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Klipsch RF-5 Loudspeakers Print E-mail
Friday, 01 March 2002
Article Index
Klipsch RF-5 Loudspeakers
Page 2

The Music
I connected the RF-5’s to a NAD 571 DVD-video player for the source, a Sunfire Theater Grand Processor II for the preamp, and an Anthem PVA 7 for amplification, which I will review next month. I ran the RF-5’s for approximately 50 hours of break-in before I seriously listened to them.

I started off my testing with Train’s Drops of Jupiter (Columbia) to get a feel for male vocal harmonies, acoustic and electric guitars. Pat Monahan’s voice has a distinct alto sound that carried well through the RF-5’s. Tonal quality was good, as was the detail and smoothness of its transition from quiet moments to more dynamic sections. The bass reproduction, while not as visceral as the older Klipsch that I remember hearing, was fast and possessed good control. Anything approaching 35Hz did exhibit a small amount of bloat, but not to the point where you want to turn down the volume.

For a feel for the female side of things, I popped in Dido’s No Angel (Arista). Although no vocal virtuoso, Dido has a sultry, whispery quality to her voice that challenges a speaker’s ability to render the low-level detail of "My Lover's Gone." The sibilance presented by the RF-5’s was invitingly warm and almost passionate as Dido croons out her heartfelt emotion. On the cymbals in this tune, I did notice a slightly abbreviated decay. The RF-5’s showed their dexterity on "Thank You," with the ability to give snap to the bongos and life to the picked strings of the acoustic guitar. The sound staging was pleasantly accurate in its position of instruments and voices. The tambourine was placed slightly to the right of the left speaker with Dido’s voice centered and guitar and tambourine left of the right speaker. Not bad.

Moving on to some serious rock, I pulled out the Red Album by Days of the New (Geffen). "Dirty Road" started off with the nice midrange bloom of an acoustic guitar and deep, smooth bass that was inviting and controlled, kind of like a warm cup of cocoa. Travis Meeks' signature grunge acoustic sound soared on "Die Born." It reminded me of good live concert sound, generating high volumes that don't actually seem that high until you try to talk to someone over the music. The RF-5’s seem effortless in their presentation. "Where Are You" began with thunderous bass, solid kick drum and shredding guitar that gave the RF-5 an "iron fist in the velvet glove" presentation that could not be ignored.

There were some small aspects of the RF-5’s that didn’t come across as well as on the NHT ST4’s ($1,000). For example, the blending of the frequencies tended to be less coherent on the RF-5’s. Their was a slight yet noticeable awkward transition from some lower frequencies to higher ones, kind of like a little gap, that was only detectable when I compared the RF-5’s to the ST4’s. This might be due to the difference between the three-way configuration of the ST4 and the two-way design of the RF-5, but the dynamic and effortless style of the RF-5 was more appealing.

To test the stamina of the RF-5’s, I used NickelBack’s Silver Side Up to see how well the speakers held together under the punishment of Ryan Peake’s guitar assault on "Woke Up This Morning." The RF-5s' transient response and dynamic range really shone through on this track. Chad Kroeger was standing on stage with me in the front row -- at least, that’s how it felt at high volumes with the RF-5. The high frequencies did tend to be a little etchy.

The Downside
Although the RF-5 has very few faults for a loudspeaker at this price point, there are a few issues. First, at louder listening sessions, the slight harshness exhibited by the RF-5 tended to inspire me to back off of the volume at times. It could be somewhat fatiguing with brighter recordings.

The build quality is very good and the fit and finish is handsome, but the plastic grille is quite fragile and doesn’t match up with the caliber of the speaker. The same goes for the plastic feet. I was afraid I would break them when I was leaning the RF-5 back to move it and heard a small crack. After inspection I didn’t find any breaks, but the feet are a bit under-engineered.

Klipsch has done a great job at keeping their heritage alive with their new reference RF-5’s. With the Tractrix horn driver, the Cerametallic woofers and accompanying substantial magnet structures, the efficiency of these jewels will bring out the best in your system. The build quality is as good now as it was on my original Heresys, which says a lot about the pride of the company in maintaining such high standards after over 60 years in the business. There are other loudspeakers at this price range that you may want to consider, such as the Paradigm Active 20’s ($1,699 without stands), but I can’t believe you wouldn’t be happy with this Klipsch product. The RF-5’s remind me of being at a concert, maybe because at least a few of the over 200 hundred shows I’ve been to probably had Klipsch products in their P.A. systems. It’s a sound that makes you want to air guitar or air drum till you pass out from bliss.

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