Monday, November 7, 2011

RBH Signature SX 5.1 Speaker System Review

Not all speakers are created equal. Speakers first job is to produce good sound. Looks are also important. Up for review is a surround system from RBH. When it comes to speaker design, you will soon see they have all the bases covered.
The RBH Signature SX Series 5.1 system comprises of a pair of SX-61 for front left and front right, an SX-661C for the center channel and an additional pair of SX-61 for the rear left and rear right. The subwoofer duty is performed by an SX-10. The features and specs are:

Front and rear left and right
Model Name: ... SX-61Series: ...
Signature SX System Type: ... Bookshelf Speaker
Frequency Response: ... 50Hz-20kHz (±3dB)
Sensitivity: ... 87dB (2.83V @ 1 Meter)
Recommended Power: ... 75-150 Watts
Drive Units: ... (1) 6-1/2" (165mm) Aluminum Cone Woofer (1) 1" (25mm) Silk Dome Tweeter
Swivel Tweeter(s): ... No
Tweeter Protection: ... Yes
Crossover Frequency: ... 2,700 Hz
Crossover Slope: ... 12dB/Octave
Impedance: ... 8 Ohms
Cabinet/Color: ... Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)/Matte Black Oak
Grille: ... Black Cloth
Finished Dimensions: ... 8-1/2" W x 13-3/4" H x 10-1/8" D (216mm W x 349mm H x 283mm D)Weight: ... 17 lbs. (7.71 kg)
Warranty: ... 5 Years
Center Channel
Model Name: ... SX-661C
Series: ... Signature SX
System Type: ... Dedicated Center Channel
Frequency Response: ... 55Hz-20kHz (±3dB)
Sensitivity: ... 90dB (2.83V @ 1 Meter)
Recommended Power: ... 75-200 Watts
Drive Units: ... (2) 6-1/2" (165mm) Aluminum Cone Woofers (1) 1" (25mm) Silk Dome Tweeter
Swivel Tweeter(s): ... No
Tweeter Protection: ... Yes
Crossover Frequency: ... 2,700 Hz
Crossover Slope: ... 24dB/Octave
Impedance: ... 6 Ohms Cabinet/Color: ... Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)/Matte Black Oak
Grille: ... Black Cloth
Finished Dimensions: ... 21" W x 8-1/2" H x 11" D (533mm W x 215mm H x 279mm D)
Weight: ... 25 lbs. (11.34 kg)
Warranty: ... 5 Years
Model Name: ... SX-10
Series: ... Signature SX
System Type: ... Powered Subwoofer
Frequency Response: ... 29Hz-150Hz (±3dB)
Sensitivity: ... N/A
Recommended Power: ... 300 Watt Amplifier Included
Drive Units: ... (1) 10" (254mm) Aluminum Subwoofers
Crossover Frequency: ... 40Hz-180Hz (variable)
Crossover Slope: ... 12dB/Octave
Impedance: ... N/A
Cabinet/Color: ... Medium Density Fiberboard (MDF)/Matte Black Oak
Grille: ... Black Cloth
Finished Dimensions: ... 15" W x 15-1/4" H x 18-1/2" D (381mm W x 387mm H x 470mm D)Weight: ... 39 lbs. (17.69 Kg)
Warranty: ... 5 Years/1 Year*
I was very impressed with the quality. The speakers came well protected. Opening the boxes showed a custom foam cut out to protect the speakers. The speakers were further protected by being covered in soft cloth bags. The impression I got was that these speakers were made with a lot of care and pride. The system retails for $4,200. The SX-61 is $1,200/pr, SX-661C is $900 each, and the SX-10 is also $900 each.
Taking the speakers out of the cloth bags revealed that my first impressions were correct. The quality of the speakers were very good and very high. The cabinets were very solid, in a black oak veneer. And the craftsmanship of the cabinets was excellent! There was no sign of it being a veneer, as the cabinets had a look of being constructed using solid oak.
The quality did not stop at the cabinets. The bookshelf and center channel include 6.5" midrange drive and 1" tweeter. Both of which are well put together. The 6.5" midrange driver has an aluminum cone, and rubber surround. The 1"tweeter is a silk soft dome design. The back of the cabinets reveal two sets of banana clip connectors. This means the speakers are also capable of bi-wiring. The included black cloth speaker covers are also simple but sufficient. They were also ported at the rear.
The subwoofer also had the same quality in the cabinet. The 10" aluminum cone driver also had rubber surround, and appeared well built. The driver was front firing, with a black cloth grill. The cabinet was ported with a single port on the bottom.
The built in amp on the back of the subwoofer had the features and controls commonly found on subwoofers: volume crossover, phase. It also had the line input,and a set of line outputs. Another typical feature was the auto on function, that would turn on when it sensed a signal. But to go along with the RBH quality, it also had a feature not as common, a balanced line input and output.
So far I'm impressed with RBH. They make a high quality speaker system, as far as build quality and components used. They are well put together. And the cabinets are gorgeous. They would look great in any decor. But speakers can't just look good. The next question is how good do they sound?
I thought the listening test should start with the big screen. And I first turned to Star Wars Episode One on blu-ray. It was engrossing. The DTS-HD soundtrack was stellar on the RBH's. I kept getting engulfed in the movie, and had to remind myself to pay attention to the soundtrack. But I guess that is a sign of a good speaker system.
The vocals came through loud and clear from the center channel. And of course using the same drivers, timbre was well matched and gave a smooth flowing sound from left to right and right to left as space ships flew across the screen, as well as front to back and back to front.
Next was one of my favorite demo tracks, from the Fifth Element, where the Diva sings. The RBH system threw a nice big soundstage. And the dynamics for a two-way system were very good. And the harmonics from the Diva singing were amazing, with great detail and resolution. There was also no audible resonance from the cabinet, which I'm sure was partly due at least to the curved design of the cabinets.
I was equally impressed with the subwoofer's performance, for a single 10" driver in a fairly small enclosure. The fighting scenes and explosions on the cruise ship were natural, and gave a good sense of realism. For a 10" driver, it had good low end extension, and played with sufficient amount of authority. And to really put the subwoofer to the test, the Star Wars Episode One movie is known to have bass down to under 20Hz. One of my favorite is the pod race scene. The subwoofer preformed well with the low end extension of the various pod engines as they speed through the desert terrain. Again, the subwoofer played with authority, filling my demo room with bass, and only on one occassion sounded slightly strained and possible bottoming out due to the demanding material at high volume. Again, for a single 10 inch driver with this material, I was impressed.
For music I turned to Fresh Aire V: Going to Another Place. The strings were crisp without being bright. The flute had some good air to it, with good pitch definition. I loved the excellent harmonics. The midbass in the drums had excellent punch and resolution. They also threw a nice sized soundstage that was fairly deep.
The next track I chose was Junior Wells: Why are People Like That. The male vocals were very natural sounding. Imaging was also spot on as the vocals appeared to come from my center channel speaker, even though I was only listening in stereo. The large string bass was clean with good low end extension and output, helped with the ported design. The harmonica was smooth, yet a tad raw with very good dynamics, as the artist intended.
And since it is for the holiday Gadget Gift Guide, I thought I would include one Christmas song with Pat a Pan, from Mannheim Steamroller. The percussion was really crisp and clean, and the flute again had a lot of air. Resolution in the violin and snare drum was excellent. Imaging was also precise. Listening in stereo, as the drums panned from right to left, you could hear the drums exactly from right to slightly left of the right speaker, to where the center channel speaker is, to just to the right of the left speaker, and finally end at the left speaker. I loved it!
When compared to some of my reference systems- NHT Classic 3 with SVS PC+ 16-46 subwoofer, and Thiel SCS4, they held their own extremely well. The NHT Classic 3 is a 3-way bookshelf speaker in a sealed design. The 3-way design gave the NHT's slightly better dynamics for movies. But the RBH edged the NHT's in resolution, bass extension, and were overall slightly more musically transparent. The Thiels are at a much higher price point and as such performed better on all fronts. But not overly so. At their price point, the RBH system performed well. The RBH subwoofer also performed well compared to the SVS PC+ 16-46. The SVS is significantly larger with a larger 12" driver. This allowed the SVS subwoofer play extremely deep, to under 16Hz. And it did so with great authority. and while the RBH SX-10 did not play as deep, or with as much authority, it did perform well. It filled my room with lots of bass, and played down to 25 Hz. For the size of it's enclosure, and it's performance, it earned my applause.
I have heard great things about RBH. When I first unboxed the SX system and saw their quality, I had high expectations. I'm glad to report that I was not disappointed. And I doubt you would be too. It is a great versatile system that performs well for music and movies. And the Signature SX system has only whet my appetite. I can only imagine how good their reference system would sound. Based on their design, features quality and performance, they have earned our Editor's Choice Award. Congrats! for more info and complete specs, check out their website at