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These exactly what I expect from Klipsch!
on August 13, 2011
Wow, I don't know where to begin. These RF-52 II speakers embody everything I expect from Klipsch!
First I will start by mentioning Klipsch's trademark horn tweeters: they are simply /fantastic/! They are crisp, clean and bright and do not exhibit the harshness some might claim all horns deliver. I wanted speakers which would do Pink Floyd's work justice - particularly Dark Side of the Moon (arguably one of the best-engineered albums ever). I was not disappointed.
When I hooked the speakers up to my receiver and put the CD in I was blown away - the "heartbeat" at the beginning of "Speak to Me/Breathe" was faithfully reproduced, with a depth I would never expect from 5.25" woofers, allowing these speakers to hold their own even with the subwoofer turned off. Midrange is clear and the tweeters are simply breathtaking - I could hear every nuance, and makes me grateful I have been so selective about attending concerts, and using hearing protection after helping friends with sound systems at gigs, to preserve my hearing. Voices are crisp, bass has depth and is well damped, so it's accurate-sounding, and much to my pleasure I identified subtle details in DSotM I never noticed before (I always love noticing "new" subtleties in their work). Hearing "Clare Torry" is performance on the "Great Gig in the Sky" through these speakers is an experience I only ever heard before through high-end Sennheiser or Sony studio headphones. The cymbals, clocks, and other instruments and sounds where there are subtle high harmonic frequencies in real life are faithfully reproduced by these speakers.
In fact I would almost be willing to be guilty of using AV reviewer buzzwords and call these speakers "transparent" since they sound so accurate, so clean, and even if I am sitting where one would be normally off-axis for most speakers, the highs are still wonderful, so Klipsch has done a superb job in harnessing the tremendous amplification horns provide, while mitigating disbursement/axis issues. Unlike PA speakers, I can sit where one would expect to be "off axis" from these speakers and still enjoy an extremely pleasurable, detailed experience, without the presence of the ear-shredding harshness one hears from horn tweeters in a PA or instrument speaker.
Cabinet quality: these speakers are attractive, so if you must have tech gear out in the open, you will not be disappointed in these as they do not look out of place next to quality furniture; they boast a furniture-quality stain finish, with the wood grain clearly visible, and yet, the finish and the external design is so subdued that the speakers appear elegant and unobtrusive, with a modest, tiny and tasteful nameplate near the top center of the front grill. And yet, if you are a guy wanting to show these off in your man cave, or if you are wanting an even more transparent listening experience, being retained magnetically, the speaker grills/covers come off with a slight tug, revealing the speakers. So, if you are a geek wanting to show off your new shiny, or an audiophile wanting to have the most pure listening experience possible, the covers come off almost effortlessly. Honestly though, you /do not need/ to take the covers off because the highs on the RF-52 II are so crisp, clear, clean and accurate-sounding even with the covers in place.
Cabinet features: I already mentioned the cover/grill which is retained magnetically. Moving to the back, you get two pairs of banana jacks with binders which can be removed so you can biamp or biwire the system. I don't buy into biwiring nonsense, but my new receiver does support biamping so I might be tempted to try it, but in all honesty, I do not want to fall into the audiophile "listening to the gear" trap, so I'm going to try to avoid it. But, biamping capability is there if you need it. The speakers are threaded for (included) spikes, which is /not/ just a gimmick in this case; by screwing in the spikes the loudspeaker cabinet will become acoustically coupled through the carpet to the floor, improving deep bass response, so if your listening room is carpeted be sure to take advantage of that. The cabinets are a bit heavy for their size, and I could see a bit of polyfill (which if are familiar with loudspeaker design, you know polyfill or similar insulation allows you to decrease the cabinet size) inside the cabinet when looking through the ducts on the back of one of them (must have gotten jostled around pretty good by UPS).
There was no equalization applied as they are being driven by a dinosaur; the Pioneer Elite VSX-26TX with "midnight" and "loudness" modes disabled. I am really looking forward to my new Elite SC-55 receiver arriving so I can calibrate the system with that receiver's built-in RTA, but I suspect the RF-52 II speakers will require very little adjustment. The sources I used were a Samsung Blu-Ray player, Toshiba DVD player, and my iPhone. In the two days I have had these speakers, I listened to DSotM three times (via the blu-ray player, through a TOSlink connection), and watched two movies and have not grown tired. IMHO these speakers are "good enough" for folks who want amazing sound quality, but not fall into the audiophile trap of listening to the gear rather than the subject matter. I also have an RW-10D reference series subwoofer with the system but while testing these speakers I had the subwoofer disabled. Eeenabling the Subwoofer produces the expected result on the low end, but honestly you /can/ get by without subwoofers if you go with RF-52 speakers.
Until connecting these speakers I honestly thought maybe I had some frequency response gaps in my hearing at the higher end of the range, because my JBL and Denon speakers sounded so muddy, with a near-total lack of highs (with the JBL being particularly awful). Curious, I connected a tone generator and had it sweep from 8kHz on up and I could hear it all - so I manually set the generator to 19kHz and was astonished to hear the tone clearly. I tried for 20kHz but while I felt very uncomfortable the sound was a quite faint (but that I could hear it at all is amazing considering I'm 39), so now I want to take it the next step and borrow my friend's RTA. After experiencing these speakers over a decade after I last heard Klipsch reference series speakers, I'll never buy any other brand of loudspeaker for home audio. In fact I am thinking of dumping my commodity desktop speakers for my computers in favor of Klipsch computer speaker systems. In fact these speakers are so clean, crisp and bright(read "bright" as "actually delivering highs" rather than "harsh and fatiguing") that it makes me hate my home theater system since the JBL center channel I am still using is so muddy and lacking in highs by comparison. I will soon be following these RF-52 II speakers with a RC-52 II and at least four RS-52 II speakers, starting with the center channel.
Honestly the only thing I can come up with is kind of lame: the power handling rating. I do realize that even 140 watts of /clean/ output power is unlikely to kill the speakers, but it would be nice to have a higher rating so I know that if friends turn the system up with the new receiver in place, they won't fry my speakers.
I contacted Acoustic Sound Design about various Klipsch Reference models and he recommended the RF-52 (no brick&mortar dealers in the Boston area stock all the reference models for demos; local Klipsch dealers stock only the low end Energy and Synergy), and although I was skeptical of purchasing speakers without demoing them his recommendation was spot on.
An update weeks later
I have found that these hold their own for motion pictures even with the subwoofer disabled (changing my system from 5.1 to 5.0 surround). It doesn't hit as deep as the Reference series subwoofer does, but it they are still very impressive nonetheless - far more than one would expect from 5.25" drivers.
Second update, a couple weeks later: A week after the speakers came in, my new Elite SC-55 receiver came in. I went through the automated MCACC setup then went into the advanced manual setup to tweak my other speakers; the Klipsch speakers were within 2dB of flat across the board. Contrast that to the JBLs and Denons I have been replacing though, are very peaky, particularly the JBLs which were down by 6dB around 6kHz, -4dB at 4kHz, -2dB at 6kHz and down by -8.5dB from 10kHz on up, so the JBLs have the classic "smiley face" curve with a peak in the upper midrange. I ended up boosting the JBL center channel in particular more than MCACC did (MCACC is intended more for compensating for listening environment, not lousy speakers), since compared to the RF-52 II speakers, the JBL sounded downright muddy.
The Denons were somewhat better, but still quite dull from 10kHz on up. Now, the true treble range doesn't affect most pop very much, but progressive rock, classical, and jazz where the music may be heavy on the synths, piano, strings, and organs will reveal where these Reference series speakers really shine.
Also: for movies I have discovered that these speakers' bottom end are really amazing, better than my first impression. One day I had inadvertantly left the SW channel disabled on the receiver after a late night of gaming with my XBOX, and while the very deepest (room-shaking 20Hz range) bass present was not as dominating, I thought the sub was still on but turned down. So, I checked the receiver and found that it was still disabled.
Bottom line: over a month later these speakers are still impressing me. I would not hesitate to buy these again. I would look at the RF-62 or RF-82 as well if space isn't a premium, but for such (relatively) compact floor-standing speakers I don't think it can get much better than this.