Klipsch is a sort of legend in American home audio. During the 66 years the Indianapolis-based company has been in business, it has managed to build an immensely popular brand, a loyal following of enthusiasts, and a massive product portfolio. Its collection of speaker models is so vast, it borders on intimidating. You’ll find no less than nine different speaker series with names like Icon, Icon W, Synergy, Gallery, Palladium, Reference and so forth, plus different sizes in each one.
Which is right for a discerning listener interested in a quality home theater system that’s equally adept at reproducing music? Well, if cost is no object, we might direct you to Klipsch’s opulent and equally spectacular-sounding Palladium P-39F home theater system, which runs just a tad over $31,000. But, in a soft economy such as ours when getting the most bang for your buck is the prime directive, Klipsch’s Reference series is the ticket.
The Reference series combines Klipsch’s engineering expertise, unique horn-loaded tweeters and high-quality cabinetry into a loudspeaker that promises to deliver Klipsch’s legendary sound — and look good doing it, too — without ruthlessly pillaging your wallet.
Out of the box
We get to unbox a lot of speakers (don’t be jealous), so it is fair to say that we’ve become a little jaded when it comes to first impressions. Often, we’re immediately drawn to those hidden signs of lacking product quality, be it inexpensive vinyl veneer, a hollow-sounding cabinet or flimsy speaker grilles. The Klipsch Reference series exhibited none of those tell-tale signs.
After prying open the box top on the RF-62 floor standing speakers, we were greeted with instructions which involved first attaching some weighty feet to the speaker using a set of screws and, if desired, adding a set of four floor spikes. While we were at it, we gave the RF-62’s cabinet a rap, which answered back with a dead thunk, indicating a thick and well-braced cabinet.
After slipping the RF-62 from its box, we took note of its solidly-made, magnetically-fixed grill, which we promptly placed to the side to admire the speaker’s copper-toned drivers and smart horn-loaded tweeter. While these speakers don’t feature sexy curves or rounded edges, they manage to look very handsome, indeed. Though both the light cherry wood and black ash veneer options are vinyl, you’d never know it standing more than a foot away. The veneer makes for a very convincing mockup.
The RF-62 aren’t small speakers by any means, but they looked great in our testing room, even beside our gorgeous (and taller) Aperion Verus Grand towers.
The RC-62 center channel, RS-52 surround speakers and SW-112 subwoofer were all impressive to behold in their own right as well, but if we had to pick a favorite, we would choose the center channel. Something about its curved ports flanking each 6.5-inch driver give the speaker a no-nonsense appeal that had us casting the grille aside.
Features and design
If you just want to know how the speakers performed during our evaluation, please feel free to skip forward to the performance section. For those with a healthy appetite for specs, stick around. We’ve compiled the vital statistics for each speaker in the system below.
The number six in the model name indicates that the drivers in most of the speakers measure 6.5-inches. You’ll also find versions of the Reference series using 4-inch, 5.25-inch and 8-inch drivers with smaller or larger cabinets to match. In all cases, the drivers are mated to Klipsch’s 1-inch Titanium dome tweeter, mounted into a 90-degree by 60-degree horn.
The RF-62 floor-standers measure 40.2 x 15.4 x 8.5 (H x W x D, in inches) with the grill on and weigh in at 49.1 lbs. All of the floor-standing speakers in this series come with dual binding posts for bi-wiring and bi-amping. The frequency response for the RF-62 is rated at 35Hz to 24 kHz and, in typical Klipsch fashion, this speaker offers an impressive sensitivity rating of 97db.
The RC-62 center channel measures 8 x 23.5x 12.5 (H x W x D-in inches) and weighs an impressive 30.4 lbs. The fact that this single, much smaller speaker costs $50 more than its floor-standing counterparts is an indication that added attention was lent to the design of this crucially important speaker. It has a customized 1-inch tweeter for added dialog clarity and tiltable feet to allow for the best positioning when the speaker can’t be placed directly below or above a screen. Frequency response is rated at 57Hz to 24 kHz; sensitivity is 98db. In home theater, the center channel gets most of the attention and is the one speaker that should never be skimped on. We assure you, there’s nothing skimpy about the RC-62.
The RS-52 surrounds are matching bi-pole speakers with dual wall-mounting options. They measure 13 x 12.6 x 8.5 (H x W x D, in inches) and weigh 14.7 lbs. These speakers differ from the front and center channels in that they utilize a 5.25-inch driver rather than a 6.5-inch driver. An RS-62 model is available but, as we’ll discuss later, is probably not necessary for most installations. A keyhole mounting bracket is installed on the back of the speakers, as are four ¼-inch-threaded inserts for those who wish to use an articulated wall-mount. Frequency response is rated at 50Hz to 24 kHz; sensitivity is 97db. We really like the wrap-around magnetic grille, but again, would be just as happy leaving the grill in the box.
Finally, we come to the SW-112 subwoofer. This version packs one serious-looking 12-inch, woven-fiberglass driver (10-inch and 15-inch versions also available) mounted into a modestly-sized 16 x 14.5 x 19 (H x W x D, in inches) cabinet with a slotted port and powered by a 300-watt continuous/600-watt peak amplifier. The amp offers both stereo RCA and speaker-level inputs along with a variable crossover and volume control. Frequency response is rated at 26Hz to 120Hz.
We connected the RF-62 floor-standing speakers first to an Anthem Integrated 225 integrated amp — on their own in a stereo setup — then, later, to a Marantz SR6005 A/V receiver as part of a surround system utilizing all of the provided speakers. Content was served up by an Oppo BDP-95 Blu-ray player and an iPhone 4S routed through NuForce’s iDO DAC. For reference, we also had Aperion Audio’s Verus Grand towers on hand.
Once connected to the Marantz receiver, we performed a level calibration using an analog db meter. No auto-EQ system was used. Each speaker in the system was given over 40 hours of break-in time before evaluation.
Since our ears have been dominated by headphones for the last three months, we decided to run some familiar material through the Verus Grands in order to ease our ears back into loudspeaker mode and re-familiarize ourselves with the sound of the equipment that we’d missed so very, very much. This process didn’t take long; a little Tom Petty, some Dire Straits, a brief affair with Fleetwood Mac and a heaping dose of The Police had us ready to dive into the RF-62 towers. Except the RF-62’s had other ideas. It would be more accurate to say that the speakers dove into us.
Usually, we switch from our Aperion reference speakers to the review speakers, revealing whatever shortcomings exist in them. But this time, the review speakers were ready to do battle. The RF-62’s sounded different, yes, but they played second fiddle to no one. We were gobsmacked by their rock-solid bass output, silky, open (if a bit forward) midrange and detailed, articulate treble — not at all what we had expected going into this evaluation.
We kicked off our listening session with Jonny Lang’s “Anything’s possible” from his record, Turn Around. This song has well-layered blues with a kick drum that is as snappy as it is beefy, a conservatively recorded bass guitar, dueling guitars coming from each channel and, of course, Lang’s distinct and dirty vocal placed front and center in the mix, interrupted only by the occasional interjection of a gospel-inspired background chorus. Heads bobbed involuntarily with the groove as the RF-62’s proved they didn’t need a subwoofer to fill the room with taught, chest-punching bass. As guitars took jabs at each other from opposite sides of the room, Lang’s messy, unprocessed vocal leapt out at me from the center of the room with eerie realism. And that was only the beginning.
We continued to sit for hours listening to the RF-62 speakers and, track after track, we found something new to love about them. But there were a few characteristics that defined the RF-62’s sound signature and served to keep us constantly grinning. First, the RF-62’s high sensitivity was apparent as the speakers sounded remarkably easy to drive. Evoking a powerful sound from these speakers sounded effortless for our equipment. Even when driven by a Marantz SR6005 and without bi-amplification, the RF-62’s sounded as if they were powered by the likes of a seriously muscular, independent amplifier, with well-supported, lightning-quick bass that you could feel deep inside when the music called for it. We have no doubt that these speakers will sound excellent even when connected to low-powered A/V receivers.
Next, we couldn’t help but marvel at how effective and beneficial the speakers’ horn-loaded tweeters were. Not only did they provide pristine, detailed high frequencies, they also helped to generate a seamless and exceptionally wide soundstage with outstanding imaging properties. Again, the effect was effortless. We didn’t need to bother spending time finding optimal speaker positions because the sound we got by default was so synergistic. Vocals were presented in the dead center of the room with instruments filling in every millimeter between the two speakers, well beyond their outside edges and, at times, even behind me. Sure, the presentation is a little forward due to a slightly hot upper midrange response, but on the whole the sound was never fatiguing and always enthralling.
Home theater performance
After a highly indulgent music listening session, it was finally time to bring in the rest of the speakers in the system and get busy with some movie clips. As expected, the Klipsch Reference system’s performance was exemplary, but each individual speaker’s performance was uniquely outstanding, so let’s look at why.
We’re big fans of big center channels. In our opinion, every center channel should offer performance on par with that of a full-sized floor-standing speaker with just enough engineering applied to enhance dialog clarity. That seems to be exactly what Klipsch aimed for with the RC-62. Dialog was crystal clear and full of detail, as we had hoped, but it was also remarkably musical. We pulled out our multi-channel SACD copy of Jaco Pastorius’s Word of Mouth Big Band, a recording wherein multiple guest electric bass players take turns fronting an 18-piece big band. The recording is mixed to sound as if the band is in the room, taking aim at you from all angles, with the bass player anchored in the center channel. The reproduction of the closely-microphoned bass was as close to studio quality as we’ve heard from any other center channel, mirroring the outstanding performance of our reference center speaker. Beware, however, that the RC-62 is a very large speaker and not likely to fit into most entertainment cabinets –a tradeoff we happen to be completely comfortable with.
The surround speakers also performed admirably, but it is with these speakers that we will tender one of only two complaints. The speakers are pretty large and, even though they look fantastic, they have a way of drawing undue attention to themselves when mounted on the wall. While all the other speakers in the system should integrate nicely into any room with adequate space for them, the surrounds tend to look unnecessarily large. They have a tendency to call attention to themselves sonically as well. While watching movies, we were sometimes distracted by the surround speakers’ presence as they were easily localizable, regardless of their positioning. On the other hand, they were spectacular for multi-channel music listening. Since they can handle the full range of frequencies, these speakers added to the power of the presentation, and because they are so sensitive, they were able to remain dynamic, no matter the source material.
Because the front channels are capable of such impressive bass, we almost forgot we had a subwoofer to test as well. That is, until we turned it on. In short, the SW-112 is one helluva sub. It not only provides the deep, visceral rumble you expect when watching explosive action sequences, but was also highly musical as well. The SW-112 blended seamlessly with the front left and right speakers, adding just enough where it should, and never getting in the way. The terms boomy, bloated and overhang are not in this subwoofer’s vocabulary. It might just be one of the best-performing subwoofers at its price point — certainly one of the best we’ve heard in recent years.
It’s been a while since we last got so excited over a set of speakers, but the Klipsch RF-62 II home theater system touched all the right nerves. At a suggested $3,000 for the set, we would expect to see real wood finishes on the cabinets; but when the vinyl veneer is this convincing, we can let it pass. Everything else about these speakers’ build quality is on point, and that comes through in the quality of sound they produce.
What makes the RF-62 II system such a treat to listen to is the way they effortlessly evoke an emotional response. Marketing folks throw the “emotion” term around all the time in reference to audio equipment, but for once, its use is justified. These speakers grab a hold of you with rock-solid bass, wide-open midrange, tasty, detailed highs and a remarkably wide and seamless soundstage. Those looking to outfit their home theaters with a system that is as musical as it is powerful should find an excellent match in the highly recommended Klipsch RF-62 II.
- Engaging and powerful sound
- Excellent bass response
- Exceptional soundstaging and imaging
- Superior subwoofer
- Vinyl finish
- Surround speakers a bit large