Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-140SA Atmos Elevation Module Review


Performance
Build Quality
Value
PRICE $499 pr

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Flexibility of stand or speaker-top use
Strongly defined height effects
Horn-loaded tweeter
Minus
Potential timbre-matching issues
Footprint too large for some speakers
Requires flat or nearly flat speaker top

THE VERDICT
If you like your Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects well defined, the Klipsch RP-140SA and its horn-loaded tweeter do the ceiling bounce with vivid results.

Progress is great, except when it’s not. By now, you’ve probably read a lot about Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the nextgeneration object-oriented surround standards, and pondered what they mean for your system. But maybe the news that height-enriched surround sound has finally come of age is bittersweet to you. What if you love your existing speakers and don’t want to let go of them? Which matters more: upgrading to the latest and greatest or holding onto the tried and true? You might prefer to stick with your existing 5.1- to 7.1-channel system and tell progress to take a hike.

Brothers and sisters, we are in the same boat. I love my speakers and want to keep them. Not only do they bring me daily pleasure, but they’ve been a big part of my work as a reviewer. When I evaluate speakers, I am always tacitly comparing their voicing with that of my Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers, which measure fairly flat and sound neutral to my ears. Furthermore, any receiver I review has to credibly power my speakers. The Paradigms have been my reference for nine years, and changing my reference isn’t a matter I take lightly. I won’t do it until I find a worthy successor. And the search has barely begun. It may take years. I’m not sure if it will ever end.

That’s why I’ve been looking for an Atmos-enabled add-on speaker to supplement the Paradigms. For reasons to be explained, the Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-140SA is the best option I’ve heard to date.

Elevation Options
To get the most from Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, you need both a compatible receiver (or separates) and compatible speakers. If you’re adding ceiling speakers for the height channels—usually the best choice in a dedicated home theater—it’s feasible to hold onto your existing speakers, unless you’re worried about timbre matching. (I’m not; more on that later.) I can’t poke holes in the ceiling of my rental apartment, so I’m going for elevation modules, a less invasive solution that uses top-mounted drivers to bounce height effects off the ceiling. It’s the next best thing, and it’s the right thing for the way I live.

In this case (as with most similar speakers now available for purchase), the modules are “Atmos-enabled,” meaning they meet Dolby’s specification for such products and are officially sanctioned and licensed by Dolby for this purpose. Fortunately for consumers, Atmos-enabled elevation modules are known to be effective with DTS:X installations as well, though Dolby (and Klipsch) make no claim of this. Some other manufacturers, however, have begun marketing their modules as compatible with both formats.

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The simplest way to add height drivers to my system would be to replace my floor speakers with new Atmos-enabled speakers that have the upfiring elevation drivers already built in. Having rejected that option because I’m wedded to the Paradigms, I’m going for the add-ons. Two things you need to consider with add-ons: Are the top surfaces of your existing speakers large enough to fit add-ons? (To find out, compare those surfaces with the add-ons’ footprint.) And are your speaker tops flat? (Those B&W 800 Diamond speakers with separate tweeter housings might look and sound gorgeous, but they won’t accommodate an elevation module.)

My Paradigms don’t have flat tops—but their subtly curved tops mesh acceptably with the Klipsches. In the back, the add-on’s feet rest on the speaker. The front feet aren’t quite long enough, so the bottom surface of the add-on sits directly on the curved top surface of the speaker.

To cushion the front of the add-on, I applied a small mound of Silly Putty—using the full contents of one plastic egg for each speaker, flattened to less than a quarter-inch. (You might get the same result with Blu Tack poster putty, which some audiophiles use for mating speakers to stands.) This arrangement tilts up the front end slightly, but because I’m using long-wall placement and I sit fairly close to the front speakers, that might actually be an advantage.

The RP-140SA is accompanied in Klipsch’s Reference Premiere line by the Atmos-enabled RP-280FA tower ($1,199 each). In fact, the manufacturer’s demo of the tower in Dolby’s New York offices was what convinced me that the RP-140SA might be just the height speaker I need. The way the tower handled height effects offered a ray of hope: If I could add that sound to my existing speakers, might I be able to use them for several more years?

The add-on has a wedge-shaped enclosure whose top baffle tilts forward at a 22-degree angle from the horizontal, fitting Dolby’s specification—which gives a fair amount of leeway but suggests 20 degrees as a typical solution. Klipsch says that the 22-degree angle here counters the 2-degree cant of the base on the company’s Reference Premiere loudspeakers, though it’s quite acceptable for use with other speakers. Like most other Klipsch speakers, it features a titanium dome tweeter deeply recessed into a horn—in this case, a 90 x 90-degree Hybrid Tractrix Horn to control dispersion. The prime virtue of horns, beyond controlling directivity of course, is efficiency: They can play louder with modest AVR power. This improves the overall dynamic potential of your system.

The 4-inch, copper-colored, cerametallic cone woofer utilizes an anodized aluminum diaphragm with a ceramic coating on both sides. It’s a stiff, tough material. Unlike the tower, which comes in a walnut or black wood veneer, the add-on has a black brushed-polymer finish with a pleasant, subtle matte texture and a magnetically attached grille that covers top and front. Plastic-nut binding posts are in a downward-angled recess on the back. The bottom includes a keyhole mount that would allow using the RP-140SA as a downward-angled on-wall surround speaker.

A Word About Receivers
Starting with this review, I’ve adopted a new acting reference receiver. The Denon AVR-X7200WA has nine amplifier channels, enabling me to run a 5.1.4-channel system without an additional amp. It replaces my Pioneer Elite VSX-53, a seven-channel model I used for running 5.1 (I don’t believe in back-surrounds). My review of the Denon (June 2016) complimented its “powerful, clean, well-tuned amp.” I chose it for its relative neutrality, dynamics, and ability to stream from my media PC via DLNA and Wi-Fi.

A few last words about the Pioneer: I’m replacing it only because it doesn’t have the nine amp channels and surround processing needed for Dolby Atmos or DTS:X. The Pioneer has served me well in speaker reviews and as my everyday amp. It is among the last of the Mohicans as Pioneer switches more of their line from Class AB amplification to D3, their version of Class D. The VSX-53 has been a stable reference and a fine performer, second only to the Rotel RSX-1065 and RSX-1067 it replaced. The Rotels, with their massive front-mounted heat fins, were unlike any other receivers I’ve ever used. I miss them, too.

Saying goodbye to the Pioneer was nearly as hard as saying goodbye to the Rotels. The Pioneer’s feet stuck stubbornly to my rack’s reference-receiver berth. Oh babe, I thought, I know how you feel. I packed it into a dusty carton that had grown whiskers atop a bookshelf, unearthed the manual from a filing cabinet, pilfered the AM radio antenna for my kitchen system, and sent the receiver home to meet an uncertain fate.

COMPANY INFO
Klipsch
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