RBH T-2P Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Brian Kahn   
Thursday, 01 July 2004

Introduction
It’s been about three years since I last had some RBH speakers in one of my review systems and I hadn’t realized how much I missed their sound until I cracked open the crates for the company’s best speakers. I was fortunate to be slated to review RBH’s reference-grade giants, the T-2P ($9,295 per pair) loudspeakers for review. These massive speakers, while not the largest speakers sold by RBH, are definitely a statement piece whose size and stunning appearance is sure to attract attention from audiophiles and non-audiophiles alike.

The RBH speakers are probably best known for their use of aluminum drivers. This tradition is kept in place with the T-2P system, which utilizes two 10-inch woofers, and four six-and-a-half-inch midranges per side, in addition to three one-inch silk dome tweeters for a total of nine drivers per side. Each T-2 speaker is comprised of a T1 midrange tweeter cabinet staked on top of a 1010-SEN subwoofer and joined with a pair of brackets. Each cabinet is 30 inches high, 13 inches wide and 18 inches deep. Stacked, they measure 61 inches tall and weigh about 190 pounds per side. The 1010-SEN’s have two 10-inch drivers vertically aligned above a large port. The driver configuration on the T-1 is somewhat unusual and is reminiscent of some large Cello prototype speakers I once saw. The three tweeters are vertically aligned along the inside edge of the cabinet; the midrange drivers are arrayed in a curvilinear fashion akin to a parenthesis mark.

The RBH cabinets are solidly built and finished in your choice of 30 wood veneers. This aesthetic flexibility is virtually unheard of in this day and time due to the large amount of inventory that is required to make this possible. My sample pair was finished in South American Rosewood, a rich brown with vibrant grain patterns. The back of each cabinet featured bi-wireable binding posts. I am not sure of the need to bi-wire your subwoofer, but you can with these if you want. Those of you who are familiar with RBH speakers will be happy to hear that the new production T-2Ps have binding posts that are much improved over their predecessors, making it much easier to tighten the posts on your favorite cables.

The last component of the T-2P speaker system is the power that puts the “P” in the name. RBH makes their own mono-block subwoofer amplifiers; the pair of SA-400s that are part of the T-2P system are discrete class A/B, 400-watt amplifiers. The amplifiers have a host of line and speaker level inputs and outputs to accommodate a variety of connection methods. The amplifiers have an auto-on circuit, switchable boost at 25 Hz, continuously variable phase control, adjustable crossover and a master volume control. While this may seem like a lot of controls for a subwoofer amplifier, they provide essential flexibility for getting the best possible sound from the lower frequencies.

The entire system features a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and four-ohm impedance; it needs 100 to 500 watts per channel for the T-1 portion. Steep acoustical crossovers at 24dB per octave ensure that all the power goes where it is needed without damaging the drivers. System efficiency is rated at an impressive 91 dB/m/w.

Set-up
Set-up was a bear. These are physically large and heavy speakers that will require you to invite some friends over, or better yet, buy them from a dealer that delivers (all RBH dealers will deliver a reference product like these). Once I got each of the 100-pound cabinets out of the box, I then had to mount the T-1 cabinet on top of the 1010-SEN cabinet and connect them with the supplied mounting clamps. The clamps are large bars that lay across the tops of the woofer cabinet, one towards the front and the other near the rear. The end caps for the bars are machined out of aluminum and complement the speaker’s feet. I then enlisted the help of a friend in lifting the T-1, setting it down on top of the 1010-SEN and clamps. Once the T-1 was in place, it was fairly simple to tighten the clamps for a solid connection.

Once the speakers were assembled and in place, I had to figure out how I wanted to hook them up. I used my reference Krell 300iL integrated amplifier to drive the T-1 cabinet. I connected the preamplifier outputs of the Krell to the SA-400s, which drove the bass sections. Once everything was up and running, I took considerable time making adjustments to the phase and master volume levels until everything seemed right.

RBH Sound sells the T-2Ps through dealers who are knowledgeable about the product and rudimentary acoustics. They would absolutely perform the set-up on a product at this level as part of the purchase price of the loudspeakers. Part of the fun of owning reference-level loudspeakers for many experienced audio enthusiasts is finding the best locations for them in your room. Nevertheless, it is always reassuring to know that your dealer got you set up and in the ballpark before you spend the time finding that last one-tenth of one percent of audio perfection.

Listening
I began with Paula Cole’s This Fire album (Warner Bros.) as the first track of this album is very dynamic. The song “Tiger” opens with soft vocals and quickly breaks into a very dynamic bass. This provides a good test of both micro and macro dynamics. The T-2s were able to accurately recreate the vocal track with all of its inflections. The bass line was as deep and detailed as I expected, as well as being absolutely effortless at any volume. I was particularly impressed by this speaker’s ability to convey a sense of weight, even at very low listening levels. The soundstage was deep, with the instruments solidly anchored in place.

For my next listening selection, I attempted to find a large-scale recording that would match the scale of the speakers. I decided on Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (Seraphim). The string section was reproduced with warmth and detail; however, I noticed the upper midrange was a bit forward. This was also noticeable with the brass section. The forwardness was never harsh or shrill, nor did it provide any midrange bloom. By forwardness, I am referring to a natural aggressiveness and energy that some may find to be one of this speaker’s greater attributes. I found the T-2Ps to be very detailed throughout the midrange area and the warmth in the upper midrange area did not seem to affect their ability to render images with extreme detail and precision. The width of the soundstage extended beyond the outside edges of my speakers and the depth went way past the front wall of my room. This musical piece is probably best known for its cannon-infused crescendo. The last few minutes of the overture are filled with great dynamics from the strings, horns and of course the cannons, which were felt as well as heard. I played this selection back at various volume levels from moderate to room-shaking. The T-2Ps were never challenged: each playback session sounded effortless with zero compression and extraordinary dynamics without sacrifice of detail.

I then tried something on a smaller scale, listening to the first disc of Ella and Louis Again (Mobile Fidelity), a monaural recording. Listening to the first track, “Don’t Be That Way,” the piano opening was solidly placed between the speakers, as it should be with a mono recording. The tone and weight of the piano were well matched to the vocals of Ella Fitzgerald, which came into play shortly thereafter. Both the voices of Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong are well portrayed, with the speakers detailed enough to reproduce the many vocal inflections on this recording. There are several areas that collected my attention. The deep throaty sound of Armstrong’s voice had an inherent richness that was over the top with this RBH speaker set. Many speakers can reproduce the sound of his voice, but the T2Ps bettered that by providing a timbre accuracy and texture that was reminiscent of a live performance. Texture is one of the most difficult things to get right in that it represents the air that surrounds the instrument, in this case the instrument being the mass of Armstrong’s body and vocal chords. I was quite impressed and often found myself lost in a trance, reliving the era and pretending that I was fortunate enough to have been there for this wonderful recording. Speakers don’t make music great but they do elevate the emotion that they create. The RBH T-2Ps connected at a emotional level and made me truly love my time in front of them.

I then went to the other extreme of the musical spectrum with Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” from their album Downward Spiral (Nothing Records). This is a very aggressive rock recording, filled with screaming guitars and bombastic synthesizers. While this isn’t the recording that allows one to judge the accurate reproduction of most natural musical instruments, it will let you know if your speakers rock hard enough to invoke a mosh-pit in your living room or outdo the local live music venue. Rest assured the T-2Ps would serve this role. The track “Closer” has a deep, multi-note bass line that the T-2Ps were able to accurately reproduce with palpability at volumes ranging from whisper low to ear-splitting high without any compression or harshness. The 600 watts per channel I was feeding the speakers provided ample power for any listening level I dared to try. I found the T-2Ps to be a rare combination in this price class. They were capable of reproducing the subtlest nuances in acoustic sweetness and detail yet they could rock your shorts off. As with all AV products, there are compromises. For example, a speaker that is ferociously accurate at midrange vocals very likely won’t rock your fillings from your teeth nor would you necessarily expect them to. The RBH T2Ps could waltz with best, bring big bands to your home, provide a personal visit from your favorite female vocalist and, as this last test proved, could turn you into a tattooed and pierced metal junkie without having to leave your home or risk infection from non-sterilized needles.

Due to time and size restraints, I reviewed the T-2Ps as a stand-alone rather than in a 5.1 theater set-up, but after spending time with them, I have no doubt that these could make for an extremely exciting and dynamic theater package. Naturally, if you have the room, the best possible package would be to have the T1 (top portion of the T-2P) as your center channel at $5,399 and a pair of T1s for your rears. However, this package would be large and require a ton of room. Therefore, I would recommend the RBH 66SEs at $1,779, a dipole/bipole speaker designed to be hung on the rear walls. This package would provide the bass and sound quality of the best 5.1 packages today. Bryan Southard, Audio Revolution’s editor, has been running a smaller RBH 5.1 package at his home for years and has been elated with the performance and excitement that they provide.

The Downside
These speakers are seriously large speakers at over five feet and nearly 200 pounds per side. In order to enjoy what these speakers can do best, you need a room that can accommodate physically large speakers in a way where these RBHs can spread out and breathe. With per square foot prices for homes in Southern California’s best neighborhoods peaking above $1,000 per foot, speakers this large are not for everyone and I wouldn’t recommend squeezing them into a space where they really don’t fit. For those who do have the space, you are in for a treat.

In the spirit of the size of the speakers being a potential downside, I must say that my fiancée does feel like the cabinets are so beautiful that they were not objectionable once the speakers were unboxed and set up. Everyone who has seen this RBH system in my home agrees it looks striking.

The T2Ps are best described as an aggressively dynamic speaker. Live music is aggressive, yet some enthusiasts prefer a more relaxing and possibly less realistic presentation. For this, I recommend that you spend some time with the T2Ps before laying down your hard-earned green. If you are like me, I find the hard-pounding dynamics refreshing in a world of over-processed and unnaturally smooth reproduction.

Conclusion
The T2Ps are deserving of a close listen for anyone seeking ultra-performance speakers with nearly unlimited dynamic range without sacrificing the details. The T-2P’s biggest strength was its ability to reproduce everything I could throw at it, at any volume, while maintaining linearity without ever sounding strained or fatigued.

The RBH speakers were extremely detailed, fairly neutral with a slightly forward upper midrange and had great dynamics. Despite the large cabinet size, the T-2Ps were able to reproduce detailed and solidly placed sonic images on par with a great mini-monitor. The main sonic difference between the RBHs and a top pair of mini-monitors is the RBH’s ability to reproduce ultra-large dynamic ranges and to reach down into the lowest octaves, thus adding emotion to your music and movies. Although large, the fact that these speakers incorporate subs into the main speakers is a huge plus, eliminating the need for outboard subs that take up valuable floor space and can be difficult to properly blend with the main loudspeakers.

When discussing the world’s top loudspeakers, brand names like Wilson, Revel, MartinLogan, B&W and JM Labs get mentioned by most savvy enthusiasts. After spending a few months with the RBH T-2Ps, I can easily put them in the same class and might even suggest that they are possibly an even stronger value than some of the more blue chip brands mentioned above. The T-2Ps exceeded my expectations with respect to musical dynamics with the detail and imaging capabilities allowing them to accurately and solidly place sonic elements throughout a broad, deep soundstage.
Manufacturer RBH Sound
Model T-2P Loudspeakers
Reviewer Brian Kahn





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