RBH WM-24 On-wall Speakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers On-wall Loudspeakers
Written by Bryan Dailey   
Tuesday, 01 November 2005

Introduction
As plasma and LCD TVs continue to sell at blistering rates, speaker manufacturers have quickly become aware that the demand for thin wall-mount “plasma friendly” speakers has never been higher. Having recently upgraded my TV to a 61-inch rear projection set that is mounted flush into a wall in my living room, it was obvious that my floor-standing speakers were not going to work optimally with this set-up. With my smaller CRT television, I was able to set floor-standing speakers on each side of the set, with the center channel directly on top. This meant that the speakers and the screen were all the same distance away from the main seating position. With the TV now flush with the wall, I needed to find a solution that would still give me the big sound that I have become accustomed to, yet could be mounted as close to the TV screen as possible and give me back precious floor space.

In my particular case, behind the walls on each side of my TV are pipes for my gas fireplace and some water pipes, so I could not cut out spaces for in-wall speakers. This said, I opted for speakers of the on-wall variety. The new WM-24 from Utah-based speaker manufacturer RBH Sound quickly became the target of my desire. At a glance, these seemed like a perfect solution, as they only require a total of four screw holes in my wall and their narrow dimension of 7.125 inches wide was a perfect fit for my room. These magnetically shielded 9.5-pound speakers are literally only 3.75 inches deep and 24 inches tall. The brushed aluminum finish on the speakers is modern, yet has a slightly retro feel with its rounded edges, almost reminiscent of a stretched limo version of a classic Airstream trailer. Plastic end caps on the top and bottom of the speakers merge seamlessly with the aluminum on the back and sides. The front of the speakers have a high quality black plastic composite material that houses four four-inch drivers and a one-inch silk dome tweeter. The woofers are made of a stylish sleek aluminum material and unlike many drivers, the center of the RBHs are inverted. The inverted dust cap used in RBH metal cone drivers provides additional structural support to the metal cone in a manner that shifts the primary breakup mode of the cone higher in frequency as well as reducing the amplitude of the mode.

For the 5.1 system in my theater, I had previously installed RBH’s MC615-70 speakers in the ceiling for rear channels. I placed a magnetically shielded RBH MC-414C on the shelf above my TV and then mounted a WM-24 on either side of my TV. Revel’s new, more affordable B12 subwoofer rounded out this tight little home theater speaker system. The WM-24 is a very versatile speaker that can be used for left and right speakers, as in my system, or a third could be added and used as a center channel if mounted horizontally above or below the monitor. A fourth and fifth WM-24 could easily be mounted on the back or side walls of a room to make a complete surround system. For this reason, RBH has priced them individually. The retail price of the WM-24 is $449, allowing you to put a pair of them on your wall for well under $1,000; a 5.1 set-up (minus a subwoofer) would be less than $2,300.

To maximize the number of rooms that the WM-24 will work in cosmetically, RBH smartly chose to include two sets of grille cloths, black and silver. Both are elegant and small enough that the unused pair can be stored away. Should the cat scratch one or a belt buckle get caught on one of them when trying to hang a picture above the TV, it’s nice to know you have a set of spare grilles included with your speakers.

I was concerned that, by being mounted to the wall, the brackets were going to turn my entire living room into a speaker by vibrating the walls. However, at full volume, with my subwoofer turned off for this experiment’s sake, the wall where the speakers were mounted was not vibrating at any noticeable level to the touch. Foam washers stuck to the back of the metal brackets help isolate the speaker bracket from the wall. I also noticed that the cabinet of the speakers was remarkably inert, allowing the woofers to fire cleanly away from the wall.

Installation
Installing the WM-24 was a very simple process. Each speaker comes with a foot-long aluminum bracket, this bracket is bolted to the wall once you know where you want the speaker to sit. I highly recommend using a laser level and a tape measure to get exact measurements on placement, as nothing looks funkier than a pair of speakers running vertically on each side of your TV with one of them higher or lower or off-kilter from the TV. The fact that there is a large rectangle between the speakers is going to visually amplify your miscalculations if you don’t have things lined up perfectly.

Two little pieces of metal that look like small cupboard doorknobs screw onto the back of the speakers. These little knobs slide into place on the aluminum bracket and firmly hold the speakers in place, but with a firm tap upward on the bottom end of the speaker, you can slide the speaker out of place should you need to remove it for some reason.

The back side of the speaker has small but nicely crafted silver speaker mounts in a round recessed panel. They easily accommodated the banana plugs I had on the end of my XLO speaker cable wire and would accept fairly fat bare wire as well. Large speaker cable ends like those found on high end cables like Transparent would have a hard time fitting in this space, so as long as you don’t have the largest terminations on the end of your speaker wires you shouldn’t have any problem getting them to work with your system. I recommend pulling the wire through the bracket and mounting it to the back of the speaker first, as it becomes basically impossible to get to the speaker lugs once they are attached to the brackets.

The Music
Since I am reviewed these speakers as a stereo pair, as well as part of a home theater system, I began by seeing how they fared with stereo music. Being a drummer myself, I can relate to how realistically a speaker can reproduce the sound of acoustic drums. One of the best and most raw-sounding drum recordings in recent memory is on the Rick Rubin-produced breakout album by the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magic (Warner Brothers Records). On “Suck My Kiss,” the snare drum sound is recorded so well that all of the complex overtones come through loud and clear, even on a bad car stereo system. I had to learn this song as part of the set list of the AudioVideoRevolution.com company band, Ghetto Chicken. Needless to say, I have rocked this song on several speaker systems and have found that, with RBH’s on walls, once I became accustomed to the flavor change of having my first pair of on-wall speakers, the imaging and detail was better than I expected. Chad Smith’s drum set lit up my entire theater on this track and the bass drum’s high-end definition was spectacular, with the lowest of the low end being handled by the Revel and the rest of the attack of the bass drum beater hitting the drum head being reproduced by the four four-inch drivers in each speaker. The snare and high-hat patterns stayed in a steady groove with occasional syncopated accents and rely heavily on the silk dome tweeter for their definition. Never overly brittle, the WM-24 easily handed all of the percussive elements of this taxing song with a realistic tonality that is important to me as a musician.

The dance track from Seal’s DVD-Audio IV (Warner Brothers Records) titled “Get It Together” has an infectious party vibe and a mix that primarily focuses on the front left and front right channels. The WM-24s were in the spotlight here and, other than Seal’s signature raspy vocals, which stay mainly in the center channel, all ears are on the horns and strings that emanate from the front left and right. This track absolutely slams in surround on this theater and the smaller drivers in the WM-24 gave the track a fresh and more excitable sound, compared to the larger Energy C5 Connoisseur floor-standing speakers that were in my system only a few months ago. The sound was not quite as big, but the high end and midrange detail was improved and the soundstage felt bigger as the drivers were positioned about three feet further back in the room, spreading things out and giving the instruments more separation.

The Movies
Pixar Studios’ classic “Toy Story” (Disney/Pixar) was just re-released on its tenth anniversary. This movie with its vibrant colors and stellar production design and sound was already an excellent demo disc. However, with even better sound and picture, it is now a must-have for showing off your home theater system. As intergalactic space hero Buzz Lightyear, voiced by comedian Tim Allen, attempts to catch a moving van that is speeding away with the rest of his friends, the surround speaker system is given a mighty workout. The firecracker attached to Lightyear’s back that serves as a makeshift rocket pack has a thunderous sound as it shoots across the screen and whizzes around the room sonically to give the effect that Lightyear is truly flying.

Not only are the voices of the star-studded cast of “Toy Story” faithfully replicated by the small but efficient and clean-sounding MC-414 from RBH, the bulk of the music, which plays a big part in keeping the story moving, sounds excellent on the WM-24s. Randy Newman’s original song “You’ve Got a Friend In Me” has set the toes of many parents tapping as they watch this film alongside their children at home. This movie is considered by many critics to be a modern-day classic and, having seen it in the theater first, then watching now in my own home theater system, I didn’t feel any loss of impact emotionally from the soundtrack when listening through this on-wall and in-wall combination RBH theater system.

Jamie Foxx blew everyone’s mind with his portrayal of Ray Charles in “Ray” (Universal). I didn’t catch it in theaters, but I knew it was going to be coming to an HD channel near me soon, so I set my high-def PVR to record it. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was a pure delight as the WM-24s brought me inside the gospel halls where Charles shook up the music world by combining pop/rock with religious spirituals. Driven by its infectious soundtrack, “Ray” is another modern-day classic that requires the viewer to have a stellar sound system to fully convey the emotional impact that the director and actors intended. The balance between the crowds and Foxx’s voice was well-defined. Even when clapping and hollering were mixed together, the RBH system didn’t lose focus. Occasionally, a scene where two characters had a great deal of distance between them, and the left and right WM-24s would reproduce this rather than the center channel speaker. The tonal quality of the WM-24 is slightly deeper and more resonant than the smaller MC-414C, which features similar woofers and a similar tweeter as the WM-24s.

The Downside
There is not much to fault with these speakers. You have to know before purchasing on-wall speakers that they are not going to have the same type of sound that you will get from floor-standing speakers that are spaced out from the back wall. On-wall speakers definitely have a different type of sound than floor-standing speakers. The physical lack of air space behind the speakers causes first order reflections to occur slightly further back, compared to a pair of speakers out several feet from the back wall. There is also extra sound that is being reflected immediately by the back wall. Placement is often determined more by necessity than by optimal speaker positioning, though I found that they image well on the location on my wall where I was forced to install them.

The metal bracket that holds the speakers to the wall works perfectly fine if you are running small speaker cables to them. If you plan on running larger cables with big spades on them, you may have some trouble feeding the cables through the sides of the brackets and may need to cut a notch in the back of the wall or bring the cables through a hole in the back of the wall.

Conclusion
If you have an apartment and are not able to break out the drywall saw and cut out holes for on-wall speakers, the WM-24 could be just what you are looking for. They extend out less than four inches from the wall and do not require any kind of major carpentry experience to install.

I quickly became accustomed to the on-wall sound and I am now reveling in the floor space that I have gained by putting on-wall speakers in my system. No tripping over cables in the back of the speakers and no more dinging the corners when vacuuming around them. Paired with the Revel subwoofer or any sub of equal or similar performance, the WM-24s are a dynamite little set-up. On their own, they don’t have the low end reach that you need to move enough air for bombastic rock music or even big classical pieces. However, their smooth mids and controlled high end provide all of the detail you could ask for in a pair of on-wall speakers that retail for far less than $1,000.

This versatile speaker can be used anywhere in a room as part of a surround system and they have a cool modern look that is very understated. They don’t scream “Look at me,” but they demand to be listened to when given some juice, yet can lay back and become wallflowers while reproducing dialogue-driven TV shows and when playing background music at a party. There perhaps is a slight tradeoff for audio purists in terms of performance, but the pros of on-wall speakers far outweigh the cons in my opinion.
Manufacturer RBH Sound
Model WM-24 On-wall Speakers
Reviewer Bryan Dailey





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