Speakers are a dime a dozen. The ones that provide any auditory pleasure will stand out from the crowd, but they are however rare. The sophisticated designs from the American loudspeaker manufacturer Klipsch are among those that stand out, both in terms of looks and sound. This also applies to the brand new Reference Premiere line whose family member, the RP-160M, made me very curious, not least because how impressed I was by its bigger Reference Premiere siblings.
Products from Klipsch often offer a refreshing alternative. In this regard, the Reference Premiere line is no exception. The already visually compelling series is presented as a completely new development, which is positioned directly above the Reference MkII series. Here I will review the larger of the two available bookshelf speaker models, the RP-160M, an impressive two-way unit that is priced at $600/pair.
Who is Klipsch?
Klipsch have had a long tradition of being different. Paul W. Klipsch, who founded the company in 1946, was considered a bit of a mad genius by the industry, and during his lifetime he registered no less than 18 patents. His best known 'invention' is undoubtedly the Klipschorn, a horn loudspeaker that is placed in the corners of a room and is renowned for its thrilling performance. But the special thing about the Klipschorn is not only how it works - the walls and floors, and therefore almost the entire listening room, functions as a sound board - but the fact that it has remained almost unchanged for the past 69 years.
Considering the success of the Klipschorn, it´s hardly a surprise that Klipsch have utilized and improved the horn technology in almost all their speakers in the following decades. The result is a consistently high level of efficiency at low distortion values and an amazingly wide dynamic range - acoustic properties that have pleased many Klipsch fans for years and years.
Keeping With Tradition
Obviously, the new RP-160M uses a horn and is instantly recognizable as a Klipsch speaker. With a 16.67" x 8.81" x 12.86" (H x W x D) cabinet, the bookshelf model from the new Reference Premiere line is certainly one of the more visually impactful speakers in this category. However, the large front is necessary to accommodate the 6.5" woofer and the newly redesigned Tractrix high frequency horn.
Both drivers are embedded in the slightly backwards angled baffle and edged with a compacted rubber. This rubber has two advantages; all fittings are concealed and high-frequency resonances are reduced to a minimum. The angled baffle is not clad in wood veneer, but is made of a highly resistant polymer that´s reminiscent of a brushed metal surface.
The remaining sides of the cabinet are available in the colors Ebony or Cherry. In both versions, the cabinet rests on a matte black painted plinth, which forms a contrast to the above described body finish. Combined with the slightly backward tilted cabinet it creates an amazingly handsome two-way speaker that is visually suited to both dedicated music systems or home theater rooms as well as most living rooms – it´s a real eye-catcher.
Of course, fabric-covered, magnetically held covers for the baffle are included, and protects the otherwise visible drivers from damage and dust. When mounted, only the copper-colored logo reveals that this is in fact a Klipsch speaker. A look at the back reveals the mandatory connection terminal, which is designed for bi-wiring or bi-amping despite being a comparatively compact speaker. Directly above the connection terminal is a Tractrix reflex port with a similar shape to the horn on the front. And it´s not without reason, because this minimizes any sound-damaging ventilation noise and keeps the frequency response more linear. And it also looks good.
The Legend of the Tractrix
Klipsch is particularly proud of the newly developed Tractrix horn, which expands the circular shape around the titanium LTS tweeter using complex geometry, which eventually leads to a square horn opening. Due to this special shape and the special material selection the frequency response is extended and simultaneously linearized, and also reduces the sharpness (something horns are known to be) in the sound without causing even the slightest loss in detail. Whether it works or not, our listening test will show later.
Compared to the relatively complicated structure of the horn, the woofer uses an almost conservative approach. But this is only superficially, because the woofer is a particularly effective driver which has an efficiency on par with the horn, reaching an overall efficiency that most other speakers can only dream of, in this case 96dB at 2.83V / 1m. Klipsch have always made it a point to make their speakers as efficient as possible and are therefore suitable for use with amplifiers that doesn´t have massive amounts of power. For example, the RP-160M would go very well with the warm and natural sound of today's popular tube amplifiers.
Sound Quality & Listening Experience
When it comes to setting up the Klipsch RP-160M it is wise to observe a few rules of thumb. The speakers should be placed in an equilateral triangle, or as close to it as possible, with the tweeters approximately at ear level. For a good spatial sound image, it is also advisable not to place them too close to a wall and aim them at the listening position.
The solid connection terminals works best with banana plugs. For single-wiring I choose to cross-wire the two frequency terminals (negative to the tweeter and positive to the woofer, using the terminal connecting bar). This is of course only useful if you´re not bi-wiring or bi-amping. If you´re not familiar with the terms: bi-wiring means that you use two cables from the amplifier to the speakers, one for the treble and one for bass (remove the connecting bar). When bi-amping, this concept is taken to the extreme, and uses a single amplifier stage for each frequency. Thus, you should experience a tighter bass and a better-resolution tweeter. Being the flagship of the new Reference Premiere line bookshelf speakers, it sounded totally convincing despite being driven by a single power amplifier and only one cable.
Anyone who has ever heard a Klipsch speaker knows what awaits with the new RP-160M. It plays with enthusiasm and power, as if there was no tomorrow. And with almost any kind of music, from symphony orchestras to dirty garage rock and electronica, it comes across as authentic and exciting, with a force and vigour that makes me feel as if I was there witnessing a live event. And while having fun and being temperamental, it still reveals the finest details of the wide sound stage that seems to be acoustically illuminated down to the last inch. In short, a lively and thoroughly enjoyable experience. One that provides a lot of pleasure and is immediately intoxicating while at the same time manages to sound professional. If you like listening to rock and metal, you will love the Klipsch RP-160M!
Moving on to more moderate and laid-back music, such as singer-songwriter music with focus on vocal performances, and I´m taken aback by the lifelike reproduction of voices accompanied by creaky guitar strings. Small but important details that substantially contribute to the character of a piece and gets under your skin - provided that it is reproduced in all its entire width - was near perfection here. That's not all, because in addition to the good resolution of high frequency details, which makes even the smallest nuances audible, the RP-160M also has a rich, clean and powerful bass and manages to play deeper than I would normally expect from a bookshelf speaker of this size. In summary, Klipsch offer an exceptionally musical experience, and I do not intend to return these - I´m keeping them.
The new RP-160M is a speaker by the book (of Klipsch) - efficient, linear and neutral but extremely authentic. Not necessarily in the strictest sense, but with fire and enthusiasm. Combine this with good looks and you have one of the best bookshelf speakers you can find for less than $1000.
A matching center, surround speakers and subwoofer are available for home cinema fans, so that the two speakers can be expanded into a full-fledged surround system quickly if needed.
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90x90 HYBRID TRACTRIX HORN
Redesigned Tactrix® Horn utilizes a circular horn throat paired to a square horn mouth to further improve high-frequency response and extension, while enhancing imaging and dynamics. The compressed molded rubber construction adds high frequency damping to reduce harshness and improve detail. This creates the cleanest, most natural sound possible.
LINEAR TRAVEL SUSPENSION (LTS) TITANIUM TWEETER
A Linear Travel Suspension minimizes distortion for enhanced, detailed performance. LTS Tweeters have been a hallmark of previous Reference lines, as well as our flagship Klipsch Palladium series, making it a core component of some of the best speakers in the world.
SPUN COPPER CERAMETALLIC WOOFERS
Cerametallic woofers represent the pinnacle of Klipsch driver design, maintaining exceptional rigidity, and lightweight construction, for minimal cone breakup and distortion. When paired with the Tractrix Horn-loaded LTS tweeter, it provides speaker efficiency highest in its class.
ALL NEW TRACTRIX PORT
Utilizing Tractrix geometry, the all new Reference Premiere ports allows for the most efficient, fastest air transfer from the cabinet – for the cleanest, most powerful low frequency response on the market
MDF CABINET WITH BRUSHED POLYMER VENEER BAFFLE FINISH
Contemporary aesthetic with absolute durability that results in a seamless integration into any décor.
STRONG, FLEXIBLE, REMOVABLE GRILLE
Attaches magnetically for an elegant transition from powerful showstopper to discrete performance piece.
|FREQUENCY RESPONSE:||45-25kHz +/- 3dB|
|SENSITIVITY:||96dB @ 2.83V / 1m|
|POWER HANDLING (CONT/PEAK):||100W/400W|
|NOMINAL IMPEDANCE:||8 Ohms Compatible|
|HIGH FREQUENCY DRIVER:||1" Titanium LTS Tweeter with Hybrid Cross-Section Tractrix Horn|
|LOW FREQUENCY DRIVER:||6.5" Cerametallic Cone Woofer|
|ENCLOSURE TYPE:||Bass Reflex via rear-firing Tractrix port|
|INPUTS:||Dual binding posts/bi-wire/bi-amp|
|HEIGHT:||16.67" (42.4 cm)|
|WIDTH:||8.81" (22.4 cm)|
|DEPTH:||12.86" (32.7 cm)|
|WEIGHT:||19.9 lb (9.03 kg)|