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RSL CG5, CG25, SpeedWoofer 10S Review

RSL CG5, CG25, SpeedWoofer 10S

By Jim Wilson



{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}


Introduction

The subject of this review is a 5.2 system from RSL Speakers (Rogersound Labs) consisting of their CG5 bookshelf speakers, CG25 center channel and a pair of SpeedWoofer 10S subwoofers. The CG5 uses a 5.25" midrange driver with a cone made from aramid fiber coupled with a 1" silk dome tweeter motivated by a neodymium magnet. They measure 12 5/8" x 7 5/8" x 11 1/2" (HWD), weigh 16 pounds, have a stated frequency response of 54-35,000 Hz ± 3dB and have an 86dB sensitivity rating. Note that 35kHz is not a typo. The CG25 uses the same tweeter along with a pair of midrange drivers arranged in the ubiquitous MTM alignment (midrange-tweeter-midrange). Dimensions are 8 1/2" x 19" x 9 3/4" (HWD), weight is 23 pounds, they have a frequency response of 51-35,000 Hz ± 3dB and are a click above the CG5 at 88dB sensitivity



{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}

The SpeedWoofer 10S has a high-excursion 10" driver in a front-ported design using RSL's exclusive Compression Guide technology. It's small by subwoofer standards, measuring just 16" x 15" x 16 3/4" (HWD) and weighing 40 pounds. It contains a 350 watt amplifier with built-in wireless. Quoted frequency response is 24-200 Hz ± 3dB.



{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}

The CG5's are $400 each while the CG25 is $500. The SpeedWoofer 10S retails for a mere $399. Shipping is free on all RSL products, as is return shipping should you decide to send anything back. They offer a free 30 day in-home trial as well. Speakers are warranted for 5 years, electronics for 2 years.

About this point in my evaluations I generally have the Ordering section which talks about the company and their business model. I'm deviating this time because RSL is a unicorn of sorts and I wanted to highlight that fact. Most of you reading this are familiar with the Internet Direct (ID) sales model, where products are sold to the consumer from the manufacturer. There are no dealers, no distributors, no middle men. Cut out some of the players and it costs less, you know the drill. What you may not know is that RSL was likely the first ID company ever, starting in 1970 with what was then a groundbreaking philosophy; a manufacturer selling direct to the consumer. Of course there was no public internet in the 70's but the concept they employed is shockingly similar to what we have today, almost 50 years later. Arguably this makes RSL's Howard Rodgers a marketing visionary, someone who not only foresaw the value of that concept but created a business around it.


Unboxing

This writing gig affords me the opportunity to unbox a lot of products and what I've found over the years is you can get a pretty decent sense regarding the quality of what you're about to review just from the packaging. Budget products almost always have to economize in this area as there simply isn't sufficient margin to go all-out, but what if it's not an inexpensive system? Does the packaging always equal the cost? No, it doesn't. Sometimes I get pricey equipment which isn't protected very well. That's part of the reason I dedicate a section of every article to that very topic (I'm probably the only reviewer who even bothers to mention it, whether that's a good thing or not is up for debate). Personally I've had countless things mangled en route from where I bought them to my front porch so for me it matters how something was packed.

When RSL products show up on your doorstep one thing you'll notice is someone paid attention to the details. That person must have been enamored with the word "doubled" because that's what almost everything is. Your speakers come double boxed, with each box being double walled. The outer box is not some off-the-shelf item stuffed with whatever to take up the slack space; so precise was the fit between inner and outer that to get the former to release from the latter required considerable effort because they created a vacuum that held them together. Once you finally liberate the speakers from the inner box you'll find them cradled in custom molded 1" soft foam that encompasses the entire top and bottom. Each speaker was inside a white cloth bag while the grills were packaged separately in a plastic bag. The presentation was quite good given the relatively low cost.

The SpeedWoofer 10S was no less impressive despite the fact it was only single boxed, something characteristic of subwoofers that don't cost an arm and a leg. On the top and bottom of the double-walled box were 1" molded soft foam runners holding the unit firmly in place. Thick L-shaped cardboard braces were used to shore up everything, ensuring nothing was crushed no matter how hard the journey is from RSL to you. The sub itself was inside a foam bag to protect the finish.

The only accessories were 5 rubber stick-on feet for the speakers. Typically you see 4 - 1 for each corner - but RSL decided to throw in an extra just in case you wanted to put one somewhere in the middle.


Impressions

While doing a review I jot down random notes as things come to me. When it's time to publish I take those disparate snippets and create the article you're reading. It can be an arduous task at times as most of those fragments are stream of conscience, they don't follow a distinct pattern or format. Basically whatever's in my head gets typed. I then have to piece together the puzzle after the fact and make it seem at least somewhat coherent. It's not uncommon for me to have a few paragraphs left over simply because I wasn't able to find an appropriate spot for them.

This review may represent a watershed moment in that regard as I ended up with a rather substantial amount of text that went unused, perhaps more than any evaluation I've done previously. I kept taking notes and writing impressions - all of which I felt were pertinent - yet in the end I just wasn't able to find a suitable part of the article to put them all. That proved frustrating because I desperately wanted to include everything but it just wasn't possible this time. I take solace in the fact that when this happens it means I'm evaluating something special, so I have a lot to say, but the perfectionist in me hates to leave anything behind. RSL left me with quite a lot of unused material and I'm not certain if I should thank or curse them for that. If I put my OCD tendencies in check I would (begrudgingly) thank them. Looking over the stuff that didn't make the final cut tells me that I really liked this system. Before getting into the stuff I liked, let me detour into something that was a bit of a head-scratcher for me.

The first thing I noticed after unboxing everything was the speakers and subwoofer don't share the same general appearance. The speakers come with high-gloss paint and rounded corners on the front panel while the subwoofer is squared off and finished in a slightly marbled vinyl wrap. The sub has a flush mounted cloth grill, the speakers use a metal grill with a modest arch that extends outward. The subwoofer has the name 'SpeedWoofer' embossed on the front panel, directly above the port, yet the speakers are completely devoid of any company identification or logo. Things became really interesting when I paired the speakers coated in high-gloss white paint with the SpeedWoofer 10S and its textured black finish. I assume most people who want white speakers will not be terribly thrilled with a black subwoofer.

I probably wouldn't have mentioned any of this were it not for the fact that RSL is one of the few companies who have customers buying entire systems from them. Often what you'll find is people purchase speakers from one company and their subwoofers from another - best of breed type thing - but that doesn't appear to be the buying pattern here as RSL tends to sell complete setups, not typical for this industry. I guess my point is if you're selling turnkey systems there's an argument to be made for keeping color choices and appearance similar. That would allow for consistency. Of course that could just be my OCD tendencies coming through, maybe others are not as concerned with things like that as I am.

No matter the finish, construction quality proved to be first rate. I scrutinized everything RSL sent me and was unable to find a single flaw to call them out on. Paint finish, vinyl application, grill alignment, screw tightness, nothing was amiss. Rarely am I unable to find something to nitpick about but I came up empty this time.

My first impression of the SpeedWoofer 10S was 'small'. While you don't expect a subwoofer with a single 10" driver to be large, you don't necessarily anticipate it will be this small either. And it's ported, even though it's about the size of a sealed sub. Well, ported might be slightly misleading because RSL doesn't use the typical 2"-3" round tube most others use. Instead, they offer their proprietary Compression Guide.

It's ported - in the sense there's an opening on the front panel that allows the backwave from the driver to contribute output - but it works differently than what you might be familiar with. In short, there's an internal panel that divides the cabinet and creates areas of high and low pressure. As the backwave passes through these different pressure zones audible resonance is said to diminish. By the time sound hits the end of the port and vents into your room RSL states the Compression Guide then works similar to a regular port but with much less distortion. Not being an engineer means I have to rely on my ears to be the final judge, and what I heard tells me their Compression Guide works. In the realm of subwoofers a 10" driver is considered pretty small, yet even when pushed the SpeedWoofer 10S remained composed and sounded good. I can't attribute that solely to the Compression Guide, but I can't say it wasn't due to that either.

The documentation that comes with the SpeedWoofer is brief but well done, written clearly and includes ample illustrations. While reading the various sections - yes, I actually spend the time to read every owner's manual - I noticed RSL has not lost their sense of humor. In my original CG4 eval from almost 7 years ago I wrote the following:

I review an awful lot of equipment and make it a point to read all the documentation. That can be a rather painful process to be quite honest because it seems far too many companies consider the manual an afterthought, and it shows. Not RSL though, because whoever wrote their documentation did a fantastic job. It's 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.

Whoever that person is - my money is on someone with a last name of Rodgers - they're still at it because that same humorous overtone exists in the SpeedWoofer 10S documentation. For example, under the Warranty section it says "Here are the terms (sorry, our lawyer made us do this)". That same section closes with "If you require service please contact us through our website or by phone (we promise to be nice about it even if you did something dumb)". In this world of thin-skinned, uptight people who dares to say things like that? Why RSL does, and I for one am glad people like that still exist. Bravo.

While examining the CG5 and CG25 I couldn't help but think of the word "solid", they practically ooze it. Knuckle rap test? Puleeze, these things are like painted concrete. While moving one of the CG25's during the photo session it almost slipped from my hands. It's slightly embarrassing to admit but my first thought wasn't "oh man, I hope it doesn't get damaged!" it was "move your foot!". I wasn't wearing shoes at the time and was worried about crushing my toes as this thing would have likely hit with the same impact as a cinderblock. Thankfully I didn't drop it, but had that occurred my tootsies would have undoubtedly fared worse than the speaker.



{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}

Normally I'm not a fan of metal grills, mostly because they tend to protrude awkwardly and ruin the aesthetics, but that wasn't the case this time. RSL tucks their grills tight to the cabinet, with just a slight forward arc when viewed in profile. The overall appearance was one of refinement, almost elegance. The edges wrap back around and form a flat surface that securely mounts them to the enclosure. Magnets embedded in the front panel of the speaker cabinet mate perfectly to their felt-covered counterparts on the grill. Get within an inch of the speaker and the grill practically jumps out of your hand to attach itself.



{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}

Something RSL owners may notice about the CG5 is they're upside down. By that I mean the tweeter is below the midrange, certainly not what you typically see. This is a trademark of sorts for this company, an arrangement used in all of their two-driver speakers. It's mostly due to the Compression Guide and the way its baffles are laid out inside the cabinet. Provided the speakers are mounted such that the tweeters are roughly at ear level there can be sonic benefits as well. Another unique feature of the CG5's is the high frequency adjustment dial on the back. It has settings for Low, Reference and High. This allows you to tailor the tweeters output to fit your particular situation and preferences. The dial is only on the CG5's, the CG25 doesn't have it. That seemed counterintuitive to me; wouldn't you want to be able to adjust the tweeter on a speaker with dual midrange drivers more so than the one with but a single midrange? Curious as to the reason why I asked Joe Rodgers about it. He replied...

When you hear the CG25s I think you'll find they really don't need a tweeter adjustment. As least, that is our opinion. As a speaker that is more forward by nature, the adjustable tweeter isn't as much of an added benefit. Being a more traditionally sounding speaker, we felt the increased adaptability best suits the CG5. The 5 is quite dimensional as is, but dialing up the tweeter will bring the sound a bit more forward, if that's your preference.

Low proved too muted for my tastes - I prefer a bit of sparkle in the top end - so I used both Reference and High during my listening sessions, switching back and forth at various times to gauge the difference. The variation between the settings isn't significant but it does make an audible difference. My notes show I spent more time using Reference than High, probably due to how revealing these speakers are. Over time I came to realize Joe was right, the CG25 didn't need to be adjustable.

RSL included their AT1 wireless kit for the SpeedWoofer 10S.



{picture courtesy of RSL Speakers}

I decided to wait until I was using my music configuration before cutting the cord ("music configuration" is explained later). The AT1 is about as simple to setup as anything could be. Basically you plug it into a power source, press and hold the button on the transmitter until it flashes rapidly and then do the same on the SpeedWoofers amp. In about 2 seconds the light on the transmitter turns solid and the pairing is done. The only peculiarity I found was with the documentation; it never says to hook up the transmitter to your AVR sub-out, it covers everything except that. Common sense will tell you the transmitter needs an input but the documentation neglects to say anything about it.

With the sub untethered I re-ran room EQ just in case wireless introduced a delay in the signal path. Distance came back just 2.1 foot different than hard wired so essentially it was a wash. At no time did I experience any drop out or odd behavior, even when I put my cell phone directly on top of the transmitter in an attempt to cause an issue. The cable RSL supplied to use between the transmitter and the AVR is only 21" long so the box will need to be pretty close to your electronics. The AT1 has a 35 foot range with line of sight not necessary. I wasn't able to effectively test that claim but if true most people won't need a longer cable anyway.


Listening

The CG5 Series Overview page on RSL's website proudly states "7,300+ Hours of Engineering & Perfection" went into these speakers. That's over 900 days, more than 180 weeks, or roughly 3 1/2 years of development man hours. Now that's commitment, but was such a large investment of time worth it? We're about to find out.



{picture courtesy of RSL Speakers}

By now most of you know how much emphasis I place on voices when evaluating speakers so naturally I paid particular attention to that during my time with these speakers. In so doing I came to realize it was deja vu all over again. When I reviewed that original RSL 5.1 system consisting of the SpeedWoofer 10, CG4 speakers and CG24 center it was one of the first - if not the first - articles published about the new offerings from a reincarnated RSL. Way back in 2012 I made the following observation...

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.

Well guess what? RSL is using 5.25" midrange drivers now and partially because of that voices come thisclose to sounding like people were in the room with you. Weight, depth, definition is all present and accounted for, but even better than that is how clear they are. Bookshelf speakers rarely sound this good. What I heard was so smooth and effortless that I was constantly getting distracted when I should have been writing. "Pick up the laptop knucklehead and start taking notes, you're supposed to be doing a review". Time after time I ended up getting sucked in and had to redo a portion of my evaluation because I would put my computer down and just listen. Howard Rodgers, if you're reading this I have but 2 words to say; nailed it! If anyone wants to summarize my opinion of these speakers it's nothing more than that. Nailed it, plain and simple. There is no listener fatigue, ever. Crank the volume, keep it low, leave it someplace in the middle, none of that matters. Your ears will never tell you it's time to turn off this system. That's partially the reason it took me so long to get this article on-line, I was enjoying myself way too much.

These speakers are something else; revealing. They do not lie about the source material or your signal chain. If your recording is lousy they will let you know, if it's good they will let you know that too. They're true to the material, even if it has some warts. I like that as I prefer my speakers not to embellish. Don't try and correct anything, leave it as you found it.


Movies

During my previous evaluation of an RSL system I wrote comments about 7 different movies - more than twice what I use now - but that was back in a time when my writing style wasn't fully defined (I had only published about a dozen articles then). Some might argue it's still not well defined but I'm not an author by trade, I'm a technology expert, so writing is still something that requires effort. I came about this vocation the same way I have done everything else in my life; I decided I wanted something and figured out how to make it happen. Trial and error, ya burn ya learn. Because of that I never go into a review with a clear path; whatever's in my head ends up going directly to the keyboard, filters need not apply. I tend to follow a certain structure - the format is always similar - but how I arrive at the finish line is different each time. By nature I grow bored easily, become restless, so I have to change things up in order to stay engaged. That means I needed to do something different this time around.

Instead of laboring through more than half a dozen movies I randomly chose 3 from the original 7. Because I cut the list in half I decided to focus twice as much attention on the ones I am using. I happen to be pretty picky to begin with so for me paying extra attention is bad news for any company because I'm likely to find their flaws. I have gotten to know Howard Rodgers over the years and know him to be a perfectionist - like yours truly - so I reasoned anything he sells might be able to stand up to the increased scrutiny. My hope is I'm not wrong but RSL doesn't get a free pass from me just because I know the man behind the engineering. Right now I'm listening to about $2,900 worth of speakers and subwoofers, not an entry level system by most measures. I have expectations at that price point and if they aren't met you're going to hear about it.


Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring



Bridge of Khazad Doom. Historically I have used this scene when testing subwoofers so why did I choose it for a 5.2 system? Sure, I wanted to give the SpeedWoofers a workout, but there is a lot of nuance in this portion of the soundtrack that has to be rendered correctly in order to get the full experience. When testing a new piece of equipment using a movie I'm quite familiar with I actually enjoy hearing something previously masked, a subtlety that unexpectedly becomes apparent. Two things invariably happen then; I grab the remote and rewind to hear it again, and I smile because I'm testing something amazing. I had to pick up the remote more than once.

The scene starts out with the Fellowship running through an abandoned Dwarf hall trying to escape the enemy. The horn section in the soundtrack was especially good here, leaping out of the speakers and into my room. As the Fellowship descends deeper into the underground Orcs appear from everywhere, climbing down the halls mighty columns to surround them. I could plainly hear the clicking and clacking sounds from their claws as they got ever closer to our heroes. Overlaying all of it was their snarling and yipping sounds, contrasting nicely.

As the Orcs begin to surround the Fellowship everything comes to a screeching halt when the roar of a Balrog is first heard. This is a giant creature that even the enemy wants nothing to do with so they turn and flee. At first the Balrog is off in the distance, so the effect is not all that pronounced, but then he starts getting closer and as he does his growl becomes louder and more intense. You would think this part is mostly for subwoofers - and they certainly had to do their share - but the speakers need to hold up their end of the bargain to get this right. Both played their part to perfection, blending seamlessly.

The Fellowship realizes this beast is beyond anything they can fight so they hightail it out of there, the Balrog in hot pursuit. They slip through a doorway at the far end of the hall only to encounter a staircase that is missing a huge section, cutting off their escape. As the Balrog draws near his footsteps become ever more prominent, stomping his way closer and closer. Despite how fierce they were nothing was the least bit sloppy or imprecise. Having a pair of SpeedWoofers helped greatly here. Then comes something cool (for a reviewer); a sound completely opposite of the thunderous beat from the demon creature. On the far side of the cavern are more Orcs who launch a barrage of arrows at the Fellowship. Compared to the Balrog they have an almost delicate sound, whistling across the expanse and hitting the rock staircase with a distinctive 'tink' sound. Why does this bear mentioning? At this point in the movie there is a lot of low frequency effects - including the ominous background music - yet those subtle undertones, the type that absolutely make a scene, were not lost amongst the bedlam. I like that.


Collateral



Another subwoofer test? Sort of. When I've featured this movie in the past I often use two scenes, the shootout in the alley and the shootout in Club Fever. The alley scene doesn't present any particular challenge for speakers but the Club Fever scene does. With music blasting away voices frequently get drown out, and that's unfortunate because being able to hear what's said adds to the overall effect. Voices again? Sounds like I'm beginning to repeat myself, doesn't it?

Tom Cruise plays Vincent, an assassin with a list of people to be cleaned in one night. Jamie Foxx is Max, a hapless cab driver who happens to be get Vincent as a fare. One of the marks lives in a high rise so Vincent instructs Max to park in the alley behind his apartment. Vincent uses tie wraps to secure Max's hands to the steering wheel so he can't flee while he goes and takes care of business. As soon as Vincent is out of sight Max starts hitting the horn and stomping the brake pedal to flash the tail lights, hoping to attract the attention of someone passing by. He succeeds, but it turns out to be a bunch of tweakers who rob him. As they're walking away Vincent exits the building and confronts them, killing the pair. He squeezes off 6 rounds, 3 into each of the baddies. The shots rang out with authority, presenting a nice kick. The echo from sound bouncing off the surrounding buildings was excellent, lending a sense of realism.

One of the final victims on Vincent's hit parade is a man named Peter Lim who is chilling at Club Fever. Electronic music is blaring as Vincent and Max start walking through the club looking for Lim. EDM has a deep, pounding beat that the SpeedWoofers did well with. I would have liked a smidge more punch to make it seem real but what the SpeedWoofers gave me was very detailed, just not quite what you expect from synth music. During this part of the movie the speakers were overachievers, excelling on something almost none get right. No doubt there are those thinking "bet it has something to do with voices", to which I say "that would be a good bet to take".

As the duo navigate the tightly-packed crowd Vincent suddenly spots Lim in a booth at the back of the club. Setting up his ambush Vincent whispers to Max "walk 15 feet ahead, 3 feet to the left. Wander, innocent bystanders get the first rounds. Clear?". Why yes, it was. I can't tell you how many times I've heard Cruise utter those lines but it was almost always unintelligible because the speakers weren't able to sufficiently separate voices from the music. This time there was no confusion, nothing was obscured. I heard exactly what he said, and I didn't have to strain or resort to lip reading either. Nice. This was the calm before the storm however as pandemonium ensues when Vincent unleashes his fury.

Lim is not there by himself, he has bodyguards. Also on the scene are FBI agents who are supposed to be protecting him (he is about to testify at the trial of a notorious drug dealer, the very person who hired Vincent to whack him). Everyone is shooting, bullets flying all around, people screaming, glass breaking, furniture being overturned, total chaos. For the soundtrack that is, for the listener RSL somehow slowed it all down so you could hear every detail. It's quite a dichotomy when you think about it; a veritable riot on screen yet here was a set of speakers and subwoofers that effortlessly smoothed it all over. I like that. Wait, didn't I say that already?


Avatar



Assault on Home Tree. Hey, isn't this a third subwoofer test scene? Yup, and like the previous two there is a lot more going on here than just deep bass.

10 years ago James Cameron dropped a bomb on movie audiences with the release of Avatar. Visually stunning, with a soundtrack equally impressive, Avatar was something to behold. Not that anyone should have been surprised because Mr. Cameron was the driving force behind blockbuster franchises such as Aliens and the Terminator series. Oh yea, did I mention he was also involved in a little movie called Titanic? Can you say "box office gold"?

Avatar is about the Na'vi, an alien race who live on a distant planet. Humans found they have an abundance of a precious mineral so they intend on driving them off so it can be mined. Trouble is, the Na'vi aren't inclined to leave. To encourage them to depart the humans launch an assault. As the gunships approach the SpeedWoofer 10S's produced a low rumble, punctuated by the deep pulsating from their rotor blades. The audio engineers kept bringing those effects in and out of the scene so I had a chance to gauge the difference; pummeled one moment and not the next. Was it handled correctly? Check. Rotor wash made debris swirl everywhere and caused the leaves on trees to quiver wildly. Those sounds were light, almost wispy, and could easily be heard over the low frequency effects. The humans open their assault using incendiary rounds, each producing a satisfying 'pop' when it exploded. The Na'vi were undeterred however so the humans upped the ante and began firing missiles. Overrun, the locals fled. Once they left the insurgents turned their attention to bringing down Home Tree.

Missiles shot at the base of the tree were potent and had a nice percussive effect. The relentless barrage presented quite a challenge for the SpeedWoofers but they rose to the occasion and never faltered. The amount of ordnance deployed was too great for Home Tree to withstand and it eventually succumbed, listing to one side. As its massive roots buckled both the speakers and subwoofers had to step up their game, something they did with equal aplomb. The blend between them was the most enjoyable part for me. This scene is all about destruction, and in that respect you think the subwoofer would be doing most of the heavy lifting. For sure the SpeedWoofers had their work cut out, but there are many other facets that don't involve your sub. Na'vi screaming as they ran to escape, the sound of branches cracking, calls between tribesmen looking to establish location, even the sound of leaves as they fluttered gently to the ground. Some of that may seem inconsequential, but for me none of it is. Subtleties make scenes like this enjoyable.

It just so happened to be a beautiful day while I was writing this part of my article, rare in New Jersey this year. Because it was sunny and warm I had the doors and windows open. My neighbor was mowing his lawn so I turned up the volume high enough to drown him out. Although I cranked it more than I probably should have this RSL system didn't flinch. It not only made the lawn mower invisible, it didn't seem the least bit strained while doing it. Composed, no matter the challenge. I like tha... um, never mind.


Music

For music I did the exact opposite of what I had done with movies, I didn't include a single song from my previous RSL review. Surprised by the sleight of hand? Didn't think so, I assumed you would expect me to do the unexpected. Here's something you might not have anticipated though. I wouldn't change a single thing about how RSL voiced these speakers. Absolutely nothing. They did a wonderful job with TV and movies, but music is where they excelled. Twist the volume knob and they come to life. These speakers didn't grate on my ears, they didn't produce a single offensive sound or become tiresome even after hours of listening. I like that. Sorry, I said it again. Maybe that should be the theme for this review?

At the behest of RSL I did the music portion of my evaluation with a different configuration then I had used for the rest of my testing. They requested I setup a 2.1 system consisting of a single SpeedWoofer 10S and a pair CG25's. Since they graciously supplied me a second CG25 I complied (for the most part, keep reading). One of the CG25's they gave me was painted black while the other was finished in white. That made for a somewhat bizarre visual effect but the vastly different appearance didn't detract from what my ears heard. I'll let you in on a little secret... so complete and satisfying was the sound I got from a pair of CG25's that I ultimately hooked up both SpeedWoofers and used a 2.2 system for some of the music sessions. Don't tell RSL I did that. These speakers are so good that I felt they needed more than a single SpeedWoofer 10S. I should restate that; they wanted another 10S, they didn't actually need it. One would have been enough for most people, but when it comes to music I'm not most people.

As you read further into this section you may notice there are 4 songs listed. My longtime readers know that can only mean one thing. I am a music junkie and my reviews do not feature more than 3 songs unless I've come across something exceptional. RSL has created that with their new 5 Series. My reference system consists of speakers costing twice what the CG25's do, but I can't truthfully say mine are 2x as good. That's a little painful to admit, but so be it. I'm well acquainted with the RSL ethos and what their design goals are. With our history I anticipated the new 5 Series was going to be good, but even I underestimated what these speakers were capable of. Shame on me. In the past 9 years I have been fortunate and evaluated some incredible products, some of which I regretted sending back as I taped the boxes closed. This RSL system will be remembered among that select group.


Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, Beatles



What happens when you mix an orchestra with the most famous rock group of all time? You get Sargent Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band, a somewhat bizarre musical composition with several changes of pace. That's especially true if you include the follow-on song that's often played in conjunction, A Day in the Life.

The first few seconds sound like you're in a music hall with the orchestra warming up over the din of the audience. Then comes the opening notes as the Beatles start to play. "It was 20 years ago today, Sargent Pepper taught the band to play". You probably hear it in your head now. I'm listening to it on the RSL speakers and I'll bet that version is better than the one in your head. Perhaps my favorite part of this song is the sound of Paul McCartney's Hofner bass. For whatever reason I have always loved the tone of that thing, and the SpeedWoofers did it justice. Sounding both rich and clean they anchored the song wonderfully, but there is more going on here and it's the speakers that have to work overtime.

There's a lot of guitar work to contend with but the CG25's sailed through the challenge. Cymbals had an unmistakable sizzle to them, evident but not overdone. You could hear individual instruments, whether they were part of the orchestra or the band, yet they still came across as one. Vocals were spot on, jumping out at me without being distracting. You probably knew I was going to say something about voices.


Dancing in the Moonlight, Thin Lizzy



From one of Thin Lizzy's most successful albums - Bad Reputation - Dancing in the Moonlight was a bit of a departure for this band from Dublin, Ireland. Known primarily for their guitar work Dancing was a change of pace for them. Not only does it have a funky beat it also includes people snapping their fingers, not something you regularly hear in rock-n-roll songs. I like different.

Dancing in the Moonlight starts with Phil Lynott grooving on his Fender Jazz bass, having a duet with the aforementioned snapping fingers. I always liked how the sound engineers recorded Phil's bass, and the SpeedWoofers seemed to enjoy it as well (yes, a bass guitar reference in consecutive songs). Lynott wrote or co-wrote almost every song this band recorded. He was also their singer, but sadly his voice was silenced in 1986 by a severe drug addiction he was unable to overcome. His vocals were one of the reasons I went with this song (surprise!), but there's also a chorus that includes the rest of the band along with a horn section.

Phil's voice was rather distinct and the CG25's reproduced it superbly. It commanded your attention but didn't dominate the song. When the chorus kicks in so too do the horns, yet even with all that added to the soundtrack it never sounded busy. No matter how many voices and instruments were playing simultaneously it all meshed. Like an ice cold beer on a hot summer day, this one went down easy. Think I'll listen to it again.


Eminence Front, The Who



In my opinion The Who is the most underrated band from the 'formative years' of rock. Musicians will cite the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Cream, et al when discussing their influences - all certainly worthy of the honor - but rarely will you hear The Who in that conversation. I consider that a travesty as they had far more impact then I think they get credit for. Just look at the discography; My Generation, Tommy, Who's Next, Quadrophenia, The Who by Numbers, Who Are You. Seriously? Every one of them a multi-platinum album with songs each of us knows by heart. And what about the band members themselves? Pete Townshend, John "the ox" Entwistle, Keith Moon and Roger Daltrey. I was never a big fan of Daltrey's voice, but I am a big fan of the other 3. The Who followed their own rules too, something I'm definitely a fan of. Before I go off on a tangent though let me tell you about this song and what RSL did with it.

Eminence Front opens with a slick bit of keyboards, and as the intro proceeded a smile crept onto my face. From how that little piece sounded I knew this was going to be good. About 30 seconds in the rest of the instruments come alive. There's a metronomic feel to the rhythm, you invariably start bobbing your head back and forth in perfect time. That keyboard keeps playing throughout and was never subjugated to a lesser role by the vocals, guitars or drums. As a matter of fact, the exact opposite occurred; every instrument maintained its own identity, revealing all of their nuances. It was quite a remarkable performance considering this is a 35 year old song. I'll say it again, The Who were never afforded their rightful place in the rock pantheon.


Live and Let Die, Paul McCartney and Wings



How about a pair from Sir Paul? It's not merely a coincidence I chose two of his songs that have orchestras. That many instruments tends to create an energetic soundtrack with a lot of complexity, exactly what I'm looking for. This song doesn't start out very busy however, it's mostly Paul and his piano. Whereas Eminence Front comes to life at the 30 second mark, Lie and Let Die makes you wait about 45 seconds before things get robust. It doesn't stay up-tempo throughout, it goes back and forth between high energy and more subdued parts. That gave me an opportunity to evaluate several different criteria in a tune that's not much longer than 3 minutes.

Once things did get going I found the orchestral portions were dynamic and spirited without overpowering the rest, layered, allowing individual instruments to have their space. Everything seemed to lunge out of the speakers and right into my room. I couldn't help but think this was way more presence than a relatively small 2.2 system should be able to provide. Volume brought even more life to this song, especially for the SpeedWoofers. There's probably more low content here than most realize, and as the volume increased the subwoofers easily kept up with the CG25's. An interesting consequence of the elevated volume was some of the more subtle details became much more apparent. That's not a bad thing because it wasn't in a "that sounds peculiar" way but more like "did you hear that?" revelation. It made a really familiar song sound almost new, reveling faint details I didn't know existed.


Conclusion

Six and a half years ago I reviewed the RSL CG4/CG24 with the original SpeedWoofer 10 and came away stunned by what this company was offering and the price they were able to sell it for. I concluded that article by saying "this is a home theater package for the discerning individual". Since then RSL has gone on to become renown for high quality at an affordable price so there was obviously a lot of pressure on them to continue that tradition with their new 5 Series. Apparently these folks thrive on a challenge because they hit a home run. RSL has become a go-to company for those who have discriminating ears but may lack enough disposable income to buy something from one of the more well-known brands. It's often stated that you can't have your cake and eat it too, but with RSL perhaps the axiom is no longer true.




{picture courtesy of Pam Taylor photography}





{pictures courtesy of RSL Speakers}


These measurements were taken using an Omnimic. The speakers and subwoofer were positioned in the center of my listening room with the microphone 1 foot from the front panel, positioned equidistant from the driver and port in order to sum their output.

RSL CG5






RSL CG25






RSL SpeedWoofer 10S



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post #2 of 63 Old 06-25-2019, 08:43 AM
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Nice review.

At $800/pair, the CG5s are on the upper end of the price range for 5.25" 2 ways as is the $500 dual 5.25" center.

I'm glad to hear they deliver the goods as do the dual subs albeit without punch below the stated 24hz frequency response.

Their pricing, however, seems to be a solid bargain at $400 each.

I'm going to "guess" they have a Speedwoofer 12 in the works.

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Note that the ungainly placement of the youtube player is not part of the text I posted, the forum software automatically did that. I can't find a way to undo it though, but if I am able to figure it out I will correct the formatting.

 
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post #4 of 63 Old 06-25-2019, 09:47 AM
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Your review has me wanting to buy these speakers even more than I had been. I like that top-end detail-revealing sparkle that you kept pointing out.
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Originally Posted by javanpohl View Post
Your review has me wanting to buy these speakers even more than I had been. I like that top-end detail-revealing sparkle that you kept pointing out.
These are still soft dome tweeters, so we're not talking electrostatic or AMT level of detail, but they do have a certain air to them. With the adjustment dial on the CG5 you can also season to taste, so that helps as well.

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post
These are still soft dome tweeters, so we're not talking electrostatic or AMT level of detail, but they do have a certain air to them. With the adjustment dial on the CG5 you can also season to taste, so that helps as well.
My reference has always been what I got with my old Atlantic Tech 350s. Silk domes are my jam.
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My reference has always been what I got with my old Atlantic Tech 350s. Silk domes are my jam.
Given that, you would likely be very impressed with these speakers.

 
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That instruction manual...

The lawyer joke is an old one.



The "Even if you did something dumb"... just. Isn't. Very. Funny.


It's a good thing the speakers aren't that lame !
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The lawyer joke is an old one.

The "Even if you did something dumb"... just. Isn't. Very. Funny.

It's a good thing the speakers aren't that lame !
Old doesn't necessarily equate to not being funny. Leslie Nielsen flicks are always good for a laugh, same for things like Benny Hill, Monty Python, early SNL, etc. The point I was making is RSL has a sense of humor, something in short supply in this age of image conscience scared-of-their-own-shadow companies. It's a refreshing change of pace.
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Quote:
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Old doesn't necessarily equate to not being funny. Leslie Nielsen flicks are always good for a laugh, same for things like Benny Hill, Monty Python, early SNL, etc. The point I was making is RSL has a sense of humor, something in short supply in this age of image conscience scared-of-their-own-shadow companies. It's a refreshing change of pace.

Maybe, but I read the exact same thing, and a few variations, on more than one occasion and on more than one publication.



Old does not really equate "original". Or professional.


To each his own, I guess.


But I'm intrigued by the subs !
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Superb review.

Please excuse me while I wax nostalgic . . . .
In the mid-to-late 1970's, the San Fernando Valley was a mecca for sound. There was Sound City, the legendary recording studio where many an iconic album was produced - and there were speaker manufacturers galore including: JBL, Altec Lansing, Rogers Sound Labs, Tri-Stat Sound Systems, etc. Many of these outfits are either unrecognizable (literally) - in terms of current product offerings, or have become "dust in the wind".

It's really nice to see that RSL is still around, still a quality listen, and maybe more importantly . . . still relevant.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jocedeg View Post
Maybe, but I read the exact same thing, and a few variations, on more than one occasion and on more than one publication.

Old does not really equate "original". Or professional.

To each his own, I guess.

But I'm intrigued by the subs !
So if something was said more than once in a lifetime it's no longer professional or funny? Right...
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Superb review.

Please excuse me while I wax nostalgic . . . .
In the mid-to-late 1970's, the San Fernando Valley was a mecca for sound. There was Sound City, the legendary recording studio where many an iconic album was produced - and there were speaker manufacturers galore including: JBL, Altec Lansing, Rogers Sound Labs, Tri-Stat Sound Systems, etc. Many of these outfits are either unrecognizable (literally) - in terms of current product offerings, or have become "dust in the wind".

It's really nice to see that RSL is still around, still a quality listen, and maybe more importantly . . . still relevant.
It sounds as though you were part of the scene. Perhaps Howard will stop by and reply. The two of you may have walked the same ground.
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It sounds as though you were part of the scene. Perhaps Howard will stop by and reply. The two of you may have walked the same ground.
When I said the San Fernando Valley, it would have been more accurate to just say "North Hollywood" (NoHo). In actuality all roads led to the NoHo epicenter of sound - which influenced all of L.A./Southern California. Although I worked for a competing speaker manufacturer, I visited Howard's original NoHo storefront on many occasions. Always interesting!
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You said you had a pair from Sir Paul, you listed Live And Let Die, What was the other track? Did I miss It?
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You said you had a pair from Sir Paul, you listed Live And Let Die, What was the other track? Did I miss It?
The first song, Sargent Peppers. Paul was a member of that little band called the Beatles.
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A few questions : For a 12' x 20' standard 8' height sealed room, used for both HT and music equally.


1) Is it OK or advisable to replace existing tower speakers with these "Bookshelf" type of speakers? Or would you always feel like you are missing something not having a tower ?


2) Would there be an advantage of going with 3 of the CG25 (L/C/R) ?
or is there some advantage of going with 2 of the CG5 and only using the CG25 for the center ?


3) ( about $2000 USD for 3 front speakers) any other speakers that would be a substantial improvement over my existing PSB front towers and center ?

Denon AVR X4400H , PSB Image 6T towers, 9C Centre , 2B Surrounds
Panasonic PT-AU3000U Projector , 100" screen , Oppo UPD-203
Funk Audio 18.1 Subwoofer

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Originally Posted by JudasKiss View Post
In a similar price range (up to $1500 USD for 3 front speakers) any other speakers that would be a substantial improvement over my existing PSB front towers and center ?
Revel Concerta 2 front three would run $1650 if you can "reach" that far.

Geoff A. J., California
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Quote:
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The first song, Sargent Peppers. Paul was a member of that little band called the Beatles.
Hi Jim. Thanks for the thorough review. What are your reference speakers?
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Thanks for the review. I'm very happy with mySpeedWoofer 10S, it sounds great. In my 200 sq. ft. room with an 8' ceiling I have to lower the gain on it all the way down. Partly because Audyssey tells me to, partly because I'm in a townhouse with shared walls. It's very impressive for its size (and prize).
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Equipment and collection:
Spoiler!
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Hi Jim. Thanks for the thorough review. What are your reference speakers?
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Originally Posted by willieconway View Post
Thanks for the review. I'm very happy with mySpeedWoofer 10S, it sounds great. In my 200 sq. ft. room with an 8' ceiling I have to lower the gain on it all the way down. Partly because Audyssey tells me to, partly because I'm in a townhouse with shared walls. It's very impressive for its size (and prize).
When people see how small the cabinet and driver are they tend to think "how cute", but then you queue up a killer bass movie and the expression changes to something more along the lines of "wow, I didn't see that coming". You can't break the laws of physics, but RSL seems to have at least bent them somewhat.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JudasKiss View Post
A few questions : For a 12' x 20' standard 8' height sealed room, used for both HT and music equally.

1) Is it OK or advisable to replace existing tower speakers with these "Bookshelf" type of speakers? Or would you always feel like you are missing something not having a tower ?
Is it OK? Certainly. Is it advisable? Maybe.

Towers have a presence few bookshelf speakers can match so if you like big sound then 'downgrading' to bookshelf might not be the best route. However, your room is 1920 ft^3 so it's not terribly large. Maybe you aren't getting the full benefit of towers anyway. My room is 1768 ft^3, only 152 ft^3 smaller than yours, and I can tell you the CG25's had no problem whatsoever handling my space. They didn't sound small to me either.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JudasKiss View Post
2) Would there be an advantage of going with 3 of the CG25 (L/C/R) or is there some advantage of going with 2 of the CG5 and only using the CG25 for the center ?
If you're switching from towers than you should definitely consider CG25's across the front.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JudasKiss View Post
3) ( about $2000 USD for 3 front speakers) any other speakers that would be a substantial improvement over my existing PSB front towers and center ?
Since this is an RSL we need to keep it on topic, but just for my own curiosity... what PSB's do you have? I'm familiar with some of those too.

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post

Since this is an RSL we need to keep it on topic, but just for my own curiosity... what PSB's do you have? I'm familiar with some of those too.
I currently have: PSB Image 6T towers, 9C Centre , 2B Surrounds
(These were bought new around 2004)


They are the only parts of my original HT system that I still use.

Denon AVR X4400H , PSB Image 6T towers, 9C Centre , 2B Surrounds
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Funk Audio 18.1 Subwoofer
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Nice review (as always) Jim.
I remember Sunday LA Times Calendar Section always had RSL ads on the back, and we had a store in Huntington Beach that I'd go in as often as I could. Great company then & now. Love my Speedwoofer 10S!

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Thanks for the review Jim

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I currently have: PSB Image 6T towers, 9C Centre , 2B Surrounds
(These were bought new around 2004)
At 15 years old your speakers will not be what they once were, but those 6T's look to be pretty large towers so I doubt you'll get the same presence from the CG25's as you get from the PSB's. If you're looking to downsize or want something new then that's a different story, and in that case the CG25's are definitely worth a look.

 
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Quote:
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When people see how small the cabinet and driver are they tend to think "how cute", but then you queue up a killer bass movie and the expression changes to something more along the lines of "wow, I didn't see that coming". You can't break the laws of physics, but RSL seems to have at least bent them somewhat.
Surprising things sometimes show up in small packages. The RSL Speedwoofer 10 is no exception!
For reference, I have a fully functioning original ( c.1999 ) Bob Carver Sunfire Signature Sub - that I paid nearly $2K back then for the privilege. The Sunfire cabinet is basically a 13" cube with mind twisting, logic defying performance. Over the years, I've had similar reactions from those who have seen the unit. Perhaps the term "bewilderment" sums up most reactions.

The general consensus/belief among many is that you need something the size of a small refrigerator in order to get "real" bass and sonic oomph. In reality, it's all about air movement. You should not "hear" the sub so much as "feel" it. The Speedwoofer 10S moves a lot of air, so one will enjoy "shock wave" performance - similar to the Sunfire - but at approx. 1/4 the price. Also mind boggling.

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Originally Posted by JimWilson View Post
At 15 years old your speakers will not be what they once were...
IDK, I compared some B&Ws CM1 Concept 90 I bought in the 90s a few years back compared to the Martin Logan LX16s and Q Acoustics Concept 20s and all produced excellent sound with the older speakers only being clearly "different" in that as a sealed speaker of small size they were less efficient.

Nothing "missing" in the frequency spectrum of the older speakers down to their 60hz +/- extension limit.

I use some 30 year old B&W DM100is as my rears and have never felt anything "missing" there either.

Mind you none of them were in storage for a decade or more or exposed to temperature extremes.

Geoff A. J., California
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post #30 of 63 Old 06-27-2019, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by JudasKiss View Post
I currently have: PSB Image 6T towers, 9C Centre , 2B Surrounds
(These were bought new around 2004)
You have some nice speakers that will not be easy to beat

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