have an ‘auto-shutdown when not in use’ feature. Also, the IN-8s are a step up with some of the new design features and sound quality.