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From comfortable Heritage to a new Reference: RF-5s


erik2A3
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We owned both a pair of La Scalas and Heresy Is when the original RF series of floor standers was introduced.  I loved the LS and Heresies because they were the only speakers to which I'd listened that truly approximated the sharp transient attacks and dynamics of live music.  When the first RFs came out, I went to an audio store in Houston to ask if I could listen to the RF-7s....which I did.  The salesman turned them up way too loud, trying to impress me with how loud they could play (which they did very well), but I told him I was more interested in what they could do a lower SPLs.  He asked me what we were using now, and, on telling him about our La Scalas, he laughed, and explained that I obviously didn't know how music was supposed to sound, and that the LS was intended to be used ONLY as PA speakers or by disc jockeys.  I told him I was sure he was right, but suggested that preferences in music playback equipment was, at best, a pretty subjective and personal sort of thing.  Sort of like mayo or ketchup on fries or pomme frites.  I prefer mayonnaise; mi esposa, ketchup.

 

I though the RF-7s were gorgeous slabs of speaker though!  But despite how cool I thought they were in that sense, they just seemed unbalanced to me in terms of frequency response; and that fact may actually have been the result of the comparatively upward tilt of our pair of LSs.  As confident and self-assured as the salesman had been (sort of rude might be a better description his character....at least during my encounter with him), in retrospect, maybe he wasn't too far off the mark.

 

For a long time afterwards, then, I just forgot about the then-new RF series, and enjoyed all of our Heritage speakers, which included a couple more pairs of La Scalas, Heresies Is, Heresy IIs (which I gave my dad) Klipschorns, and Chorus IIs (which were pretty awesome, actually).  I had also been using and enjoying the crazy-efficient Lowther full-range drivers in rear-loaded horns, which were as efficient as our K-horns, or slightly more so.  I still use them, and for some kinds of music, that crossover less full-ranger simply can't be beat.  But for anything with real bass -- think of some modern bands like Tool, Perfect Circle, Sound Garden, Audio Slave, Alice In Chains -- all of which my wife loves (and much of it me too!), the Lowthers just can't cut it, and finding a sub fast enough to keep up with them in order to fill in the bottom octaves seemed next to impossible.

 

And so, just last week, I was looking through CL here in Tucson, and found a very nearly mint pair of RF-5s for $300.  I went to see them the same afternoon, and they were setup in the seller's garage.  They were playing along with an older, but great-sounding Klipsch subwoofer, which, just like the audio store in Houston, was turned up way too loud.  I asked him if I could play with the controls a bit to even things out......and I was mesmerized.  Even inadequately setup up in a garage they sounded like a completely different speaker than what my acoustic memory serves regarding the RF-7.  The 5s were balanced and just amazingly articulate -- truly the equal of any Heritage speaker we had owned and used.  But, to me (just my opinion, mind you....) they had an organic, sort of living quality that the big mid-range horns of the Heritage stuff didn't.  I'm thinking, though, that the coherence I'm getting from these things is likely more due to the fact that they are two-way systems rather than the three-way of the Heritage.  Which makes me now understand why lots of LS owners I've known have gone to some trouble and effort to transform both their LS or K-horns into two-way systems using horn Altec horns.  That's something I actually never tried myself.

 

We have a large listening room with a vaulted ceiling, and the way these medium-sized speakers, the RF-5s, are able to fill this quite big space is just kind of amazing.  They are capable of very loud undistorted sound, which just seems incongruous with their physical dimensions.  I was worried we were going to drive amps into clipping in order to get enough volume, and it's not even close to that.  Even with the several watts of single-ended 300Bs they are fantastic, and provide deeper insight into recordings than I think any other speakers we've owned.  With the far more powerful Parasound Halo, they can play painfully loud (just as a test), yet remain totally in control.

 

These RF-5s are end-game speakers for us, although I would like to replace some of the crossover components - particularly with respect to inductors.  They already have film capacitors, which are likely mylar types, but I may opt for some nice electrolytics, particularly in the critical midrange/tweeter branch.  wink wink

 

erik 

 

 

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7 minutes ago, AndreG. said:

Have You listened to the 5s as well? There are supposed to be people that say that the RF3 might even be the better of the two, i wonder though...

No but they are good. The HF horn on the 5 is supposed to be similar or same as the 7s.

That's the speak from awhile ago.

The 5s from all have read here are rather awesome. Looking for members here to chime in.

Thanks!

 

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Thanks for reading and contributing.  I don't have experience with the 3s, and we are using the 5s exclusively for music (we've got a decent sound bar from that other company that, for the kind of movies we watch - definitely more dialogue oriented than special effects - fulfills that just fine).

 

And for sure, they do well without a sub.  I've been using the Lowther full-range drivers up until now, and at about 105 dB/watt, they are obviously super efficient.  There is just very little in the way of lower octave info. with them.  I listen to tons of guitar, and the Lowthers seem to get the timbre and textures of that instrument, as well as the same of other strings and woodwinds, really well.  They have an open and immediate quality that's unlike most other loudspeakers I've heard, but they are not even close to the RF-5s for everything else -- and I paid $300 for an essentially like-new pair!  The PM5A drivers now in my back-loaded horns cost about $2,500 (that's just the raw drivers, no cabinets).

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3 hours ago, billybob said:

No but they are good. The HF horn on the 5 is supposed to be similar or same as the 7s.

That's the speak from awhile ago.

The 5s from all have read here are rather awesome. Looking for members here to chime in.

Thanks!

 

The 5's are a bit ahead of the 3's although they really do have a lot of similarities. They share the same tweeter drivers and woofers but the horn on the 5's is larger same as the 7's. Cabinets on the 5's are significantly better built, not just the real wood veneer but properly braced and tuned as well. Also the crossovers have thicker PCB boards and higher quality parts. 

 

In my experience if you rebuild the 3's crossovers with better parts you can get the tweeter to sound very close to that of the 5's but the bass just isn't quite as smooth or as tight, really think the quality of the cabinet construction shines through on the 5's.

 

The 3's aren't bad speakers I've owned several sets over the years and can be improved quite a bit with some new capacitors.  

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54 minutes ago, erik2A3 said:

I paid $300 for an essentially like-new pair!  

 

Congrats on the new RF-5's! They really are great speakers I ran a set as my mains for a few years and was perfectly happy with them. I use to promote them as the best bang for your buck in the RF line and likened them to the Chorus II's in terms of size, cost and performance ratios. 

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6 hours ago, jjptkd said:

The 5's are a bit ahead of the 3's although they really do have a lot of similarities. They share the same tweeter drivers and woofers but the horn on the 5's is larger same as the 7's. Cabinets on the 5's are significantly better built, not just the real wood veneer but properly braced and tuned as well. Also the crossovers have thicker PCB boards and higher quality parts. 

 

In my experience if you rebuild the 3's crossovers with better parts you can get the tweeter to sound very close to that of the 5's but the bass just isn't quite as smooth or as tight, really think the quality of the cabinet construction shines through on the 5's.

 

The 3's aren't bad speakers I've owned several sets over the years and can be improved quite a bit with some new capacitors.  

Did You modify any RF3? Because, as one of my future projects, i thought about doing some real verneer on mine, and while i´m at it, maybe brace the cabinets and take a look at the XOs as well.

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8 minutes ago, AndreG. said:

Did You modify any RF3? Because, as one of my future projects, i thought about doing some real verneer on mine, and while i´m at maybe brace the cabinets and probably take a look at the XOs as well.

 

I have modded RF-3 II's.  The XO's are S/N1 and S/N2 B&K XO's.  I replaced the diaphragms as well with some Crites spec'd ones and added a little extra foam on the rear of the speaker behind the woofers (made sure all the wires were wrapped too).  Still have the stock cabs and drivers though.

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3 hours ago, AndreG. said:

Did You modify any RF3? Because, as one of my future projects, i thought about doing some real verneer on mine, and while i´m at it, maybe brace the cabinets and take a look at the XOs as well.

I didn't really modify mine just had the caps replaced in the crossovers I believe I went with Daytons from Partsexpress there's a few threads here specifically on RF-3 crossovers and modifications I'll try and find one for you.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, jjptkd said:

I didn't really modify mine just had the caps replaced in the crossovers I believe I went with Daytons from Partsexpress there's a few threads here specifically on RF-3 crossovers and modifications I'll try and find one for you.

 

That OP looks familiar :lol:

 

These are indeed the XO's in my current RF-3's.  They cleaned a lot up for the towers.  The diaphragm cleaned them up a little bit more and made them a little less harsh.  The wrapping of the wire inside and laying out the foam in the back (inside of course) helped with some relatively tighter bass response.  They sound different enough that they're *very* obvious in A/B between a stock RF-3 and the modded RF-3.

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