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My review of the RF-83 + RC-64 combo


ottscay
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I took the plunge. I drove two hours to my nearest Klipsch dealer after work Thursday to pick up my new speakers (a week earlier than expected...thanks Klipsch!), came back and set them up with the help of my beautiful, kind, and patient girlfriend Jen that night (or, more accurately, very early Friday morning). I've now had several days to listen to them, with both a variety of music and several movies. Here are my impressions:

My setup: You can read my signature for source information; I had an RF & RC-7 home theater with four RB-75s as surrounds. I switched my pair of RF-7's to take over for one set of rear RB-75s, and put the RF-83s and RC-64 eagerly into duty. I point out the switch of the RF-7s to side surround because I have some thoughts on using floorstanders as surrounds I'll share at the end.

Appearances and first impresions: I got the new speakers in cherry, to match my existing setup (it's lucky I wasn't able to get my original speakers in maple like I'd wanted, I wouldn't have been able to match them with the Reference IVs!) . The wood veneer is very nice, in line with what we've come to expect with the RF-7s. The "knife-edge" back does look fancier, but since it's on the side I don't normally see, it doesn't matter so much to me (it may help with WAF, but luckily my significant other cares more about sound reproduction). More important to me, the binding posts are much nicer than the Ref IIIs. The RC-64 looks stunning and, frankly, like the monster it is. It's very heavy for a center channel (I have it on the floor in front of my TV until I can get a new support shelf that will safely hold it). I also like the looks of the RF-83, but I was less sure when I took them out of their boxes. The 83s are more stately than the RF-7s, and the inverted dust caps reinforce this elegance. While I know that thin is in, the taller, deeper cabinet just didn't "look" like what I was used to. After a day or two, however, that initial feeling of "different" has faded, in no small part due to their performance. By the way, I really liked the photos of the 83s I'd seen, so it's a tad strange that I had this initial reaction. As the old saw goes: There's no accounting for taste.

A note on the inverted dust caps; I like them a lot (I actually kind of missed them when I upgraded from my RF-35 series speakers to the RF-7 series), so I'm already biased in their favor. Ditto for the magnetic grills, which I find much more elegant than the old peg grills of the -7 series. Your miliage may vary depending on taste. Finally....the plastic feet on the RF-83s are in my opinion much improved. I know many will still wish that they were powder coated metal (I wouldn't mind myself), but they are much sturdier now, and they don't look flimsy either. The carpet nails work well and make the speaker stable, which is good since they are taller and narrower than the RF-7s!

Music performance: I recently took my Denon universal player out of my setup so I could play with the HD-DVD Toshiba HD-A1, which is not as good at playing redbook CDs, and can't play SACDs or DVD-A. Hence my comparison will only be to the last few weeks of playing CDs on my current player on the RF-7s.

First, the new horns; much was made on these forums about how the new horns are smaller than the monsters on the RF/RC-7. Some apparently felt this was going to be a step down. I am far from an expert in speaker design, but I can tell you that however the Klipsc engineers managed it, the highs are much better on the RF-83s. Less coloration, less forward presentation, no listening fatigue. Don't get me wrong, I loved m RF-7s, and have always loved the "live" Klipsch sound, but I don't like having listening fatigue after 30 minutes of a piano concerto (or 10 minutes of Count Basie). The new horns are an absolute pleasure to listen to. Perhaps the best way I can sum it up is that previiously I never turned up the volume past 55 (and normally had it around 50 for treble-heavy music). When we popped in big Band music, I had it up to 62 before I knew it. It was simply a more inviting listening experience, where I wanted to pay more attention to the music that was playing. And it sounded plenty "alive".

I, of course, had long noted on the spec sheets that the RF-83s can reach 3 Hz lower than the RF-7s (to 29 Hz). The spec differences are audible, but what can't be conveyed through the spec sheet is how much fuller the mid-bass is. In this sense orchestral music is much improved (and obviously rap and alternative also recieve a benefit). We listen with a subwoofer, but you really don't need one for music, as there are gobs of mid bass that don't run out.

I was playing most of my music with surround matrix processing (NEO6 mostly), as I haven't had time to play with positioning much yet (outside of basic dropping them into the corners and toeing the mains in towards the main seating area). I therefore have no opinion on the stereo imaging of the new speakers relative to the RF-7s, although there is an improvment in imaging in surround matrix modes (this becomes important below).

Home Theater: I love my movie sound, and these speakers really, really come through in this department. In Revenge of the Sith you could hear the separation of the fighters long after they'd flown forward and were only being played on the front speakers. The extra bass extension is important (when the glass ball breaks in the THX storm demo, I literally felt the impact). But even more important here is agin the mid-bass; since there is more bass coming from each speaker, you get much, much better localization with surround effects (not that the REF IIIs were slackers).

In my theater room the RC-64 gets rid of the issue of "off-axis" dialogue intelligability. It also brings new details to life. In The Incredibles, when Mrs. Incredible picks rubble off of hubby and drops it before chewing him out, you hear the rock fall onto the floor distinctly, but without slapping you in the face.

The best way I can sum up the improvement with the new center channel is there is an ease with which it does it's job (I assume this is why others have described it as "natural" sounding). It was almost disconcerting initially as I realized (for the first time) that the RC-7 does color dialogue somewhat. But I found it instantly drawing me into movies, as the speaker disappears and the dialogue simply comes from the actors on screen. And remember, at the moment my RC-64 is sitting on the floor, much further from the screen than it will be in a week.

I had a friend come over and demo the opening space battle of RotS, after which we watched the new directors cut of Kingdom of Heaven. He's not an audiophile, but plays music and has a good ear, and he noticed similar improvements without any prodding.

Final thoughts: I have been studiously trying to avoid other improvements to surround sound (the rear array), because moving the RF-7 back there has also dramatically improved rear surround. I am now a huge fan of using floorstanders for surrounds (I know there are others, far wiser than I, who have been championing this idea on these very forums for some time, but this is the first I've gotten to hear it for myself).

As a result, I am seriously considering moving to RF-63s for rear surrounds as money permitts. In the mean time, I must give two enthusiastic thumbs up to the RF-83s and RC-64. IMHO, anyone looking to upgrade, or who want to extract a little bit more from their home theater, owes it to themselves to go listen to the new REF IVs. Jen, who cares less about movies than music, is just as impressed with the new speakers, so my emphasis on home theater improvements is simply my bias. In the next few months some professional reviewers will likely get to help write up these speakers, but in the mean time I hope you've enjoed the opinion of one avid non-professional and his (did I mention wonderful?) girlfriend.

Hope you all enjoy! Dvorak is over, and I'm going to go watch a movie!

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Great review!!! You hit the nail on the hammer with your impressions of the new referance IV. They mirror my and other people's thoughts. The new horn is impressive even with the "downgraded" size. Also it can go higher without fatigue which I was after around 30 minutes at a dealer with the rf-7.I do not have a rc64 but your review makes me want to get one soooo bad now. Also you have rb-75, why not the rs-7??? do you find the bookshelf models better for surrounds, if I ever go 7.1 I am surely going to want to know.

Again great review!

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Glad you liked it Jay; your story helped convince me to do it, and hopefully I can help others make a good decision in the same way. As for direct radiators (RB-75s), I normally listen to a lot of multichannel music, and bookshelfs are better in that capacity. Also, my 7.1 setup wraps around the back (as opposed to having two in back and two on the sides), so I find that more localization helps the illustion of panning across behind me. It's not necessarily true for other setups (my theater is narrrow and long), and I've heard very good things about the new Ref IV surrounds (very similar to the THX Ultra II series), and I imagine they are very good for home theater.

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Thanks for the information, when ou mean multichannel music you mean dvd a or sacd? also I think I will go your route as opposed to hometheater as I have 2.0 right now and much more biased toward music. Maybe rb-81 sides and rs-62 rears? who knows.....

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ottscay: Thanks for doing an excellent review. I found it quite enlightening. I have the RF-7 / RC-7 fronts and RS-7 sides with RCW-5s bringing up the rear. There's an RSW-15 doing sub duty. I have been quite happy with this setup, but it's nice to know there are improvements in the series 4. Having heard what Klipsch has done with the recent upgrades in its heritage line, I would have expected nothing less than an improvement in an already great reference lineup. Thank you for confirming my suspicions. I must say that we've never experienced the listening fatigue you mentioned on our RF-7s. I am driving my system with a Pioneer Elite VSX-49TXi receiver. That center channel of yours sure does intrigue me. It seems a lot closer to what I've had in mind than my RC-7. I've always wanted a "horizontally-build" RF-7 center channel and your RC-64 seems to be about as close as I am going to get to it. I don't have the money to do anything right now but it's all food-for-thought. Thanks for taking the time to write your review!

-Glenn

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Same here, we can run the RF-7's all day long and not get listening fatigue but this has more to do with what you run the RF-7's with, a more bright and edgy sound from a receiver/amp can cause some listening fatigue. The RF-7's do well with a warmer sounding receiver/amp like HK, Pioneer, Rotel, or any leaning towards the warmer side less edgy.

Taming down the horn on the RF-83 helps lessen that issue.

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Thanks for the feedback guys; Don't get me wrong, the RF-7s are awesome speakers. And I certainly could listen to them all day without listening fatigue, just not with some types of music at some volumes. And I doubt my Arcam could be considered anything but warm, so it's not what's driving them.

The RF-83s just have a smoother highend. Whether you like that or not is personal taste, although I suspect it's more accurate, and in my case at least it invites longer listening at higher volumes for treble-heavy music.

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ottscay: Thanks for doing an excellent review. I found it quite enlightening. I have the RF-7 / RC-7 fronts and RS-7 sides with RCW-5s bringing up the rear. There's an RSW-15 doing sub duty. I have been quite happy with this setup, but it's nice to know there are improvements in the series 4.

I have to second this. Very interesting, as I've yet to hear the new RF-83's and companions. I also have a complete Rx-7 setup. The only difference between me and Picky's is that in addition to the RS-7s on the side, I also have a pair of RF-5s, and I also have a single RC-7 taking up the rear. Sub duty is being done by a REL Storm III.

I've listened to my own system for hours and never once experienced fatique (and this is with various power/prog metal artists/music). I guess the B&K amp that I also have really helps, as it seems to run somewhat on the warm side of things, but with excellent clarity and detail. To be honost, I love how my system is currently setup, but at the same time, I am also happy to know that there are improvments in the new series. When I first saw the RF-83's announced, I'll admit I was a bit skeptical, but I had to reserve judgement until I actually get a chance to hear them. Hopefully, I'll get to hear them in Hope here in a couple of weeks. Also, it is unlikely that I'll run out and buy a pair anytime soon (rather spend the money to get a new pre/pro to replace this aging Denon AVR3802 that I am currently using as a pre/pro). Also, have been spending money towards doing work in/around the house anyway, so the home theater has been pretty much unchanged for the past year and half or so (also I did buy a harddrive-based DVD recorder earlier this spring, since I had a bunch of TV programs I accumulated on my UltimateTV unit that I did want to save off to DVD).

Still, awesome to hear about the new RF-83s. I'll have to go check if the local Klipch dealer (Raven Hi-Fi and Home Theater) has a pair that I can listen to this weekend.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I always love reviews when I see people using RF-7s as surround speakers. The flagship of the Reference series being used as a surround when most people's front main speakers don't come anywhere close to being as nice as the RF-7s are. [8-|]

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I realy like my RF-83, I never hear the RF-7 so I can not compair. As far as the RC-64 it has to be one of the best centers out there. I have mine near the floor point straight forward and it's still the best I ever heard. No space to angle the speaker up. I have it on the botom shelf of Sony tv stand. Had to cut the cross frame to slide it in. I also have the RF-82 for surrounds speakers. Works realy nice to geather.

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