Home-Theater Speaker System
Model: MC-6CT speakers
Price: $999 USD per pair
Dimensions: 40"H x 8.75"W x 12"D
Weight: 45 pounds each
Model: MC-414C center-channel speaker
Price: $379 USD
Dimensions: 6.5"H x 14.5"W x 9.5"D
Weight: 13 pounds
Model: MC-4C surround speakers
Price: $399 USD per pair
Dimensions: 6.5"H x 9"W x 7"D
Weight: 8 pounds each
Model: TS-12AP subwoofer
Price: $849 USD
Dimensions: 18.75"H x 16"W x 18.75"D
Weight: 60 pounds
System Price: $2626 USD in standard finish
Warranty: Five years parts and labor
- 6.5" aluminum-cone woofers and midrange (MC-6CT)
- 4" aluminum-cone woofer(s) (MC-414C, MC-4C)
- 1" aluminum-dome tweeter (MC-6CT, MC-414C, MC-4C)
- Gold-plated binding posts (all speakers, dual on MC-6CT)
- Magnetically shielded (MC-6CT, MC-414C, MC-4C)
- 12" aluminum-cone woofer (TS-12A)
- Variable volume and crossover (TS-12A)
- Phase switch (TS-12A)
- Auto on/off (TS-12A)
- 180W built-in amplifier (TS-12A)
- Low- and high-level inputs (TS-12A)
- Black ash standard with optional finishes cherry and white
available (optional finishes have additional cost)
Ive barely finished watching The
Contender on DVD and now Patton is on in the background. Im supposed to
be reviewing the home-theater speaker system from RBH Audio, but I cant seem to
focus on the speakers. I go back through my listening notes -- and there arent many,
even though these speakers have been in the house for weeks now.
The simple truth is that I keep paying attention to the
movies, not the review. Even at this instant, Im being drawn into the picture -- and
I'm on a deadline here. Its not like I havent seen this movie before.
OK, so Ill turn off the movie and write for a while.
Of course, Ive been aware of RBH for some time. Named
after chief designer Roger B. Hassing, the company has been making loudspeakers since
1976, featuring -- no making a trademark out of -- gleaming aluminum drivers, eye-catching
colors and luxurious wood finishes of the sort people expect from the high-priced brands.
Then, back in January I dropped in on the RBH booth at the 2001 CES and I was impressed at
what I saw and heard.
From the moment I unboxed the MC system,
it was apparent that it might be something special. The speakers are finished in an
extremely attractive dark-cherry-stained wood veneer with a high-gloss lacquer finish. The
MC-6CT towers arent particularly heavy, but they seem well made and sport solidly
constructed, gold-plated, dual binding posts. As for the metal drivers, they look as cool
in person as they did in the literature. I couldn't stop myself -- I immediately plugged
everything in and dropped a movie into the DVD player just to satisfy my intense
curiosity. Just how cool were they?
First, a few details about the speakers. The system
reviewed here consists of two MC-6CTs -- a four-driver three-way tower speaker with one
aluminum-dome tweeter and three 6.5" aluminum drivers, a midrange and two woofers,
which cross over at 100Hz and 3kHz; the MC-414C center, a shielded two-way speaker with an
aluminum-dome tweeter and two smaller 4" drivers crossed over at 4kHz; a pair of
MC-4C surrounds, a two-way bookshelf speaker with the same driver compliment as the center
minus one woofer; and a TS-12AP subwoofer with a ported 12" aluminum-cone woofer and
a built-in 180W amplifier. The cabinets were well built from MDF and covered in handsome
cherry veneer finished to a high gloss. All of the speakers, except the sub, were sealed
enclosures and all boasted RBH's "aimable" tweeter and steep crossovers. Total
cost for the version I auditioned in cherry is $2982 ($2626 in black).
The MC-6CTs are a nice size without looking the least bit
imposing at 40"H x 8.75"W x 12"D, and their elegant finish certainly helps
them blend in with the decor. They look cool without the grill covers in place, though
that does draw a bit more attention to them -- a no-no if youre trying to hide them
from the decorator. The MC-414C center is a bit on the smallish side compared to the
towers, at 6.5"H x 14.5"W x 9.5"D, but its output doesnt seem to
suffer because of it. The surrounds -- the MC-4C bookshelf speakers -- are a good match
for the mains. The TS-12AP is a medium-sized ported subwoofer with all the standard
functions: a rear-mounted amplifier/interface complete with an auto on/off (which was a
little too quick to shut off at low volume levels, in my experience), phase-reversal
switch, variable crossover and gold-plated line- and speaker-level inputs and outputs.
Basically, it has everything you need but nothing out of the ordinary -- other than that
large aluminum cone on the front of the box, that is.
Setup was simple. I dropped the towers into the approximate
locations where my Silverline Sonatinas normally reside, placed the center atop the TV and
mounted the surrounds on high stands to the sides of the room. Everything sounded great
right out of the box and, while I certainly tried to find better locations for the
individual speakers, I never succeeded in substantially bettering my original positions.
They dont seem terribly picky about where you put them. I even pushed them all the
way back against the wall. The image and soundstage collapsed, of course, and the tonal
balance was affected, but even this deliberate misplacement didn't destroy their essential
qualities. If youre dealing with tight placement restrictions, the RBHs might make a
Normally, I would give a new set of speakers at least 20 or
30 hours of break-in before doing any critical listening, but such was my state of mind
that I immediately dropped U-571 into the DVD player and let the depth charges fly!
That probably wasnt fair, but what the hell -- as long as I was going to give them a
serious test without a chance to break in, I might as well stress them a little. Whew! The
walls shook and the dog ran upstairs to hide in the bedroom. Poor thing, he absolutely
hates it when I demo that movie.
Telarcs 1812 Overture [Telarc CD-80541]
didnt send subwoofer parts flying across the room or cause any discontinuities with
the mains. Not that I was expecting any, but a home-theater system has to be able to take
a little abuse. The RBH system could play loud -- excessively, even -- without strain.
The MC-6CT's detail and imaging are as good as, or better
than, any tower Ive heard in this price range. If youve heard the Monitor
Audio Silver 5i speakers, then think along those lines: clean and just a little to the
bright side of neutral, but warmer and with better dynamics. Theyre also taller than
the Monitor Audios, which puts their image height about where it should be. Musical detail
was surprisingly good, bettering my Silverline Sonatinas (original version) at the low end
while not quite matching them in the midrange and high end.
When it came to transient response, the MC-6CT turned in a
stunning performance at less than a third of the price of the Sonatinas. The Sonatina is
cleaner in the upper octaves and seems happier with classical and jazz, while the RBH is
the better rock speaker of the two. Now, Im not saying the RBH is a better speaker
than the Sonatina, but its bass is tighter and tauter. On the other hand, I felt the
Silverline ultimately gave that last bit of resolution and low-level detail. The RBHs
compared favorably to my references -- especially considering their more than reasonable
then theres the TS-12AP. I can be incredibly picky about bass and would rather live
without it than endure bad bass. I can live with most subs for the course of a review but
for my own system the bass must be tight and clean.
Im so anal-retentive about bass that a couple of
years ago, when I was significantly more fiscally challenged than I am today, I judged all
the subs in my price range to be unsuitable for human consumption and built my own. This
large sealed design, based on ACIs SV-12 woofer and PSA-1 amp, has been the happy
mainstay in my system ever since and Ive yet to hear anything under a grand that was
Until now, that is. The TS-12AP has dethroned my own sub.
It plays cleaner, tighter, louder, lower, and its about half the size to boot.
My classic music test for a subwoofer has always been
"Hotel California" from the Eagles' Hell Freezes Over DVD. With the RBH,
the kick drum was tight with just a tad of resonance and was able to pretty much vibrate
everything in the room without becoming boomy. Yet, it didnt overwhelm the acoustic
guitar or snare drum.
Through the MC-6CTs, instruments were accurately placed
within the expansive soundstage and the vocals were cleanly articulated. In addition to
the TS-12AP's spectacular bottom end performance, the overall sound was well-integrated
and controlled. To say that I was impressed would be an
understatement of monumental proportions. I think Ive found a new friend. (The dog,
on the other hand, isnt so happy.)
I was more than pleased with the RBH system on music, but
it absolutely excelled on movies. Dialogue was always clear and voices were well placed
within the soundfield. The MC-414C is on par with the JMLabs CC-700 center I reviewed
earlier in the year -- a model of dialogue clarity. JMLab's center is slightly better than
the RBH at portraying dynamic swings, but the RBH is superior where absolute clarity and
transient response are concerned. Still, it must also be said that the CC-700 was a closer
tonal match to the 715s than the MC-414C was to the MC-6CTs.
I found that I tended to ignore the surrounds. They did the
job they were supposed to do and blended in seamlessly with the mains and center. When
they were called on to do more than background work, they were more than up to the task.
During the dance sequence in chapter 3 of Mission:
Impossible 2, the beat of the dancer's shoes against the wooden floor was powerful
without being boomy. Some of the lesser systems Ive had through here lately were a
little distracting on this passage, but the RBH system captured the direct sound and the
room's acoustic in a markedly natural way. In Starship Troopers, the attack on
Klendathu may have failed, but the RBH system never showed any signs of weakness through
countless explosions and gunfire. As the bugs attacked in force, I sensed not only the
massed hordes in the background but also the low-level sound of several distinct bugs near
and around me.
As for lighter fare, at least where sound effects are
concerned, much of the movie Pleasantville involves subtle background noises, used
to create the canvas on which the story is told. From the birds chirping in the background
to the sounds of thunder, wind and rain, all of the elements were perfectly placed and
articulately rendered to make this modern fairy tale come to life.
There just wasn't much to complain about, as far as
performance was concerned. At high SPLs, the system gets a tad bright with a hint of
harshness, but that could just as easily be the sound of my Rotel RB-976 topping out. On
the plus side, the system has impressive dynamics, excellent detail, and some of the best
bass quality Ive heard anywhere approaching its price. It gives up very little when
compared with my drastically more expensive Silverline Sonatinas, save for that last
smidge of resolution and upper-octave detail. Stunning performance for a six-speaker
system retailing for $1000 less than the Silverline stereo pair. As a matter of fact, I
preferred the RBH system to the Sonatinas when it came to movie sound -- the system would
probably still be a contender at twice its price.
In comparison to the slightly less expensive JMLab Chorus system I previously reviewed for HT&S,
the RBH system is similar, but less bright overall, while remaining a little more forward
through the midrange. As previously stated, the center channels are similar, even though
each does some things better than the other. The MC-6CTs rival the 715s in dynamics, but
are significantly clearer overall and more open. Then theres the TS-12AP, which is a
significantly larger ported design than the JMLab model. I expected the RBH to surrender
some degree of sonic detail to the JMLab here, but I was wrong. The RBH clearly possesses
better bass extension, improved dynamics, and increased detail and control. The sub still
wont buy you that last half octave or so of bass extension but it will get you very
If you will be using the system primarily for movies and
rock music the RBH MC system should be a perfect fit. Even if you listen to a lot of jazz
and classical, it should still be on your short list, since its sins are primarily those
of omission and are easy to ignore. Only when directly compared to much more expensive
loudspeakers did the system manifest any significant shortcomings. And, even then, only in
specific areas of music reproduction.
RBH's MC-Series home-theater speaker system seems to have
it all: terrific detail, stunning bass quality, excellent dynamics and a handsome finish
to boot. All things considered, it just may represent one of the best home-theater values
Ive come across in a very long time.
Now, if youll excuse me, I have a movie to get back
|Receiver/Processor - Sherwood
Newcastle R-925 (only used as a processor)
- Rotel RB-976
|Sources - Sony DVP-S300 DVD
player, Adcom GCD-600 CD player
- Straight Wire interconnects and digital cable, Monster Cable speaker
|Monitor - Proscan 35"