Tested: RSL Speaker Systems 5.1 Theater System

RSL Speaker Systems is the current manifestation of Rogersound Labs, a SoCal company that goes back a few years — 30 or so, in fact. Like many speaker makers, RSL got its start through garage tinkering, in this case by Howard Rodgers, owner of a well-known retail chain of the same name. (How the “d” got dropped from the company name is a story for another day.)

Despite a long, successful run, the original RSL, again like many other speaker companies, eventually faded away. But after regaining rights to the company name just last year, the firm was reincarnated after a long hiatus by its founder and his family. The first fruit of this resurrection is the system before us, which includes all three of the “new” RSL’s non-in-wall designs: the CG4, a compact two-way monitor about the size of a 5-pound bag of sugar; the CG24, a dual-woofer version for the center channel; and the Speedwoofer 10, a 10-inch powered subwoofer.

All three speakers exploit a patent-pending enclosure design that RSL calls Compression Guide technology. This, Rodgers tells us, is a “new wrinkle” on vented enclosures that is said to dramatically reduce the cabinet-signature “boxiness” Rodgers hears from most small-box designs. (The cabinet is internally divided, to about the three-quarters mark, by a slanted internal plenum, though Rodgers told me it is not a transmission-line design per se.)

A bit unusually, the CG4 has a “tweeter-under” layout, with the woofer sitting above the tweeter (assuming you place them right-side-up!) — a sensible arrangement for a very small speaker where the acoustical center (the woofer, more or less) might otherwise be too low. Anyway, there’s no law saying tweeters must always be on top; the in-phase lobe of radiation (which you want directed toward your ears) is a function as much of crossover design as of geometry.

Otherwise, the CG4 and CG24 center seem fairly familiar: small two-ways, although vented by a space-saving frontal slot rather than the more common round port. The cosmetic design is unexceptional but very nicely executed in heavy, well-buffed piano-black lacquer with black-fabric grilles, while all five satellites include better-grade, all-metal binding posts.

The Speedwoofer 10 subwoofer is distinctive in more than name. (Don’t even get me started on my favorite audio oxymoron, “fast bass.” The fastest possible waveform at any subwoofer frequency of interest is about 7 milliseconds — an eternity in electrical or even acoustical terms.)

The sub looks ordinary enough, but look a little closer and you’ll find that it has no knobs on its rear amp panel. Instead, volume and frequency controls reside on a small breakout box that connects via a standard RJ-45 (network) cable, allowing the box to be placed wherever it’s most convenient — including outside of a live-in furniture cabinet. These two controls are also adjustable via simple up/down arrow keys on a supplied wireless remote control. Given the remote, the breakout box hardly seems necessary, though I suppose it does provide the external infrared sensor, as well as nicely illuminated telltales on the knobs to help keep track of settings.