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KRK ERGO REVIEW
Dude Music Musicology

The following is my personal review of a KRK ERGO Room Correction unit which I purchased for a Mac OSX 10.6 based setup.

This product's standing with Dude is Massive FAIL (Nil Points Big Fat Donut) and ultimately quite a disappointment for a KRK product.

I have a square music room and square despite what Hewey Lewis told us in the 80s is not hip where music studios are concerned. What happens is that in small rooms that are square, standing waves or 'modes' build up badly and resonate in the bass frequencies making mixing difficult and mastering more so!

The bass modes are usually the biggest problem for mixing and mastering although a room will affect all frequencies produced by the monitors.

Having run the excellent and free Room EQ Wizard it was discovered that the main problem frequency was a modal ringing with resulting peak at around 58Hz and some null above that with then further problem bass build up in some areas above well up to the 400Hz region.

First I looked into acoustic treatment but the bottom line is that acoustics panel makers and sellers will sell you thousands of pounds of broadband absorbers and friction bass traps that will mean you can no longer move in your small space as they are very inefficient when placed near walls and corners and must therefore be huge (ideally several feet thick!)*

I consulted with GIK Acoustics and Real Traps both of whom explained thankfully the limitations of what their products could do in such a small studio and without a more significant budget to be spending on panels.

*Pressure based systems such as sold by RPG can be much much thinner but are very hi tech constructions and top end expensive at around £500.00 each.

So once I realised that even with the best will in the World the room treatment guys couldn't solve my modal issues due to space and cost I looked into EQ.

Now there are two types of acoustician I have discovered, one believes that only acoustic treatment can solve a rooms problems, and another doesn't see the studio as a room alone but a whole system combined with monitors, that can be treated with clever eq at the monitors and time and phase based changes in that sense also.

JBL have a hardware system that works on modes either standalone or in their monitors, Audessey have a ($6 million in research) system via IK Multimedia ARC, and KRK have a hardware system the ERGO as being review here.

So the KRK ERGO comes in decent enough outer packaging though is not sealed which is always a concern having previously received b-stock/ex-demo goods from retailers that was supposed to be new!

Small FAIL 1 - Product not sealed.

Upon opening the glossy outer box the next thing that strikes you is the white cardboard the items are packed in, which is white but speckled in greasy looking blotches like someone just used them for their Chinese takeaway (the product is manufactured in China though I am not saying noodle are an issue here). This looks lousy and I know it's just packaging but this is an item retailing at around £400.00 so not cool at all.

Small FAIL 2 - Lousy packaging.

The main unit is mainly solid and designed to sit atop a workstation desk etc. The volume knob however feels cheap and is made of plastic and the unit I received would not sit level on my perfectly flat glass studio desk, which is of course annoying as it then clunks.

Small FAIL 3 - Cheap feel of plastic volume knob.

Dealbreaker FAIL 4 - Unit wobbles and clunks on desk.

So far so bad on this review of the KRK ERGO but onward and downwards!

The unit requires power (and needs communications with the software... don't get me started!) from either Firewire 400 if the CPU provision has enough power or in combination via a wall wart or the latter alone once the unit has the necessary calculations on it. Unfortunately the wall wart supplied was a two pin USA variant!

Small FAIL 5 - USA plug supplied for UK retail product!

The unit comes with a microphone especially designed and calibrated for measuring acoustic response (these sorts of microphones can be picked up for this purpose for around £50.00) and a XLR to jack converted so a microphone cable is needed... all well and good there.

So as it happens I have an adapter to enable a USA male power plug to fit to a UK power outlet already (which I would ordinarily only expect to need if sent a product direct from the USA!) and the unit powered on fine.

The outputs were connected to my powered monitors and some Anastacia was played though the unit. Converters sounded OK though not as detailed in the high end as my RME Babyface and indeed the unit has been criticised for not having a digital outlet to enable superior converter use (however the system uses phase changes in the EQ to correct the acoustics of the monitor/room system and KRK have explained that they needed to convert with converters they know will allow the product to work as it should (oh how I and others as I have discovered wish!)... so converters fine unless you are into your Myteks etc! I just need good not amazingly great conversion and even spectral balance and not booming bass modes!

However I immediately noticed at around twelve to three o'clock on the volume rasping noise somewhat similar to an old volume pot that has got crackly... sometimes they make an upper mid rangecrackle. I tried to see if it would go but alas was stuck on monitor channel A and B/Sub with this 'orrible sound from supposedly professional level equipment.

Dealbreaker FAIL 6 - crackling noise on volume adjustment.

I therefore emailed the supplier Westend DJ (Westend DJ London Review) to report as DOA (Dead On Arrival) for refund or replacement as is their term within seven days, and they were cool (which is good as some retailers only want to know when things are going smoothly and become a pain in the proverbial if things go wrong which is the true test).

So the software was loaded up and all the instructions were followed and then the unit was connected. The firewire cable connection light stayed green throughout all following use (or rather should I say attempted use for the whole of the following 12 HOURS of miserable frustration!).

I got the monitor level and mic level set correctly, I put on my headphones to protect my ears and the unit made lots of wonderful noises through my monitors as it tested the room.

By this time I obviously had many reservations about the unit but was pleased it was doing something as I was considering replacement at that time! So it finished it's noises with me patiently moving the microphone around until the software said it had gotten to 93% which was good enough to calculate a good fix from.

Off it went... 'calculating'... ten minutes... half an hour... an hour! Nothing!

So back to square one... try again? Nope! Try and try again it then went to overwrite the old response in the unit and just stopped again... nothing!

I tried the response it had made and I can tell you poor Anastacia sounded like a bee in a jar after the ERGO went to work on the track!

Well I tried to contact KRK but their website was down as it happens, but later on it popped back up. So I went to the online support form and described the issues and it then told me I had entered too much text and couldn't send the fault report! So I simply filled in that I wanted to be contacted... Gibson support did eventually get back to me four days later... too late and the unit was a turkey anyway!

So I made sure I had the latest software downloaded, reinstalled, plus the latest driver installer though as I recall it had the latest already on it, and of course the firmware updater froze also and didn't work despite following the instructions, connecting the unit in order, not having any other firewire devices running blah blah... ongoing nightmare... nothing worked!

Smallish FAIL 7 - crap support form and took an age to reply.

Dealbreaker FAIL 8 - BOTH software applications FAIL with unit.

Needless to say with much head scratching, and trying to avoid banging my head against the walls so many times that no room correction would be needed that was that, massive FAIL after twelve hours of time wasted into early hours of the morning.

I checked the forums on line and could see that some people were complaining about drivers and units saying they would communicate with green light but didn't' really, or did for a while then just stopped and then the software would freeze... for £380.00? In addition certain firewire chips are an issue apparently... something we could do with knowing about before we buy something! KRK ERGO? Not on your nelly!

So that's 8 x FAIL with three of them being not fit for purpose/DOA not including the issue of KRK not advertising the product as requiring socket adapter for the wall wart and not working with some firewire chipsets... great! XO(

In a nutshell my experience of the KRK ERGO was 100% FAIL which just made me very angry and seeing that others had similar experiences warned me off trying a replacement item having wasted over a days work time on it.

This is a shame for KRK as their monitors are highly regarded so this unit and it's software with the problems I have experienced and the problems I see some others have had come as a surprise... presumably due to this being a first venture for KRK into software applications etc.

I am of the understanding that the units are no longer being manufactured.

Your alternatives again are JBL MSC-1 and IK Multimedia ARC2, from my experience and from what other have experienced, ergo you roll the dice and take your chances! Caveat Emptor!

Now on a more positive note... 'dice' reminded me of a song I love by Finley Quaye! First heard it in the hit series 'The OC'... love the early use of wobble bass in there!

'Dice' - Finley Quaye on Youtube

I hope you enjoyed this KRK (Gibson) product review and that it will help you make a good purchasing decision for your system... I would rather have learnt the Architect's Speech from the Matrix with the twelve hours I spent with the unit! Now here is an ergo worth my time!

'Architects Speech' - The Matrix on Youtube

Cheers,

Dude.

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