Kali Audio was founded in 2018 as an engineering-first pro audio company. Their studio monitors, found in renowned studios such as ‘The Village’ (Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours”, Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic) set new standards for accuracy, translatability and classy technology, all at real-world prices. It’s no surprise I’m a fan, and have been happily recording and mixing on a pair of IN-8 V2 monitors for a year with no inclination to upgrade. The IN-8s are a coaxial three-way monitor with DSP-based boundary correction onboard, custom drivers including a sweet concentric mid/treble unit, and a clever port design that lets you place them whoever you want. They are detailed, accurate and plenty loud, and cost around £400GBP each. Nothing else comes close for the money, and far beyond.
Since I reviewed them I’ve had numerous requests to look at their entry level range. Project ‘Lone Pine’ consists of two models, the LP-6 and LP8. Now in their second wave ‘V2’ iterations, the model number designates the size of the midbass driver (six and eight inches respectively), but otherwise the two share a similar feature set. Naturally the LP8s have a slightly larger cabinet, approximately two inches (50 mm) taller and 1 inch (25 mm) wider and deeper, and 1.5KG heavier.
The cabinets comprise a vinyl-wrapped MDF with moulted plastic front baffle. The front port tube is moulded as part of the baffle itself, and is shaped using computer simulation to minimise port chuffing by ensuring that air exits the port at a constant velocity. A similar port is used to great effect in the IN-8, and I find them to be entirely unfussy about room placement and without the sonic downsides I often hear in ported loudspeakers, namely bloated bass caused by the constricted passage of air through the port, or puffing noises as large volumes of air are forced through a thin port tube.
The cabinet is lined internally with a lagging material to keep resonance at bay, and cables are tensioned and tied in place so nothing inside the speaker can rattle. I took a look inside and was pleased to find the components used are high-quality with no cheap knockoff component brands, and crucially no circuit glue of the type that tends to turn conductive.
This is a common issue with many active monitors, especially KRK and Presonus. When the glue ages it becomes electrically conductive and shorts the amplifiers, in the case of early KRK ‘Rokit’, often blowing the tweeter.
The Kali monitors use switch-mode power supplies, but they are low-noise, over-specified designs that are well built. They automatically adjust to the input voltage and are useable on worldwide mains. I’m confident that these and other Kali monitors will give many years of reliable, dependable performance, and won’t let you down when you have a deadline to meet.
Specs wise the LP8 frequency response is rated at 39Hz – 25kHz (-10dB) and 47Hz – 21kHz (±3dB). Max SPL is 115dB, and system distortion is rated at <3% (80Hz – 1.7kHz) and <2% above 1kHz, reference a 90dB output SPL at a distance of 1 m. The crossover point is 1.5kHz. You rarely see such a usefully low crossover point in a monitor of this price. They’re usually somewhere around the 2-3kHz range, where the ear is most sensitive to crossover distortion, phase and timing errors.
Opt for the LP8 and you gain an extra 2Hz base extension, 2dB in max SPL, and better distortion figures; <2.5% (80 Hz – 400 Hz) and <1.4% above 400 Hz, with the same 90dB SPL at 1 m. The crossover point is slightly higher at 1.8kHz, still well within the range that is most pleasing to the ear. The LP8 will better fill a larger room though and is better suited to environments where more than two people will be listening to the monitors.
Output power is 40W for the treble and 40 / 60W for the midbass, LP-6 and LP8 respectively. Maximum listening distance is 2.9 m for the LP-6 and 3.6 m for the LP8. Kali’s maximum listening distance figures define the distance at which the speakers can maintain a continuous 85dB SPL with 20dB of dynamic headroom, allowing for large momentary peaks to be played at reference volume without overload or distortion.
There are inbuilt limiters to protect the drivers if you get carried away, but they’re not invasive in normal use. Unlike Yamaha’s HS8, for example, where the limiters can give the monitors a harsh and brittle presentation at high volume whether they’re needed or not, Kali’s limiters act when required but otherwise stay out of the way. If you do hit the limiters you will hear it as obvious distortion, at which point it’s time to turn the volume down. In a suitable room, however, playing a well-mastered track, the music will be uncomfortably loud before the limiters become active.
Both are two-way loudspeakers with 1-inch textile dome tweeters set within Kali’s custom 3D imaging waveguide. Unlike other waveguides which are a highly directive horn shape, with sharp angles designed to aid directivity but with a small sweet spot, the Kali waveguide is a gentle, gradual contour. Almost an ovoid, though wider than it is deep and with a sharper curve to the faces spanning the tweeter’s vertical axis. The result is an even dispersion that doesn’t adversely affect frontal imaging, but gives you a much wider listening sweet spot than you might be accustomed too with a typical waveguide arrangement. The intent is to cohesively blend the sound from them loudspeaker to the reflective sound that is result of physical obstacles, or even dispersion into the air itself, that occurs as the sound travels toward your ear. Nothing can image like a true coaxial speaker does, but the LP-series waveguide comes very close.
The midbass driver is an optimised paper cone construction with large dual-layer voicecoil, convex dust cap and carefully tuned surround, giving plenty of excursion but maintaining the integrity of the cone around its outer circumference where the cone is naturally weaker. The tweeter waveguide ensures that the acoustic centres of the drivers are as aligned as much as possible, though there’s plenty of opportunity to correct for any time alignment and phase error in the digital crossover.
One of the features present in the second wave of Kali monitors is a clever Boundary EQ adjustment, which provides several positions to select preset compensating EQ curves depending on where the speaker is positioned. On a stand in free space (the ideal position for the loudspeaker) the EQ can be disabled.
Adjustments are provided for installations on stands or on desks close to a wall (within 0.5 m) or against a wall (as close as possible allowing for cables). There are also curves for placement on a sole bridge or on a desktop with stands or purpose-built studio desk with monitor platforms.
Adjustments are made using a bank of eight dip switches on the rear panel. Also present are HF and LF trim, offering -2dB or +2dB of adjustment, and a switch to toggle the RCA input. The latter should be disabled when it’s not being used to prevent interference. There is a handy adjustment reference on the back of the speaker, but I appreciated the guide in the manual which clearly lists the switch positions. Very helpful for a blind user like myself who can’t read pictorial diagrams.
Also on the back are XLR and tRS inputs, not to be used simultaneously, and a volume control with adjustment from infinite to +6dB. The volume control has a central detent, where it is usually left and the volume controlled by the source. There’s an IEC power input and power switch. The monitors have startup and shutdown muting and soft (delayed) startup to prevent pops, thumps and bangs.
Kali kindly sent over a pair of LP-6 V2s for this review. Packaged well in sculpted polystyrene, each is supplied with an IEC cable, four small stick-on feet and a basic quick-start guide. The IEC cable supplied to me in the UK was a two-pin European plug. Whether that is typical of all Kali speakers shipped in the UK, or due to the origin of my review samples, I’m not sure. Either way, IEC cables are cheap and widely available if you don’t have a drawer of them already.
I connected up the LP-6s in a room measuring roughly 5.2 m x 2.1 m, firing along the length of the room. They’re situated roughly 2 metres from the closest end wall and facing that wall. They sit on a bridge above my master keyboard and I have configured the boundary correction accordingly. I used no additional EQ, the sound was straight from the outputs of the interface. Interfaces used were a heavily modified Behringer UMC1820, an Audient EVO 8 and a Soundcraft 12MTK multi-track analogue desk.
I was immediately right at home with the LP-6s. They sound organic and natural, uncoloured and clean, just like the IN-8s that I am so fond of. They have a surprisingly rich, deep bass response given their comparatively small cabinets and drivers. The bass isn’t as impactful as the IN-8s, nor as authoritative, but I wouldn’t expect it to be. It’s refined though, without too much blurring around the edges of sustained notes and without audible colouration at high listening levels. The speakers also produce very little idle noise so won’t become irritating if you’re close to them in an extreme near-field setup.
Highs are crisp and clean. Compared directly against the IN-8s there is a lack of presence in the midrange, leaving mixes open to interpretation and a margin of error in the midband. But if you didn’t have the better monitors as a direct reference, it’s not something you’d notice. Mixes will translate well to other speakers and though the IN-8s will help you better refine the mix on the first go, the LP-6s will still get you there with a bit of extra tweaking. I rarely settle for a first mix anyway, so I don’t see it as a shortcoming. It’s a shortcoming of any two-way design. It’s it’s quite unfair to compare the LP-6s to the IN-8s directly, as the IN-8s benefit from the coaxial driver that puts them leagues ahead of anything else in the price bracket.
Compared with Yamaha’s HS8s, the LP-6s are every bit as accurate but don’t have the harsh tendency in the upper frequency bands that the Yamahas are known for. They’re also quieter, with significantly less self noise from their amplifiers. Naturally the HS8s give better bass performance than the LP-6s, but that is to be expected. The larger LP8s would be a fairer comparison, and I’m confident that the LP8s would equal the accuracy of the Yamahas, while also being a more comfortable listen especially during extended sessions.
I compared the LP-6s with a pair of RCF Ayra 5s that I’ve had for many years. They were my first reference monitor and a more apples to apples comparison. Also front-ported, they lose an inch to the LP-6s in the midbass driver but use a rectangular slotted port design, albeit less elaborate than the port of the Kali.
I was always impressed by the level of bass the Ayras could produce given their small driver and cabinet and that holds true to this day, though there’s no doubt the Kali LP-6 has the edge. More so than the extra inch of cone surface would suggest. The larger cabinet helps, but no doubt the efficiency of the driver and the clever port design are major contributors. Not to mention the more modern amplifiers, a total departure from the fully analogue, archaic class AB amps of the RCFs.
The RCF monitors are very sweet-sounding. They’re not wholly accurate and one has to become accustomed to their signature sound before any mix will translate properly in the real world. It’s one of the reasons I now use them exclusively for listening, or for non-critical monitoring. They sound wonderful, but nothing beats the instant familiarity of a truly accurate terence monitor.
And it’s that instant familiarity that makes Kali monitors so indispensable. While most monitors in this price bracket have been designed with at least some character of their own, the Kali range are clearly intended as genuine reference-class monitors through and through. When you sit down in front of most monitors, it takes a while to become acquainted with their character and find their quirks, so you don’t inadvertently amplify them in your mixes and masters by over-compensating for deficiencies in the speakers.
By contrast, when I first worked with Kali monitors, I immediately felt right at home. They give a clean and accurate portrayal with superb imaging, razor-sharp focus and superb low end response. This is true from the LP-6 right up to the IN-8. The IN-8 is the ultimate destination but the LP-6 is the very foundation of what a great reference monitor should be. You can be confident that your productions on these monitors will translate as you intended across all manner of systems and devices. And they’re a joy to listen to as well, when you want to kick back and chill with your favourite tunes. It would take something truly extraordinary to drag me away from Kali monitors. I can’t recommend them highly enough.