For those who may be unfamiliar, Utah-based RBH Sound has been manufacturing a complete line of high-performance audio products for residential and commercial applications since the mid-seventies. They've been known for both esoteric audiophile speaker designs, as well as affordable high-performance designs that far outperform their price points. Back at CES 2015, RBH first unveiled its Signature SV Series of loudspeakers. According to the company, the Signature SV Series was designed for both high-performance home theater and critical stereo listening. The series included a "Reference" upgrade option, with even higher-quality aluminum woofers and proprietary fixed-position phase plug aluminum midrange drivers to increase frequency response and thus extend power handling and improve sonic clarity. The upgrade also includes modified crossover networks to manage the upgraded drivers.
In late 2016, RBH made a further refinement to the Signature Reference lineup, replacing the Scan-Speak silk dome tweeter with a proprietary AMT (Air Motion Transformer) tweeter co-developed by Aurum Cantus and RBH Sound engineers. The AMT tweeter is a pneumatic transducer with a low mass diaphragm suspended in a high-intensity magnetic field. In contrast to a planar ribbon tweeter, the diaphragm of the AMT has a pleated shape similar to a bellows. The diaphragm incorporates an aluminum conductor and has optimal rigidity and self-damping characteristics. It moves air in an augmented, semi-perpendicular motion similar to that observed when an accordion is pushed in and out to pump air through the reed chamber. The Aurum Cantus AMT reference-grade tweeters provide a larger driver surface area, larger motor structure, increased power handling, and improved resolution. The AMT tweeter increases the upper frequency response to beyond 40 kHz and is said to provide a greater sense of air and realism.
This review is specifically focused on the Signature Reference SV-6500R tower speaker ($4,395/pair). However, because I would be auditioning the SV-6500R for both home theater and stereo listening, I asked RBH to send along the matching SV-661CR center-channel speaker ($1,345) so that the front soundstage would consist solely of timbre-matched RBH speakers. Daren Egan, Director of Sales and Marketing for RBH Sound, obliged, sending me the towers and center channel finished in a stunning high-gloss South American rosewood.
The SV-6500R tower speaker is constructed of layered medium density fiberboard (MDF), it measures 8.88 inches wide by 50 inches high by 14.13 inches deep, and it tips the scale at a substantial 72.7 pounds. The cabinet features a modern swept-back design with internal bracing to further reduce standing waves and improve cabinet rigidity for tighter bass. The front baffle has a total of six drivers mounted vertically, with the 4.72-inch-high by one-inch-wide AMT tweeter positioned between two proprietary 6.5-inch fixed-position phase plug aluminum midrange drivers in the upper half and three 6.5-inch reference aluminum cone woofers mounted below. Around back, the cabinet features a port and two pairs of high-quality, five-way binding posts for bi-wiring or bi-amplification. The black cloth grille completely covers the front baffle when attached. The speaker's frequency response, impedance rating, and sensitivity are documented to be 35 Hz to 40 kHz (+/-3dB), four ohms, and 88 dB (2.83 volts at one meter), respectively. The modified steep acoustic slope crossover networks (24 dB per octave) employed in the Signature Reference Series were computer designed to ensure seamless integration of the upgraded drivers. The crossover frequencies are 100 Hz and 2,700 Hz.
The Signature Reference SV-661CR center channel is also constructed of layered MDF. It measures 21.5 inches wide by 7.63 inches high by 11.69 inches deep and weighs 27.4 pounds. The cabinet baffle houses an identical 4.72-inch-high by one-inch-wide AMT tweeter located between two of the same proprietary 6.5-inch fixed-position phase plug aluminum midrange drivers, all covered by a black cloth grille. On the back of the center channel are two ports flanking a single pair of five-way binding posts. The center channel's frequency response, impedance rating, and sensitivity are listed as 55 Hz to 40 kHz (+3dB), six ohms, and 90 dB, respectively. The crossover frequency of the three-speaker, two-way design is set at 2,700 Hz.
RBH also makes a selection of matched bookshelf and subwoofer models that round out the Signature Reference Series and provide a multitude of options to construct a home theater system to meet your needs. The Signature Reference SV Series speakers also carry a five-year warranty.
Upon carefully unboxing the SV-6500R towers and SV-661CR center channel, I was immediately taken with the beautiful high-gloss South American rosewood finish. From my experience as a longtime woodworker, it was obvious that there had been numerous coats of hand-buffed lacquer applied to the Rosewood veneer to produce such a deep luster. Rapping on the cabinet with my knuckles, I confirmed the solid, well-damped construction claimed by RBH.
Now it was time to carry these robust speakers upstairs to my dedicated listening room. The speakers would take the place of my reference Aerial Acoustics 7T towers and CC3C center channel. After moving out the Aerials, I installed the included outriggers and spikes to the bases of the SV-6500R towers. I then placed the RBH Signature Reference towers in the same positions previously occupied by the Aerial 7Ts, with the baffles 58 inches from the front wall, 20 inches from the sidewalls, and slightly toed in. I placed the SV-661CR center on my Sound Anchors stand. I connected the Signature Reference speakers with a single run each of WireWorld's Silver Eclipse Series 7 speaker cable from my Classé five-channel amp. The remaining speakers in my system included two wall-mounted Aerial Acoustics 5B bookshelf speakers as surrounds and two JL Audio Fathom F110 subs on Sound Anchor stands. Other electronics included a Classé CP-800 stereo preamplifier, a Marantz AV-8801 11-channel pre/pro, an Oppo UDP-205 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player for physical media, and a Mac Mini music server for digital media.
Next I hooked up the calibration microphone and ran the Audyssey MultEQ XT32 auto room correction software in the Marantz pre/pro to prepare the 5.2-channel speaker system for home theater surround sound listening. With the system calibrated, I queued up some two-channel music from the TIDAL HiFi streaming service in order to break in the RBH Sound towers for the next couple of weeks. I meant to spend the next 10 to 15 minutes in the room just to make a quick initial assessment of the speaker positioning. I ended up spending the next two hours just sitting there dumbfounded as I listened to many different selections. I was so impressed with what I was hearing that I was sure that RBH must have broken in the speakers before shipment. Upon asking Mr. Egan if that was the case, he responded that lead engineer Shane Rich had only hooked them up long enough to make sure they worked properly.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...