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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Audiophile Review!
RBH Sound MC-6CT
Tower Loudspeakers


Brevis...
Like: Accuracy, low price;
Dislike: Only comes in black.


by John Gatski

Utah-based RBH Sound is known for its incredible sounding audiophile speakers with innovative driver and cabinet designs. The RBH design team has created a number of acclaimed speakers over the years, and, of course, these USA-made speakers come in at expected audiophile prices.
But what if you could buy an RBH speaker that gets you 90 percent of that fabulous sound at a fraction of the price? Maybe, a speaker like the RBH MC series. This audiophile-caliber speaker line is designed in the US, but the Chinese manufacturing process and price/performance selected components keeps the price down.

Features
Priced at $1,300 per pair, I tested a pair of MC-6CT tower speakers. The three-way speaker features a 1-inch aluminum tweeter, two 6.5-inch aluminum subwoofers, and a 6.5-inch woofer/midrange driver. All drivers are proprietary designs; the tweeter is treated with a special coating to eliminate unwanted sonic anomalies, such as transient harshness, a characteristic that often affects metal domes.
The three 6.5-inch drivers handle the bass and midrange duties. The two bottom drivers are crossed over to the mid/woofer driver at 100 Hz. The tweeter crossover is centered at 3 kHz. Overall response is a realistic 40 Hz to 20 kHz, plus or minus 3 dB. It is not the most efficient speaker at 87 dB at 1 watt/1 meter (6 ohm impedance), but amp power is plentiful these days.
The tall and narrow, .75 MDF fiberboard cabinet (41-inches tall x 7.75-inches wide x 11.5-inches deep) features a front port to augment bass response; the innovative Resonance Dampening Alloy Baffle helps reduce cabinet vibration to eliminate unwanted, tone-coloring resonance. The black, detachable grill nicely matches the attractive black cabinet finish. Overall weight is 55 pounds per speaker.
The speaker also comes with an attachable bottom base and small spikes to further reduce acoustic interaction with the room. The rear, bottom-located binding posts are well spaced and easy to connect — either banana plug or spade, or bare wire cables.

The setup
I installed the RBH MC-6CT’s in my audiophile room. I placed them seven feet apart toed in, and my listening position was about 10 feet away. I powered the RBH’s with several amps: including a Pass Labs X350.5 Class AB FET output, Pass Labs XA30.5 Class A FET output, Bryston 14B SST II Class AB bipolar output, and a Parasound Halo Class AB bipolar output amp that I had on hand. I also powered them with a little Chinese-made, hybrid, solid state/tube amp, the EMP Tek VT-40.2, that RBH's sister company distributes for under $400. (See sidebar)


The modified aluminum drivers, especially the tweeter, revealed a nice, open, well-projected treble — without undue metal dome harshness I have heard from other aluminum drivers. They were amazingly smooth sounding and plenty accurate.


Preamps included the Legacy/Coda High Current, Pass XP-10, and a Rogue Audio Model 99 Magnum tube preamp. I used Alpha-Core solid-silver speaker cables, as well as Alpha Core solid-silver interconnects for the components, which included Esoteric DV-50 universal player, Oppo BD-83SE universal Blu-ray player, Benchmark Media DAC1 Pre and Lavry DA-10 DAC. I also played a few vinyl LPs via a Rotel RP-950 turntable.

The audition
The MC-6CT’s sounded really good right out of the shipping box. The modified aluminum drivers, especially the tweeter, revealed a nice, open, well-projected treble — without undue metal dome harshness I have heard from other aluminum drivers. They were amazingly smooth sounding and plenty accurate. When playing the Anthony Wilson TrioOur Gang SACD, with its smooth, open drum cymbals, the RBH's did a quite a good job reproducing the metallic sheen and the air around the instrument, yet it maintained the slight bit of warmness of the DSD recording.

The midrange was correctly voiced and focused; the bass drivers delivered a tight, yet warm bloom to the bass guitar and the organ’s bottom notes. Kick drum was quick and tight and the front port did a good job augmenting the low end — without extra noise or exacerbating the mid bass.

The clarity of these speakers remained refined with most kinds of music as the level increased. With overly processed, loud pop music it can get a bit hazy at loud levels, but for its price it sure handles the power well. Because my evaluation music is mostly high-resolution jazz, with well-mixed instruments spread amply through the 3-D image, good speakers usually reveal pin-point placement of the instrument with just the right amount of space. The MC-6CT’s, as well, delivered a nice, wide image with good front to back placement of the instruments.




For the most part, I could hear subtle treble overtones of room reverb and guitar pick attack/decay that I hear in my reference speakers, the Legacy Focus 20/20s (the previous generation). The Focus are a more expensive design, (ribbons and soft dome tweeters and composite woofers and midranges) and deliver a bit more realism in its presentation with much deeper bass from its larger woofers). But this budget RBH speaker pair does not get totally run over by these big boys.
I played the Steve Davis Quality of Your Silence SACD to get a sense of piano tones via the RBHs. Again, the aluminum mid cones and tweeter gets high marks for delivering a convincing Steinway reproduction without excessive metallic coloration. With a sampling of classical music symphonies, including concerts with abundant tympani drum rolls or lower-register pipe organ, I wanted to hear if the six-inch woofers and port could deliver ample bass; they did. They handled most of the low and mid bass of the music, and did not leave me feeling that I was missing major portions of the bass. A 40 Hz-to-45 Hz bass response is pretty good for most music, except for maybe the lowest parts of the pipe organ.
I also auditioned a few albums of well-recorded country music through the MC-6CT’s to see if the treble-happy tones of a banjo and the richness of a violin/fiddle and steel guitar could tax these speakers. Again, they performed fine. In particular, the DCC Classics release of Ricky Skaggs — Highways and Heartaches, sounded aces. The steel guitar and twangy Telecaster were not edgy or harsh; they were open, airy and pretty darn smooth.
I could not find any kind of music that sounded substandard through these speakers. After years of reviewing metal dome tweeter speakers that were often harsh, over sibilant and not quite accurate, the RBHs thankfully do not exhibit those traits. RBH Sound is not alone in evolving the metal driver performance. On the high-end, for example, companies like RBH, Revel and Paradigm know how to utilize metal drivers’ good qualities. And there are good performing lower-cost speaker manufacturers as well. Snap AV’s Episode series, for example, have shown good performance with their metal-driver speakers.

The verdict
If you are in the market for a nice intro to intermediate audiophile speaker that fits the tower foot print, the RBH MC-6TCs are worthy of serious listening. I am quite happy to give the speaker the Stellar Sound designation.
Click RBH Sound MC6CT for more info.




EAN Extra!
EMP Tek VT-40.2
Hybrid Integrated Amplifier



RBH Sound sent also sent along an amplifier distributed by its sister company, EMP Tek. The VT-40.2 hybrid tube/solid state preamplifier/amplifier is manufactured-in-China and is kind of homage to the classic, all-tube integrated amplifier genre — with its exposed transformer, a pair of input stage 6N3 tubes and classic silver metal chassis.
The amp cranks out about 40 watts of Class A/B bipolar transistor power (though none of the gain takes place through the tubes; they are line stage buffers). And it costs a mere $379 at retail. It sports a pair of RCA input jacks and two 1/8th-inch stereo jacks for IPod style personal audio products. There also is an 1/8th inch line-out to drive headphones or other components. The inputs are selected by a front-panel rotary knob. The power and volume control also are on the front. The smallish, non-grounded power cord is hard wired.
I used the amp to drive the review pair of RBH MC-6CT’s, my Legacy Focus 20/20s and a pair of Westlake Lc8.1 two-way speakers. For $379, the amp did a good job of driving the bigger speakers, as well as delivering good detail and solid bass. I don’t know if its the tube stage, but the amp is a bit warm sounding — with a mellow midrange and reserved, yet present treble. It reminds me of an old Heathkit tube integrated amp from the early 1960s — but with better bass control.
The VT-40.2 is a good amp for basic audiophile and general audio tasks. Heck, you could use it as a keyboard amp, or a power amp for an IPod-based system with cleaner power than you could ever expect from most IPod boom boxes. Overall, it is a nice little inexpensive combo amp. Did I mention it costs $379? Click EMP Tek for more info.

John Gatski










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