Sunday, December 6, 2020

RBH Sound SI-760R Signature Reference Series In-Wall Home Theater Speaker System

I love high quality audio. I’m a musician and also being raised around the piano with my mom, I have an ear for quality audio. But I also want to support products being made here in the US, which is important to do in our current economy. With most home audio gear being made overseas, that’s getting more and more difficult to do. And when it comes to home audio speakers, whether it be for regular audio or for home theater, it’s nice to be able to do in-walls. But most in walls don’t come with an enclosure so the audio quality is not what it can be. With electronics you also tend to get what you pay for. Fortunately for those who are looking for quality high-end home audio, there is a company offering made in America products that are known for their quality home audio gear. Enter RBH Sound, high performance audio products manufacturer that has been “redefining the way you experience sound”TM for over 45 years. Today we will be reviewing their SI-760R in-wall speaker.


RBH Sound offers a couple different speaker lines depending on your ear & budget. We will be covering their Signature Reference Series, which is their top-of-the-line series. They have several models within that line depending on your needs. The SI-740R is at the start of the line, which encompasses a single tweeter and a single woofer. The SI-760R is an MTM design featuring a single tweeter between two woofers. Next is the SI-663R which adds an additional tweeter and woofer so you have two tweeters in between three woofers. Depending on your room size, you could use throughout or you could use SI-760R’s for the fronts and SI-740R’s for the sides and rears. For larger rooms you could use SI-663R’s for the fronts and SI-760R’s for the sides and rears. Your room size would determine which configuration is best for you.

 

We are in the process of finishing our basement.  Since our basement includes a large theater room which will house our reference gear for reviews, we were in a unique position. We do a lot of product reviews, however, it’s hard to find reviews for in-wall speakers. Since this is the position we are in, we thought it would be the perfect opportunity to review some in-wall products. With everyone having been quarantined due to the COVID-19, has been an increased interest in home theater gear.  So, we figured the timing was perfect. Given the heritage of RBH Sound, the sound quality and dynamics of their multi-award-winning lines, they were on our short list. In addition, we were looking for speakers that excel in music and home theater, and made here in the US products.  RBH had everything we were looking for, so we turned to them for their top-of-the-line Signature Reference Series. We went with their SI-663R’s for front LCR, SI-760R’s for surrounds and rear surrounds, SI-615’s for in-ceiling height channels, and their brand new SI-1212 sub for a 7.1.4 setup.  We recently reviewed their SI-663R Signature Reference Series in-wall for the fronts, and today we are reviewing their SI-760R’s for the surrounds and back surrounds.

 

Features and specs:

Model Name:  SI-760/R

Series:  Signature Reference In-wall

System Type:  In-wall/LCR 2-way Speaker

Frequency Response:  60Hz-20kHz (±3dB)

Sensitivity:  90dB (2.83V @ 1 Meter)

Recommended Power:  75-250 Watts

Woofers:  (2) 6-1/2" (165mm) Reference Aluminum Cone Woofers

Tweeter:  (1) 4.72" X 1" (120mm x 25mm) AMT

Tweeter Protection:  Yes

Swivel Tweeter(s):  No

Crossover Frequency:  2,700 Hz

Crossover Slope:  24dB/Octave

Impedance:  6 Ohms

Cabinet Material/Color:  Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)/Black

Cabinet Finish:  Black Enclosure

Baffle and Grille:  Baffle Black; Grille Black or White. Enclosure Sold Separately.

Fabric Grille Dimensions:  10" W x 22-1/16" H

Metal Grille Dimensions:  10-1/8" W x 22-1/8" H

Baffle Dimensions:  8-1/8" W x 20-1/4" H (206mm W x 514mm H)

Enclosure Dimensions:  14" W x 28" H x 3-1/2" D (356mm W x 711mm H x 89mm D)

Weight:  34 lbs. (15.20 kg)

Warranty:  5 Years

 

There was no flashy packaging that the speakers came in, as is typically found in retail stores. RBH only sells through authorized dealers. The dealers showcase the speakers and demo them, so you know what you’re getting with RBH, it’s about the sound, not flashy color printing to catch your eye, which is understandable. The speaker came in a standard thick cardboard box with the manufactures name and serial numbers printed on the box. Opening the box revealed a well protected speaker held in place by custom molded foam. As I pulled out the speaker, I discovered a cloth grill securely held in place wrapped in plastic wrapping. The speaker baffle was securely screwed in place into the enclosure for shipping. Everything about the speaker system screamed quality. This is their top-of-the-line model and it shows! The enclosure is made of HDF and solidly assembled. My knock test confirmed it is very solid. Unscrewing the speaker baffle and taking it out of the enclosure, I was able to see the dampening fill inside the enclosure as well as the internal bracing for increased stability. The enclosure is extremely well made and is tuned to the individual drivers for that model, so you get the best sound possible, even with them being in-walls. Next, I turned to the baffle, drivers and crossover network.  Here I was greeted with the same quality. The Baffle that housed the drivers was a thick half inch HDF painted black with a smooth texture. The woofer was 6 ½ inches with rubber surround and black aluminum cone with phase plug. As I looked to the back of the driver, I could see the use of a thick cast aluminum basket with a large magnet that had an extruding back plate of the magnet for increased range of the voice coil offering increased travel in order to yield better dynamics and power handling capacity. The use of the phase plug also helps the motor structure and voice coil for increased cooling and power handling capacity, as well as sonic benefits in the higher octave ranges. Also included were mounting screws, installation instructions and cardboard piece to cover the opening during drywall installation.

 

The tweeter is just as impressive. RBH now uses an AMT tweeter, or air motion transfer tweeter. It’s basically a folded ribbon design tweeter. Based on the design it has a much larger surface area which provides higher dynamics and handling as well as a rich, smooth, plush sound providing a resolution and airiness that has to be heard to be believed. Some manufacturers are able to deliver on that signature sound better than others.  The popularity of AMT’s has increased in recent years and can be found on speakers in a wide range of price points.  But again, you get what you pay for. And with the RBH design, they are able to maximize the quality of the delivered sound.

 

I continue to be impressed with RBH’s designs when I looked at the crossover network. My attention is instantly turned to the sizable wiring. I’m used to seeing 20-18-gauge wire between speakers and crossovers, but here it looks like they are using 14-12-gauge wire. Again, the speaker appears to be designed to handle a lot of power to deliver the dynamics of gunfire and explosions often found in home theater content.  All of the crossover network internal components such as the coils, capacitors, and resistors house RBH’s name on them so they appear custom made and to be of very high quality. The push connectors are gold plated and also high quality.

 

All in all, RBH has a very special product on their hands with their Signature Reference Series of speakers. The quality of all the individual components, be it the tweeter, the woofer, or the crossover network, all scream top-of-the-line. The only potential negative that I can see on them is the lack of attenuation for the tweeter or boundary compensation as is found on some in-wall models, however, this is typically set by your receiver during set-up, so this is likely a non-issue.  These could be nice to have, depending on your speaker location. There is also an option for a magnetic metal grill on the SI-760The grill they do have, being a cloth cover, does give a level of sophistication or class that you don’t usually find on in-wall speakers.

 

In regards to the installation, the speaker design was also extremely thoughtful! There is a mud ring around the edge of the opening where the baffle is mounted to separate the baffle from the drywall. The sides of the enclosure have a few thin foam pieces on the side that help hold the enclosure in place while you are determining the exact height to mount them at, and holding in place, while securely screwing them to the location.  The baffle is also raised ½ inch higher than the enclosure. The entire enclosure is 3 ½ inches thick so it fits perfectly in between the studs that are 16 inches off center. After they are mounted and the drywall, installed, the enclosure is covered up to the mudring, leaving just the speaker baffle flush with the drywall. This way when your walls are completed with drywall, tape, texture and paint, the speakers are flush with the rest of the wall. The paper cover that goes over the opening for the baffle is very thoughtfully included to help keep any construction debris from getting inside the enclosure. And having the speaker baffle and enclosure being two separate pieces, there is zero concern about any of the drivers being damaged during the construction process of the wall.

 

Now that the install process is complete, it’s time for the listening tests. The listening tests will be comprised of  different music genres as well as selected movie scenes. We will test these SI-760R’s both by themselves, as a stereo left and right pair for their performance in that scenario as well as speakers in the sides and rear of a 7.1.4 configuration. The height channel in-ceiling speakers being RBH SI-615’s and sub being the RBH SI-1212. The fronts of the 7.1.4 configuration being the SI-663R’s.

Listening Test:

Music:

Rhapsody in Blue- Clarinet had excellent air with excellent texture and woodiness of the reed. Piano sounded very dynamic with excellent harmonics and naturalness of the strings. The bassoon had very good texture and depth of tone. Brass was extremely dynamic and smooth without being too brassy.

 

Mayo Nakano Piano Trios “Scabious”- Provided an enjoyment I’m not used to having with speakers and piano. Having grown up around piano, it’s one of my favorite instruments, even though I don’t play. I’m a clarinet and sax player. But my mom would play almost daily.  She spoiled me with her playing and now I love hearing my wife play her baby grand. This is where a big part of my ear for music and sound came from. So, I’ll admit, I’m extremely picky when it comes to hearing piano through speakers. Also saying that it is hard to recreate the full natural sound of a piano from a speaker, is a huge understatement. I have yet to hear a speaker system be able to recreate the full sound as if you were standing next to a baby grand being played. Having said that, I have heard a few come extremely close, even $50,000/pair tower speakers that have come up short. And I know this is being EXTREMELY picky!  So, when I was listening to some piano tracks, my eyes got big and I did a double and triple take! How close did they sound to the real thing? I did this first with the SI-663R’s, and I’ll put it this way…I had to have my wife sit down and play for a few minutes for me, to confirm what I was hearing. And no, the RBH SI-760R’s were not able to fully recreate the piano as if you are standing next to one. But the sound they did recreate, was so close to the real thing, RBH is practically giving these away for their price. I won’t name names, but I have heard tower speakers at twice the price not sound as good. And these are in-wall! The piano should not sound this natural on any speaker, let alone an in-wall! Let me rephrase. Classical music connoisseurs WANT speakers to be able to sound like the real thing. It’s just almost impossible, which is why I am so impressed with the performance of these RBH Signature Reference Series. The sound signature found on the SI-663R’s fortunately carried over to the SI-760R’s.  The richness in the tone of the strings, the depth of resolution in the harmonics, and dynamics, I could actually hear the hammers contact on the strings. It gave me goosebumps!  The level of dynamics of the SI-760R’s was a bit less than the SI-663R’s.  And its volume output was also a bit less.  But that’s expected with the SI-760R’s having one less tweeter and woofer.  The resolution and sound signature however were the same.

 

Junior Wells: Why are People Like That- Vocals were extremely natural with excellent timbre and texture. Bass had very nice low-end extension. Drums had great impact and dynamics. Harmonica was extremely crisp, clean, smooth like honey, and dynamic. Cymbals were crisp and dynamic.

Disturbed: Sound of Silence – vocals were nice and raw with excellent timbre, texture, and resolution.  Piano sounded very natural as did the strings.  Acoustic guitar was so crisp and clean, being able to actually hear the plucking of the strings. The tympani also had very nice dynamics and impact, hearing the hammer hit the pad.

For you gamers: Sugaan Essena- Jedi Fallen Order- The strings on the lute were extremely crisp and clean, being able to hear the bow as it ran across the individual stings. Drums had amazing dynamics and impact. Vocals were extremely raw with excellent resolution of the texture. The sound stage shocked me even further, with it actually being holographic, it was so wide and deep!  I felt like I was standing right next to the band in the recording studio.

Movies:

Ready Player One- Race scene- The various engines with their revving and throttling, had excellent pitch definition of the bass and midbass.  The stiff aluminum cones provided excellent control for the excellent output and dynamics for movies. The level of resolution was phenomenal! Even at extremely loud reference levels, the sound was excellent.  I loved the dynamics of the firework as it exploded to start the race. All of the tires screeching, and crashing, all sounded amazingly lifelike with the appropriate dynamics the SI-760R’s were able to provide. And when King Kong is running to the finish line, you feel like you’re in the movie!

Spiderman: Far from Home, Ferris Wheel scene- The fire monster roars had real power and depth to them. The dynamics of the explosions were so lifelike that I questioned if I’d need to go to a movie theater again. At least I wouldn’t need to, since I get movie theater quality sound at home. Spiderman shooting his webs, also sounded really crisp and clean. Even the cracking of the flames sounded like a real campfire.  This was also one of the things that I had noticed, the striking resolution.  I had watched this movie at least a dozen times, and the detailed resolution provided was easily noticeable without needing to listen for it.

Greatest Showman- Never Enough Song scene- The silky smooth harmonics of her timbre were portrayed so masterfully in layers of texture. And as the passion in the song continues to build and build, with every note, her voice is remarkably portrayed. It sounded so good I just wanted to crank up the volume to get more of that awesome sound.  And the louder I cranked it, it was as if the speakers responded…is that all?  Crank it up more!

I had very high expectations for RBH Sound, based on their reputation and my previous experience with them.  I have reviewed a lot of speakers, and have listened to a lot more.  There are times that my expectations were exceeded.  But rarely am I surprised.  With the RBH SI-760R, I was both.  My expectations were exceeded, and I was surprised.  It’s difficult to design a speaker system to perform with the same sound quality and energy found in a movie theater.   But the RBH Sound SI-760R performs equally well for both movies and music!  That is much more difficult to design.  Vocals were so silky smooth, the highs from the AMT tweeters were so crisp and clean with lifelike dynamics that were not overly bright.  I expected a phenomenal performance for movies, but I was surprised by the music performance.  I was taken back by the piano performance sounding so natural, and it’s imaging and soundstage.

 

I was expecting good imaging, but I wasn’t sure about the soundstage.  Both imaging and soundstage exceeded my expectations.  Imaging was excellent, and they threw a large and deep soundstage.  The soundstage wasn’t perfect, and it wasn’t as holographic as I have heard from some large tower speakers.  But the SI-760R is also an in-wall speaker at a fraction of the cost of those other tower speakers (no names given).

For the ultimate in-wall home theater system, we can full heartedly recommend a combination of their Signature Reference Series of any of these models, depending on the size of your theater room.  In working with RBH Sound, we provided them the dimensions of our reference room, and they gave their recommendations for configuration of a full 7.1.4 system.  And we are glad for it.  RBH was very easy to work with, and they have a network of dealers eager to help you design your system, to get the most out of your hard-earned cash.  Our system is comprised of three SI-663R’s for the front left, center, and right, four of the SI-760R’s for the surrounds and surround backs, four SI-615’s for the in-ceiling height channels, and SI-1212 in-ceiling/floor subwoofer.  And we couldn’t be happier!  Just to warn you though, while the sound quality will swallow you into the movies like it hasn’t before, be prepared to listen to more music than you expected.  Yes, they sound that good!  And the value for your buck is killer!

 

It’s really easy to think of the word synergy after reviewing these RBH speakers, the definition of synergy is the whole being more than the sum of the parts. With the design of the enclosure being so install friendly as well as having the enclosure being tuned to the drivers and the quality of the drivers themselves really provided a speaker that has to be heard to be believed. While it’s not perfect, missing a couple items that would be beneficial for in-wall speakers such as tweeter attenuation and boundary compensation, it comes pretty darn close. In rating them I give them two big thumbs up and two big toes because I don’t have more than two thumbs. I think Ferris Buller said it best when describing the Ferrari 250 GT California, “If you have the means, I highly recommend it!” We may have to rethink having an award higher than Editor’s Choice because that’s what these deserve. Plus there’s also the warm fuzzies for buying American, knowing you are supporting local jobs. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at RBHsound.com.  Also check out our other review of the RBH Sound SI-663R, and stay tuned for the reviews on the SI-615 in-ceiling speakers, and SI-1212 in-ceiling/in-floor subwoofer system. 



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