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JimWilson 12-11-2012 12:58 PM

RSL Speakers 5.1 Theater System
By Jim Wilson

The subject of this review is the RSL Speakers 5.1 Theater System, a home theater package that consists of four CG4 satellites, one CG24 center and the SpeedWoofer 10 subwoofer.

RSL Speakers is actually the reincarnation of a company formally known as Rogersound Labs that was based out of Southern California in the 1970's and 80's. Rogersound was owned by Howard Rodgers, a guy who started tinkering with speakers in his garage. That lead to a successful chain of hi-fi stores, but they ultimately went out of business quite a while ago. Before it's untimely demise Rogersound Labs apparently had a rather large following of devote fans. His new company -- RSL Speakers -- deviates from Rogersound Labs in one very significant way; they are no longer a brick-n-mortar company but are a true ID (Internet Direct) manufacturer, so all of their sales are done from their website.

All of the components included in the Theater System are small yet weigh far more then you would suspect, owing to the well thought out engineering and heavy duty materials employed. The SpeedWoofer 10 is only 16.5"x16.5"x17.25 (HWD), yet weighs in at a hefty 62 pounds. The class A/B amp is rated at 375 watts, with no peak specified, and has a frequency response of 24-180Hz, +/-3dB. The CG4 speaker is just 10.5"x6"x6.33" (HWD), but weighs a full 9 pounds. It has a stated frequency response of 100-25kHz, +/-3dB. The CG24 is identical in size except for the height, or width depending upon how you orient it; the CG24 has dual 4" midrange drivers and can be used either horizontally or vertically. It's 16"x6"x6.33" (HWD), but weighs a solid 13 pounds. The stated frequency response is 85-25kHz, +/-3dB. Everything comes with a 5 year warranty except the amp in the SpeedWoofer 10, which has a 2 year warranty.

The satellites, center and subwoofer all utilize a unique design RSL calls Compression Guide Technology. CGT is essentially a variation of bass reflex that utilizes a slanted internal plenum not unlike some transmission line systems, but RSL doesn't consider CGT to be a transmission line design. More on CGT a bit later though.

Purchasing from RSL is done in the same manner as any other ID company, directly from the manufacturer. You can use their website or toll free number (800-905-5485).

The Theater System costs $2,075, which is the same price you would pay to purchase all 6 pieces individually, so there's no discount for buying the "package". That price does include shipping, and something pretty unique today; return shipping. If you decide the RSL system is not for you they pick up the tab to send it back. The company must be very confident with what they're selling to make an offer like that, especially when you consider it's well over 100 pounds of equipment we're talking about.

The subwoofer and all the speakers came packaged in a similar manner. This was a well traveled set that has been used for several prior reviews so I'm not certain if the packaging is indicative of what a "normal" customer would get when they receive their order from RSL.

Everything came double boxed with hard styrofoam blocks on the top and bottom for protection. The speakers and subwoofer were covered in a nice cloth sheet and wrapped in plastic. The SpeedWoofer 10 also had hard styrofoam pieces slipped into the corners of the inner box, further protecting it from damage. If this is an example of how the review samples are protected, then I can only imagine new product is packed at least as well. If that's the case then RSL does a very solid job of protecting their products from the abuse they're sure to encounter when shipped.

The majority of the included accessories were for the SpeedWoofer 10, which consisted of a set of low metal carpet spikes, little half-circle shaped rubber feet, power cord, a remote with batteries, the subwoofer control box and the RJ45 cable to contact that to the SpeedWoofer 10. All of the accessories were bunched together in their own separate compartment in the packing material for the SpeedWoofer. That struck me as a very well thought out design, a theme that repeated itself over and over again throughout the time I had the RSL Theater System.

Initial Impressions
Let's start with the documentation, because it was a breath of fresh air for me. I review an awful lot of equipment, and I make it a point to read all the documentation for every single product. That can be a rather painful process to be quite honest because it seems far too many companies consider the manual an after thought, and it shows. Not RSL though, because whoever wrote their documentation did a fantastic job.

It's very obvious that person has a sense of humor because the manual is written in a light-hearted, conversational manner with some comedic aspects thrown in to ensure you're paying attention - there are several anecdotes slyly inserted into strategic locations, some of which caught me completely off guard. The cover states it's "Written By People With Short Attention Spans Who Hate Manuals", so right off the bat you know it's going to be different then the standard fare. It proved to be a refreshing change from the dry technical manuals that generally accompany speakers and subs.

But even though the manual is the size of a magazine, and has comical overtones, don't equate that to mean it's a comic book. It ably covers the complete product line in detail -- speakers, center and subwoofer -- as well as company history, room acoustics and placement assistance. There are detailed diagrams for 5.1, 7.1, even 7.2 configurations. The font is large and legible, with headers that clearly denote which sections are important and which can potentially be skipped. It's about as good as documentation could possibly be, and I applaud RSL for their approach and the effort it must have taken to create that.

Once you start looking at the system it quickly becomes apparent this was designed as a whole, as opposed to a collection of parts; everything blends seamlessly into one cohesive piece. The appearance of the satellites, center and subwoofer is identical, with softly rounded front corners, squared off back corners, a thin front-facing slot port and impeccable gloss black paint. Even the external control box for the subwoofer has the exact same styling and design queues. The cabinets are thick and solid. Binding posts are high quality 5 ways that you generally see on more expensive speakers. The overall look and feel is one of excellence and substance.

The grill used on the SpeedWoofer 10 is made from .75" MDF and was very strong, with a transparent material stretched perfectly over it. The grills on the CG24 center and CG4 satellites are made from a sturdy perforated metal and have a slight arch to them. They're secured using magnets which are hidden in the cabinet. The corresponding magnets on the grills were covered in felt, so as to prevent any scratches. I love attention to detail like this. The grills affix themselves perfectly to both the center and satellites every time. All you need to do is get them close and they "jump" onto the cabinet, in the exact spot they're supposed to. I actually tried to mis-align them, just to see if I could, but it wasn't possible; no matter what I did they attached to the cabinet precisely where they should have every single time.

One thing you may find lacking is the fact you can't bi-wire or bi-amp the CG4 or CG24. That probably won't matter to many people though, because most small speakers are not hooked up in that manner anyway. The CG24 is designed to be oriented either horizontally or vertically, so you can use it for the mains as well as your center. The CG4 satellites can also be positioned "upside down"; they're intended to be used with the midrange driver on top, but they work equally well flipped over so the tweeter is on top instead. The vast majority of the time I used them with the midrange on top.

The SpeedWoofer 10 comes with a separate control box that allows you to set the gain and crossover easily, without having to reach around the back like you would with most other subwoofers. The box is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and has a wireless remote too, so making changes is a breeze. When the subwoofer is active the dial lights turn blue, while in standby mode they switch to red. The connection between the control box and the SpeedWoofer itself is a standard RJ45 Ethernet cable, so if you don't like the color or length of the cable RSL Speakers provides you can simply change it with one from any computer store.

While the SpeedWoofer 10's control box might have value for the person who perpetually tinkers with their settings, I'm not sure it's really much of a feature for the vast majority of the population. From my experience it seems almost everyone gets their system dialed in and simply leaves it alone. They might make the occasional adjustment, but that can be facilitated by changing the output level on their AV receiver instead of reaching for yet another remote. I only used the control box when making the initial adjustments.

The inside of the speakers and subwoofer are absolutely stuffed with damping material; it feels like perhaps something poly-based. All that stuffing made it a bit difficult for me to see the main attraction though; RSL's Compression Guide Technology. CGT is a variation of a tuned bass reflex design that has it roots in the 1970's Rogersound Lab speakers. To paraphrase Howard Rodgers...

RSL felt that internal resonance was a problem for accurate sound reproduction because it degraded a speakers transient response. Rodgers worked on the problem for about 15 years until he felt comfortable that his design mitigated the deleterious effects of resonance, at which point he patented it as Compression Guide Technology.

CGT essentially divides the enclosure into 3 areas of higher and 2 areas of lower pressure. This is accomplished with a diagonal board inside the enclosure that extends from side to side, but doesn't extend the full height. As the rear sound wave from the driver passes through these areas of varying volume and pressure the audible effects of resonance are lessened. Eventually the cabinet vents to the outside with a rectangular tuned passage. At this point the port is the same as a properly tuned bass reflex system would use. I did find the port made noticabled noise while I was running the measurements, but no disturbing sounds were evident in day-to-day usage.

RSL claims Compression Guide Technology provides 3 major benefits:
  1. More detailed bass
  2. Removes "boxy" sound in the midrange
  3. Better pinpoint imaging

The amp on the SpeedWoofer 10 contains low level inputs and outputs, as well as high level inputs and outputs. There's also a dedicated LFE connector. The phase setting is the typical two position toggle, with either 0 or 180 degree settings. There's also an Auto On function, which worked pretty well; it took a little bit of volume to get it out of standby mode, but once awakened it stayed on even during sports broadcasts (which tend to have long periods of time where there are just announcers talking). Inside the cabinet the amps internals are protected by what appears to be a metal cage.

The SpeedWoofer 10's driver is something to behold, the epitome of stout and over-built. The cone is a heavy paper based material, has a rather substantial 9.5 pound magnet made from double stacked slugs that includes a rear bump out, 4 layer voice coil, huge half-roll rubber/foam surround and a massive vent in the center of it all. The frame is cast aluminum and powdercoated, so it's been designed for the long haul. Oddly, this beast of a driver is only held in using wood screws. I would have preferred to see either inserts or t-nuts used for a driver in this class.

The midrange used in the CG4 and CG24 speakers is a Peerless unit, so right off the bat RSL started with something good. Like the SpeedWoofer's driver, the midrange uses a powdercoated cast frame and a large magnet assembly. Also like the SpeedWoofer, it's held in by wood screws. However, in this case that's an acceptable way of mounting a 4" driver.

My living room is 13x17x8 (1768 CF), so it's not terribly large. The main seating position is approximately 11 feet away. Since this was a system that had been used for other reviews no break-in was necessary.

The RSL Theater System produced some of the most natural and clear voices I've heard from drivers this small. Due to the 4" midranges they didn't quite have the depth to make it sound as though the people were actually in the room with you, but everything else about them was near perfect. These speakers uncovered nuances in very familiar source material that went unnoticed during reviews of other systems. I found myself playing movie test scenes a second or third time, simply because I enjoyed them so much the first time. The accuracy and balance of the CG4 and CG24 speakers was uncanny; a bit on the warm side, but pure and expressive nonetheless. I would honestly be able to listen to these speakers all day. There was literally no fatigue, regardless of how long I used them.

The Theater System is clearly intended for the discerning individual, the one for whom balance and accuracy is of paramount importance. Even though the upper range of the CG4 and CG24 speakers is stated to be 25kHz I think a touch more "sparkle" in the high frequencies would be nice. They do exhibit a very neutral sound and rarely go lacking. Of particular mention is the integration between speakers and sub which was nearly flawless, even using the recommended crossover of 100Hz. To me that's a bit on the high side, and can often lead to subwoofer localization, but I was never able to tell where the speakers stopped and the subwoofer took over. There were times that I actually forgot I was doing a review and ended up completely immersed in what I was watching. Realistically, isn't that the goal? The SpeedWoofer 10 could be a bit more potent in the low bass regions -- SpeedWoofer 12 perhaps? -- but beyond that there's really very little to complain about, sound wise.

Like most people I have specific movies and particular scenes I use when testing speakers and subwoofers, all of which I used here. Each individual test is listed below in the format of Movie: Scene.

Lord of the Rings: Bridge of Khazad Doom (blu-ray)
The RSL Theater System did very well with this movie. The voices of all the characters, whether speaking loudly or softly, were clear and precise; it was easy to tell what they were saying at any given moment. Tiny details, such as the crackling of stone structures or the "swoosh" of the Orcs arrows, were more pronounced coming through the CG4's then with most speakers I've heard recently. Even when the volume was increased to a level I normally don't listen at the presentation was still detailed, without any perceptible harshness. Dynamics remained strong as well, with the variation between distinct elements clearly defined.

The SpeedWoofer 10 did a surprisingly good job of producing the foreboding rumble a part of this scene. I had to remind myself this was a single 10" driver, because it had depth and output one normally doesn't associated to such a small subwoofer. It's not going to dislodge the filings from your teeth, but most people would be hard pressed to believe it's just a 10" driver.

During the opening scene -- One Ring To Rule Them All -- there is some brutally low bass notes. In specific, when Saron's hand is cut off and the ring falls to the ground there is a very low bass sweep. The notes are so deep they can be felt coursing through your chair, assuming the subwoofer you're listening to can actually produce them of course. To it's credit the SpeedWoofer 10 valiantly attempted them, and it was actually somewhat successful, but it wasn't quite up to the task. It was more composed and potent then I thought it would be though.

My favorite part of this scene to play around with is the Balrog's roar. There's an instance when you see it for the first time that I just love to crank way up. He jumps out of a cavern and lands right behind the Fellowship with a thud, and then lets out a fire-breathing roar (I really enjoy seeing how loud it will play). The SpeedWoofer 10 was a bit overmatched by the depth of the Balrog's roar and stomping. The huge impacts created when the Balrog's feet hit the ground as he chases after the Fellowship came through with good definition, but could have been more impactful. The sound of the flame coming through the speakers and center was quite nice though, with great definition.

Collateral: Club Fever (DVD)
Although this scene doesn't contain a tremendous amount of LFE information it does have a driving musical soundtrack and over-emphasized gun sounds. The music portion I've found can cause trouble for a subwoofer because it does tend to drown out the voice track in certain spots, especially if it lacks clarity and speed. Because of that articulation is crucial. With the RSL Theater System, nothing seemed out of balance.

If you aren't careful you may think this scene is nothing more then a music soundtrack and gunshots, but that's not the case. If you listen close -- and your speakers are good -- you'll hear other elements; subtle background voices, foot steps, the clinking of glasses at the bar, etc. The RSL speakers rendered all of those supporting elements distinctly, with sufficient detail to make them almost seem real. Voices even sounded like voices, which is no small feat given all the other things going on simultaneously. The club music had a decent amount of drive and low end too, but didn't quite feel like a club. The gunshots could have used a bit more kick, but for the most part they were solid.

Avatar: Assault on Home Tree (blu-ray)
I always seem to start by listening to just this one scene, and if I like what I hear go on to several others. With the RSL system I was more then happy to run a few other scenes, because it did a remarkable job.

As the gunships approach Home Tree their rotor blades cause quite a lot of air swirl on the ground, and I was actually hearing the sound of leaves rustling. It was subtle, but apparent. Voices were clear over the din of all the other sounds going on. That level of detail is not something I hear with every set of speakers. Dynamics were strong, and there was what I would call an uncanny sense of realism for such modest speakers. As the volume was raised the speakers didn't seem to compress, nor did the subwoofer audibly struggle.

Although I would have liked a little more "kick" from the SpeedWoofer it was hard to fault the bass it produced - it was very precise and had extremely good detail. The individual engine sounds can get lost because of how many different gunships are flying around, but the RSL System held it's own quite admirably. Considering it was just a single 10" driver the tactile sensation was better then what you might expect too. At no time did I find myself feeling as though I was missing out on anything.

War of the Worlds: The Machine Emerges (blu-ray)
This is the scene often used to test subwoofers, but I know it so well by now that I opted to use it anyway. I was glad that I did, because it turned out to be a pleasant experience.

Small sound effects were clear and precise, like the noises associated to the fences rattling and the laundry flapping that occur prior to the first lighting strikes. That may seem inconsequential, but background sounds such as those help create the overall sense of what's about to happen. They establish a more realistic feel, and the CG4 and CG24 speakers did a yeomens job bringing them to life.

As the chaos increases the speakers kept up with it, providing a balanced and proportioned sound field. The heat ray sounded wonderful, with a nice rich tone and solid impact. As the pavement begins to crumble and buckle the whole presentation was one of cohesiveness; there was nothing that seemed to be lacking, the entire RSL system just went about it's business in a very well controlled and precise manner. You needed to be a bit judicious with the volume, because of the heavy dose of ultra low frequencies, but even if you did bump into the SpeedWoofer's limiter it was handled gracefully, with no unpleasant sounds. Simply put, the RSL system did better with the scenes form this movie then I expected it could.

10,000 BC: Mammoth Hunt (DVD)
OK, I'll admit it; the only reason I included this scene is because of the insane amount of deep bass. That's valuable when testing subwoofers, but is there enough other stuff going on to effectively test a full 5.1 system? As luck would have it, yes.

Along with the thundering sound produced by dozens of massive feet, there is also background detail that can give some indication of a speakers performance. There's a lot of dialog too, and I use voices as a yardstick of sorts. As has been the case thus far, the RSL system comported itself quite well. All of the details -- like trumpeting mammoths and individual characters voices -- were distinct and clear. There's not much in the way of dynamics during this movie, but what was there had a very solid presentation.

The SpeedWoofer 10 struggled to impart a sense of realism with the rampaging horde of mammoths, but it didn't over-extend itself either. By that I mean what it couldn't do it simply didn't try; there was no untoward driver or port noises evident. Basically, it gave what it could with repose. Overall, the RSL System presented a very balanced and clean sound.

Tron: Legacy (blu-ray)
Another staple of my subwoofer tests -- because of it's Daft Punk soundtrack -- but a selection made based upon some of the other elements it contains. There's a lot going on in this movies audio track, and if it's not rendered properly you miss key elements.

For example, voices (there he goes with the voices thing again!). A surprising amount of this movie revolves around characters speaking, which is one RSL's strongest attributes. Rarely have I heard voices portrayed with such accuracy and balance. There were times that previously indecipherable lines had been made intelligible simply because of the new found accuracy. The bass during special effects and the soundtrack was clean and precise, but could use a bit more extension. As a whole, the RSL 5.1 System performed extremely well on this somewhat difficult material.

Underworld: Awakening (blu-ray)
A movie similar to Tron: Legacy, with lots of voices and deep bass. In this case, very deep bass. And, also like Tron: Legacy, the RSL system did remarkably well.

As with everything else so far, the voices were easy to hear and understand. Individual sound effects -- like those of feet walking or the clanking of swords during battles -- were unique and distinct. I was so impressed with the detail that I started focusing on just the little nuances, and came away duly impressed with how the CG4 and CG24 speakers produced them.

The SpeedWoofer 10 held it's own with the ferocious bass in this movie, but realistically it was a little out of it's element. The gunfire wasn't terrible explosive, nor were the huge Lycans footsteps when he's prowling around in the underground lair. And while my walls were not exactly rattling the SpeedWoofer 10 was never out of control. At no time did I experience any driver distress or port noise. There was never any complaint, even when I started to increase the volume. All that happened was it simply stopped getting any louder or going deeper. Rather then attempt something it couldn't do, it just refused to lose comportment. Personally I would much rather have that; not only does it make for a better overall impression, it also prevents any damage to the drivers.

Virtually all the music was configured to run in stereo, which means only a pair of CG4 speakers and the SpeedWoofer 10 were being used. As it turned out, that proved to be a nice setup.

Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The Moon (CD)
Who needs an introduction to this album? Even though my CD is the remastered version from 1992 it keeps all of the tonal balance and essence of the original 1973 pressing. Like many people there's not a single part that I don't have completely memorized, which is why I use it for testing; I know exactly what it's supposed to sound like.

The opening heartbeat of Speak To Me had excellent clarity, with a nice deep pounding sound. The alarm bells on Time -- which is my 2nd favorite Pink Floyd song -- were crisp and clear. The bongos had a nice sharp tone about them too. Roger Waters open E note on his bass guitar was powerful and solid, with sufficient treble to make it convincing.

Clare Torry's haunting voice on The Great Gig In The Sky was slightly drowned out by the music unfortunately, which was quite surprising given how beautifully the CG4 speakers had done with voices before. The overall tone of the horns in Us And Them was very accurate and a pleasure to listen to. Eclipse could have used a little more punch when I cranked it up though, which I did because it sounded so good otherwise.

The one area I was the most surprised by was when I heard the slight pitch change during the opening bass riff in Money, which is something I don't recall ever hearing from speakers before (only when using headphones have I heard that in the past). To me, it speaks volumes about the design of the RSL system; here's a song I've probably heard a thousand times -- literally -- and yet there was a subtle nuance that was only evident to me before when I was wearing headphones. Amazing.

Motley Crue - Dr. Feelgood (CD)
One of the few Motley albums that was actually mixed decently; most of the early stuff sounded horrible, with terribly compressed dynamics.

The opening of Dr. Feelgood, with the driving guitar and bass, sounded great. Each instrument maintained it's own space, yet blended very well. Mick Mar's guitar on Rattlesnake Shake has a very distinct sound, which the CG4 speakers reproduced beautifully. Tommy Lee's drumming was solid as well, especially the snare which was sharp and crisp. Kick Start My Heart was what I wanted to hear though. That's just one of those songs -- like Steppenwolf's Born To Be Wild -- where you're simply compelled to reach for the volume and crank it up. I did just that and the RSL system complied by producing a surprising amount of clear and precise music, even at a pretty high volume level. The CG4 speakers did not become harsh until pushed very hard, but just before that level Vince Neils voice was still manageable (no small feat, since his falsetto does lean toward the annoying on lesser speakers). I think the CG4's natural tendency to be on the warm side helped greatly here.

Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You (MP3)
What is this nonsense? A Whitney Houston song from an avowed metalhead?! Relax, it's not time for me to turn in my man card. What better way to test a speakers ability to do voices then with a singer who had a voice like she did? No, this is not my kind of music. However, I can still spot talent outside my musical genre and there's no doubt that she had a remarkable voice.

I closed my eyes while listening to this song and focused primarily on her singing, with little thought given to the underlying music. It's truly a shame what happened to her because I was captivated by the power of her voice. This was one of the rare times I switched to multi-channel stereo, so I could bring in the rest of the RSL speakers and get the full effect. All I can say is Howard Rodgers got this part about as perfect as you possibly can with satellite speakers. If you like vocal music the RSL System should jump to the top of your audition list. Put succinctly, the RSL speakers are detailed, precise and perfectly weighted.

Electronic - Various Groups
With this source material I didn't really expect too much, because it requires massive amounts of low bass. I ended up being impressed by the outcome though because the SpeedWoofer 10 providing more depth and mid-bass "slam", for the most part, then I expected from such a modest subwoofer. As with the movies before, when it encountered notes below what it was able to play the SpeedWoofer simply didn't try. It just rolled off in a progress manner without a lot of fuss. By the time I was done pounding on it the amp had gotten rather warm, but I didn't notice any degradation in sound quality. Judging speakers with this type of material is futile though, so I didn't really bother.

  • Bass Mekanik - Quad Maximus (CD)
    When I first started playing Welcome Stranger I recall myself thinking "this is going to be funny". However, that smirk turned rather quickly to surprise when I realized this little subwoofer was holding it's own! You couldn't crank the volume too loud, of course, but the SpeedWoofer 10 was actually pumping out some very solid bass. I knelt down close to it so I could see if there was any audible port noise, but didn't really detect any. While room pressurization was obviously missing there was some genuine bass "feel" being generated. Lock On Target was just OK, but it was rather amusing to watch the subwoofers control box move around on top of the SpeedWoofer during this song. Bass Mekanik, Funky Annihilating Bass and Doctor Oblivion were all similar to Welcome Stranger, in as much as they had more bass then I would have guessed going into this. At one point my notes simply said "is this really just a 10" woofer?".
  • Bass-o-Tronics (MP3)
    As it turned out, my question above was answered rather quickly because with this material you could tell the SpeedWoofer 10 was no longer in it's element. Truth be told, this is very punishing so the outcome wasn't totally unexpected. Whether it was Bass I Love You -- the granddaddy of all subwoofer torture test songs -- or Sub Bass Excursion, the SpeedWoofer 10 struggled to produce the really low notes. This was one of the rare instances that the clarity and definition seemed to suffer a little. Not that this music has much of either, mind you, but it became evident I was testing the limiter on a few occasions. The SpeedWoofer 10 gave a valiant effort, but ultimately this proved too much for it.

I dealt directly with Howard Rodgers the entire time, even while arranging the review units, so it's difficult for me to give an accurate assessment of the support provided by RSL. I can say this much though; Howard is a very pleasant man with a long history in this business, so chances are you'll be in good hands. I don't recall ever seeing a negative post or comment about him either, which further reinforces my suspicion that the support will be as solid as the products RSL makes.

dictionary.com defines "integrated" as 'combining or coordinating separate elements so as to provide a harmonious, interrelated whole', and that pretty much sums up the RSL Speakers 5.1 Theater System perfectly. The entire speaker package has been coalesced to near perfection, from the appearance to it's sound everything blends harmoniously. This is a home theater package for the discerning individual, the person who wants everything to look and act as one cohesive unit; it's a well integrated set of speakers and a subwoofer that make an excellent home theater setup for small to mid-sized rooms. RSL Speakers should be commended for their achievement, because they executed brilliantly.

These measurements are of the SpeedWoofer 10 using XTZ Room Analyzer II Pro. It represents the summed output of both the driver and port. The unit was indoors, physically positioned in the center of my listening room. No other speakers were running.

Kini62 12-11-2012 05:59 PM

Thanks for the super detailed review.

I almost purchased that setup but backed out due to shipping (Hawaii).


Ryansboston 12-12-2012 08:39 AM

Thanks for the detailed review, Jim. I read the vast majority of the New Sub - RSL thread recently and was looking forward to this review with eager anticipation... it definitely delivered.

BTW, it was nice meeting you at the NE GTG, hope to see you at the next one!

Chu Gai 12-12-2012 09:11 AM

Nice review, Jim. Where are they made?

JimWilson 12-12-2012 11:58 AM

Originally Posted by Kini62 View Post

I almost purchased that setup but backed out due to shipping (Hawaii).

Yea, I'll bet that's a constant issue on the island. What did you end up getting?

JimWilson 12-12-2012 12:02 PM

Originally Posted by Ryansboston View Post

BTW, it was nice meeting you at the NE GTG, hope to see you at the next one!

Are you talking about the one in Feb/March? If so, you have to be there; it's going to include speakers. Hint, hint... biggrin.gif

JimWilson 12-12-2012 12:04 PM

Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

Where are they made?

I'm not really sure. I'll ask Howard and get back to you.

EDIT: Made in China.

Kini62 12-12-2012 01:11 PM

Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

Yea, I'll bet that's a constant issue on the island. What did you end up getting?

5 NHT SuperZeros and an overly expensive Def Tech sub from Crutchfield. I really like the setup. My room is about 1640 cubic ft and can be sealed off. The sub does a nice job and I use the remote ALL the time.

It seems every station and every movie has dramatically different bass content/levels. I use it for music quite a lot too. I've contemplated selling the DT sub and getting something better (for less) but would sorely miss the remote.

Thanks again for such a detailed review.

JimWilson 12-12-2012 02:51 PM

Originally Posted by Kini62 View Post

5 NHT SuperZeros and an overly expensive Def Tech sub from Crutchfield. I really like the setup.

My primary system uses Absolute Zeros. Pretty darn nice speakers for their size.

Originally Posted by Kini62 View Post

Thanks again for such a detailed review.

It was my pleasure. I'm glad you found it enjoyable.

Chu Gai 12-12-2012 03:26 PM

Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

I'm not really sure. I'll ask Howard and get back to you.
EDIT: Made in China.
Thanks. The reason I asked is I couldn't tell from the pictures if there was anything like a sticker or silk screening, labeling if you will, that indicated the country of origin. If you still have them can you check?

JimWilson 12-12-2012 03:46 PM

Unfortunately they're all boxed up and ready to be shipped back tomorrow, so I can't really get to them any longer.

rslspeakers 12-14-2012 05:25 PM

Hi All,

I thought I had posted this followup to Jim's review, but I didn't see it. So, here it is:

I want to thank Jim for his review of the RSL 5.1 Home Theater System. Jim put a lot of time and effort into the review, certainly as much as any magazine reviewer has with our product. You have to admire somebody that does something like this without compensation. (Can we all chip in and at least get him a pizza?) For him, obviously, it’s a labor of love and I applaud him for this. Jim has been a pleasure to work with.

We’re thrilled that Jim liked our system. By the way, we packed this system the way we normally pack it for everyone. We were horrified last year by videos of the delivery guy throwing TVs over a fence! Let him try to do that with our 70 lb. Speedwoofer 10. In a few places of the review, Jim has indicated that he would have liked to have seen additional low bass output from our Speedwoofer 10. I would like to add a few comments about this.

In the past, I’ve had issues with most of the subwoofers I’ve heard. I value accuracy and detail. If the bass is sloppy, I’m not interested. When I listen to music, I want to hear the skin of a kick-drum and feel the impact. I don’t want to just hear a dull boom and feel the floor shaking.

The first Speedwoofer was for my own home theater in my previous house (I really miss that theater. If you want to see what it looked like just Google “retro sci-fi home theater”). The subwoofer cabinet was about 4 feet tall and contained 2 10” woofers in a double Compression Guide configuration. This monster had a lot of usable output to 15 Hz. and below. Yet, there was no loss in detail and precision. So, we know the concept will work for larger subwoofers.

When we designed our 5.1 system, which is technically a compact system, we needed to determine the optimum size for our subwoofer. To us, there are 3 markets. First, is the audiophile whose highest priority is accuracy. Second, is the hard core bass junky whose measure of a good subwoofer is how high it can register on the Richter scale and scare the heck out of anybody in an adjacent room, house, or shopping mall. Kind of reminds me of a story. In 1969 I went over to Gene Czerwinski’s office. Gene was the founder of Cerwin-Vega. At the time he was building giant horn subwoofers that he used for sound reinforcement at concerts. These 8 foot tall speakers had 18” woofers that he hand built. The magnet alone (not the structures) were something like 12-15 pounds. I remember him playing them at probably the loudest volume I’ve ever experienced. My pant cuffs were flapping, my ears actually began to distort and you could literally see the walls shaking. It was a frightening experience.

But I digress. Anyhow, the third market is those who want a great sounding home theater but have to consider the aesthetics and what others in their families will accept. We determined that it would be impossible to target all 3 markets with our first subwoofer. So we decided on the first and third markets for our Speedwoofer 10.

The current Speedwoofer 10 has been very successful in targeting both markets.
We’ve been told by some of our audiophile customers that there could not be a better match for their ribbon or electrostatic speakers even if they tried to do it on eHarmoney.com. The vast majority are of our home theater customers are thrilled with the Speedwoofer’s low frequency output. We rarely get returns under our satisfaction guarantee. People tell us they can’t turn it up too high. At the T.H.E. show, we had a home theater setup with a single Speedwoofer 10. People told us that they were way up the hallway and had to poke their head in to find out where all the bass was coming from. Some of the other people demonstrating nearby weren’t too happy with us. I have a 5.1 system in my den with a single Speedwoofer 10. Sometimes I’ll watch a movie and my wife may not be interested and will retreat to the bedroom above the den. You can ask her if she thinks we need more bass output, but you might get smacked.

As a matter of fact, we’ve had many customers ask us if they should use 2 Speedwoofer 10s instead of one. While we don’t mind selling extra subwoofers, we tell them to start with one, because it’s probably more than enough. And they can always add the second one later. Ultimately, even though we don’t get to sell a second subwoofer, we get a lot of complements and glowing reviews. So, we feel our Speedwoofer 10 has enough low end output to more than please the vast majority of home theater enthusiasts. However, we can understand different people’s priorities. Home Theater is not a necessity. It is for enjoyment. And although I hate the expression; “it’s whatever floats your boat.”

When we designed our Speedwoofer 10, we could have made it far less expensive by using the same type of parts that many others use (vinyl cabinets, cheap class D amplifiers, and smaller magnet woofers, etc). However, we constantly get correspondence from RSL customers who are still enjoying their RSL Speakers after 40 years and complement us on how well they are built. We couldn’t let them down. Besides, after a lengthy absence people would be watching to see if our new models had the same type of quality as before or if we compromised. We’ve always believed in using the finest parts and weren’t about to change now. Plus, we don’t like getting nasty emails.

So, yeah, It’s more expensive than some other subwoofers however, it shouldn’t be compared to subwoofers have size instead of precision and finesse.

If you’re in the second market we described above, we reserve the right to target you in the future with additional models. Jim suggested a Speedwoofer 12. Who knows?

Lastly, I want to say how appreciative I am for the forums and the people who participate in them (with possibly a few exceptions: you know who you are). In the old days (last century) when we had retail stores, the only way to vent our opinions was in an ad in the local newspaper or a direct mail campaign to our customers. Either way was prohibitively expensive. These forums are a great way to express ideas and to acquire knowledge.


JimWilson 12-14-2012 05:58 PM

Originally Posted by rslspeakers View Post

I thought I had posted this followup to Jim's review, but I didn't see it. So, here it is:

You did post it, because I saw it yesterday. I'm not sure what happened to the original.

thezaks 12-21-2012 09:51 AM

I just installed a 7.1 RSL system for a friend the day before yesterday. He had previously asked me what to go with for speakers. I get a lot of audio and home theater magazines, I'm always on the forums, and I get into stores when I can, so I thought I might be able to recommend something. I researched and researched. I thought the Cambridge Audio mini would be good for something smaller, but realized he probably would want more. I narrowed it down to two manufacturers - neither of which I had heard before. After talking to the owners of both companies, I decided to recommend the RSL speakers. Both owners were terrific, personable, and informative. I just felt myself leaning a little more towards the RSL's.

Anyway, my friend ordered two CG4's for the L/R speakers and a CG24 for the center. For the surrounds, we used four C34 in-ceiling speakers. And, of course, we had one Speedwoofer 10. Here's some comments that are strictly regarding Home Theater (movie) performance:

1) Fit and finish is very nice. Impressive! I was surprised at the size of the C34's too - not your every day 6" in-ceiling speaker - these are 10" (12" with cover) and have a dual woofer design. My only complaint is about the covers for the C34's. Does it really have to be that hard to put the covers on? I know you don't want them falling down on someone. Perhaps a latch/release of some sort or a magnetic cover, like the other speakers would be nice :-)

2) One of the C34's that had a broken circuit board (for the crossover). My friend contacted Joe at RSL, and Joe mentioned he would have a new one out right away. He should get it next week some time. My friend was impressed, and so am I. The speaker seems to be working, so we have it installed until the new one arrives.

3) I've heard many audiophile systems, costing 10-100 times as much as this RSL 7.1 system. It's hard to believe, but this system is no slouch and has many of the characteristics of these much more expensive speaker systems.

4) Yes, these can go very loud, without breakup - and they sound GREAT when loud! Very smooth and plenty of detail.

5) Localization of speakers is pretty much not there. Very impressive! The speakers do blend very well with the sub - seamless.

6) The bass is clear - not at all muddy. It's articulate and really adds to the movie watching experience.

7) Because of comments like #6 (which I've seen in reviews and in posts on AVS), I didn't know what to expect from the sub. I thought it might not have enough weight to give a satisfying experience. I was wrong. This is room filling bass! We watched The Dark Knight, and the bass definitely filled the room and had tremendous authority.

8) OK, if you get one of these, you're going to look at the small 10" driver, and like me, you will probably say - no way! No way can #7 be true - maybe #6, but definitely not #7. In fact, after my time with it, I was still thinking - all that bass, without breakup, from that small 10" driver? Perhaps that's why Howard has mentioned that nobody has asked for a second sub.

9) I realize that the $2K-$3K cost is expensive for many folks, but if you can stretch your budget, I think it's worth it. To think that this RSL speaker system shares many characteristics with speaker systems costing 10-100 times as much money is just plain silly. By the way, we're using a Denon 2113 receiver, so it doesn't take much power with these speakers to get a tremendous home theater experience.

SUMMARY: an audiophile experience at budget (compared to audiophile equipment) pricing. I cannot imagine anyone not having a huge "Pride in Ownership" with this speaker system. Kudos to RSL


JimWilson 12-21-2012 01:47 PM

Thanks for adding your thoughts Dave. I'm glad everything worked out for you.

Just for reference sake... how big is your friends room?

thezaks 01-03-2013 04:02 PM

Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

Thanks for adding your thoughts Dave. I'm glad everything worked out for you.
Just for reference sake... how big is your friends room?

I believe it is 23' deep X 20' wide X 9' high. It's on the second floor, and the rear of the room is open to the first floor.


Ryder125 01-03-2013 04:20 PM

Those small speakers can fill a 4000+cu ft room......?

JimWilson 01-03-2013 05:40 PM

Originally Posted by Ryder125 View Post

Those small speakers can fill a 4000+cu ft room......?

Doubtful. For that much space you're talking tower speakers.

thezaks 01-04-2013 08:03 AM

Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

Doubtful. For that much space you're talking tower speakers.

That's what I would have thought and what I was concerned about going into it, but we had Dark Knight cranked very loud, without strain. The low end was excellent. Definitely filled the room!


JimWilson 01-04-2013 11:25 AM

Originally Posted by thezaks View Post

That's what I would have thought and what I was concerned about going into it, but we had Dark Knight cranked very loud, without strain. The low end was excellent. Definitely filled the room!

Having first hand experience with the RSL speakers I still have my reservations about them being able to fill a space that large, but there's certainly no harm in trying. RSL has one of the most generous return policies there is, so if they don't work out returning them won't be an issue.

thezaks 01-08-2013 07:58 AM

Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

Having first hand experience with the RSL speakers I still have my reservations about them being able to fill a space that large, but there's certainly no harm in trying. RSL has one of the most generous return policies there is, so if they don't work out returning them won't be an issue.

Having actually tried them in a space that large, I can attest to their capabilities. smile.gif


itom 01-11-2013 09:35 PM

Great review Jim, I really enjoyed reading it. I'm currently looking to purchase speakers for a dedicated home theater room which is almost exactly the same size as your living room. I noticed in one of your posts that you have nht classic absolute zeroes in your main listening room. I am having troubles deciding between the nht absolute 5.1T system with the towers and the rsl 5.1 system. They both have great reviews and because I am in Canada I cannot audition them for the 30 day trial. I was just wondering if you can comment on them based on their sound quality and which one you prefer and why.

JimWilson 01-12-2013 07:43 PM

Originally Posted by itom View Post

Great review Jim, I really enjoyed reading it.

Thank you. I'm glad you were able to get some value from it.

Originally Posted by itom View Post

I am having troubles deciding between the nht absolute 5.1T system with the towers and the rsl 5.1 system. They both have great reviews and because I am in Canada I cannot audition them for the 30 day trial. I was just wondering if you can comment on them based on their sound quality and which one you prefer and why.

You're comparing the NHT Absolute Towers to the RSL CG4 bookshelf speakers? I think it's pretty safe to say which one would come out on top. The two centers are probably closer then you might think, with the NHT having better output while the RSL has cleaner dialog. The SpeedWoofer 10 is probably better then the B10d sub.

Geezer 10-16-2013 01:42 PM

I had the pleasure of speaking with Howard (RSL) today. Tomorrow I will take possession of a CG24 center to hopefully match my very old RSL pair of CG-8 towers (look them up). Howard is a stand up guy with tons of knowledge in speaker development. I will report back once I spend some time evaluating my new system addition.

steveting99 01-07-2014 12:08 AM

I'm thinking of changing the current set-up to 3 x CG24 units to get a nice front sound stage.

Would like to know if anyone has powered the either the CG24 with a small receiver such as the Marantz NR-1504 that's got 50W output power? I'm concerned about the nominal impedance rating of the CG24 being 4 ohms, what's the minimum value? The room I would be using the CG24 is less than 1,500 cubic feet so don't plan on needing a lot of power to drive these efficient speakers that are rated at 90dB/W/m. With the current set up, the normal listening level is -40dB using Audessey MutliEQ with Dynamic Volume on heavy.

JimWilson 01-07-2014 06:38 AM

Originally Posted by steveting99 View Post

I'm thinking of changing the current set-up to 3 x CG24 units to get a nice front sound stage.

Would like to know if anyone has powered the either the CG24 with a small receiver such as the Marantz NR-1504 that's got 50W output power? I'm concerned about the nominal impedance rating of the CG24 being 4 ohms, what's the minimum value? The room I would be using the CG24 is less than 1,500 cubic feet so don't plan on needing a lot of power to drive these efficient speakers that are rated at 90dB/W/m. With the current set up, the normal listening level is -40dB using Audessey MutliEQ with Dynamic Volume on heavy.

You'll be fine with the 1504. When I wrote my review that's the exact AVR I was using, and it had no problem powering the system in a room almost 1800^ft3. The CG24 is rated at 90dB sensitivity, so it's pretty efficient (which essentially means it doesn't take a lot of power to get good output levels).

One thing I would suggest though is you try Dynamic Volume on Light instead. Heavy really crushes a lot of the dynamics, and you lose quite a bit in the process. Even Medium would be better.

steveting99 01-07-2014 09:17 PM

Hi Jim,

Thanks for the feedback and glad to know that testing was carried out with the NR-1504 and the CG4/CG24 satellites. Wanted to ask if you had engaged Audessey MultiEQ during the listening evaluation period? What would the sound quality be like if the PURE DIRECT mode was engaged? The reason I ask is that there's a distinct advantage to Audessey with my current sat/sub set-up compared to PURE direct mode. The PURE DIRECT mode sounds really thin / tin can sounding.

I'm going to change out the current sat/sub speaker system to something better and considering the CG4/CG24 combination. Given the small room, will have to mount these on the wall where the current satellites are. eek.gif Initial thinking is that the LCR should be all the same and hence go with all CG24. Did you think it would make much of a difference in sound quality whether its (3xCG24) or (2xCG4 + 1xCG24)? RSL website says there's not much of a sound quality difference, just that the CG24 sounds a bit more forward.

Went to read up on Sound + Vision article and found out the impedance range for CG24. The minimum is 3.6 ohms @ 184 Hz, while the maximum is 12 ohms @ 940 Hz. The average is 10 ohms. So it doesn't appear to be a problem for most AVRs. Curious on why it's rated to 4 ohms? Maybe RSL is just being conservative and wanted to state the minimum value. Most speaker companies state nominal impedance without the low and high values. It made me dig a little bit more about the CG24 with the nominal rating of 4 ohms and trying to match with the Marantz NR-1504. I'm now comfortable with this combination now.

JimWilson 01-08-2014 08:58 AM

I don't normally listen at an elevated volume level, so for me MultiEQ is essential as well.

The CG24 didn't sound forward to me, but YMMV. RSL does pay for shipping -- both ways -- if you want to try them, so you won't be out anything if you opt to return them for some reason.

If you have the option of using CG24's in all three front positions that would probably be better. They have a higher sensitivity than the CG4's do, meaning they will play louder with a lower volume setting. That makes it easier on the amplifier as well. And in general, the CG24's would sound 'fuller'.

gregt16g 01-10-2014 05:48 PM

Thank you for the review! I am looking at buying the CG4's and CG24 for a home theater set-up. I have some concerns about the room size and if they will be able to fill it or not. Right now, they will go into a room that I know is too big for them (almost 4500 cu.ft. because of cathedral ceiling) but, once I finish my basement they will go there. The basement will be approx 2400 cu.ft.
I will be using a Pioneer 1018 AH-K receiver to start. Should I definitely be looking at towers or using 3 CG24's for the front 3?

JimWilson 01-10-2014 06:27 PM

Originally Posted by gregt16g View Post

Thank you for the review! I am looking at buying the CG4's and CG24 for a home theater set-up. I have some concerns about the room size and if they will be able to fill it or not. Right now, they will go into a room that I know is too big for them (almost 4500 cu.ft. because of cathedral ceiling) but, once I finish my basement they will go there. The basement will be approx 2400 cu.ft.

I will be using a Pioneer 1018 AH-K receiver to start. Should I definitely be looking at towers or using 3 CG24's for the front 3?

You're very welcome. I hope it helped you.

4500 ft^3 is way more than they're able to handle, so more than likely you'll find them to be over-matched until you get into the basement. At 2400 ft^3 I would suggest CG24's all around, or at least for the front 3. What subwoofer(s) were you considering?

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