It is interesting to watch the trends that come and go and come again in the vast world of home entertainment. Years ago, the industry transitioned from large monitor or "tower" speakers to relatively compact "satellite" speakers.
While Bose enjoyed much of the success through creative marketing, many audiophiles were disgusted with their performance. The push became evident--smaller speakers are "sexy" and thus yield a high W.A.F. (Wife Acceptance Factor). What wasn't anticipated by an industry traditionally dominated by males was that through the phenomenon known as "surround sound" came family enjoyment and inevitably joint buying decisions. And what was once a planet called "Stereo" ruled by men and thought uninhabitable by women is now shared.
While many companies continued to trade sound quality for size, others put a limit on the trading. Some even began to actually "engineer" speakers for better sound. Alas, the dirty little secret of the C/E industry is out. Companies who manufacture only speakers are focused on sound quality first; companies who have a wide range of offerings are focused on market share. Only the smart conglomerates separate their divisions to remain focused.
RBH Sound is a company who has always appeared to be focused on sound quality. I won't bore you with my previous review experiences, but I will tell you that the past did not keep me from being a bit worried when the CT-7.1 Compact Theater ensemble arrived. . .
"Are you sure this is everything?" I asked my FedEx driver. There were no colorful boxes complete with dimensions and specifications--they were simply boxes. The speakers were not packaged with pages of marketing propaganda regarding the unique materials from which the speakers were crafted--but one simple page, this is what you've purchased, this is how you set it up, and this is your warranty.
Unique Features - The RBH Sound Compact Theater is offered in two basic configurations: the CT-5.1 and the CT-7.1. Simply stated the CT-5.1 offers 5 sats and the sub for 5.1 use and the CT-7.1 offers 7 sats and the sub for 7.1 use. The MM-4 sats operate as the front L/R, rear L/R and side L/R while a dedicated center channel, the C-4, handles the dialogue and the MS-8.1 subwoofer anchors the system.
Each of the components of this moderately priced ensemble has been carefully considered for its application. The MM-4 satellite speakers are constructed of diecast metal that makes them both rigid and extremely dense. Coupled with a simple and stylish shape, this effectively eliminates internal standing waves and other inherent anomalies associated with poor cabinet construction. (Remember internal and external resonance destroys sound quality.) Each MM-4 enclosure weighs 4 pounds, measures just over 7-inches tall and 5-inches wide and contains a single 4-inch aluminum cone woofer matched with a single 1-inch silk dome tweeter. Comparatively, there are currently no offerings from other manufacturers at this price point using aluminum drivers throughout the ensemble--aluminum drivers are typically reserved for much higher-end systems. Each MM-4 will handle 100 watts of power and is rated at 8 ohms. There are two threaded inserts on each MM-4, one on the back and one on the bottom. Perfect for wall mounts of floor stands.
TheRBH Sound C-4 center channel is a slightly larger die-cast enclosure that
measures 5-inches tall by 11 3/4-inches wide and weighs 8 pounds and
houses a pair or 4-inch aluminum cone woofs flanking a single 1-inch
silk tweeter. The C-4 center will handle 120 watts of power and is rated
at 4 ohms. There are two threaded inserts on the back of the C-4 for
wall mounting. All of the satellites feature painted aluminum grilles
and excellent high-quality gold-plated binding posts. (More on the posts
The MS-8.1 subwoofer features dual active 8-inch woofers one
frontward firing and one downward firing along with a sideward firing
port. The MS-8.1 measures 13-inches high by 11 1/4-inches wide and
13-inches deep, and weighs a hefty 35 pounds. Though relatively compact
in size, the 200-watt internal amplifier matched with the aforementioned
design allows the MS-8.1 to deliver solid frequencies. The back panel
of the sub features a gain (volume) control, 50-160 variable crossover
selector, phase control and high/low level inputs.
Installation/Setup - The RBH Sound CT-7.1 can be a quick and
intuitive install with proper wall mounting brackets. I found the
Vantage Point Sound Gear Satellite Series speaker mounts to be the
perfect application, although they also offer floor stands. Wall mounts
allow these compact speakers to be placed wide on the wall to create a
better soundstage and directed in for an on-axis response. When adding
an extra pair of surrounds in a 7.1 ensemble, placement is almost always
an issue. The brackets and the threaded inserts on the back and bottom
of the MM-4 made for simple wall and ceiling mounted positioning.
A sub with small drivers like the MS-8.1 is better served near a
corner in the front or rear of the room. "Loading" the subwoofer into
the corner reinforces lower frequencies and the results are remarkable
with a little trial and error placement.
Final Take - I connected the RBH Sound CT-7.1 ensemble up to an Onkyo
TX-DS898 receiver. The Onkyo boasts 110 watts to all seven channels
driven at 8 ohms and in my opinion this is overkill for the CT-7.1. (I
use the term "overkill" positively here.) The MM-4 speakers are highly
efficient. A quick listen to some cuts from Sheryl Crow validated the
strength of the ensemble through seemingly effortless taps of the bass
drum and quick picks of guitar strings. Her voice flowed fluidly through
the room with a close relation between the highs and mids. My first
impression of the speakers was positive, but I also thought the vocals
sounded a bit dry. I paced the CT-7.1 through 24 hours of pink noise to
allow them proper burn in. (Some ensembles require this.) I strongly
recommend a proper run in with the CT-7.1, so does RBH.
I was lucky enough to be reviewing the Black HawkDown DVD, an Academy
Award-Winning film for Best Sound, and this proved to be an excellent
workout for the CT-7.1. It took several attempts to dial the small
subwoofer in after breaking up on longer low-frequency extensions. I had
all but lost hope with the subwoofer's capability when I finally found
the perfect combination between corner relation, crossover point, and
gain control. However, once the sub was dialed in, it was an enormous
Black Hawk blades seemed to tear through the room and bullets
impacted the walls with precision. The echoes and radio chatter were
reminiscent of my days in the United States Army. Watching Black Hawk
Down with the RBH Compact Theater was so real it nearly gave me
post-traumatic stress disorder.
I won't bore you with the details of the other titles I auditioned over the CT-7.1 ensemble, but I will deliver this final note.
The RBH CT-7.1 Compact Theater ensemble is an impressive and
aggressive bunch. With the ability to deliver remarkably revealing
tracks, tight, solid bass and the exact impact of a bullet. No shortcuts
were taken in the engineering of this product from the solid enclosures
to the aluminum woofers to the perfect binding post connections. If
you're looking for something to top your Christmas Wish List early this
year the RBH CT-7.1 Compact Theater is it.
Suggested Retail Price
Vantage Point Sound Gear Satellite Series wall
mounts $44.99 per pair or $18.99 single
Vantage Point Sound Stage speaker 34-inch high
stands $129.98 per pair.