PerformanceThe performance of desktop speakers can be a bit hard to define because there are many environmental factors such as the distance to walls, desk surface, angle, and inclination - just to name a few - that play a role. A normal vinyl covered MDF table top was used for these tests. The speakers were briefly tested on improvised stands to see how much the sound is affected by desk reflections. The basic setup for these tests consisted of the line-out from an ASUS Essence STX sound card going to the speakers via a normal split cable. This sound card had all emulation features and equalizers turned off, and source materials for the music test were at least 96 kHz / 24-bit FLAC files.
MusicNot surprisingly, the Rokit 5s are incredibly detailed sounding. The midrange is forward and conveys textures that are to an extent comparable to that of mid-end planar magnetic headphones, which is just absurd from a set of such cheap speakers. The linearity is good from the upper bass region to a tad above the upper midrange. The speakers do not sound sibilant, yet have a good amount of treble that is tweakable through controls on the back side of them. Listening to Nils Lofgren - Acoustic Live was a very good experience: the midrange is lively with a tad bit of warm coloration and a slightly bloated low-end that gives them some fake bass presence.
Even during very complex passages of the music, the speakers can keep up; however, they do present a few upper midrange oddities when pushed to the limit. At some point, the upper midrange begins to sound a bit too smooth and glassy. This is a very minor issue. Detail-wise, I was expecting them to be more ruthless than they are; monitoring speakers are usually painfully tweaked to bring forth every little error in the music, but the Rokit 5s retain a decent amount of musicality while being very detailed. These speakers are absolutely wonderful for the home-audio buff, and I would have no problem doing some home mixing on them. You just have to be weary of their small quirks that are totally forgivable given the price of $400 per set. Treble-wise, the Rokit 5s are quite good: the treble extends far and carries a fair amount of detail; however, it is not comparable with the level of treble fidelity you get from, usually, cheaper quality headphones. Compared to the other mini-speakers we have tested, the treble performance of the 5s is much better, but still not at a level that would make me ditch my monitoring headphones.
The Rokit 5s perform admirably sound-stage wise. They, even though they are near file monitors, do a good job at portraying the space between instruments and the depth in the sound picture. They cannot compete with a set of full-size, floor-standing hi-fi units, but they do, for what they are, a really good job. These are probably the sweet spot as far as PC based hi-fi goes. Anything more will require you to upgrade the source; that is, tweaking your room to the speakers in order to get a more than marginally better-sounding system.
The midrange is amazing on these speakers and rivals that of many upper-end headphones, which is crazy since the speakers have to battle the environment they are in. The midrange is quick, textured, and layered - basically everything you look for in a set of speakers. Of course, it has its limits, but this level of midrange fidelity, coupled with very good sound-stage ability, is absurd for an enclosed system at $400. These speakers are, no doubt, a very good "bang for the buck" for people using a set of monitors for occasional mixing, or those listening to a lot of music.
The bottom end is not surprisingly weak. The really deep bass is lacking, but KRK Systems are very realistic when they list the frequency response of their products, claiming good linearity up to 52 Hz at the low end, which concurs with our listening tests.
GamingGaming with the Rokit 5s is a pleasant experience, but they do not give you the same gaming experience as a set of $400 headphones. However, they do provide you with that out-of-the-head type sound most people prefer. With the speakers setup approximately 1.2 m apart and angled toward your face, the sound stage and positioning for games is really good in terms of left/right, and you do get a good sense of depth perception because of the speakers' very precise sound. You could, for $400, get a high-end 5.1 PC speaker setup, which would provide you with a better gaming experience for action games that are optimized for it. Of course, you would, ideally, have to go through the hassle of placing back speakers. If you do not want the hassle of placing back speakers and want a really good set of speakers for PC gaming, the Rokit 5s do bridge that gap. Except for the fact that it is not a 5.1 system, they do everything better than any Razer or Logitech set of PC speakers I have ever come across.
These speakers are overkill for gaming; many performance aspects and its hardware controls on the back side would simply never get used. A gaming set by KRK with less intricate controls on the back and a volume control on the front could have a lot of potential with gamers. The solution would hopefully also be a bit cheaper.