KSdigital A200mk2 by Solidtrax
It’s been a few years now since we auditioned the KSdigital A200 and we clearly remember how impressed we were with the performance of this 3-way studio monitor. To our ears, it easily beat any other studio monitor set that was available for testing that day, as it sounded the most natural and musical at the same time to our ears. A few years went by, but we never stopped being interested in products from KSdigital. When we found out about the release of the A200mk2 earlier this year, we decided to contact the company and ask them for a demo set that we could test and review. Since we also had our eye on the A100 2-way monitor set, as a potential alternative with a lower price tag, KSdigital was happy to send us both sets for us to test and review. In this review, we will focus on the A200mk2. If you like to read about our experiences with the A100, please click here!
About KSdigital and FIRTEC DSP
Roughly 25 years ago, KSdigital launched their very first studio monitor with their patented FIRTEC DSP technology, the 2-way ADM-2. With this technology, it was finally possible to correct the drivers in both the time and frequency domain, which resulted in a very clean and accurate audio signal without any nasty phase distortions. Fast forward to the present day, KSdigital hasn’t stopped utilizing their FIRTEC technology in all their current studio monitors.
The A200mk2 is a member of the A-line of studio monitors. In this range, you will also find for example the 2-way A100 and the bigger 3-way A300 studio monitors. If coaxial studio monitors are more your cup of tea, you could take a look at the C-Reference series, which features the C5, C8 and C88. The first two have a 6” and an 8” coaxial driver respectively, while the C88 offers not just an 8” coaxial driver, but also another 8” woofer to allow the monitor to dig deeper and provide a bit more SPL at the same time.
As stated before, the A200mk2 is the successor to the A200 that was launched in 2015 and is designed as a full range midfield monitor. And although the word successor might give you the idea it’s just a small upgrade, in reality it’s basically a completely new studio monitor designed from scratch. It measures 420 x 300 x 310 mm (W x D x H), which is identical to the measurements of the former A200, but when we look at the drivers, things have changed significantly. The bass driver has grown from 8 inch to a mighty 10 inch while the midrange gained an extra inch and now measures 3 inch. The tweeter didn’t change in size and is still 1 inch in diameter. If you take a closer look, you will notice that the midrange driver and the tweeter both reside in a small waveguide. KSdigital explains that this is designed to help linearize the frequency response in addition to the FIRTEC digital signal processing. The A200mk2 is tri‑amplified, offering each driver its own class-D amplifier, with 250 watts for both the 10 inch and 3 inch drivers, and another one rated at 150 watts for the tweeter. This results in a combined total of 650 watts per channel, which should help the monitors to pack some serious punch and still have some watts to spare so to say.
At the back of the A200mk2 we find a pretty straight forward approach with three dials for the volume, low shelf filter (Bass) and a high shelf filter (High). Below the dials you will find a digital AES input, a balanced analog XLR input, a port to connect the optional KS Digital Remote Control and there is also a subwoofer output. Besides a typical on/off switch, there is also an on/off switch for the light behind the logo and there is a power input. Lastly, you will find reflex vents on both the left and right side.
Test Setup Studio 1
Studio 1 measures roughly 5,5 meters long by 3 meters wide and features big bass traps in every corner and broadband absorbers at the most critical spots. Despite the treatment, the acoustics are still not perfect, but it’s good enough to do sound design, producing and mixing on a daily basis. The heavy A200mk2 monitors, weighing in at a hefty 17kg each, are placed on sturdy stands behind the desk in a vertical position, as it was impossible to get them at the right height when they were horizontally positioned. Luckily these monitors are supposed to perform great regardless of horizontal or vertical placement. On the back of the monitor you will find a drawing that shows the recommended setup for horizontal or vertical placement. We used balanced analog XLR cables to connect the monitors to a RME Babyface Pro FS interface.
Our Experience Chapter 1
While it makes perfect sense to judge a studio monitor based on how it performs during our typical studio work, we first started listening to a wide variety of tracks that we know inside and out by now. The first thing that was pretty obvious right from the start is the power reserves that these monitors possess. It’s not that we had them playing at insanely loud levels - we don’t want to damage our hearing - but nonetheless you could sense that these monitors were doing their job very effortlessly, resulting in a presentation that was very clean or perhaps we should say dry. But please don't mistake dry for boring or cold, because that’s definitely not the case. We used the word dry to explain that there is no unwanted coloration happening as far as we can tell. However, we noticed an artificial sounding low frequency reproduction but it didn’t take long for us to realize that this was caused by a room mode around 40Hz. With my regular studio monitors which start to roll-off a bit above 40Hz, this room mode actually helps the monitor to reach a bit lower, but with the immense power of the A200mk2, the room simply couldn’t deal with it properly. With the help of the bass control on the back of the monitors we could very effectively compensate for this room mode, allowing us to experience a bass that was rich, deep and very well defined, with no hint of sluggishness.
But it’s not just the bass performance that we believe is excellent, the way the mids are handled deserves at least the same amount of praise. The way it reproduces acoustic instruments and especially vocals is simply stunning, as it sounds incredibly life-like, with absolutely no hint of any coloration provided by the monitor. We like to think we’re not very perceptible to marketing speak, but in this case we really start to believe that the FIRTEC technology is contributing heavily to this realism that we hear. This quality makes you forget that you are listening to studio monitors, it’s like they become irrelevant and you can fully focus on the music itself.
What we did notice though, after listening to a wide variety of tracks, is that this room that we were in wasn’t that happy with us cranking up the volume. At higher listening levels, we started to have a feeling that these studio monitors seem to outclass this room, so we felt it was time to set them up in studio room 2 and see how they perform in a room that has way better acoustic properties.
Test Setup Studio 2
In this room, with roughly the same dimensions as studio 1, you will find a lot more acoustic treatment. Bass traps, wideband absorbers and diffusers that work together to really tame the reverb times evenly across the frequency band (as much as possible) and avoid some serious room modes. The A200mk2 monitors ended up horizontally on stands behind the desk. After a little bit of experimenting with their placement, they ended up roughly 1.6 meters away from the seating position and they had the same amount of space between them. We used XLR cables to connect the monitors to a RME Fireface UFX+ interface.
Our Experience Chapter 2
We have tried a variety of studio monitors in both rooms over the years and we always hear some subtle differences between both rooms. With the A200mk2, for the first time the difference between both rooms is more than subtle, it’s pretty obvious actually, almost as if we were listening to a different studio monitor. We now could fully hear and appreciate the extraordinary dynamics and detail that these monitors have on offer. Even though we realize that it is technically probably impossible, we like to describe these monitors as flawless. From top to bottom, everything sounds fully in balance, with an exceptional stereo image where all the different elements of the song are positioned so perfectly in their own acoustical space, and the center elements of the mix are really razor sharp in the middle, right in front of us.
The tightness of the bass reminds us of closed designs, it’s really fast with no hint of overhang. We really think the people who are responsible for engineering this monitor have come up with something really unique. Is it the properties of the 10” driver that contributes to this, is it the way the reflex ports - or should we say reflex vents - have been designed, or is it again because of the FIRTEC processing? It basically doesn’t matter how they did it, what’s more important is that what they did works incredibly well in our opinion.
The A200mk2 really makes it obvious that we are dealing with 3-way monitors. The way they can reproduce deep and authoritative low frequencies while remaining very transparent and uncluttered in the midrange is unlike anything that we ever experienced before in our studio rooms. It’s not a secret that 3-way monitors have an advantage over 2-way monitors in that the mids are produced by a dedicated driver. In a 2-way monitor, the mids are produced by the same driver that also has to work hard to reproduce bass frequencies, more often than not causing the mids to lose a bit of clarity and definition. There are some very well designed 2-way monitors that perform really well in this area, offering a midrange quality that rivals certain 3-way monitors, but when it comes to the A200mk2, we’re really talking about another league.
Driving the A200mk2 at pretty loud levels - which is luckily no issue in this room - reveals another quality that we think should be mentioned. The distortion specs, as some measurements of ours also revealed, are incredibly low. Everything stays completely coherent and free from any coloration as far as we can judge. The balance over the entire frequency range stays intact, it just gets louder, but the tonality doesn’t seem to alter. And we’ve said it earlier in this review, but it’s so evident that these monitors have so much power to spare. Driving them loud is like a walk in the park.
We’ve done some actual work on these monitors for a three week period and we’re happy to say that all the songs that we produced and mixed on these monitors translated perfectly to the real world. Producing songs with these monitors is a great experience, because they have the ability to sound musical, not just analytical, which really helped us to stay motivated and excited. Mixing is a joy because these monitors reveal everything, they don’t need to push things to the front because the detail is there already. And since nothing is hyped or pushed to the front, we didn’t experience any ear fatigue over longer sessions throughout the day.
We did some measurements with REW to see how the frequency response of these monitors are in this particular room. We did (as always) notice some subtle problem areas that are caused by this room, but apart from that, these monitors measure really flat, all the way down to roughly 34 Hz. A listening test with a sine sweep confirmed this and we were able to hear the sine sweep down to 26Hz. We somehow expected to be able to hear a bit deeper than that, based on the specifications, but we think the room size comes into play when it comes to being able to hear the lowest frequencies. Having said that, with the A200mk2 we are completely certain that, in this room, we will never need a subwoofer. For us, these monitors go deep enough and it’s highly unlikely that we will ever need more SPL than what they can provide on their own already with ease.
KSdigital Remote Control (KSD-RC)
To access the internal 6 filters + low shelf and high shelf in the FIRTEC powered studio monitors, KSdigital created a remote control. With the help of two RJ45 cables, it’s possible to connect a pair of studio monitors to this device. Besides the aforementioned filter section, this remote also gives you access to delay settings (to adjust for a difference in distance per monitor for example) and you can use the remote as a volume control with mute and dimming possibilities. Another interesting feature, when connected to an A-line monitor or Linemaster model with a digital AES input, is that you can toggle between mid and side. Mid wil give you a summed (mono) signal based on the left and right input, side will give you the mid and side information based on the left and right input.
During our time that we tested the A100 and A200mk2 studio monitors, we did not have the feeling we needed to have access to these internal filter options. In studio 1 where we had a bit of an artificial bass with the A200mk2 due to a severe room mode, we could quickly remedy this problem with the bass control on the back.
The remote control is a bit pricey in our opinion, at the time of writing this review it is available for €899 here in Holland. However, KSdigital happens to offer a 14-day rental option for this remote, which should give you more than enough time to properly setup your monitors and incorporate some room correction internally, if you feel the need.
The KSdigital A200mk2 monitors have made a very positive impression. Infact, we’ve never before auditioned a set of studio monitors in our rooms that impressed us this much. Sure, we’ve experienced other monitors that really have fantastic qualities and we still think very highly of those monitors. But with the A200mk2, for the first time, it’s like there are no downsides to the presentation. Everything that comes out of these monitors seem to be accurate and true to the source, perfectly balanced, punchy and effortlessly delivered.
The asking price for these monitors at the time of writing is around €2200 each including VAT. Purely based on their performance, we would not have been surprised if they would have cost twice that much, as we feel they are actually competing with studio monitors around that price point.
We fully recommend the A200mk2 monitors. If you are looking for a very well built studio monitor set and you can afford them, we can only encourage you to check them out!
+ High levels of resolution and clarity throughout the whole frequency range
+ Capable of high SPL with no hint of coloration
+ Superb bass extension and speed
+ Very realistic stereo imaging
+ Solid build
We want to thank KSdigital for giving us the opportunity to test and review the A200mk2 monitors.