Kali Audio LP-6 by Arthur Stone
A 2-way powered studio monitor: The LP stands for Lone Pine (a town in California's East Sierra near Mt. Whitney); the area's town names will be a theme for a range of Kali monitors. Kali are based in Los Angeles.
Birth of Gonzo:
Sometimes I'm more of a participant than a reviewer; events take on a life of their own. I just try to document what happened at a given time and place.
For example: this is the second Kali LP-6 review I've written. The first 'disappeared' in my computer. It was a good 5* review: accurate and non-fatiguing active monitors with good linear extension. Modern 'fun' sound. The vibe I get from the Kali Audio LP-6 is that of an expensive monitor built to a cost. Arguably a bit 'plastic-looking' but certainly not plastic-sounding. Good feature set. Low price.
Price (each): £150 UK/ 170 Euros/$170 US (approx. store prices)
3D Waveguide Mojo:
I don't know too much about waveguides. Kali describe the LP-6 waveguide as:
The low noise port is a little easier to conceptualize: if air leaves the port at different speeds across the surface it can create unwanted sound ('chuffing') so Kali have designed the LP-6 to have a consistent pressure across the whole port. It certainly sounded silent and didn't disturb the independent soundstage in the room; I had no sense of noise artifacts tying the sound to the monitor and destroying the illusion.
Another easy-to-grasp engineering concept is that the 6” woofer is powered by a large, powerful magnet and voice coil leading to more 'oomph.'
Who is Kali?
There's a strong JBL heritage with the Kali team progressing to focus on products in a way larger corporations cannot; importantly the trickle-down know-how, transferable skillset, and design/manufacturing expertise of, in part, an engineering legend, JBL, continues in a new and original product.
Warren Huart has recommended the Kali's and the interview with Charles Sprinkle of Kali is linked here.
Continuing the Gonzo-review style, I'll try to convey how the LP-6's sound in words...despite the futility of doing so. What I should say is: “go listen to a demo.”
The LP-6's sound impressive. They sound 'new' and they have an edge that isn't plastic but more of an high-quality vinyl. There's a lot of vibrancy and dynamic bounce but not like a beach ball.
They were a bit cheeky but not brash or rude. If, during blind-testing, I was unaware they were low-cost 'plastic' monitors and you told me they had wooden cabinets and cost several times the price then I might have believed you. In the sweet-spot (not too quiet/not too loud) there's a density and presence and solid soundstage that makes them hard to distinguish from expensive monitors.
I mixed through them, and 'leisure-listened' (vinyl: David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust, John Mayall The Turning Point sounded good but the Kali's really came alive with 12” Goa trance and various techno/DnB). The Kali's worked well with 'devices' and consumer-gear in addition to the more usual studio configuration connected to an audio interface. In fact Kali recommend the LP-6 as suitable for home hi-fi and consumer entertainment systems and, sonically, IME they are perfect for this role (especially with the room tuning modes) although they are quite bulky compared to the latest generations of media playback systems.
I didn't get the same sense of efficiency for tracking (along to a mix in a DAW session) as I do with more expensive and powerful monitors but with careful room placement and testing they are certainly workable (especially given their very reasonable price). I recorded session musician Rob The Guitar, DI'd into an UA Apollo x8p with Tube Screamer and Marshall 'real-time' plug-ins, against a dense mix and I think Rob would have gelled better (in terms of his monitoring) with a slightly larger monitor. Perhaps the upcoming LP-8 would have been more suitable for tracking rock music?
Kali say that they have been designed for moderate and safe working levels (85 dB @ 2.2 metres) with enough headroom (20 dB) to allow for sharp, dynamic sounds like drum hits or gun shots; there is a safety limiter to prevent damage to the speakers; this causes distortion (an indication the limiter is operating) but I didn't notice this in the wide sweet-spot during my sessions.
With a bit of adaptation (ear training for workflow nuances) these are perfectly workable monitors in the accuracy they give within quite a wide frequency range; and good linearity at a range of volume. Inside the sweetspot the LP-6's shared many similarities to more expensive monitors. Outside of the wide sweet spot the soundstage edge is noticeable with a little smeared treble energy although the bass image is remarkably resilient.
I work at quite modest domestic sound levels (with occasional 'peaks' for testing or enjoyment) and working alone in a medium-sized room the LP-6's had adequate power and projection but for tracking with more people in the room I'd be interested in hearing the LP-8's.
Wrapping it up:
So it was all a bit of a daze: the first review was lost, mid-hibernation season here in MiddleEarth, and a mild come-down from the festivities.
Nothing seemed bad about the Kali LP-6's – they felt (and sounded) like expensive high-end monitors built to a cost – which is what they are.
Good fortune to Kali; an impressive entry to the market and sign of exciting future products.
Sound Quality 5/5 For the money, very good indeed. For any money: not bad at all. The LP-6 sounds good and is relatively accurate. Relatively non-fatiguing.
Features: 5/5 Use of rear dip-switches allows full feature set without the cost. Solid weight and durable build. Good EQ. Good manual and info from Kali.
Ease of Use 5/5 OK the dips are a little fiddly to start but once you've set up then the only potential issue ia the rear power switch. Sonically I didn't feel like I was fighting the balance or compensating for an obvious deficiency in the monitor.
Bang-for-Buck 5/5 Excellent if you need first monitors, a second check, or a third set.
Credits and links:
Kali Audio — Lone Pine Detail
Photos courtesy of Kali Audio; additional photos by Arthur Stone.
Mount Whitney By Geographer (talk · contribs) - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Zeimusu., CC BY 1.0, File:Mount Whitney 2003-03-25.jpg - Wikimedia Commons