Klipsch Reference RB-3 Loudspeaker

      Date posted: November 24, 2001

Klipsch RB-3

Sugg. Retail: $1120 pr (CAN)
Size: 15″H x 7 2/3″W x 9″D
Manufacturer: Klipsch Audio Technologies,
3502 Woodview Trace, Ste. 200, Indianapolis IN 46268


(Reprinted from the Almanac 2002 Audio Ideas Guide)

      Klipsch has a new baby in the RB-3, their newest and smallest model in the Reference range. It’s a two-way, with their “Titanium dome compression driver tweeter with a 5″ (12.7cm) square 90 x 60 degree Tractrix Horn and one 6.5″ (16.5cm) magnetically shielded, aluminum cone woofer” (this comes from their excellent, if slow loading, website, with its socko animated GIF graphics). The woofer has a “Cerametallic” cone and cast polymer frame. Crossover frequency is centred around 2600 Hz. As usual, the MDF veneered cabinet is immaculately finished in Cherry, with Maple and black wood veneer available.

Sensitivity, though high at 94 dB/watt/metre, is actually a little low by Klipsch standards, their RB-5 bookshelf model at 96 dB, and many bigger models closer to 100. However, the RB-3 will play at the same level as an 88-dB-sensitivity speaker with 1/4 the amplifier power; in other words, the former will need 5 watts, while the latter requires 20 for the same volume of sound.

     There is a possible downside to this sensitivity (or efficiency, as it’s also called), in that the noise levels in the electronics feeding the speaker can be emphasized, though this would not be a consideration with most of today’s amps and receivers, with the possible exception of some tube designs.

     The driver designs here are typical of Klipsch, too, in their ability to play cleanly at very high levels. Rated to survive 100 watts of continuous power and 400-watt peaks, the RB-3 has a theoretical survival level of roughly 115 dB, though, gosh, I can’t imagine in what circumstances this might occur (Party, Dude!).

Klipsch RB-3 Frequency Response

     Looking at the measurements, we find a slightly shelved treble, which suits the speakers to a small room where listening distances will be closer. Above crossover, they’re 2 or 3 dB down in level in the Pink Noise Sweep (PNS) and Summed Axial Responses (SAR) at top. The on-axis quasi-anechoic curve below shows a little variation through the crossover region, with a sharp little peak at 5.5 kHz. This also shows up in the axial measurement beneath, but disappears at 15o off axis, and is replaced by a complementary dip at 30o off axis. These speakers will therefore sound smoothest faced straight ahead rather than toed in toward the listener. Dispersion is well controlled, with level down 8 dB or more at 60o, which will minimize midrange and high frequency wall reflections, also helpful acoustically in a smallish room.

Klipsch RB-3 Impedence

     The RB-3 is very linear over much of the midrange down into the bass region, down only 5 dB at 60 Hz, and 10 dB at 40 Hz. It’s +/-1 dB from 100 to just over 1000 Hz.

Impedance ranges from 30 ohms around 5 kHz to 4 ohms at 200 Hz. Therefore the RB-3 will like a little current, even if it doesn’t need many watts. The phase angle in the midrange (seen below the impedance curve) is a little odd, but does not show a broad phase shift that might affect imaging or depth of image.

In listening I heard a lot of good things, starting with naturalness and depth of image. Female and choral voices were well articulated and a little forward, but heard in a nice ambient space, as was orchestral music. Both dynamics, especially big transients, and microdynamics in percussion and cymbals made the RB-3 sound very engaging, not to mention more like real music.

     Bass was very good, but did not extend into the region below 50 Hz much, but above was very powerful and clean, the metal woofer cone exhibiting very low distortion. However, the cabinet was a little live, and could be felt vibrating on sides and top, though I didn’t feel this could be heard at all.

     In our Mahler 4th recording the plucked strings had a snap and immediacy that you seldom hear from small budget speakers. With most pop or classical music the pair seemed quite effortless, and reproduction was very natural in its combination of power and delicacy. I guess I’d sum up the Klipsch RB-3 as offering a lot of musical realism for the money, and the watts.

Andrew Marshall

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