Sunday, October 11, 2020

Helios AS-P-603W Smart Power Surge and Line Conditioner

You spend your hard earned money on your home theater equipment. So you should protect it. A common concern that can damage your equipment are power surges. But it isn’t just power surges. There are also EMI/RFI noise to the power, which is typically called dirty power. There is also AC line noise. Up for review today is the Helios AS-P-603W Smart Power Surge and Line Conditioner.  Not only will it protect your equipment, it can increase their performance as well.

 

Features and specs:

4 digital “smart” outlets controlled via mobile app or remote control

4 switched outlets

1 front always-on outlet

2,160 joules of power surge protection

120V / 15A rating

Overload protection

2 pairs of coaxial connectors

65dB EMI/RFI noise filtration

LED display with voltage

Remote 12V DC trigger

8ft power cord

Metal housing

UL approved

Uses Tuya Smart App

3 year limited warranty





The Helios AS-P-603 Smart Power Conditioner came in a great looking color printed box with images and specs of the power conditioner. Opening up the box revealed a well protected product held in place by custom molded foam. Materials used in the construction was mostly metal, with some plastic. Quality of materials used was excellent, as was the fit and finish. It had good heft in-hand, and felt like a well made product. Also included was the owner’s manual, wi-fi antenna, power cord, and rack mount kit.

 

There are a lot of potential causes of problems to your power that your equipment is getting. It could be the transmission line supplying the power to your home. It could also be due to any of the electrical devices in your home. There are a multitude of potential causes of surges and EMI/RFI noise to the electricity that your home theater equipment is getting. And it doesn’t need to be just old wiring in an old house. These problems can happen in newer homes as well.

 

The easiest and cheapest fix is for power surges. Sure a cheap $10 surge protector should do it’s job, but you typically get what you pay for. Do you really want to trust a $2000 or even a $300 receiver to a cheap $10 surge protector? Surges can definitely damage equipment, as well as the sound of a large voltage spike can potentially damage your speakers. And the noise from dirty power can also effect the sound quality of your system.

 

The Helios power conditioner also offers newer technology, thanks to the free mobile app. The Helios is a “Smart” product, and offers 4 ‘smart’ outlets that are controlled by the app. Thanks to the app, you can remotely turn on and off equipment, as well as create schedules to turn on and off equipment, form the 4 ‘smart’ outlets. This creates some great usability and functionality.

 

I really like the design on the Helios smart conditioner. It features 9 protected AC outlets. 4 on the back are regular outlets, the other 4 on the back are the ‘smart’ outlets that are controlled by the app. Also included on the back are four coaxial connectors, a remote DC trigger, and the antenna connector for the wi-fi. On the front is an additional always on outlet, two USB ports (one USB A and one USB C) Lastly, the front panel also includes LED for currant voltage and amps, as well as protection status. And the included rack mounts is a nice touch. Now lets see how it performs.

 


Connecting the Helios smart conditioner was very simple. And downloading the app to control the smart outlets was also simple. The owner’s manual, unlike some, was actually easy to follow, step by step. So even if you’re not much for using apps, it’s pretty straight forward. I also liked the LED display so I could see the current voltage and amps in real time.  Unfortunately, downloading the app is not an option.  The Helios smart conditioner comes with the 4 smart outlets not functional.  So while you do not HAVE to install the app…..you could just use it without downloading the app and without using the smart features.  But without installing the app, the 4 smart outlets will not be turned on.  You would only be able to use 4 of the back outlets and the 1 on the front.  The app was very easy to install, and the owner’s manual as well as the onscreen instructions of the app were very clear and easy to follow. Once the app is installed and the Helios smart conditioner was added, you can name which devices are plugged into each of the 4 smart outlets, and pushing the outlet icon lights up the icon turning the outlet on.  And in this screen you can also update any schedules for the outlets.

 

Performance of the Helios smart conditioner was also in spades. While I have not had any recent surges, I still have the peace of mind knowing that I have a high-quality surge protector. And as for any hint of EMI/RFI noise, there is none. And the noise floor is extremely low, only audible from a few inches away from the speaker. So not only does the Helios smart conditioner provide the peace of mind knowing that any equipment is protected, it also helps with the stellar sound quality of the system.

 

No matter the size of investment you have in your home theater system, it is still an investment none the less. It’s an investment that you will want to protect. The Helios smart conditioner does so in spades, and at a good value with an MSRP of only $249. Based on it’s design, features, quality and performance, the Helios smart conditioner has earned our Highly Recommended award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.metraonline.com.  Reference gear includes Onkyo RX-Z920, Outlaw Audio 7000X, Emotiva BasX A-500, RBH Sound SA-500DSP, RBH Sound SI-663R, SI-760R, SI-615, SI-1212, Sony UBP-X700.



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Sunday, September 27, 2020

Viewsonic X10-4KE 4K LED Front Projector Review

Hollywood blockbuster movies are getting more and more grand. And so is the way we enjoy them. While we think 1080P HD looked great, the new 4k Ultra HD looks even better. And not only are the prices of 4k TV’s coming down, there are more ways to enjoy it affordable, thanks to pixel shifting. Now we can also find not only 4k projectors, but models designed to be portable as well. Up for review today is the Viewsonic X10-4KE.

 

Features and specs:

DISPLAY TYPE: DLP LED

RESOLUTION TYPE: 4K (3840x2160)

RESOLUTION: 3840 x 2160

BRIGHTNESS (LUMENS): 2,400 LED

DISPLAY SIZE (IN.): 30 - 200 in. / 0.7 – 5.1 m

THROW DISTANCE: 1.6 - 11.5 ft / 0.5 - 3.5 m

THROW RATIO: 0.8

KEYSTONE: Vertical (+/- 40°)

LENS: Fixed Zoom

LIGHT SOURCE (WATT): RGBB LED

LIGHT SOURCE LIFE, NORMAL (HOURS): 30000

COLOR DEPTH: 1.07B Color (R/G/B 10bit)

ASPECT RATIO: 16:9

VIDEO SIGNAL FREQUENCY HORIZONTAL: 30K~97KHz

FREQUENCY VERTICAL: 24~85Hz

COMPATIBILITY PC RESOLUTION (MAX): 3840 x 2160

MAC® RESOLUTION (MAX): 3840 x 2160

CONNECTOR:

USB 2.0 TYPE A: 1

USB 3.0 TYPE A: 1

USB 3.1 TYPE C: 1

CARD READER: Micro SD

ETHERNET LAN (RJ45): 1

SPDIF AUDIO OUT: 1

3.5MM AUDIO OUT: 1

3.5MM AUDIO IN: 1

HDMI 2.0 IN: 2

BLUETOOTH: Bluetooth 4.0

AUDIO

INTERNAL SPEAKERS: 8W (x2)

POWER

VOLTAGE: AC 100-240V (universal), 50-60Hz

CONSUMPTION (TYPICAL): 140W

STAND-BY: <0.5W

OPERATING CONDITIONS

TEMPERATURE: 32-104º F (0 - 40º C)

HUMIDITY (NON-CONDENSING): 0-90%

ADDITIONAL HARDWARE

KENSINGTON LOCK SLOT: 1

WEIGHT (IMPERIAL): NET (LBS): 9.0

GROSS (LBS): 14.3

WEIGHT (METRIC): NET (KG): 4.1

GROSS (KG): 6.5

DIMENSIONS (IMPERIAL) (WXHXD)

PACKAGING (IN.): 13.1 x 13.5 x 11.0

PHYSICAL (IN.): 10.3 x 10.7 x 6.5

DIMENSIONS (METRIC) (WXHXD)

PACKAGING (MM): 333.0 x 343.0 x 280.0

PHYSICAL (MM): 261.0 x 271.0 x 166.0

GENERAL

REGULATIONS: FCC, cTUVus, ROHS

PACKAGE CONTENTS

X10-4KE Projector, Power Cable, USB-C Cable, Remote Control, WiFi Dongle, Quick Start Guide

 

The Viewsonic X10-4KE came in a nice color printed box with photos and specs of the projector. Opening the box revealed a well protected projector held in place by custom molded foam. Materials used in the construction was mostly plastic with some metal. Quality of materials used, as was the fit and finish, was very good. And holding the projector in hand, it felt like a very well made projector. Also included was the manual, remote, batteries, wi-fi doggle, power cord, HDMI cable and USB-C cable.

 

I loved the design of the Viewsonic X10-4KE. The built in handle makes it really easy to move from room to room, or the back yard. But you still have to be able to get content to the projector. And the Viewsonic has you covered there as well, with its smart streaming functionality, and the included wi-fi doggle, getting content is simple. No HDMI cable is needed. Just take the projector to whichever room you want and plug it in. Then it’s just a matter of connecting the projector to your home wi-fi network. Then you can have access to a multitude of content, such as any of the streaming services. And with the built-in Harmon Kardon speakers, you’ll have great quality sound for your content.

   

The Viewsonic X10-4KE is also comfortable in a dedicated home theater environment. For ease of installation, the X10-4KE has all of the connection at the rear. The fans and speakers are built-in on the sides. The bottom has holes for a ceiling mount. The front houses just the lens, which uses a short throw auto focus and auto keystone system for ease of installation and allows for an image size of up to 200 inches from only 11.5 feet away. And thanks to the employment of the 2nd generation DLP 4K UHD chip, you can enjoy 4K resolution, as well as HDR support.

 

Now for full disclosure, I wanted to provide some clarification. The Viewsonic X10-4KE claims to be a 4K projector. While it is a 4K projector, it is not a true native 4k. The DLP chip uses 4-way pixel shifting on a 1080P chip to display the 4K image. So while the image you see is not from a true 4K chip, the chip is able to display a 4K image. And the difference in image quality is supposed to be unnoticeable.  I’ll admit, that the image did look great with an increased resolution.  But since it does use pixel shifting, the photos we took with our digital camera do not do the image justice. So just keep that in mind when you see the attached photos.

   

The Viewsonic also has some other excellent features. It’s designed to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, making some of the controls super easy, such as power, volume and source switching, and more. Viewsonic has their VcastSender app, which turns your smartphone into a remote control, which is really cool! And of course, being Smart TV enabled to watch your Netflix, YouTube, and other streaming services, is also really cool!

 

The Viewsonic proved to be a great performer. You mount the projector, plug in the cords, and the projector does the rest. With its auto keystone, and auto focus, it makes sure you have the best picture possible. I was also impressed with the image. Colors were very dynamic and well saturated. Skin tones looked very natural. The overall image was also very bright. With a 4K image, resolution was also very good with great detail. Shadow detail and black levels were also good. Given its price point, most consumers would be very happy with the image provided. And for those more disconcerting consumers, there are internal settings to make adjustments to the picture for your liking.

   

The design also proved to be a bit of a double edge sword. The optical system has no zoom. What this means is you are stuck with its location if you have a set screen size that you want to fill. To fill the 100 inch screen in my theater room, there was only one spot for the projector, as far as distance from the screen. The Autofocus system made for a super easy installation, but it wasn’t perfect. It usually got the focus right, but there were times when the focus was a little soft. There were times when the focus was good at the bottom of the image, but a little soft at the top of the image. There was a manual focus in the internal settings, but it didn’t help much. Having said all that, it was still a minor effect, and the image was still pleasant to watch.

  

Having sufficiently passed the theater room test, it was time to test it in the family room, this is where the family really enjoyed it. We are streamers, and the family especially likes Netflix. Thanks to the smart home features, we were able to connect it to our home network through the included wi-fi doggle, throw the image on the white wall and listen through the built-in Bluetooth speakers.  The projector will display content thru the inputs on the back, mirroring from your phone thru Bluetooth, or thru wifi with the apps that you can install thru the Aptoide Store in the menus.  The wifi only seemed to work with the apps, but it does have the mirroring feature thru Bluetooth.

   

The Viewsonic X10-4KE impressed me more than I expected. It wasn’t perfect, but did what it was designed to do very well. And I especially enjoyed its portability with built-in handle, speaker, and wi-fi doggle! Backyard parties are now in 4K! Based on its design, features quality and performance, the Viewsonic X10-4KE has earned our Highly Recommended Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.viewsonic.com.  Reference system included RBH SI-663R, SI-760R, SI-615, SI-1212, Onkyo TX-RZ920, Outlaw Audio 7000X, Emotiva BaseX-500, RBH SA-500DSP, Helios AS-P-603W, modified SVS 16-46 PC Plus, Sony UBP-X700.





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Monday, August 17, 2020

Outlaw Audio Model 7000X 7 Channel Home Theater Amplifier Review


When it comes to speakers, they all need power. All power, however, is not created equal. If you’re on a budget, sure you can use an A/V receiver with its built-in amplifier to power your speakers. But if you want the best sound out of your speakers, the best route to go is with a separate, dedicated amplifier. Unfortunately, separate amplifiers can be rather pricy. There are options, though. If you are an audiophile on a budget, one of the best names out there for separate amplifiers is Outlaw Audio. Up for review today is one of their 7 channel home theater amplifiers, the Outlaw Amplifier Model 7000X.

Why the need for a separate amplifier, you may ask, when an A/V receiver already have a built-in amp? It’s all based on quality. A tweeter is fairly easy to drive, and so is a midrange. Woofers, or bass frequencies, are harder to drive. For those, it’s better to have power. Also, the more power you have on tap the better you’re able to control the motor of any particular driver. I like to use the analogy of horsepower and torque. You can have a Honda Civic SI with a 180-horsepower engine tweaked up to over 300 horsepower with a turbo charger. But even though you might have 300 horsepower on tap, you still don’t want to tow an RV with it. For that, you need torque. You need muscle behind the power. To really control your speaker and get the output and dynamics they are capable of you need power, like torque. So sure, you can power a speaker with an A/V receiver, but to get the best sound, a separate amplifier is the way to go.




Another issue is the impedance of your speakers. If you have 4ohm speakers I would be extremely hesitance to power them with an A/V receiver. Some A/V receivers may claim they can handle that low of a load, you would be reducing the lifespan of your receiver because of the strain the amp would be under. It may work short term, but the safer bet would be to get a separate amplifier in short order.

Features and specs:
Crosstalk: Greater than -70dB from 20Hz – 20kHz
Frequency Response: 20Hz -20kHz +/- 0.5 dB at rated output (130W)
Input Impedance: 40KOhms
Input Sensitivity: 1.2 Volts
Intermodulation Distortion: Less than 0.05% from 250mV to full rated output (130W)
Power Bandwidth: 5Hz - 54kHz +0/-3 dB
Power Output: 200 watts RMS x 7 into 4 ohms (from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.06% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)
Power Output: 130 watts RMS x 7 (all channels driven simultaneously into 8 ohms from 20 Hz to 20 kHz with less than 0.03% total harmonic distortion, A-weighted filter)
Voltage Gain: 28dB

Packaging
The Outlaw Audio Model 7000X came shipped in a standard cardboard box with image and specs printed on the packaging. In fact, it came double boxed to help protect the amp. Opening the box revealed a well protected amplifier held in place by custom molded Styrofoam.  And make sure you practice safe lifting. Weighing in at more than 60 pounds, this amp is a beast! Materials used in construction was almost all metal, with a little bit of plastic in the speaker wire connectors in the back. Quality of materials used as well as the fit and finish, was very good. While Outlaw Audio has sourced the build to overseas to cut the cost and pass those savings on to you, it’s still proving to be a solid, well built product. The connections appeared to be well put together with really tight tolerances. Terminals at the rear felt very solid and having the option of RCA as well as XLR connectors for your inputs at this price point of under $1000 is phenomenal! And for those who are looking to upgrade their gear, it’s a great amp as you don’t need XLR’s in order to use it. But if you plan to upgrade to a separate preamp in the future, you will be able to utilize the connectors at that time. This means it’s also a great amp to grow with.

In turns of power, Outlaw Audio also provides real world numbers in its power ratings. If you look at the power ratings of an A/V receiver for its built-in amplifier section you’ll see it’s rated at 1 channel driven and at 1 kHz. 1kHz is an easy frequency to drive and driving only one speaker, rather than 5 or 7 at a time, is also easy to do. Any wimpy amp can do that. But Outlaw Audio rates their amps and provides all of the specs for all channels driven and at 20 Hz to 20000 Hz. It also provides true power at this rating not only at 8 ohms but at 4 ohms as well.

I like the design of the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X rated at 130 watts per channel at 8 ohm or 200 watts per channel at 4 ohm. You get enough power that is sufficient to power all but the most power-hungry speakers. 200 watts at 4 ohm will sufficiently power even most tower speakers and will provide very good control over even a large woofer in a tower speaker. The front panel is a clean looking solid brushed black aluminum faceplate with a single LED to indicate power. One thing I would have liked to see different is having a single LED for each channel so you can see at a glance that all channels are functioning. The top and sides have meshed vents for cooling, the rear is for all of the connectors. You have both RCA and XLR for inputs for each channel as well as standard plastic speaker connectors that accept both traditional banana plugs or unscrew to allow for either spade connector or bare wire. On the far right hand side you have the connector for the detachable power cord, as well as the remote turn on cable that attaches to your receiver or preamp. All of the connectors on the rear panel felt really solid and well made. Again, even though this is an overseas product, Outlaw Audio seems to have a good QC on their product as it felt very well made and put together. Inside the amp, a large portion of the weight came from a massive toroidal transformer. Each channel also has its own large heat sink and four large capacitors to provide the instant needed power to provide the dynamics that we look for in home theater. Cooling for all channels is passive through the heat sinks attached to each channel, but the heat sinks do their job sufficiently well as the amp didn’t run too hot. In fact it only got warm to the touch. Connecting the amp to the inputs of my receiver was very easy as well as connecting the banana plugs to the speaker connectors in the back. Now that it’s all wired up, let’s see how it sounds.

For the listening test we’ll use both music and movies with a few samples for each. And we’ll be able to amply test how it handles as the front 3 speakers of our reference speakers are 4 ohm and the surround and back surround channels are 6 ohms each, so based on power rating, we should be getting 200 watts per channel on the front and 165 on the sides and rear.

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

Mayo Nakano Piano Trios “Scabious”- Provided an enjoyment I’m not used to having with speakers and piano. Also saying that it is hard to recreate the full natural sound of a piano from a speaker, is a huge understatement. So, when I was listening to this piano track, my eyes got big and I did a double and triple take! How close did they sound to the real thing? Much better than I was expecting! 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!

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 and dynamic. Cymbals were also crisp and dynamic.

Disturbed: Sound of Silence – vocals were nice and raw with excellent resolution and texture of the timbre. Piano sounded very natural, as did the strings. Acoustic guitar was very crisp and clean, providing stellar resolution 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 run across the individual stings. Drums had amazing dynamics and impact. Vocals were extremely raw with excellent texture. The sound stage was nothing short of holographic, being both wide and deep, I felt like I was right next to the band in the recording studio.

Movies
Ready Player One- Race scene- The revving and throttling of the various engines not only had excellent pitch definition of the bass and mid bass.  The stiff aluminum cones provided excellent control, for the necessary output and dynamics for movies. The resolution was phenomenal. Even at loud movie theater reference levels, the sound was excellent when the firework explodes to start the race, I could feel the cushion in my Lazy-Boy resonate! All of the tires screeching, and crashing, all sounded amazingly lifelike with the appropriate dynamics. 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 roars of the fire monster had real power and depth to them. The explosions were life like with dynamics and authority that made me question if I’d need to go to a movie theater again. At least I wouldn’t need to, to get movie theater quality sound. 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 masterfully portrayed in layers of texture. And as the passion builds and builds in the song, every note of her voice is remarkably portrayed. Even at loud movie theater volume levels, they shined.

I was very impressed with the performance of the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X 7 channel amplifier. The front speakers being rated to handle 450 watts and the sides and rears being able to handle 250 watts, the 200 to the fronts and 165 to the side and rear did a very capable job of controlling the speakers and made them seem very well controlled. Resolution was quite good and the bass had very good resolution and the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X controlled the motor structure very well for impressive dynamics that wouldn’t be able to be achieved by an A/V receiver. Even though my front speakers had much more headroom to be able to accept more than twice the power they were fed, they didn’t seem thin or strained in any way. In fact, it was just the opposite!  I was used to listening at a certain volume setting, and at the same setting with the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X being used, it was significantly louder by at least 40%!

The extra power however is not the best part.  I had high expectations for Outlaw Audio based on their reputation.  These expectations have been exceeded on all accounts.  Not only did the Outlaw Audio put out a lot of power, it did so with a lot of resolution and true to the source, with plenty of perceived headroom.  The level of transparency was more than I expected at their price point.  But it wasn’t just it’s transparency, it was also its musicality with a neutral sound signature.  The Outlaw Audio Model 7000X was also very musical.  It also proved to be very efficient as well, as even when playing loud for long spans of time, the amp just got warm to the touch.  It’s passive cooling system worked extremely well.  If you’re on a tight budget but still want the performance a separate amp can provide, the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X should be on your short list. At $979 it’s worth every penny and a bang for the buck that is off the charts! Based on its design, features, quality and performance, the Outlaw Audio Model 7000X has earned our Editor’s Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at www.outlawaudio.com. Reference gear used: Onkyo TX-RZ920 Receiver, Emotiva BasX A-500 amp, RBH Sound SI-663R fronts, RBH Sound SI-760R surrounds and back surrounds, SI-615 in-ceiling height channels, Oppo Digital BDP-103D transport, Sony Bravia front projector, Elite Screens EZ-Frame screen. 



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Thursday, August 13, 2020

RBH Sound SI-663R Reference Series In-Wall Speaker Review


When it comes to home audio gear, sometimes I can be conflicted. I’m a musician and also being raised around the piano with my mom, I have an ear for quality audio. But I also like, especially in the current economy, being able to support products being made here in the US. 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 you tend to be a little handicapped as far as audio quality. With electronics you also tend to get what you pay for.  Fortunately for those who are looking for quality high-end home audio, as well as made in America products, there is a company you can turn to that’s known for their quality home audio gear. Enter RBH Sound, high performance audio products manufacturer that has been redefining the way you experience sound for over 45 years. Today we will be reviewing their SI-663R in-wall speaker.

RBH Sound has a couple of different speaker lines to give variety to different budgets. We will be covering their Reference Series, which is their top-of-the-line series. And they have several models within that line depending on your needs, such as room size and budget. They start out with the SI-740R which encompasses a single tweeter and a single woofer, followed by the SI-760R which is a MTM design which has a single tweeter between two woofers. Next above that 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 SI-740R’s though out or you could use SI-760R’s for the fronts and SI-740R’s for the sides and rears or for larger rooms you could use SI-663R’s for the fronts and SI-760R’s for the sides and rears.  There are several potential configurations depending on your room.

Being in the position of finishing our basement, which 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. Given the current environment with everyone having been quarantined due to the COVID-19, there had also 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, that we were looking for both music and home theater as well as their top of the line products.  Being made here in the US, RBH had everything we were looking for. We went with their SI-663R’s for front LCR, SI-760R for sides and rears, SI-615 for height channels, and brand new SI-1212 sub for a 7.1.4 setup.



Features and specs:
Model Name:  SI-663/R
Series:  Signature Reference In-wall
System Type:  In-wall/LCR Dual 2-way Speaker
Frequency Response:  50Hz-20kHz (±3dB)
Sensitivity:  90dB Main, 88dB Center, and 92dB Combined (2.83V @ 1 Meter)
Recommended Power:  75-225 Watts Main, 75-175 Watts Center and 75-450 Watts Combined
Woofers:  (3) 6-1/2" (165mm) Reference Aluminum Cone Woofers
Tweeter:  (2) 4.72" X 1" (120mm x 25mm) AMT
Tweeter Protection: Yes
Swivel Tweeter(s):  No
Crossover Frequency:  2,700 Hz
Crossover Slope:  12dB/Octave
Impedance:  8 Ohms Main, 6 Ohms Center and 4 Ohms Combined
Cabinet Material/Color:  Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)/Black
Cabinet Finish:  Black Enclosure
Baffle and Grille:  Baffle Black; Grille Black or White. Enclosure Sold Separately.
Baffle Dimensions:  8" W x 32" H (203mm W x 812mm H)
Enclosure Dimensions:  14" W x 56" H x 3-1/2" D (356mm W x 1422mm H x 89mm D)
Weight:  60 lbs. (27.22 kg)
Warranty:  5 Years




There was no flashy packaging that the speakers came in. RBH only sells through authorized dealers. The dealers showcase the speakers and demo them, so you know what you’re getting. There is no flashy color printed packaging needed to catch your eye. This 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. Pulling out the speaker showed a cloth grill securely held in place and 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 showed. The enclosure was made of MDF and solidly assembled. Giving it my knock test, it was 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 structure for increased stability. It was an extremely well made enclosure that was tuned to the individual drivers for that model so you get the best sound possible, even with them being in-walls. Turning to the baffle and the drivers and crossover network, I was greeted with the same quality. The baffle that housed the drivers was a thick half inch MDF painted black with the smooth texture. The woofer was a 6 ½ inches with rubber surround and black aluminum cone with phase plug. Turning 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 end 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 helped for cooling of the motor structure and voice coil for increased power handling capacity as well as sonic benefits in the higher octave ranges. Also included were mounting screws, installation instructions and a cardboard piece to cover the opening during drywall installation.

The tweeter is equally impressive. RBH now uses an air motion tweeter or referred to as an AMT 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. RBH has worked with Aurum Cantus on a custom design to maximize the performance of the design. AMT’s have become more popular 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 delivered sound.

Turning to the crossover network, my being impressed with their designs continues. My attention is instantly turned to the sizable wiring. Typical wiring on the crossover networks you often see 20 or 18 gauge wire, 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 internal components of the crossover network such as the coils, capacitors, and resistors house RBH’s name on them so they appear internally made and of very high quality. The push connectors are also high quality and are gold plated.

The SI-663R also has a very unique design and can be used as a center channel speaker without having a separate center channel.  It would entail having a pair of SI-663R’s as front left and rights.  The top woofer and tweeter of both the left and right speakers would be used as the center channel speaker.  There is also a separate internal crossover network as well as speaker terminal for the center channel.  So if your room does not provide the ability to have a center channel speaker, you can have a center channel speaker by using a pair of SI-663R’s.  In essence the SI-663R is an SI-740R on top and an SI-760R below that, with both an SI-740R and SI-760R crossover network.  And when employing a 3rd SI-663R as a center channel speaker, the cabinet is built to have a jumper wired in so all of the drivers are used as a single left, single center, or single right.  It’s a very ingenious design!

All in all, RBH seems to have a very special line of speakers on their hands with their reference line. 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 real knock 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. Depending on install location, these could be nice to have. I would have also liked to have seen the option for a magnetic metal grill. Although the 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.

The speaker design was also thoughtful in regards to the installation. Around the edge of the opening where the baffle is mounted, there is a metal ring 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 you install the drywall, the drywall completely covers the enclosure so the speaker baffle ends up being 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. And the paper cover that goes over the opening for the baffle is very thoughtfully included to help keep any construction debris from the wall 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.

Listening Tests

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

Rhapsody in Blue- Clarinet had excellent air with excellent texture and woodiness of the reed. Piano sounded dynamic with excellent harmonics and naturalness of the strings. The bassoon had very good texture and depth of tone. Brass was extremely dynamic and silky 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. Also saying that it is hard to recreate the full natural sound of a piano from a speaker, is a huge understatement. She spoiled me with her playing and now I love hearing my wife play her baby grand. So I’ll admit, I’m extremely picky when it comes to hearing piano through speakers. 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. 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’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-663R’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 reference series. 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!

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 and dynamic. Cymbals were also crisp and dynamic.
Disturbed: Sound of Silence – vocals were nice and raw with excellent resolution and texture of the timbre. Piano sounded very natural, as did the strings. Acoustic guitar was very crisp and clean, providing stellar resolution 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 run across the individual stings. Drums had amazing dynamics and impact. Vocals were extremely raw with excellent texture. The sound stage was nothing short of holographic, being both wide and deep, I felt like I was right next to the band in the recording studio.

Movies

Ready Player One- Race scene- The revving and throttling of the various engines not only had excellent pitch definition of the bass and mid bass.  The stiff aluminum cones provided excellent control, for the necessary output and dynamics for movies. The resolution was phenomenal. Even at loud movie theater reference levels, the sound was excellent when the firework explodes to start the race, I could feel the cushion in my Lazy-Boy resonate! All of the tires screeching, and crashing, all sounded amazingly lifelike with the appropriate dynamics. 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 roars of the fire monster had real power and depth to them. The explosions were life like with dynamics and authority that made me question if I’d need to go to a movie theater again. At least I wouldn’t need to, to get movie theater quality sound. 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 masterfully portrayed in layers of texture. And as the passion builds and builds in the song, every note of her voice is remarkably portrayed. Even at loud movie theater volume levels, they shined.

I’ve reviewed a lot of speaker systems and I’ve heard a lot more than that. While there are times that my expectation of a product will be surpassed, I’m rarely surprised. Given RBH’s reputation and the price point of the SI-663R’s, I had high expectations. It’s difficult to design speakers that deliver the sound and energy found in a movie theater. But it’s exponentially more difficult to perform just as well for music. The SI-663R’s both exceeded my expectations and surprised me. Vocals were lush and smooth like honey, the highs from the AMT tweeter were crisp and clean with room filling lifelike dynamics that were not overly bright. And thanks to the 2nd tweeter, my 2nd row got a sonic experience equal to the front row. I expected a great performance for movies. But it was the music performance that surprised me. I was taken back by the natural sound of the piano, AND the imaging and soundstage. I was expecting good imaging, but wasn’t sure what to expect for soundstage. Imaging and soundstage both exceeded my expectations. Imaging was excellent, and they threw a very large soundstage, deeper than I expected. The soundstage wasn’t perfect, and not quite as holographic as I have heard from some large tower speakers. But they are also in walls at a fraction of the price. For the ultimate larger home theater room experience with tiered seating, go with three of these SI-663R’s for the front left, center, and right, four SI-760R’s for both sides and both rears, SI-615’s for height channels and an SI-1212 in ceiling/floor subwoofer. This will give you a phenomenal RBH Sound Signature Reference Series 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos, DTS-X system. Although I will warn you, you may be like me and end up listening to more music than watching movies. Yep, they sound that good!


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. And if there was one thing I could request, it would be to add the option to have magnetic mounted grills.  In rating them I give them two big thumbs up and two big toes because I don’t have more than two thumbs. The sound you are getting with the SI-663R is not only phenomenal, it is a huge bang for the buck for their price point.  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 www.RBHsound.com.  And stay tuned for the SI-760R, SI-615, and SI-1212 reviews.



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