|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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Specialty audio/video manufacturers come and go, leaving a rare few who last long enough to see their tenth birthday. Loudspeaker manufacturer Klipsch has survived more than five decades. They have done so with products designed and manufactured with an unwavering design philosophy - reproducing the live event.
Klipsch provided me with a review package consisting of their largest components in the Reference line: the RF-7 floor-standing speakers at $2,200 per pair, the RC-7 center speaker at $800, the RSW-15 powered subwoofer costing $1,800, and the RS-7 wall-mounted surround speakers at $900 per pair. The center channel, front main loudspeakers are video-shielded and are available in three handcrafted furniture-grade veneers: jet ash, medium cherry or blond maple. The surrounds speakers are only available with black or white vinyl finishes.
The RSW-15 powered subwoofer measures 19.25 inches tall, 18.5 inches wide, 24.5 inches deep and weighs 85 pounds. Its bass reflex design uses a rear-firing 15-inch Cerametallic (specially treated anodized aluminum) cone woofer with a cast aluminum frame and a 30-pound motor assembly along with a fifteen-inch Cermetalic cone passive radiator on the front of the cabinet, with an on-board high-output “BASH” digital high-efficiency amplifier. Its rated frequency response is 19 Hz to 120Hz +/- 3dB.
The RF-7 main speakers each measure 45 inches tall, 11.5 inches wide, 16 inches deep and weigh 90 pounds each. The rated frequency response is 32Hz to 20KHz +/- 3dB. This two-way design implements a single one-and-three-quarter-inch titanium dome compression driver coupled to an eight-inch Tractix horn for the high frequencies and two 10-inch Cerametallic woofers. The magnetically-shielded tweeter magnet weighs an unusually hefty 22 ounces, while the woofers each use 50-ounce magnets.
The RC-7 center channel measures nine inches tall, 26 inches wide, 12 inches deep and weighs 42 pounds. This thing will look big even on the top of a 36-inch television. My most rational solution? Get a bigger TV. The rated frequency response is 45Hz to 20KHz. This speaker’s two-way design incorporates two eight-inch woofers in a tapered array, which in this case means that the woofers are arranged horizontally on either side of the tweeter, with one of the drivers operating from the upper midrange down and the other driver operating from the lower midrange down. It utilizes the same horn tweeter as the RF-7.
The RS-7 surround speakers measure 9.5 inches tall, 22.5 inches wide, 9.5 inches deep, weigh 24 pounds apiece and are likewise a two-way design. Each surround speaker has two one-inch titanium dome compression drivers with eight-inch Tractix horns and a single eight-inch Cerametallic woofer. The rated frequency response is 49Hz to 20KHz. Additional technical information is available in Tim Hart's review of the RF-5 loudspeakers published in March 2002.
The overall fit and finish of this speaker package was fairly typical of speakers that I have seen at this price-point. In the case of the RF7s, they are tall, well-finished enclosures, a style adopted by the greater percentile of loudspeakers in their prospective price range. The subwoofer, center channel and mains were finished in the blonde maple veneer. The surround channels were finished in black vinyl. I liked the look of the supple blonde maple and found myself wishing that the surrounds had the same finish. The RF-7s and the RC-7 had bi-wire, five-way binding posts, whereas the surround speaker had a single pair.
Klipsch produces both home and professional speakers for which the same design philosophy is applied to all of their products. They believe that a speaker must be able to convey the power, detail and emotion of the music or soundtrack in order to be ultimately satisfying. To achieve this goal, their Reference Series speakers combine Tractix horn-loaded tweeters and Cerametallic woofers in a very efficient two-way design. Klipsch is well known for implementing horns into their designs and horns have a couple of characteristics that make them appealing. What do you do when you want to say something to someone across a crowded or noisy room? You cup your hands around your mouth and aim your voice in the direction that you want to be heard. You are essentially making a horn to direct the sound energy where you want it to go. Horns control the dispersion patterns and increase efficiency by focusing the energy towards the listener. The speaker drivers are housed in a ported and well-braced MDF enclosure. Efficiency is a notable feature in Klipsch’s speaker designs. All of their speakers in the floorstanding Reference line have a minimum sensitivity rating of 98dB at one watt/one meter or higher. The RF-7s have an impressive sensitivity rating of 102dB. This means that it takes very little power to drive them to ear-piercing levels. Klipsch claims that the mains will reach 120 dB with only 64 watts of amplifier power. In comparison, a speaker with a sensitivity rating of 88dB requires over 1000 watts of amplifier power to reach this same level. This may not sound important, but the THX specifications require that a theater bring the system to a sound pressure level of 117 dB during the loudest passages in a movie soundtrack. With this system, most typical receivers will have adequate power to achieve this goal.
For your personal edification, on the evening of May 31, 1976, the Who owned the record for the loudest concert ever at 120 dB, a record that stood for many years. Pete Townsend is now completely deaf in one ear, and can’t hear out of the other.