Face Off: 3 Speaker Systems Around $3,500 RBH

RBH
Setting up the RBH MC Theater Series ensemble was a real treat. Don't let the overall slender profile and innocent-looking design fool you—these speakers weigh a grip! In fact, after I sweated the 56-pound TS-12AP subwoofer into place, I could have sworn I heard the Klipsch sub giggle at me.

I'll begin first with the subwoofer description, since I feel it's the best-built component in the ensemble. The TS-12AP active subwoofer features a single 12-inch, frontward-firing aluminum woofer in a vented enclosure. The internal amplifier belts out a modest 180 watts of continuous power. On the back panel, you'll find a host of features gracious enough to cater to most systems. A variable crossover between 40 and 180 Hz, an auto-on circuit, and a 180-degree phase switch complement the high- and low-level ins/outs. The only feature missing is an input that bypasses the crossover.

For the main L/R transducers, RBH shipped a pair of 4-ohm MC-6CTs. Each speaker offers a sleek, narrow profile and houses a single 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter mounted above three 61/2-inch aluminum midwoofers. Don't expect any internal loss due to poor cabinet construction here. The MC-6CT's construction is top-rate for a speaker at this price point and those slightly above. Each cabinet weighs a hefty 46 pounds.

The MC-414C center channel also employs a sleek cabinet to house the attractive drivers. Here, a single 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter is flanked on either side by a 4-inch aluminum midrange. I didn't expect much from this 4-inch transducer in the way of big sound, but I would soon be proven wrong.

The rear surround used in this RBH ensemble (the MC-6C) is an 8-ohm, direct-radiating design that utilizes a single 1-inch aluminum-dome tweeter and a 6-inch aluminum woofer. All of the speakers in the system feature high-quality binding posts for maximum connectivity.

Beginning first with the Eagles DTS DVD for consistency, I feel I speak for the group when I say it was a pleasurable listening experience, to say the least. I couldn't help but continually focus on the smooth frequency response. The transitions between the subwoofer, midrange, and tweeter were absolutely wonderful. This was apparent in each note (vocal or instrumental) on the disc. Bass was tight, and the imaging was remarkable. The direct-radiating rears worked well and made for excellent

secondary-reflecting surround effects. The only shortcoming was that the direct-radiating rears did not produce the ambient sounds, such as applause, as well as a dipolar design. In music, this is most certainly something I can live with. After all, I enjoy the music—not the applause.

Next on the agenda was the two-channel evaluation using the Sheffield Laboratories My Disc—just as I had done with the Klipsch ensemble. The overall frequency response was remarkably flat. At times, I wondered if I should have kicked up the subwoofer a notch, but then I was reminded by a nice bottom-end note that it was set correctly. I moved around the room to evaluate both on- and off-axis response. Of course, on-axis response was far more pleasurable, but off-axis was tolerable. In comparison with the Klipsch ensemble, the sweet-spot window wasn't nearly as tall or wide, but it was most certainly large enough to create a well-balanced experience in the listening room.

During the theater evaluation, the RBH MC Theater Series really came alive. From the opening moments of the Phantom Menace scene, the RBH ensemble delivered the bottom end like a street vendor selling bass sweet potatoes—pushing his cart slowly down the street and handing them out one after another. I must have had a grin from ear to ear during this particular evaluation. Somehow, thoughts of that tiny sub delivering this kind of rock-solid bass reminded me that there are still audio engineers out there who take pride in what they do.

The rear effects damn near made me jump out of my seat. The RBH's direct-radiating speakers make for a hard argument in the dipole-versus-direct debate. I'd rank this little RBH system as one of my top-10 favorites of all time.

Highlights
• High-end performance and appeal
• Sleek, noncumbersome design
• Rock-solid sub

HT Labs Measures: RBH MC Theater Series

This graph shows the quasi-anechoic (employing close-miking of all woofers) frequency response of the MC-6CT main L/R (purple trace), TS-12AP subwoofer (blue trace), MC-414C center channel (green trace), and MC-6C surround channel (red trace). All passive loudspeakers were measured at a distance of 1 meter with a 2.83-volt input and scaled for display purposes.

On-axis response of the MC-6CT L/R measures +4.0/-3.1 decibels from 200 hertz to 10 kilohertz. The -3dB point is at 47 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 41 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.7 ohms at 126 Hz and a phase angle of -39.1 degrees at 47 Hz. Sensitivity is 87 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.

On-axis response of the MC-414C center measures +3.3/-3.5 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. An average of axial and (+/-15 degree) horizontal responses measures +1.3/-4.2 dB from 200 Hz to 10 kHz. The -3dB point is at 92 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 74 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 4.0 ohms at 257 Hz and a phase angle of -51.7 degrees at 110 Hz. Sensitivity is 92 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.

On-axis response of the MC-6C surround measures +2.5/-4.0 dB from 200 Hz to 20 kHz. The -3dB point is at 61 Hz, and the -6dB point is at 51 Hz. Impedance reaches a minimum of 7.8 ohms at 221 Hz and a phase angle of -51.3 degrees at 82 Hz. Sensitivity is 87 dB from 500 Hz to 2 kHz.

Close-miked response of the TS-12AP subwoofer, normalized to the average level from 40 Hz to 80 Hz, indicates that the lower -3dB point is at 37 Hz and the -6dB point is at 32 Hz. The upper -3dB point is at 113 Hz.—AJ

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