Once dubbed the R55Ti from EMP Tek (an Internet direct offshoot of RBH), the R-55E reviewed here takes what was great about its predecessor and elevates things a bit. In all honesty, the R55Ti didn't need "fixing," it just needed to be brought under the name that enthusiasts were already familiar with, RBH. The R-55E retails for $874.97 (seriously?) in Phantom Black (think matte black) and $999.97 apiece in a high-gloss black finish. Why the matte black finish gets its own "fancy" name whereas the more expensive gloss black offering is left without is mysterious to me, but I digress. Those who want their speakers to disappear in a darkened room and want to deal not with reflections will likely choose the matte... uh, Phantom Black option, whereas customers wanting their speakers to look as good as they sound will likely opt for the gloss.
RBH sent me the R-55E finished in gloss black, and I have to say, it's pretty damn glossy. The R-55E, despite being designed by RBH in Utah, is made in China. Earlier iterations that wore the EMP Tek badge were a bit hit or miss at times in the finish department. The new R-55E doesn't seem to suffer that same fate as my review units were blemish-free, and the paint job was beautiful indeed. The speaker itself is rather large, that is to say tall, measuring just under four feet at 47.25 inches. Width isn't too bad at eight inches and its depth of nearly 12 inches gives the R-55E a slender appearance. Its curved side walls also help in trying to disguise its physical size.
For such a physically large tower, it's not too heavy at 55 pounds. I'm not suggesting its cheap, or cheaply made, just that upon first glance you expect it to weigh more. Being nearly four feet tall, the R-55E does ship with some substantial, adjustable metal spikes that rest on the end of metal outrigger feet, which help to keep the speaker stable. Personally, I think the feet are as much a visual statement as they are a functional one, much in the same way a pair of cufflinks or a pocket square can take a nice suit from a 10 to an 11. Around back you'll find two bass-reflex ports just above the speaker's single pair of five-way binding posts.
Remove the pre-attached grill and you'll come face-to-face with the R-55E's six metallic drivers. The R-55E possesses three 6.5-inch bass drivers; two 5.25-inch midrange drivers, and a one-inch dome tweeter. The tweeter and midrange drivers are arranged in a D'Appolito fashion, whereby the tweeter rests in the center with a midrange driver above and below it for better coherence. All of the drivers, save for the tweeter, are aluminum, which is somewhat of an RBH staple. The tweeter, on the other hand, is of the silk dome variety, which may not be the most esoteric option out there, but it's a classic, and it works.
The R-55E's driver compliment gives it a reported frequency response of 35Hz to 30kHz with a sensitivity of 88dB and nominal impedance of 6 Ohms. Honestly, I was a bit surprised by the R-55E's efficiency rating, but it isn't difficult to drive by any means. RBH states that the R-55E can be driven to perfection with an amp (or receiver) possessing between 50 and 250 Watts of total power, which I think is a fair assessment. The R-55E possesses two crossovers, the first falling at 120Hz and the other at 3,000, which I'll get into later.
Along with a pair of R-55Es, RBH sent me a single R-515E LCR loudspeaker to act as a center channel. The R-515E retails for $349.95 in Phantom Black and $384.95 in gloss black. To visually match my R-55Es, my review sample R-515E was finished in gloss black. The R-515E is basically the top half of the R-55E, which is to say it lacks the trio of 6.5-inch woofers. It's a nice option for those looking to build a home theater around a pair of R-55Es.
Unboxing the R-55E is easy enough for one person, though be sure you have either high ceilings or enough floor space to get the box away from the speaker, as you have to account for double the speaker's height (four feet) when unboxing.
Can I talk about cardboard for a moment? I despise Chinese cardboard, it's just the worst. There is nothing reassuring about the feel of opening a box from China. Also, despite "baking" in a Texas FedEx truck for most of an afternoon, the RBH boxes felt damp, which is a trait I notice in boxes coming from China. Thankfully, the RBH speakers arrived in perfect shape and the boxes were easy enough to hide away in a closet where I didn't have to look at them.
To install the included outrigger feet, I first had to lay each R-55E on its side across my ottoman and affix the metal plates to the bottom of the speaker itself using the included screws. I would have preferred to see threaded inserts awaiting me at the bottom of each speaker instead of painted over, pre-drilled holes; nevertheless, installing the metal plates was easy and straightforward. With the metal plates in place I screwed the substantial spikes into the ends (which were threaded) and went about placing and leveling each speaker.
The R-55Es sat in my room where all loudspeakers sit, about 90 inches apart (tweeter-to-tweeter), and on either side of my 65-inch LG OLED display. The R-515E sat atop my electronics cabinet just below the bottom edge of my TV. I powered the R-55Es with my Crown XLS DriveCore 2 series amplifier, which I connected to my Marantz NR1509 AV receiver's stereo preamp outs. The center speaker drew its power directly from the Marantz. Source components included my newly acquired U-Turn Audio Orbit turntable, a Roku Ultra 4K/Ultra HD streaming player, and my trusty DuneHD Blu-ray player/media server . Everything was connected using cables from Monoprice.com, with the exception of my speaker cables, which came by way of an old pair of Transparent The Wave speaker cables.
I set everything up in under an hour, re-ran Audyssey via my Marantz and began enjoying the R-55Es the very same day (no, I don't believe in burn-in).
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...