Klipsch Reference 5 Home Theater Speaker System

      Date posted: August 24, 2007

Klipsch Reference 5 Satellite
Klipsch Reference 5 HT System RSX-5 Bookshelf Loudspeaker
Sugg. Retail: $540.00 pr
RCX-4 Centre Channel Sugg. Retail: $230.00
RSW-10d Subwoofer Sugg. Retail: $700.00
Size: 12 1/2″W x 17″H & D
Manufacturer: Klipsch Audio Technologies,
3502 Woodview Trace, Ste. 200,
Indianapolis IN 46268 USA
(317) 860-8721 FAX 860-9170
or 65 Kingswood Drive, King City, ON L7B 1K5
(905) 833-0010 FAX 833-0015

      In many HT systems there’s a lot to talk about in the satellites and centre, and that’s certainly true with the other systems in this issue. And it’s not that there isn’t that much to say about them here, it’s just that the Klipsch RSW-10D subwoofer has so many talking points in its technology, call it tweak-nology, if you like, but more on this below.

      The outright simplicity in other respects of the Reference 5 system is a blessing to the reviewers among us, with well established and proven technology in the compact satellite and centre channels, the RSX-5 and RCX-4, respectively. Klipsch Reference 5 Center Channel (silver)

      According to the web site, the RSX-5 utilizes “a 1-inch titanium-dome compression driver coupled to Klipsch’s new round MircoTractrix Horn.” The 5.25″ woofer, “is a long-throw unit powered by a unique neodymium motor structure. The CerametallicTM cone is lightweight with excellent rigidity, which dramatically reduces any resonance.” Finishes are flat black and silver.

      This is also the case for the RCX-4 centre speaker, with the identical tweeter, also with the Tractrix horn molded into the cabinet, and a pair of small Cerametallic woofers flanking it. Both have ball-joint pedestals for easy placement and aiming.

      Both “use high-quality network components and top-of-the-line internal wiring for proper driver blending with minimal degradation of the incoming signals.” For mounting, “keyholes are provided on the underside of the stand base for no-hassle wall mounting. The magnetic grille easily snaps into place over its cast-aluminum front baffle, while sturdy five-way binding posts ensure secure connection to any type of cable.” Klipsch Reference 5 Subwoofer

      And then we come to the RW-10d subwoofer. The small “d” stands for digital, using what the company calls a DCS (Digital Control System) behind a 10″ front-firing Cerametallic woofer. The power is provided by a 260-watt rms amplifier, that also offers 575 watts of dynamic oomph from the BASHR “digital hybrid” amplifier. According to the site, “Exclusive Corner PortTM Technology allows the subwoofer’s port tube to be as long as possible without bending, minimizing turbulence that can cause port noise and distortion. It also allows the enclosure to be tuned to a lower frequency than would otherwise be possible to create deeper bass from a smaller cabinet.”

      “For quick and easy adjustment of all functions, the RW-10d features the DCS digital user-interface that includes three equalization modes (flat, depth and punch) and three user-adjustable presets (music, movie and night) to create specific listening preferences.” It’s available in the same woodgrain black and silver as the other parts of the system. Klipsch Reference 5 System Frequency Response (subwoofer)

     And discussion of the measurements should start with the sub, which contrasts quite startlingly with the barebones-but-elegant KEF bass reproducer reviewed later. I’ve included a separate graph to show the 10d’s many variants of response settings using the two groupings. But I did have to limit these to make sufficient sense of them all (you can make things more complicated if you like, but make sure you have a sophisticated bass measurement system!). I started with the mode settings and chose to measure with Music and Movie, while with the EQ I chose Flat and Depth. So I leave the buyer to have some fun with Punch and Night, (hopefully of a non-violent kind).

      So, as we look at the graph for the subwoofer alone, let’s start at the upper left corner: the trace that’s almost flat between 30 and 40 Hz and rises above is for the settings Movie and Depth, and is the flattest trace in the Depth category, with Movie Flat and Music Flat just below pretty much tied as their traces overlay for the next flattest response. It appears that adding Depth (so to speak) makes for flatter deep bass here. All of these were made with the Low Pass filter at 150 Hz.

      The next trace down, pretty much by itself, is Music Depth, and here I reset the High Pass filter to 60 Hz, which more than anything else, yielded the flattest trace yet, +/-2 dB from 100 Hz down. And, finding that Music and Depth yielded the smoothest sub response, I decided to end my measurements (which could have gone on for hours more with all the possible permutations), I tried Music Depth again, but with the HP crossover set to 40 Hz. This gave us a slope downward with ascending frequency, still +/-2 dB, but with the most oomph between 20 and 30 Hz. Finally, sensing victory in the quest for musical truth, still with Music, I switched the mode setting to Flat again and the crossover back to 60 Hz, to yield the curve at bottom, just about +/-1 dB from 25 to 100 Hz, quite spectacular frequency response, but fairly hard-earned with the aid of my computer measuring gear.

      An easier way to set up this sub would be with our Test & Reference CD, with its sine-wave tones at every 10 Hz interval between 20 and 100 Hz. Now available only in our Signature individually produced version, the T&R has helped about 10,000 audiophiles set up their audio and home theatre systems since 1995, selling out two pressing runs along the way in just over a decade. Klipsch Reference 5 System Frequency Response

      The RW-10d is shown on the main measurement chart directly above in Music Flat and Music Depth, which are close to the extremes in its variety of settings, after which measurements I realized that I could do better with some tweaking of the settings, and gave it its own graph. Most users can get such results with care, hence the more useful and exceptional curves at top left. On the main graph, the overlaid Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) and Summed Axial response (SAR) show only a slight diversion in the upper octaves, reflecting the slight off-axis response falloff seen below in the axial measurements as well. Overall, the RSX-5 satellites are +/-2 dB or better from 100 to 10,000 Hz, very good response, with the desired slope at the highest frequencies to make them sound most natural in smaller rooms.

      This is echoed in the third group of axial curves at bottom for the RCX-4 centre channel, which shows a bit more droop in the mid frequencies at 30 degrees off axis, the proverbial ends of the couch in an HT listening room.

      What the Klipsch Reference 5 system delivers is very even and well matched response from all the satellites and centre speakers, with excellent dispersion and a fully seamless surround experience, anchored by an innovative and versatile subwoofer, with a unit price that would make me want to buy two to fully provide proper HT bass. The caveat is that it would take a truly professional dealer to properly set up such a sub pair.

      In general, the frequency response of the Klipsch Reference 5 system is predictable, well behaved, and quite exceptional for its price. Add the versatile and high-performing sub[s] (particularly for only $700 [each]), and you have a recipe for fabulous home theatre sound for well under $3000. Hard to beat!

(Further thoughts from the Summary of HT Systems from Vol. 23 #1)

The Klipsch Reference 5 system distinguishes itself with a superb balance of price, compactness, and sound quality. The latter is distinguished by clarity, openness, and the wide, even dispersion characteristic of horn-loaded tweeters, with very little of what we have come to call “horn sound”. Helped by a really exceptional budget subwoofer (so much so that I recommend a pair be purchased), the sound is effortless, very clean, with good all around imaging and excellent dynamic and transient characteristics that approach those of the more expensive systems.

Andrew Marshall

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