AudioQuest NightOwl

KLIPSCH

RP-600M Speaker Review

Iconic Klipsch sound that really rocks!

PRICE


$629/pr

THE HIGH NOTES


  • Bookshelf Powerhouse
  • Love the Efficiency
  • Full of Klipsch Legacies

Company & Product Overview

Almost 75 years ago a tiny company was formed in Hope Arkansas that would go on to become a true American success story. Paul Klipsch, with his electrical engineering background and holder of 10 US Patents at the time, set out to create a speaker system capable of bringing the power and energy of a live performance into the home. Little did he know when he started flying around the country with his first Klipschorn speaker that he would start a legacy so strong that hundreds of Klipsch fans from around the world would make an annual pilgrimage to the original factory to hang out for a weekend talking about the speakers they all love.

Paul Klipsch came up with four design principles when he created the Klipschorn and those same four principles guide the design in every single product they make. Those principals are High Efficiency, Low Distortion, Controlled Directivity, and Flat Frequency Response. If you go visit the Klipsch headquarters, these are the first thing you see when you walk in the building.

We’ve tested several Klipsch speakers over the last couple of years and have leaned more towards their Heritage line of classic loudspeakers. Today’s review is on a much more affordable bookshelf speaker that is developing the same type of following the Klipschorn did decades ago. These speakers are in the Reference Premiere line which slots in under the Heritage series in both size and price. The RP-600M is their top model in the Reference Premiere series and is a modestly sized bookshelf speaker at $629/pair in their standard finishes.

If you start searching, you’ll find this speaker price range is extremely popular. You’ll find enough different models from brands all over the world to make your head spin. What is really interesting about the RP-600M is not the fact that it has that classic Klipsch sound, but that it is appealing to audiophiles who might have snubbed their nose at some of the Klipsch expressions like “rattle the windows and wake the neighbors.” Something magical happened when the Klipsch team designed the RP-600M and we’re going to dive in and take a look at the details.

Design & Build Quality

The RP-600M is on the mid to large size for a bookshelf speaker. They are almost 16” tall, 12” deep, and 8” wide. So while they might fit on a big bookcase, they will most likely be set up on a nice pair of speaker stands.

Like many speakers this size, the RP-600M is a two-way design with a 6 ½” woofer and 1” tweeter. Although with Klipsch, you don’t just get a standard tweeter but their Tractrix design. They come in two standard finishes, walnut or ebony and have what looks like a very durable finish that should be somewhat immune from getting dinged up if you move them around. There is an optional piano black finish that is just beautifully done. We also like the fact they come with magnetic grills, which is a nice touch in this price range. Although we actually prefer them with their grills off. It’s clear the aesthetic design team spent some time making sure the RP-600M looked impressive when you popped the grill. They accented the Tractrix horn with copper to match the cool looking copper finish of the special woofers.

We have to say, build quality is really good for a speaker in this price category. Sure, you don’t get the hand rubbed matched wood veneers on the Heritage series, but the RP-600M costs about 10% of what the mid level Heritage Cornwall model sells for. Klipsch wants every owner of their speakers to be proud of their purchase, which shows in the way these are put together. The optional piano black finish really shows this off with its finish that requires three coats of paint and polish on each one resulting in a mirror like piano black.

Features & Technology

The RP-600M is full of technology based on the four pillars of Klipsch sound. At Audio Advice, we love companies who push the state of the art but also make more affordable products. Pushing the limits allows you to learn, which in a great company, results in a trickle-down effect where the tech learned when you are making the best you can make, gets into your more affordable products. This is the case with the RP-600M and all of the goodies inside that make it the speaker so many people have fallen in love with.

Klipsch takes full advantage of one pillar, controlled directivity, in the tweeter design for the RP-600M. You might wonder why this is even important? Well, if you listened to speakers outside with no walls and on a 10’ tall stand where there was no way for the sound to bounce around before reaching your ears, it would not be important. In the real world of a normal room, sound bounces all over the place. Some reaches your ears directly from the speaker, while those exact same frequencies that came straight to your ears, bounced off 1 or more walls before arriving at your listening spot. Not only does the bouncing alter the sonic character, but it also delays it meaning if you hear the same note directly and indirectly, it does not come off very clear. With horn technology, you can control the dispersion pattern of the high frequencies but it is a delicate balance. If you make it too directional, you have to put your head in just one spot to hear all of the highs, but if you make it too wide, you get the time arrival delays and their smearing of the sound.

The 1” Titanium diaphragm tweeter has a special acoustic lens mounted in front of it. It is then recessed in the Klipsch Tractrix horn which helps control dispersion. With the aid of computer design, the shape of the horn is tailored to make the output of the tweeter extremely linear, another Klipsch hallmark-flat frequency response.

The tweeter housing and magnet structure are a brand new design that uses venting technology to reduce any standing waves behind the tweeter. The Titanium diaphragm is housed in a way that forces it to have a pistonic motion, which Klipsch first started using in their more expensive speakers called their Linear Travel Suspension. With Titanium being super light and able to move like a piston, distortion is much lower than many tweeters, checking off another one of the four pillars, low distortion. 

The 6 ½” Cerametallic™ woofers used in the RP-600M are rigid and stiff, an ideal woofer material for low distortion. Klipsch has patented this technology and you’ll find it in several models. Their material uses multiple layers of metal on the cone which not only make it very stiff to avoid breakup, the combination of materials pushes the natural breakup point of the driver far beyond the frequency range it operates in. This allows the woofer to play much louder with less breakup. 

To help minimize cabinet resonance, Klipsch uses a technique we see in a lot of more expensive speakers. The front of the cabinet is not wood, but a very dense and inert composite material. The drivers are mounted to this super dead material helping greatly reduce cabinet resonance.

When you spin the speaker around to look at the rear, you’ll see the patented Tractrix port Klipsch continues to develop and improve upon. With each speaker model, they design the port to reduce turbulence and to perfectly match the cabinet’s acoustic characteristics. When you couple the efficient Cerametallic™ woofer with this port and the highly efficient horn tweeter design you check off the last of the four Klipsch pillars, high efficiency.

Live music has huge swings in volume level between the loudest peaks and the softest passages. And when a symphony orchestra or your favorite band swells to a full crescendo, the feeling of power you sense is what makes live music so much fun. It takes a highly efficient speaker to be able to reproduce those wide swings in volume and be able to portray that big crescendo like you are really there. The RP-600M’s are rated at 96db efficiency which is super high. This means you can drive them easily with a low power integrated amp or receiver and still fill a room up with big sound.

While Klipsch adheres to their four principles in all of their designs, as we said earlier, something really special came together with the RP-600M.

Performance

We wanted to see just how good these Klipsch RP-600M speakers could sound with the right front end so we started out testing them on a McIntosh stack. We put them on some heavy-duty Sound Anchor stands and wired everything up with Transparent cables. The room was about 14 by 19 with 10 ft ceilings and we had them about 10 feet apart on the long wall and about 2 feet off the rear wall.

When we first turned them on, it happened to be a (Dave Matthew’s Grave Digger) cut with a decent amount of deep bass and the first thing we did was make sure the sub that was sitting in the room was not connected. They were producing a staggering amount of deep bass for a speaker their size.

We switched over to something simple with Adele’s Hello. When the track first started the piano filled the soundstage from left to right with great harmonic definition. When Adele comes in you can tell how the efficiency of the speaker lets you hear all of the little subtle emotions in her voice as you can easily hear all the tiny changes in volume level other less efficient speakers might mask a bit. Interestingly, her voice floated almost a foot above the top of the speakers making for a very nice presentation.

Jeff Beck’s Nadia was next which once again filled the room with wall to wall sound, but the effortlessness of the cymbals really stood out on this cut. The guitar also had a live feeling which again we attribute to the efficiency of this speaker.

To really give the imaging a test, we put on the a capella version of Leave It from Yes. If you’ve heard this cut it is full of overdubbed voices that jump out all across the soundstage from left to right. This track sounded big, rich and full, once again very impressive.  

Finally, we moved over to something symphonic with Mozart’s Symphony #40. These little RP-600M’s gave pretty convincing presentation of a symphony orchestra.

After this, we felt we should probably test them out on something more modest like they might be typically used on, so we moved them to an entry-level Cambridge Audio stack with some basic speaker stands and cables. On this setup, once again they had us scratching our heads at how well they did on the same cuts, however, we’ve learned something over the years in playing around with gear. A really good speaker will show you the improvements as you make the front end better. This was certainly the case with the Klipsch RP-600M as you could easily hear that they sounded better on the McIntosh stack. The great news from this analysis is the RP-600M will sound very impressive on a moderately priced set up, but as you move up in performance level, they have the capability to let all of the improvements shine through.

Overall, the RP-600M is a pretty amazing speaker. It has incredible bass output for its size and their effortless sound makes you feel like there is live music in your room. Sure, there are better speakers for more money that play bigger and reveal more details, but most of those cost far more. Do to the directivity (which is on purpose) of the tweeter, you will want to carefully set them up, making sure each speaker is the exact same distance off the rear wall and angled the same. If you do this, you’ll get the same wide and tall soundstage we experienced. We also felt they performed best at least 18” off the rear wall if not more. This again is pretty typical of good bookshelf speakers when you put them on a stand. If you’ve got an equipment cabinet in between your speakers, just set them up so the speakers are a little forward of the cabinet and you’ll get great results.

Overall Recommendation

At $629/pr for the normal finish, the RP-600M is one of the audio world’s great values. There are other speakers in this price range that can keep up or maybe surpass it in terms of transparency, but we have not heard anything its size and price that can reproduce deep bass like they do and give you that emotional impact of a live performance. While they will sound pretty good if you just plop them down, its worth it to spend a little time in setting them up to get the most out of them. After spending some time with these, it is easy to see why they are getting such good press from a variety of sources, they really are pretty incredible for the money.

HIGH NOTES UNPACKED

Bookshelf Powerhouse

These relatively small speakers can fill a room with big sound that reaches down quite low for their size.

Love the Efficiency

Klipsch speakers are known for being very efficient and at 96db, the RP-600M does not break that mold. You’ll experience the impact and emotional feel of live music in your home with these.

Full of Klipsch Legacies

Klipsch has four design principals that really shine through with the RP-600M allowing you to experience the power of live sound.

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