Klipsch RVX-42 Speaker System and Yamaha RX-V2500 A/V Receiver

Klipsch and Yamaha show that not every Spotlight System requires a second mortgage.

So far, we may have given you the false impression that the pages of this new column were going to be dedicated almost exclusively to the rarified air of the high end. After all, there has only been one installment so far that rang in under five figures, and last month's MiCon Audio system seriously blew the curve with a price tag roughly equivalent to that of a decent house in some parts of the country. Little did you know it was all part of an ingenious plan to build momentum for the column with flashy, big-ticket systems before settling in to the meat and potatoes of the A/V world—i.e., the systems the rest of us can afford. This month's Klipsch/ Yamaha combo is just such a system. Sure, it's not something you'll be able to buy with the change you find in your sofa, but it is certainly more attainable to a broader range of people than the MiCon Audios of the world are.

The Klipsch side of the equation is a 5.1-channel RVX-42 speaker system consisting of three RVX-42s across the front, two RSX-4 bookshelf models for the surrounds, and an RW-10 subwoofer. Like so many other manufacturers right now, Klipsch is looking to capitalize on the momentum of plasma TV sales with the versatile and relatively compact RVX-42. This speaker ships with a tabletop stand that holds it either vertically, for left/right use, or horizontally, for center-channel use. It also has built-in keyhole mountings at the rear of the cabinet that make vertical or horizontal wall-mounting about as simple as putting a couple of screws in the wall. In front, it's got a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter with an integrated horn (after all, it wouldn't be a Klipsch without a horn), and two 4-inch Cerametallic cone woofers. These, as the name suggests, are a hybrid construction of ceramic materials and aluminum. The molded-plastic cabinet uses a bass-reflex design with two side-firing ports. A pair of quality five-way binding posts handle connections and are recessed for easy wall-mounting.

The two-way RSX-4 bookshelf model uses the same dome/horn tweeter and one of the same 4-inch woofers. It too ships with a tabletop stand, can be easily wall-mounted via keyhole brackets, and uses the same cabinet materials, but with only one side-firing port. The RW-10 subwoofer employs a 10-inch Cerametallic woofer in a bass-reflex enclosure. Both the woofer and the port fire to the front of the MDF cabinet. In back, the RW-10 supplies speaker- and line-level inputs, but no outputs. The low-pass filter is continuously variable from 40 to 120 hertz, and there are also phase and gain controls. A line-level LFE input functions as a crossover bypass by feeding directly to the internal amp, which is a version of the company's BASH power plant, rated at 260 watts.

On the Yamaha side, we have the RX-V2500, an A/V receiver as fully featured as you'll find at this price. Power is rated at 130 watts for each of its seven channels, and all of the major processing modes are aboard, including Dolby Pro Logic IIx, Surround EX, DTS 24/96, DTS ES, and Neo:6, and THX postprocessing. Just as you can't have Klipsch speakers without horns, you can't really have a Yamaha receiver without several extra DSP modes, including their proprietary Cinema DSP mode. The RX-V2500 is no exception. The digital-to-analog converters are capable of 24-bit/192-kilohertz operation. Connections are extensive, with several digital and analog audio inputs and outputs, including a 5.1-channel analog input. Video gets multiple component, S-video, and composite video ins and outs. Extras include an RS-232 port, eight channels of preout, and an extra set of binding posts (powered only if the back surround channels are switched off) for the presence speakers used with the Cinema DSP mode.

One of the RX-V2500's main feature highlights is its use of Yamaha's Parametric Room Acoustic Optimizer (YPAO) system. Automatic-calibration systems are all the rage these days, but this system goes well beyond simply setting speaker levels and distances. Seven equalizer bands for each channel adjust frequency, gain, and Q factor (bandwidth) to tailor the RX-V2500's output to individual listening environments. You can make these adjustments manually or automatically, and a microphone is included. After some initial demos in my home listening room with only the basic settings made, I let the YPAO system go through its paces automatically and was highly impressed with the improvements it made—and this in a room that doesn't need much help.

Even if you go the manual route, setup is quick and easy. The onscreen interface is expansive yet simple to navigate. Should you need guidance, and you probably won't, the RX-V2500 comes with one of Yamaha's standard, novel-sized manuals that leaves no stone unturned. A good remote helps matters, too; thankfully, it is backlit.

The Klipsch system also requires little effort. All of the speakers are mounted on their stands and are ready to be placed right out of the box. Configuring one of the RVX-42s' stands for horizontal center-channel use was the only adjustment that I had to make. A Marantz DV8300 universal disc player was the final touch.

One of the first things to grab me with two-channel music was the immediacy of the system. It was instantly engaging but never in a way that was aggressive or overly forward. This was readily apparent with the CD rendition of The Three Pickers (Rounder), featuring Ricky Skaggs' aggressive mandolin work. This system maintained all of the inherent immediacy of the sound without ever letting the tonal balance get top-heavy. There was a relative thinness to some CD recordings that is almost always par for the course with compact speaker designs, but not as much as I've heard from other enclosures of this size or volume. The RVX-42s put out a surprising amount of midbass for their size. They're only rated down to 92 Hz, though, and the RW-10 will obviously be necessary for those looking for deeper bass in their music.

Expectedly, high-resolution mate-rial filled in some of the body that CD could not. Bucky Pizzarelli's Swing Live (SACD and DVD-Audio, Chesky) had a plump, full sound to it that was never bloated or heavy. Once again, the top end was immediate and highly engaging without getting pushy. Clarinets are not always the easiest instruments for a system to keep a handle on, but this one did in an impressive manner. Since slide guitars and harmonicas put top-end composure to the test, in went Muddy Waters' Folk Singer (SACD, MCA), and out came the same potent, yet balanced, high-frequency performance. The RVX-42s did a solid job with Waters' powerful vocals, giving them their full range to operate in without getting chesty.

With respective sensitivities rated at 94 decibels and 90 dB, the RVX-42s and RSX-4s are clearly receiver-friendly. But the Yamaha won't shy away from tougher loads, either, as a quick shift to some 87-dB-sensitive speakers I had lying around would prove. These speakers required double—and, in the case of the RXV-42s, more than quadruple—the juice to play at the same level as the Klipsch speakers, but that didn't seem to bother the RX-V2500 much, even with dense soundtrack material. On the Klipsch speakers, the sound was that much more effortless, and, at ear-splitting volumes, I feared more for the health of the speakers than that of the receiver. This fear appeared to be unfounded, though, as the Klipsch speakers consistently showed only minimal signs of compression or distortion, even at unhealthy volumes.

The system's immediacy obviously paid dividends with movie soundtracks, particularly with effects-heavy sequences like the artillery duels of chapter 21 from Gods and Generals. There is excellent front-to-back and side-to-side action here, and this system was all too happy to display its agility. Even with the direct-radiating surrounds, the long flights of the shells were natural and consistent, rather than simply being quick, point-to-point events. When the shells finally hit their marks, the RW-10 chipped in ample low-frequency rumble to finish off the full effect properly.

As with CD material, this Klipsch/Yamaha combination wasn't always able to pull a big, full soundstage or a sense of body out of movie material the way that separate amplifiers and big tower speakers can. That's nothing new for smaller speakers, though. Instead, they relied on the aforementioned immediacy to engage the listener, and, at this, they were clearly more successful than a lot of their compact-speaker competition.

Having heard much of that competition, I feel I should compliment this system not only on what it does, but also on what it doesn't do. High on that list is the fact that the top end doesn't scream at you the way that some speakers of this genre do, especially when mated with bright-sounding receivers. It also doesn't drag the entire audio presentation down with a sloppy, bloated bottom end. Thankfully, manufacturers don't seem to be forcing the dreaded smiley-face curve (lots of bass, lots of treble, no mids) on receiver-and-small-speaker buyers as much anymore, but it's still not hard to find. The beauty of the RX-V2500, though, is that you can use its internal equalizers to change the sonic balance. Its response sounds surprisingly flat for a receiver when left alone, but you can rather easily turn the response into a smile, a frown, or just about any other curve you want. And, when all is said and done, freedom of choice is the ultimate system feature.

In the end, I was more than pleased with my first go-round on a Spotlight System that doesn't require a call to the accountant before purchase. There aren't many receiver-and-sub/sat combinations that properly do all the things they're supposed to do, but this one does. These systems are supposed to be relatively affordable, easy to set up and operate, and have valuable features while sounding good, and looking good, to boot. The Klipsch RVX-42/Yamaha RX-V2500 system is all that and then some. And, with all the money you'd save over some of our previous Spotlights, you might even be able to buy a house to put the system in.

• Strong performance with movies and music
• Automatic-calibration/room-correction system