I’m only one week into my evaluation and thought I’d give my early impressions of the R55Ti as far as music is concerned. While it might be unfair to compare the R55Ti tower speakers to the less expensive R5Bi bookshelf speakers, it would be ridiculous to compare the R55Ti to my Maggies (a speaker costing over 7 times as much). And I never turn my Maggies on, until the audition is over and I’ve made a decision. So comparing the towers to my bookshelf speakers is what I’ll do. Also remember that I’m not only listening to speakers, I’m listening to my room. And the music I play (at least some or most) may be quite different from what other people listen to. In lieu of that, my experiences may be different from other people’s experiences. So take my impressions with a fistful of salt.
With two 5-1/4” drivers and three 6-1/2” drivers, compared to the single 5-1/4” driver for the R5Bi (both have the same tweeter), the R55Ti should reign supreme (or at least be noticeably better) at every audio level, except the high end. And when I first turned them on, I had forgotten that I had the volume set at -12, a volume I had set for the last movie I played. The towers made an immediate and significant impression. Not only because I usually play music around the -15 level instead of -12, but the R55Ti’s are more sensitive than the R5Bi’s. My very first piece of music was Steven Wilson’s “Once” on his “Blackfield II” CD. This begins with some powerful drums, which the R55Ti’s played masterfully. And as positive as this first impression was, unfortunately, the R55Ti does not reign supreme at every sonic level vs. their little R5Bi brothers.
These 6 Ohm impedance R55Ti’s play louder at the same volume setting (right around 3 dB louder per my SPL meter at my listening position). That tells me that the RBH/EMP Tek specs are on the money (85 dB sensitivity for the R5Bi’s and 88 dB for the R55Ti’s). It certainly rang true in my room.
The R55Ti’s bass response (rated -3 dB at 40 Hz) is not as well controlled as the 60 Hz rated R5Bi. Deeper? Yes. More controlled? No. Most of the time it is clear and nicely impressive (as on the drums of “Once”), but it can get a bit soft or muddy at times, depending upon the music and depth of the bass frequencies. Fortunately a 60 Hz crossover will take care of this, but for those not wanting to purchase a sub, the R55Ti’s bass response may not be all that you’re looking for. I recommend purchasing a subwoofer if you are thinking about buying these speakers.
Many items that I had assumed to be true before testing (both positive and negative), were true, so I basically didn’t have any surprises. Obviously the R55Ti’s are quite beautiful in their red burl finish (and no, I’m not a fan of their black finish). Most of my concerns were with the MTM configuration at the top of the speaker. And obviously, there will be sonic differences, including sound pitch caused by multiple drivers of different sizes vs a single driver:
1. Fuller, richer sound in the upper bass and lower midrange over the R5Bi’s … A given due to driver size and quantity.
2. Tweeter response, while very pleasant, it is not quite as impressive as the R5Bi’s … MTM related, since both use the same tweeter.
2. Generally excellent midrange, but the upper midrange and lower treble frequencies were not quite as pristine as the R5Bi’s … either MTM related or multiple driver related, or perhaps a combination of both.
3. Deeper and fuller bass response … A given due to driver size and quantity.
4. Soundstage is inferior to R5Bi’s … MTM related (effects the height of the soundstage, not the width).
5. Using a phantom center (2-channel playback) the soundstage that appeared before me seemed slightly lower than expected. Perhaps as much as a half a foot. I kept thinking I’m looking slightly downward at the action/music. Not sure why, but it may be related to 6-foot tall Maggies and R5Bi’s on a 36-inch high stands.
7. Not quite as neutral and a bit warmer than the R5Bi’s, but also less clinical … driver/crossover related. This can be either a positive or a negative, depending upon one’s perspective / preferences.
8. Some loss of detail (smearing) on various demanding pieces of music … unsure as to why, but this has happened to a lot of good speakers I have auditioned or heard. I didn’t notice this as much on the R5Bi.
9. Good soundstage depth and slightly better than the R5Bi … driver related.
My overall early impressions is that the R55Ti is a very nice sounding speaker with a wide soundstage and excellent midrange. It also looks great, and of course the finish matches the R5Bi’s. And since its price is extremely reasonable, it looks like a done deal, right? Well, not quite. Many speakers have a wide soundstage, but not many have a tall soundstage to go along with that, and that includes the R55Ti (a big plus for the R5Bi). All one has to do is stand up or sit down to notice the difference. Fortunately, most of us keep seated when listening or watching
. Obviously, the R55Ti is more robust than the R5Bi’s, but I’m unsure if that aspect is worth over three times the cost. I think most people will prefer the slightly richer and fuller sound of the R55Ti’s over the articulate and precise (but slightly thinner and occasionally clinical) sound of the R5Bi’s. They will also like that it is 3 dB more sensitive than the R5Bi’s. I’m not sure if my audio preferences merit purchasing the R55Ti from what I’ve heard so far. Make no mistake, I like their sound quite a bit, but if this was for mostly music, I am pretty sure I’d just keep the R5Bi’s. Fortunately their primary duties will be movies, along with some concert videos. The big test will be how it handles movies compared to the R5Bi’s. I’ll report back when I’ve determined that.