Klipsch Reference RB-41 II
Usually, a sub-$400/pair minispeaker is part of a manufacturer's entry-level line, but the RB-41 II ($299/pr) is part of Klipsch's Reference line. It uses the horn-loaded tweeter that has been a Klipsch hallmark since the 1940s - in this case, a 1-inch titanium-dome model - and a ceramic/metallic-cone 4-inch woofer in a rear-ported enclosure. So it's got a pretty high class of drivers for its price range, but pays for them by using a smaller woofer in a ported cabinet that's just 8.7 inches high - the smallest in this roundup.
No one could reasonably expect the RB-41 II to deliver a full sound, but it does. All of our panelists noted that it had a little less bass than average for this bunch, but none felt the sound was thin. In fact, the RB-41 II's bass was tighter and better defined than many of the other minis delivered. No, it's not enough bass for heavy rock and hip-hop, but for jazz, classical, folk, and light pop, it might be all the bass you need, at least in a small room.
The mids and treble surprised us, too. The RB-41 II combines a clean sound on vocals - something many audio enthusiasts assume a horn cannot do - with some of the most convincing sense of ambience delivered by any speaker in this group. When I was listening to Ranking Roger's reverb-laden toasting in the English Beat's "Hands Off She's Mine," the RB-41 II got the soundstage perfect, neither exaggerating the reverb nor damping it.
Our panelists found a few things not to like: Lauren thought the tweeter level was a decibel or two high, and Geoff didn't dig the RB-41 II at all, saying, "It seems to be missing pieces of the sound. Everything seems recessed." But with three of our four panelists giving the RB-41 II an enthusiastic thumbs-up, it's clearly one of your best buys in a minispeaker.
Frequency response of the RB-41 II measures 96 Hz to 20 kHz ±4.5 dB on-axis, ±3.7 dB avg 0°-30°, which is impressively flat in the midrange but there's an elevated response in the midtreble octave from 5 to 10 kHz. Measured impedance is 3.0 ohms minimum, 6 ohms average. Sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz averages 85.5 dB.