Kali Audio's first product line, the Lone Pine Series, debuted in mid 2018. Charles Sprinkle is Kali's Director of Acoustics, and before joining Kali Audio was Principle Systems Engineer at JBL Professional, where he designed JBL's Image Control Waveguide (tweeter horns) as used in their M2 Master Reference Monitors, LSR 3 Series, and 7 Series monitors. With Sprinkle's background, one might assume Kali would enter the market with an expensive high-end model. However, the folks at Kali keenly chose to produce a high-quality, budget-friendly line of monitors first. Kali approached this business model wisely, looking to use their expertise to fill a gap in the budget monitor market. I spent four weeks using the 6.5-inch LP-6 monitor in my 10-foot x 12-foot project home studio and was very pleased with the results.
The Lone Pine Series also includes the LP-8 (8.5-inch model). Both are Class D, bi-amped nearfield monitors, and the LP-6 is available in black or white, while the LP-8 is currently only available in black. Neither the user manual nor Kali's website has any information about the materials that make up the monitors, so I reached out to Kali to get some additional information. Cabinets are made of MDF (medium density fiberboard) and covered in vinyl. The baffle (mounting for the woofer) is made of styrene (ABS). Kali Audio put me directly in touch with Charles Sprinkle and he added further details about the tweeter and woofer. Sprinkle stated that "the tweeters are a proprietary blend of textile materials chosen for smooth frequency response and low distortion." Woofers are made of polymer-coated paper. Sprinkle explained, "I am a (somewhat) outspoken advocate of paper cone woofers. There are more exotic materials, for sure, but nothing can exceed the value that paper offers.In addition to being stiff like any woofer material should be, paper has the internal damping to reduce resonances.With a properly designed cone geometry, this offers a smooth frequency response and low distortion through the operating range.Additionally, paper cones can be designed to provide a smooth directivity transition at the upper end of their frequency range."
The limitations of my project studio require I set up the monitors on a desk against a wall. This is not optimal, but Kali understands that home studios are limited with space and prepared for this type of scenario when designing the Lone Pine Series. The Boundary EQ switches located on the back of each monitor allows users to make adjustments for just this situation as well as a variety of other monitor placements, such as on a stand, on top of a console's meter bridge, or on a wall mount (US consumers can purchase LP-6 wall mounts directly from Kali for $25, though wall mounts for the LP-8 are not yet available).
When first listening to the monitors, I left all the switches disengaged. With the monitors set up against a wall, it was no surprise the bass was not as defined as I would like. However, there was a noticeable difference once I configured the monitors to the "On a Desk, Against a Wall" configuration (listed as Position 8 in the user's manual). The bass was much more defined in this position, the overall sound was more balanced, and separation was more noticeable. As a reference test, I repeatedly listened to several tunes I am very familiar with. The monitors produced a clear and accurate presentation of those mixes. There was no exaggerated bass, and the mid and high frequencies were present. My ears were never overly fatigued while mixing my own material or when listening for pleasure. If I had to describe the LP-6 in one word, it would be "comfortable." Studio monitors can be subjective, but I've enjoyed using the Kalis for all my listening my purposes.
The user manual and the back of each monitor feature a cleverly-designed diagram for the Boundary EQs, as well as the low frequency (LF) and high frequency (HF) switches. Users unfamiliar with the way frequencies respond to monitor placement will find the diagrams very useful. These diagrams help users adjust the EQ settings to further configure monitor placement, or for simply setting EQ preferences. There are eight switches in total. Switches 1 to 3 make boundary adjustments, 4 and 5 are low filter trims, and 6 and 7 are high filter trims. Switch 8 turns on the RCA input. (Keep this switch off unless using the monitor's RCA connectors. Users can choose from RCA, XLR, and TRS input connections). At the time of writing this review, Kali has announced that they will now be including MV-BT Bluetooth input modules (utilizing the aptX codec) for all LP Series monitors.
The front port tube is a definite advantage for those limited to placing their monitors close to a wall. The LP-6 user manual claims the port tube is "designed to ensure that all of the air leaves the port tube at the same velocity... keeping the bass clean, tight, and devoid of extra noise." Adjusting the boundary switches while having the advantage of the front port tube produced a controlled response within the limitations of my small, untreated space.
The Lone Pine Series features a volume control knob on the back of the cabinet that can add up to +6 dB, as well as lower the volume to a mute position. The user manual suggests keeping the knob in the center +0 dB position unless you're connected to a device that does not have its own volume control.
Something that should not be overlooked in this review is Kali's website. One of the things I like about the website is their willingness to educate consumers in a user-friendly manner. Kali features a Buyer's Guide which entry-level monitor consumers will find very educational. It offers four sections that will help consumers understand whether the LP-6 or LP-8 fits their listening environment and budget. When choosing which monitor is right for you, Kali explains although the 8" LP-8 will produce more low end and is louder than the LP-6, it's frequency response is very similar to the LP-6 and won't necessarily be problematic for small spaces such as the one I am working in. Learning this makes me want to try the LP-8s, although I'm not so sure the desk I am using will accommodate the added size. The four sections of the Buyer's Guide cover Dynamic Range & Distortion, Listening Distance, Bass Output & Response, and Budget & Space Limitations. Anyone interested in acquiring basic knowledge on these topics, regardless of your purchase decisions, will benefit from checking out the Kali web site. For instance, an easy to follow explanation of how a low noise port tube operates is explained.
Kali's products are manufactured in China, and as such, I did inquire with Kali about quality control. How can a small startup company maintain quality control when their products are made in China? In a case of pure coincidence, Charles Sprinkle was at the factory in China when I made this inquiry. Though all of Kali's components are made and constructed in China, they appear to be making some of the right moves by having their Director of Acoustics visit the factory for quality control.
At its price point, I found the LP-6 to be a remarkable studio monitor, and when combined with educational tools on their website, Kali Audio offers an easy gateway into what can be a confusing and expensive market for studio monitors. You may not get all the accessories and features found in some more expensive monitors in the LP-6s class, but you will, however, get very good sounding monitors with practical features at an affordable price. If you're on a budget and working with smaller 4-inch or consumer-level desktop monitors (common in many project studios), the LP-6 is an ideal first step into a larger, professional monitor. I'm definitely adding a pair to my project studio!