Developed to dispel the myth that small speakers cannot sound big, the Equinox delivers phenomenal sound for size. For use in any high fidelity application, the Equinox has no competition in this class. Equinox are a phenomenal experience.
Unpacking a pair of Krix’s latest incarnation of its little Equinox loudspeaker, something on the packaging caught my eye. Printed on the inside carton flap was ‘Krix Listening Tip #34 – If you have a dog, it’s now your second best friend.’ I looked at our 15 year old pound puppy and said “sorry, old girl.”
The guys and girls at Krix have been busy lately improving various designs, but I believe they took a step backwards and thought what could they do to an already cracking little speaker? Whatever it was it needed to be good. The Equinox is Krix’s little, big-sounding speaker and over the past decade it’s picked up a few award gongs, both here and overseas. So messing with a good thing presented a bit of a challenge for the Krix design team.
The Equinox isn’t the smallest Krix – that’s the very compact Brix, but it’s still a small standmounter, measuring just under 300mm high, 175mm wide and 235mm deep. These are near-field monitor proportions and you’d want to place the new Equinox on a decent stand around 600mm in height, which is what I did.
Krix supplied the designer’s notes for the Equinox MkII’s, which are always a handy thing to have and to learn what has been addressed when making design changes. The first thing they mention is a magnet twice the size of the 5-inch (125mm) bass/mid driver compared to the original. It’s sensitivity is up and distortion down, which Krix says has improved low frequency output. Cone excursion (the amount the cone actually travels) has been doubled up to 20mm peak-to-peak, and it’s been optimised by several factors to keep things linear and under control. Harmonic distortion’s been extensively tackled, the main aim of which, according to Krix, was to achieve a flat midband response, which it stresses is crucial in reproducing vocals so that they grab the listener’s attention.
Krix has done a bit of a ‘Tardis’ job with the cabinet by gaining extra volume without increasing the actual cabinet size. It has done this by reducing the thickness of the cabinet walls from 16mm to 12mm, gaining a litre per cabinet. This is usually seen as a no-no in cabinet construction, but compensating with the inclusion of a cross brace, Krix has measured the flex and vibration, which is now less than the original 16mm non-braced cabinet. The extra volume means greater bass extension. The crossover network has been completely changed and the 28mm dome tweeter is the same as used in the Krix Apex floorstander.
The new Equinox’s designer, Andrew Bennett, provided the detailed set of notes, which explained the technical makeup of the MkII’s. He summed things up by saying “good things come in small packages,” so is this often used phrase true of Equinox MkII’s? Let’s find out.
Regular readers will know, I like little loudspeakers. Back in the UK, lounge rooms are smaller, so standmounters are often preferable over big floorstanders. I also like how a decent standmounter communicates music in an intimate and precise way. My little Quad 11Ls have served me well lately and over the years I’ve owned some terrific little standmounters. The most enjoyable were a pair of Roger’s legendary LS3/5As, but I wonder how these mini monitors would stack up against today’s computer designed compact monitors. For one, the new Equinox are a lot more amplifier friendly than the Rogers. The specs suggest they’d still appreciate some capable amplification with a sensitivity of 88dB and nominal 6 ohm impedance, but most integrateds will cope happily with this sort of load. I went a bit overboard on the amplifier front, using the big Cayin H-80A hybrid Class A beastie, but knew it would be able to squeeze every last drop of performance out of the little Krixs. Four grands worth of amp driving $625 worth of small speaker isn’t the normal equation, but I wanted to hear what they’re capable of.
The review pair came in an American Cherry timber veneer. One of the three standard finishes, (the others being Atlantic Jarrah and Black, Krix will custom finish any of its speakers in a variety of timber veneers and paint lacquers. The pair was also brand new, so needed running-in, a process I gave them around a week of near constant use. During that time the bass became more fluid and the speakers settled in nicely, not that they were unpleasant right from the start. There was an inherent smoothness to the sound – the bass was full and much deeper than you’d think was possible from such a small box.
During running-in I tried all sorts of music and settled on Nick Cave And The Bad Seed’s latest album Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! to kick things off. This is a lot more melodic and accessible Nick Cave compared to some of his earlier stuff and the CD production’s not bad either. Perhaps my favorite track from the album is the last one – More News From Nowhere which is a slow-crawling, late night sort of tune. The little Equinox put you right in the frame of mind, with a nicely easy-going approach. They don’t shriek, tinkle or chuff – instead all the main musical ingredients are there for a very satisfying listen.
As it happened, we had several friends over one night and some music was required as the evening progressed. No one liked what I’d put on (typical), so when I came back out to man the barby, Beck had been changed for The Eagles. There were a few pairs of speakers in my AV room at the time and the little Krix’s were dwarfed by such others as my Ambience ribbons, plus Redgum and KEF floorstanders. The boys all commented on how impressed they all were with the system and gear, plus how good the speakers sounded. I pointed out that it was the little fellas on the stands playing, and none of them believed me. I had to show them that nothing else was connected and they all shook theirs heads in disbelief. None of them had heard such sounds out of such a small box. By now, the Equinox were running in nicely and starting to settle into their stride. I started to listen properly and popped a disc on containing the wonderfully recorded track Nightingale by Norah Jones.
This isn’t my usual musical fare, but I know this track well and it’s a great one to evaluate how well solo female vocals are handled. The midband and lower top-end comes into play here and the Krix handle this area with great dexterity, especially considering their $625 price tag. There’s decent bass in the track also and the Equinox have the ability to really sing when partnered with decent electronics. Instruments are portrayed naturally, both acoustic and electrical and closely miked vocals, such as Norah’s, are presented with vibrancy and thoroughly even-handed control.
I remember my Rogers LS3/5As used to effectively ‘disappear’ in the room with some music, which is exactly what you want from a small speaker and the same thing was true with these new Equinox. Close your eyes and you’re not listening to a pair of small speakers – the Equinox deliver an unforced sense of scale and breadth of soundstage.
They’re capable of throwing up sonic pictures of real depth when positioned about a metre from rear and side walls. Stereo depth is also good at this distance, so as well as broadening the soundstage, front to back stereo depth is also amplified. I swapped the well-recorded stuff from some run-of-the-mill rock from The White Stripes and although I wouldn’t describe the new Equinox as head-bangers, they can certainly rock for a little box. Here’s where that extra bass extension and weight comes in handy and what’s more it’s evenly balanced by mid/treble clarity and attack.
They are a bubbly and rhythmic performer with the likes of Moby’s new album, the opening track of which, Ooh Yeah, is a fairly up-tempo dance number and it sounds as such with the Equinox injecting just the right amount of upper frequency sparkle, without overly sounding aggressive or tiresome. The bottom-end is tight and lean with plenty of punch and if the volume’s raised the Krix respond enthusiastically and will happily dish out the dBs without any form of complaint.
I switched systems and teamed the speakers up with some more appropriate gear – my Audiolink 50 watt integrated and CD honours from a Toshiba HD DVD player. With more modest electronics, the Krix are still equally at home and enjoyable. I’d say partnered with a CD source and amplifier of around the $1,000 value mark and you’d have a great sounding affordable system.
Weighing up this particular speaker equation makes perfectly good mathematical sense. $625 for a pair s great value. I’ve heard standmount speakers costing twice this that definitely don’t sound anything like twice as good. Add a decent pair of stands and you’ve a terrific little speaker system. Krix left the original Equinox unchanged for over a decade and for good reason. The MkII’s are a most worthy successor and worth every dollar. If you’ve a smaller space to fill, or simpler don’t like big floorstanders, the Equinox MkII are a big and competent sound from a very compact package.
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- Audio & Video Lifestyle - Australia , Nic Tatham