My career in technology started with a fascination for recording equipment. When I realized anyone could make music on a computer, my life forever changed. In my early twenties, I studied audio engineering and built a home studio in my parent’s backyard called “The Sugar Shack”. To call myself a gearhead would be an understatement.
Today I revisit my love for recording by reviewing the Kali Audio IN-UNF Ultra-Nearfield studio monitor system. This ultra-nearfield monitoring system is designed for bedroom producers who need to create and mix music on a small desk workstation. While they look like computer speakers, they are anything but. Can you mix music in a tight space with these ultra-nearfield monitors? Let’s find out.
Design of the IN-UNF studio monitor system
The IN-UNF consists of three components: a bass unit and two satellites. It’s designed to sit on your desk about 0.8 metres away from the listener. That’s about an arm’s length away which is not typical in a normal mixing studio. The monitors are usually farther away for stereo separation.
Kali Audio IN-UNF bass unit
The bass unit houses two horizontally opposed four and a half inch woofers. When they move back and forth, there is no shaking from the bass unit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. The base unit also houses all the inputs for the IN-UNF. It includes stereo TRS, 3.5mm jack, optical input, and USB-C with 24 bit 48K sample rate. You can hook it up directly to a computer without the need for a separate audio interface.
The base unit also features dip switches which allow control of boundary EQ as well as trims for the low, mid-range, and high frequencies. On the other side of the base unit are the outputs to the satellite speakers and the power input. There’s also a standby mode that puts the unit to sleep without turning it off.
Kali Audio IN-UNF satellite speakers
The satellite speakers have a ball-shaped design and feature four-inch mid-range and one inch tweeters for each channel. It sits on an inverted rubber puck stand. Users can rotate and point the satellite any direction. This allows for easy adjustment to get the right stereo space during mixing.
Setting up the IN-UNF studio monitor system
The IN-UNF system is made to sit on your desk. The desk is factored into the acoustics by taking into account the reflections from the satellite to the desk. In fact, it’s tuned for a neutral frequency response on a desk.
With the bass station sitting horizontally on a desk, a computer or monitor can be placed on top of the IN-UNF. When placed vertically, a laptop or another device can sit in front of it. The horizontally opposed woofers prevent any vibrations on the display. This is even true at loud volumes, you don’t see or feel any shaking from vibrations from the bass unit.
In my setup, I placed a laptop on top of the base unit with computer monitors on either side. The satellites sat in front of both monitors for a sleek and functional desk monitoring setup. The laptop connected to the base unit via a USB-C cable. My PC instantly recognized the IN-UNF and it was up and running. This is the first time I connected monitors to a computer without the need for a separate audio interface. This impressed me a lot.
Boundary EQ is a switch used to compensate for low frequency anomalies that may occur when speakers are placed in close proximity to walls. In my case, I had a large window behind the desk, with two angled windows on either side.
The IN-UNF has boundary EQ for both horizontal and vertical placement of the bass unit. In addition, there are boundary EQs to set the system against walls, away from walls, in a corner, and in a very small room with walls on either side and behind. I followed the instructions and played with the boundary EQ until I felt it was properly tuned to my room.
Using the IN-UNF Ultra-Nearfield studio monitor system
I still have a lot of original music that I created in my old studio. I carefully listened to my discography of music with the IN-UNF. Since I mixed these tracks myself, I know exactly how I want it to sound.
In terms of sound quality, the Kali Audio IN-UNF monitors are incredibly transparent and accurate. They deliver a well-balanced and neutral sound. This is super important in any monitor system. If you can get the mix to sound good on a neutral monitoring system, they will sound good on any speaker—even a smartphone speaker.
The satellites also have a wide frequency response, which means that they can accurately reproduce the entire spectrum of sound. I love how easy it is to adjust the position of the satellites. I was able to tweak it until I could hear the full stereo separation. It was such a treat to listen to this music on a monitoring system. The music sounded full and encompassing. Even though I don’t produce music anymore, I would love to edit videos with this ultra-nearfield monitor system. The neutral sound profile is exactly what I need to improve the audio in my videos.
Who is the IN-UNF for?
Home recording has changed a lot over the last decade. Virtually anyone with a laptop and some basic gear can make studio-quality music in their bedroom. The IN-UNF is designed for those bedroom producers who want to create and edit their mixes from their desk. I was skeptical about ultra-nearfield studio monitoring. However, it will produce a much better mix than a good pair of headphones, which most bedroom producers currently use. Of course, mixing is an art and I think good mixes can be attained with this ultra-nearfield monitoring system.
There are so many great producers out there making music in their bedrooms. Before exporting those tracks, the music needs to be mixed. This ensures the music will sound good on any speaker, big or small.
Video producers would also benefit from this monitoring system. After using it in my home setup, I honestly want this ultra-nearfield monitoring system. I feel the audio mixes in my videos would be greatly improved. I cried a little putting this unit back into the box.
In short, this monitoring system is for mixing on a small desk. Surprisingly, there are no vibrations produced from this setup. They act as monitors when you mix, and as computer speakers when you work. If you want to improve your mixes in a small space, the Kali Audio IN-UNF Ultra-Nearfield studio monitor system is definitely worth considering.