|Klipsch Reference Series 5.1 Theater Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Ed Masterson|
|Sunday, 01 September 2002|
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Few live instruments give me greater satisfaction than the trumpet. I am fascinated by its beautiful bite and subtle attack. I cued up Miles Davis, one of the all-time masters of the trumpet, from his Highlights from the Plugged Nickel release (Columbia/Legacy). In this live recording, the Klipsch system painted an open, airy picture of the venue, including the lucky crowd. On the second track “Yesterdays,” Davis exudes emotion as if he is actually crying through his instrument. He starts out very gently and gradually builds up to the point were it seems that there is probably anger behind the sadness. The Klipsch speakers recreated the pleasant rush of air through the horn and transitioned naturally to the bite that trumpets are known for. The cymbals remained separate and floated nicely in the stage, while the brushes on the drums were clear and detailed. Overall, the stage presentation was quite good, yet a bit less focused than I have heard some other comparably priced speakers. On the third track “So What,” Davis came alive. The Klipsch system replicated the intensity in the trumpet and gave me the sound that I hope for when I attend a live performance.
Next, I started comparing the RF-7 loudspeakers in various surround modes provided on my Krell Theater Standard processor. Curiously, this is the first time that I consistently preferred the sound of stereo recordings played back in the matrix surround modes. It seemed as if the Klipsch system was designed with multi-channel playback in mind. The overall balance of the system seemed to go from a little bright in two-channel mode to very well balanced in multi-channel mode. From this point on, I listened to everything in a custom configured multi-channel mode. This mode uses all channels and pulls the stage forward, while leaving the crowd in a live recording around and behind you. I started shuffling through all of my old favorite '60s and '70s rock recordings. During the Who's “Live at Leads,” I found the system played with a physical impact that I had previously only experienced at live shows. This speaker system played with greater dynamic range than I have ever heard in a home theater before. The quiet passages revealed the sound of the movement in the crowd, while the band members spoke at natural levels. When the music started, I had the sense of being completely immersed from a front row center seat.
The subwoofer is so powerful that it can change your breathing pattern and the highs will make you think that you probably should be wearing earplugs. Did I mention Pete Townsend’s hearing issues? Hey, what fun would a concert be if your ears didn’t ring a little the next day? One of my favorite discs while testing the RSW15 subwoofer was ZZ Top’s “Greatest Hits” (Warner Brothers). Lower frequencies could make my pants shake. I found this addicting and started playing with everything from rap to dance stations on my satellite music channels, looking for anything with wall-rattling lows. I began to wonder how long it would take before my neighbors called to complain.
When it comes to family and friends, I have found that movies tend to be much more popular than music. It seems difficult to find people with the same musical tastes, yet almost everyone loves to watch movies, even the bad ones. With movies, this speaker system disappeared both visually and sonically. My kids’ newest favorite, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" (Warner Home Video) has gobs of surround effects that provide a nice tool for testing the timbre matching of the speaker system. Harry seemed to fly around my room while playing the game of Quidditch. The rear surround speakers never drew my focus while the players circled overhead. This is a good indication of properly matched front and rear speakers.
I recently had guests in town from Florida on their first visit to California. I put in "Happy Gilmore" for them. In the scene where Happy goes to a miniature golf course to practice his putting and encounters an earthquake as an obstacle on the 18th hole, my guests jumped up to run for the door, thinking that they were experiencing their first earthquake. This is a good testament of how much low frequency air this subwoofer can produce.
Soon after that, I played “Black Hawk Down” on pay-per-view in Dolby Digital AC-3. If you are an action movie lover and have not seen this, you should prepare yourself for a riveting experience. This movie is a dramatization of a real-life, unexpected battle that occurred between U.S. troops and Mogadishu local militia during the conflict in Somalia. The sound effects in the movie were conveyed realistically, with no attention drawn to any specific aspect of the sound. The voices were distinct and intelligible even during the most complex scenes. The center channel seemed to handle everything with ease and without drawing attention to itself. The surrounds conveyed the power of the explosions well. The crunching and scraping sounds were terrifically detailed as the Black Hawk helicopters crashed. Bullets ripped through the room, making you feel the need to wear a bulletproof vest. I have heard other systems that provided a more natural sense of texture in the sounds, but few that could create the impact that the Klipsch package provided.