RBH T-30LSE Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Floorstanding Loudspeakers
Written by Brian Kahn   
Sunday, 01 July 2007

RBH Sound is a rapidly growing, ultra-high-performance speaker manufacturer, celebrating their 30-year anniversary with the release of their most ambitious speaker to date, the T-30LSE. The T-30LSE is a limited edition flagship model with only 100 pairs being made. At $15,000, the T-30LSEs are a serious investment, but upon closer scrutiny, they are quite reasonably priced when compared to the physically large flagship models of some other high-end loudspeaker brands. When I look at the T-30LSE, it brings to mind Revel’s new Salons, Wilson’s MAXX and B&W’s 802d loudspeakers, all of which come with a far larger price tag.

I have long appreciated the innovation and craftsmanship I have seen in RBH Sound’s products. For more information on RBH’s history, I refer you to my article on RBH’s T-2P speaker system, which is at first glance similar to the T-30LSEs reviewed here. Both models are large, full-range speakers with similar driver arrangements. However, that is where the similarities end, as the newer limited edition transducers are truly something to behold if you are in the large loudspeaker market.

The T-30LSE features a single cabinet per channel, measuring 60.5 inches tall by 15.5 inches wide by 18 inches deep and weighing 160 pounds. They are extremely big and visually striking. At first, it looked as if RBH simply joined the 1010SEN bass and T-1 mid/high enclosures that comprise the T-2P system into one cabinet. The high and midrange drivers are in sealed enclosures; the woofers are in a ported bass reflex enclosure. Like the T-2P system, the T-30LSEs are available in numerous wood veneers, have machined aluminum feet, feature two 10-inch aluminum cone subwoofers, four six-and-a-half-inch aluminum cone woofers and three one-inch silk dome tweeters, with the woofers and tweeters configured in a dispersion averaging alignment. RBH Sound is a pioneer in the use of aluminum cone drivers and they have a lot of experience in reaping the benefits and avoiding the pitfalls using this driver material. The review samples came in very well-finished Cherry veneer. The T-30LSE cabinets are certainly not fancy, but they are well-built and look great.

The term “dispersion averaging alignment” comes from the mind of RBH’s design guru Shane Rich to describe the driver alignment utilized. While the name may be unique to RBH, the alignment has been featured in other speakers, such as the former Cello’s flagship model. With the listener a minimum distance away, preferably ten to 12 feet, the driver array acts like a point source radiator, minimizing lobing effects. This works, as the top and bottom woofers are slightly closer to the listening position. One will also notice that the array is a truncated line array. The line array provides multiple drivers with a given frequency range, creating more output than a single driver and reduction of stress on the individual drivers as the load is shared. This design allows the T-30LSEs to handle up to 700 watts per channel with 91dB sensitivity.

The T-30LSEs further differ from the previously reviewed T-2Ps in that the drivers and crossovers are newly designed. Starting at the bottom and working up, the 10-inch subwoofers have twice the excursion and a magnet structure twice as large as the drivers in the 1010-SEN. The subwoofer enclosure is 50 percent larger than the 1010-SEN, as it fills the entire bottom portion and extends into the back half upper portion of the enclosure, with a larger port opening. These changes allow the system to extend lower and tighter.

The mid/woofers, like the subwoofers, are made in-house by RBH. The T-30LSE utilizes upgraded drivers with solid phase plugs that dampen vibrations in the driver’s motor structure, lighten the operating mass of the cone, promote cooling and provide better dispersion of the higher-frequency sound waves. What does this mean? Extended dynamic range, less distortion and more uniform sound. The tweeters in the T-2Ps were Vifa T-27s; the T-30LSE uses Scanspeak’s 9500. The 9500 was specifically chosen over the better known Scanspeak Revelator because it has a smoother roll-off, has ferrofluid cooling for more output, a lower resonant frequency and, according to Shane Rich, it simply sounds better.

The speakers were too large for my normal listening room, so I convinced my mother to let me use her much larger living room where I have kept various incarnations of high-end audio systems for years – much to her aural delight. The wall that the speakers were set up on is approximately 20 feet wide and the room is over 30 feet long, with vaulted ceilings starting at eight feet and going up to 25 feet. This large room opens up into adjacent rooms, providing a very large area for the speakers to fill sonically. RBH was generous enough to send Daren Egan and Shane Rich out to Southern California to help me set up the T-30LSEs.

You definitely need help getting these speakers set up. When the truck pulled up in front of the house, it contained a pallet with two wooden boxes reminiscent of coffins extending over the ends of the pallet. It took four people to unload the speakers from the truck. Once we got the crates off the truck, Daren, Shane and I carefully removed the well-packed speakers from their crates. Instead of installing the aluminum feet, we placed the speakers on towels to make it easier to reposition them on the wood floor. The speakers ended up almost 10 feet apart, four feet from the front wall and at least five feet from the sidewalls, with the baffles slightly toed in. The speakers come with two-piece black cloth grilles that are rounded at the top and bottom. I really liked the looks of the speakers with the grilles off, so I left them off all the time. Without the grilles, the driver array is absolutely striking. Every person who has walked into the room has commented on the speakers and most have insisted that I turn the system on for them.

I used some of the best components I could get my hands on to put the T-30LSEs through their paces. I used Krell’s FBI, a 300-watt-per-channel integrated amplifier, to drive the speakers. Daren and Shane brought out a pair of RBH’s SA-400s, their 400-watt monoblock subwoofer amplifiers, in case the Krell didn’t have enough juice, but the Krell had more than enough power on tap. I also used McIntosh Laboratories MA-6300 200-watt-per-channel integrated amplifier later in my listening sessions. Classe’s CDP-202 acted as the source unit throughout. There are many excellent cables available to connect these components. At the suggestion of Daren and Shane, I used what many consider to be among the finest cables in the world, Transparent Cables’ Ultra Series cables. Without going into detail, I like what I heard with the Transparent cables and am looking forward to listening to them with other components as well.

If you are considering using the T-30LSEs as part of a surround system, I would urge you to consider the T1-SER or 6100-SE/R for a freestanding center channel, and the 66-SE/R, 661-SE/R or 61-SE/R for the side and rear channels. If in-wall speakers are your cup of tea, look towards RBH’s 6100-SI/R for the center and the SI/R-740 or SI/R-760 for the sides and rears.

I began with a monaural recording, ignoring imaging in order to focus on the speakers’ overall tonal quality. The first album I listened to was Ella and Louis Again (Verve/MFSL), Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off. As this was a monaural recording, the vocals were solidly centered between the speakers – this was not a test of the speakers’ soundstaging capabilities. The vocals were extremely clean, detailed and, most importantly, natural. I heard details in the strings immediately before Armstrong’s first vocal that I have never noticed before.

As these are flagship speakers, I figured that they were worthy of some more audiophile quality recordings, such as Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat (BMG/Classic). The track “Bird on a Wire” has long been used as an imaging test and it lived up to its reputation when I played it on the T-30LSEs. Warnes’ vocals were solidly positioned in the center; the triangle was to the left where it belonged; the drums were a good distance back. The soundstage was deep and wide, but not out of proportion with each of the instruments well positioned in its own space.

I find jazz to be a good test of a system’s ability to reproduce a wide spectrum of sounds. Playing Earl Hines’ album Fatha (M&K Realtime), I listened to this album’s unique version of the standard “Birdland.” Red Callendar plays the tuba on this recording. It was easy to tell that the tuba was affected by the constraints of the room. Earl Hines’ piano was crystal clear, solid and tonally accurate. The soundstage was well-sized, with each instrument in its own space. “Sophisticated Lady” opens up with piano notes that were reproduced with a quick leading edge that was clean and as devoid of smearing as I have ever heard before. I quickly found it very easy to forget I was listening to a mere audio system and found myself lost in the emotion of the music. I know this sounds clichéd, but if you spend an hour with these special speakers, you will know what I am gushing over.

Picking up the pace without abandoning audiophilia, I turned to Robbie Robertson’s self-titled album (MFSL) and the track “Fallen Angel.” The T-30LSEs easily reproduced a larger soundstage appropriate for the music. The drums were solidly positioned behind the vocals, with the soundstage extending beyond the outer edges of the speakers. With this recording, I also noticed that the various sources on the soundstage had their distinct elevations as well. The T-30LSEs’ ability to reproduce a large coherent soundtrack relies in a good part on the listener’s position, which should be around 10 feet away at minimum, with ear height within the vertical limits of the mid/high array.

As I was listening to the T-30LSEs, I noticed that they were able to easily handle every piece of music I threw their way, revealing minute details of complex pieces and handling every peak without the slightest sign of strain. I decided to push the envelope and see where the speakers’ limits were. The Crystal Method’s “Busy Child” from their Vegas album (Outpost) features fast-paced and razor-sharp synthesizer lines that reach down deep. Playing this track back at extreme levels did not phase the T-30LSEs at all. There were no signs of compression and the speakers maintained their speed, clarity and composure at all volumes. As Rage Against the Machine is getting back together to play again, I found it only fitting that I listen to their self-titled album (Epic/Sony). Zack de la Rocha’s lyrics in the opening riff of “Bombtrack” were crystal clear, despite the much louder guitar. The frenetically-paced, heavy-hitting guitars came to life through these speakers in ways I have never heard before. The speakers simply disappeared and let me believe I was listening directly to the band. This continued with the track “Killing in the Name” I was easily able to delineate the chords in the various riffs. The soundstage remained consistent at various volumes and nothing I did could make the speakers lose their composure.

Not wanting to ignore the classical music genre, I turned to a piece of music I used in my review of the T-2P system, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture (Telarc). I have been fortunate enough to have heard this piece played live on several occasions, including fairly recently. The T-30LSEs’ midrange was notably more refined than their predecessor. There was more detail in the brass and string sections without any harshness, even at extreme volumes. The soundstage was appropriately large, with the various instrument groups placed in their proper positions throughout. The speed and detail of the T-30LSEs allowed me to easily discern individual instruments. 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 the cannon fire back at absolutely ear-splitting levels to see if I could find the T-30LSEs’ limits. It was only when the digital volume readout of the Krell FBI was well above 100 (that’s insanely loud) that I found any signs of limitation. At full volume, I noted that the woofers appeared to reach their excursion limits at the moment of the cannons’ firing. These speakers will have no problems reproducing anything fed to them at any reasonable volume without any signs of stress and, if you need more volume, Krell makes even bigger amps. AVRev publisher Jerry Del Colliano recently finished reviewing the Krell Evolution gear, which has enough power to launch these RBHs to the moon if need be.

The Downside
Size. The T-30LSEs are quite large and they require a large room to function properly. With moderate room treatments, you could probably get away with a room 15 feet across and 20 feet deep, but another five feet in each direction would come in handy. The aesthetic design of the speakers is a bit traditional, at least with the grilles on. While the construction is of high quality and many wood veneers are available, the speakers are basically big, rectangular boxes. In comparison to the Wilson, Revel and B&W speakers mentioned earlier, the RBHs are like beautiful women in frumpy dresses. Note that the Valentino or Armani couture dresses the others are wearing come at quite an additional price and don’t affect the sonic comparison one bit. As always, I urge our readers to trust their ears first.

Sonically, I have no complaints with the T-30LSEs, as they don’t get in the way of the music whatsoever. However, in order to achieve this level of performance, everything upstream of the speakers must be of the highest quality and your amplifier must be up to the task. While these speakers may sound very good with a wide variety of amplifiers, it is going to take a very powerful and well-controlled amplifier to get the most out of the T-30LSEs. Simply put, these are large-format loudspeakers that, despite their 91 dB efficiency, will do best with large-format monster amplifiers. Think Classe’, Krell, Mark Levinson, Bel Canto and Linn, for starters.

I am not sure exclusivity can be considered a downside, but it is an important point to make. There will be 100 pairs of these speakers made for worldwide consumption. While speakers this large aren’t for everyone (especially those looking to match them with a 42-inch plasma in a sleek little installation), they might be hard to get if you don’t act quickly. And much like the time your neighbor’s house came on the market and you dragged your feet in buying it, you will not want to be left out, because I don’t think RBH will make any more when the 100 are sold.

If you have a large listening room and like dynamic music, these speakers require you to get out to a dealer for an audition. Without question, the RBH T-30LSEs compete favorably with many other excellent speakers across many genres of music. The category where they pull ahead is dynamic range, as they are perfectly suited for the client who already owns the Le Corbusier chair and has Jeeves ready to pour him another Scotch as he is blown away by music. For the home theater enthusiast with a big room and/or who is planning on putting speakers behind a fabric wall of some sort, the T-30LSE system has your name all over it. They have the dynamic power, the ability to resolve detail and the clarity you will look for from the soundtracks of your movies on HD DVD and Blu-ray.

With the time constraints of only 100 pairs of these speakers being made, I encourage you to find an RBH dealer and make the trip armed with your best-sounding, most demanding music and movies in tow. For $15,000, the RBH T-30LSEs are truly special loudspeakers.
Manufacturer RBH Sound
Model T-30LSE Loudspeakers
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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