With roots stretching back to the earliest days of hi-fi, Klipsch has not only survived through numerous industry evolutions, but thrived. This is a testament not only to the company's business savvy, but also its products and, in particular, its easy-to-use horn technology. While not necessarily for every single user or listening taste, Klipsch's horn concept allows for crisp, dynamic performance even with average power sources in budget systems. Regardless of anyone's ultimate opinion of the Klipsch sound, the company deserves a lot of credit for developing, marketing, and constantly improving this technology. Part of its diverse Reference Series of slightly upmarket loudspeakers, the Klipsch RB-61 Bookshelf Loudspeaker sits second from the top in its four-model bookshelf class (RB-81, RB-61, RB-51, RB-10).
The $499.00 per pair RB-61 utilizes many different Klipsch technologies within its hefty, 22-pound cabinet. The RB-61 employs a 1-inch Titanium tweeter mated to a 90x60 degree square Tractrix Horn, the latest generation of its famous horn loudspeaker technology. In a nutshell, Klipsch believes that the less power required to drive a loudspeaker, the better, in that it minimizes amplifier effort and, therefore, distortion. Analogous to cupping your hands over your mouth to amplify your voice, Klipsch attaches a horn to the front of a driver to mechanically amplify its output. While this type of design has certainly fueled more than one argument over the years, it offers a few unequivocal advantages. Klipsch speakers play loud and clear with very little power, and offer sensational dynamic peaks and crispness. According to the company, Tractrix employs improved horn throat geometry for a more refined sound. The tweeter crosses over at 2kHz to a 6.5-inch copper-colored woofer composed of Klipsch's Cerametallic material (anodized aluminum with a ceramic-like coating) which exhibits a very high stiffness-to-mass ratio and superb damping characteristics, according to the company. The RB-61 employs a front-firing port below the woofer, elegantly integrated into the baffle, and two sets of 5-way binding posts for easy bi-wiring/bi-amping. The RB-61 provides no on-board mounting capability. Available in both cherry and black woodgrain vinyl finishes, the RB-61 provides a magnetically-attached grill which makes removal easy for those who like the slightly aggressive look of the copper woofer, driver arrangement, plastic baffle and set screws. Overall, the RB-61 provides a good level of fit and finish.
The RB-61 presents a nominal 8 ohm load and a very high 95dB efficiency. This enabled the speakers to play very loudly with even average receivers and amplifiers. The sound did improve with better power sources, but not by much, surprisingly.
Set up on stands in a stereo arrangement, the RB-61s threw a wide soundstage with moderate depth, and very good imaging. The sound had an overall forward quality, with crisp highs that only occasionally veered into etchy. The crispy feel of the top end also pushed into the midrange, lending a very detailed yet smooth quality to vocals and piano. The speaker did very well here, and made for a very incisive, listenable presentation even after repeated listening. Drifting down in frequency, things got a bit uncontrolled, but not to the point of absolute distraction. It should be noted that small speakers almost always have problems in the lower frequencies, for obvious reasons. Smaller drivers and smaller boxes make it difficult to move more air.
Read more about the sound of the RB-61 on Page 2.
However, the best small speakers manage to present appealing lower registers, without major side effects and coherent with the rest of the sonic landscape. The RB-61's overall forward sound pushed a bit too far into the lower mids and bass, creating an aggressive overall sonic profile that exposed itself more on delicate, acoustic material than on rock and electronic music. The bass rocked and grabbed your attention, but the speaker just couldn't reign itself in enough to get completely out of the way. With this in tow, classical and jazz sounded good through the RB-61, but not as transparent as more neutral speakers. On the other hand, the RB-61 excelled at electronic material and pulled you in as a listener more than most of its competition. It all depends on your tastes. If you want overall neutrality and transparency but are also willing to pay the tab for the right amplifier, the RB-61 may not be for you. However, if you want a more forward, livelier sound across all material with enough versatility to fit into most any system in your house, the RB-61 should be on your short list.
Competition and Comparison
You can compare Klipsch's RB-61 loudspeaker against its competition by reading our reviews for the Boston Acoustics CS 26 loudspeaker and the Polk RTi A1 loudspeaker. There is more information on many different products in our Bookshelf Speaker section.
• The RB-61 provides lively, punchy sound that suits rock and electronic music very well.
• The RB-61 doesn't require high power to perform optimally.
• The RB-61 looks good, and offers bi-wiring/bi-amping capability.
• The RB-61's overall forward tonal balance and aggressive presentation creates a lack of overall transparency and neutrality with acoustic, jazz, and classical material.
• The RB-61 is not small or light, which highlights its lack of on-board mounting capability.
• The RB-61 may not appeal cosmetically to those wanting to listen without the grills.
The Klipsch RB-61 provides a lot of bang for the buck, but sometimes too much. It's very easy to drive, utilizes premium parts, and provides a very lively, detailed, crisp sound with a lot of punch. However, that bang comes with a price, in the form of lower overall transparency and neutrality over acoustic music. Both cosmetically and sonically, the RB-61 gets your attention. Whether that's a good thing or not over the long haul depends on the user. For me, I enjoyed my time in front of these speakers.