RBH MC Series Home Theater Speaker System 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Tim Hart   
Sunday, 01 May 2005

In the heyday of hi-fi, it seemed like there was a wide gap between the highest-end speakers and speakers the masses could afford. Today, things are different in that the budget-minded audio-video performance enthusiast now has the opportunity to buy speakers that can hang with the high-end players at a price that is only fractionally more than the speakers found advertised on TV infomercials, along with noise-canceling headphones.

For over 25 years, RBH has been producing a wide range of performance loudspeakers that are designed and engineered from their Utah-based facility. I first became aware of their work four years ago, when AVR editor Bryan Southard invited me over to his home to get a second opinion on the Signature series that he had installed for review. I remember really admiring the fit, finish and workmanship. I was impressed with the solidness of the enclosures and the smooth, refined sound that they produced. One of the most impressive aspects was how well the RBH units blended with each of the other speakers in the 5.1 system. While RBH might be the second most famous high-end speaker company based in Utah, they have speakers that compete with their neighbors at some of the high-end price points, along with models that are priced way below anything Wilson offers, making the RBH brand a bit more accessible to the non-millionaire music enthusiast.

The MC series of speakers from RBH are closer to the entry-level price points for the RBH product lineup. This line allows you to mix and match five different speakers and two different subwoofers that will fit just about any room size, giving the consumer some size and price flexibility. All of these products are voiced to work seamlessly together. The speakers that I received for review included the MC-616C ($479 each), which can be used as a main, center, or surround speaker, the MC-6C bookshelf speakers ($749.00 per pair) and the TS-10AP subwoofer ($699.00 each). All came in a black wood veneer, which is the only finish option for the MC series. The slender profile presents a sleek contemporary look that is unobtrusive and tasteful with grilles on. When the grilles are removed, the speakers look more purposeful. One of the aesthetic improvements in this area from prior models is the lack of visible mounting hardware for the drivers, which refines the appearance even more.

In this set-up, RBH supplied three MC-616Cs to use as the front mains and center speaker, although they could also be used as surround speakers if you so choose. The sealed cabinet of the MC-616C is seven-and-three-quarters inches in height, 19.5 inches wide and nine inches deep, with a solid weight of 24 pounds each. Their frequency response is listed at 50Hz - 20 kHz at ±3dB and has a sensitivity of 89dB, meaning that these speakers are not a particularly hard load, which allows you to drive them to reasonably high volumes with as little as a moderately powered receiver. The MC-616C has a power handling capability of 150 watts and uses 2 six-and-one-half-inch aluminum dome woofers surrounding a one-inch aluminum tweeter in a D’Appolito configuration. The solid-feeling cabinet can be set up vertically or horizontally, as in my set-up, and the cabinets are magnetically shielded to reduce interaction with your TV.

The MC-6C bookshelf speakers were used as the rear surround speakers and are 12.5 inches high, seven-and-one-half-inches wide, eight-and-three-quarter-inches deep, and weigh in at a hefty 17 pounds each. Frequency response for the MC-6C is listed at 60Hz–20kHz with a sensitivity of 86dB. The same six-and-one-half-inch aluminum dome woofer and one-inch aluminum tweeter that is used in the MC-616C is also used here and can handle up to 120 watts in this configuration. The cabinet is a sealed design as well.

For the lower registers, RBH supplied the TS-10AP subwoofer. The TS-10AP uses a RBH designed 200-watt class A/B internal analog amplifier to drive a 10-inch-long excursion aluminum woofer. This is housed in a solid, single-ported cabinet that is 14 inches high, 14 inches wide, 17 inches deep, weighs 45 pounds and has a rated response down to 30Hz.

On the back panel, you will find a gain control, adjustable low-frequency cutoff and a 180-degree phase inversion knob, allowing you the necessary flexibility to properly blend the TS-10AP with your other speakers. It also provides you with a low pass cutoff switch, a feature that defeats the internal crossover for applications in which you are controlling the LFE from your electronics. There are also high-level five-way binding post inputs to connect your receiver or amplifier, or corresponding line level RCA inputs to input a line level signal, and 100 Hz high pass crossover outputs.

After about 20 hours of break-in playing CDs and DVDs, the RBH system started to warm up and it was time to dial it in for optimal set-up. I positioned the two MC-616Cs about 20 inches from the back wall, two feet from the side walls, and set the third MC-616C horizontally on top of my TV. After some listening, I adjusted them without venturing too far from my original starting position. I stationed the TS-10AP sub in the right-hand corner just behind the MC-616C, and I positioned the two MC-6Cs behind my couch. For this review, I used the Sunfire Theater Grand IV preamp/processor, the Aragon 2007 200 watt x seven-channel amplifier and the Denon DVD-2900 universal player. RBH also supplied their 25-inch Plateau stands, allowing me to adjust the main and the surround speakers to the correct height. The Plateau stands retail for $219.

I went right for the jugular and started out with “Bad Magick” from Godsmack’s Awake CD (Universal Records). The drumming and bass line on this track is solid and threatening with its low-level assault. While not the deepest-sounding presentation I’ve heard in this price range, the MC-616Cs did a great job for their size. Teamed with the TS-10AP sub, there was a deftness and snap to the lower registers that was very satisfying and more articulate than I expected. Low-level detail came through with authority and lacked any true signs of congestion, a common negative artifact in speakers of this price class. Integration was just about seamless with very little lost in the lower midrange where some satellite systems aren’t able to span the gap between sub-100 Hz and the upper ranges. The soundstage was quite good, specifically located with a slightly laid back presentation. The vocals and midrange had a nice balance that leaned a bit to the warm side and the higher frequencies were neither fatiguing, etched nor edgy.

Bela Fleck is one of those musicians who definitely strays from the norm. Anyone who can play a form of progressive jazz/fusion on a banjo immediately gets my attention. Having seen Fleck live several times with the Flecktones, his performances are unique and compelling. On his DVD-Audio disc The Bluegrass Sessions: Tales from the Acoustic Planet, Volume 2 (Warner Brothers Records), with some help from some very talented musicians including the legendary Earl Scruggs, Fleck explores three generations of bluegrass, from traditional to new. The interplay of banjo, fiddle, guitar and bass guitar on “When Joy Kills Sorrow” is intricate and enveloping in this 5.1 mix. The RBH system did a nice job of rendering the nuance and resolution of the performance. Detail was abundant and the RBH’s midrange remained warm, even at high volumes.

I love soundtracks that put you in the middle of the action and make you feel that if you closed your eyes, you would be there, too. “Ladder 49” (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) is one of those films. The scene towards the end of the movie, when Jack Morrison (Joaquin Phoenix) goes into an apartment building to try to save a little girl and gets trapped himself, depicts how it might feel if it actually happened to you. The sounds of flames popping up above and all around are well defined. The RBH package is able to translate the emotion of this horrific event with great impact. Popping and cracking of wood and flames have a convincing feel to them.

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (Paramount Home Entertainment) is a novel movie that is more of an artistic statement than a film, but it has some interesting spots in the soundtrack that I felt would be a good test of how well one speaker hands off the information to another. When Sky Captain (Jude Law) is flying his highly modified P-40 through the cityscape, the soundtrack depicts the effects a pilot would experience flying between buildings. Camera angles force the soundtrack to maintain spatial cues dynamically, utilizing all of the channels in an intricate way. The RBH system handles this aspect very well. The intricacies of the sound effects are sorted out and never seem compressed or confusing, traveling seamlessly from one channel to the next. The sub also does a nice job with explosions, which are not earth-shattering but still well-defined and punchy. While they are investigating a huge and apparently abandoned warehouse, Polly (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Sky Captain’s footsteps echo convincingly within the large area, with creaky doors and voices reverberating though the implied space. The RBH system reproduces the details well, with the whispery voices and scraping shoes fleshing out nicely.

The Downside
While the RBH MCs did quite well with virtually all of the software I ran through them, I felt that they lacked high frequency detail in a few of the listening tests. Cymbals lacked some shimmer, and highs could tend to sound a bit rolled off to me on certain recordings. For many, this is a favorable sonic characteristic rather than a drawback, as it tends to render your music in a more relaxing fashion, as compared to the often edgy and/or brittle sound you will find in the more brash, mass market speakers at this price range. Once again, this is more a matter of my personal taste and a reflection of the speakers’ overall sound flavor, as opposed to a direct criticism of the speaker design.

The MC-616C is a bit large for a bookshelf speaker, so plan on getting stands. For the best performance, you’ll want the stands anyway. This will provide the speaker with the best opportunity to rock in an installation that is neat-looking and safe for kids and animals.

To me, a speaker that can sound less like a speaker and more like the movies and the music I love is the ultimate goal and this RBH system does just that. The speakers’ integration is superb and they work seamlessly together. You would have to compare them to systems costing twice the price to even notice any sonic shortcomings and even then you might be hard-pressed. These speakers are that good.

The sub has enough visceral impact for movies and finesse for music. The MC-616Cs work well as main channels, with the minor exception of the horizontal dispersion. Overall, this RBH package throws a nice soundstage for two-channel material, one that’s not overly forward and has good focus and notable clarity. Partnered with the MC-6Cs as surrounds, movie and multi-channel music sounded satisfying and resolute. At this price range and size, the MC series home theater system is at the top of the heap and a standout value.
Manufacturer RBH Sound
Model MC Series Home Theater Speaker System
Reviewer Tim Hart

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