RS200 Wireless Loudspeaker System
Delivering room-filling sound, the RS200 Wireless Loudspeaker System is McIntosh's next-generation home audio wireless speaker.
Company & Product Overview
There is probably not a more iconic audio brand in the United States than the 70+-year-old brand from Binghamton, NY, McIntosh. They provided the power for Woodstock over 50 years ago and that passion for music and sound runs deep in their halls. It’s especially fun to interact with the people who build the gear. Most of them have been there for over 20 years and are completely dedicated to making the best audio equipment in the world. If you are ever lucky enough to get a tour of their facility, you’ll experience what we mean.
If you have ever seen a piece of McIntosh equipment, the incredible appearance with the green backlit glass and blue meters has probably stuck in your head. McIntosh gear not only sounds great, but it also has a look that music lovers all over the world have fallen in love with. And to top it all off, it seems to last for decades. We overheard an interesting conversation between two engineers when we toured the factory. They were lamenting the fact they could not provide repair on a 60+-year-old piece of equipment! That is true dedication to making sure your investment holds its value!
While the name McIntosh probably brings to mind big amplifiers that take two people to move, today’s review is on a relatively new and different product for McIntosh, a wireless speaker system that is compact in size but still maintains the classic McIntosh appearance. The RS200 is a complete wireless speaker solution from McIntosh. All you need to add is a source for music (and there are tons of options with the RS200) and you will quickly have room-filling McIntosh sound!
Design & Build Quality
For McIntosh to come up with a product worthy of their legendary name, the team knew it had to sound great, be easy to operate, and have that classic McIntosh look that has appealed to music lovers for over 7 decades. There was one other twist though, which made it a bit challenging: it also had to be fairly small in physical size, at least by McIntosh standards!
The elegant design McIntosh came up with for the RS200 puts it head and shoulders above other units competing in the same category. Of course with the RS200’s selling price of $3000, it needed to stand out from the crowd. It is a true McIntosh piece of gear with the same great build quality you get on every one of their products.
The RS200 was designed to fit on a shelf or tabletop. It is almost 25” wide, a little over 12” deep and about 5 ½” tall. McIntosh does not build anything that is not built like a tank, so as you might expect, it weighs in right at 30 pounds!
The beautiful McIntosh blue meters and green logo behind glass have been a hallmark of McIntosh products for decades. There is no break from this tradition with the RS200 as it also has the full McIntosh look with the meters and logo. Two large round knobs are on either side of the meters which are then flanked by the speakers on the ends. The top of the unit is a highly polished gloss black.
We love the way McIntosh gave the RS200 a floating appearance. The unit itself is mostly black, but there is a sculpted pedestal wrapped in grill cloth that elegantly raises it up off the solid aluminum base. The base itself is smaller than the main unit, which enhances the floating look. This not only makes it super cool looking but has a couple of audio benefits we will get into later.
When McIntosh was thinking about the RS200, they felt it might wind up in many different kinds of environments. One of the most common uses is as the main music system for a small room or office. They also felt it might be a secondary audio system for McIntosh fans and would wind up in another room or rooms in their homes. The footprint of the RS200 makes it an ideal speaker to enhance the sound of a TV, so McIntosh gave it the input flexibility to work with about any TV and even gave it some surround sound options. It is one super cool and very flexible all in one piece of gear!
Features & Technology
The feature set of the RS200 hits on everything just about any person would want these days in an all-in-one wireless speaker solution. You’ll have multiple ways to get music into it for great playback.
The big two are Apple Airplay 2 and Bluetooth 5.0. McIntosh smartly went with the higher end version of Bluetooth, Qualcomm’s aptX HD with low latency. They chose DTS PlayFi as their streaming platform. DTS came up with this a few years ago and many audio brands have adopted it due to its open nature. PlayFi supports almost all current streaming platforms and also gives you DLNA access to any music stored on your network. The RS200 has four favorite buttons on the top that allow you to store up to four of your favorite streaming services and start them up with just the push of a button on the top of the unit. These three source options are pretty typical of many smart speakers but McIntosh also gives you a great variety of conventional inputs.
There is an optical input which could support a CD transport, TV optical out, or anything else with an optical digital out. You’ll get an analog input which would be great for a turntable with a built-in phono preamp or a turntable rig with a separate phono preamp. The analog input is a stereo mini-plug so be aware you might need an adapter cable for most turntables. They even added a USB input for streaming music from your computer or laptop directly to the RS200.
If you are a fan of Siri or Alexa, the RS200 is ready for you. While it does not have Alexa built-in, with an Alexa product, you can designate it as your favorite speaker so when Alexa hears you say play this week’s top hits, it will start playing on the RS200. Airplay2 also worked seamlessly in our testing.
One feature we really like is the ARC HDMI input. This is a relatively new type of HDMI connection that offers up more than you might think of at first. ARC stands for audio return channel. Most newer TV’s have an HDMI connection with the ARC label on it. This is a two way HDMI connection capable of feeding audio back down the HDMI cable. This comes in really handy when you are using the RS200 with your TV to augment its audio. All of your video sources connected to the TV will get their sound sent over to the RS200. But the cool part about ARC HDMI is it also allows for HDMI control. This is a universal standard that allows your TV remote to control the volume and mute on the other component the ARC HDMI is connected to. The end result is you can use your TV remote to browse all of the streaming channels on your TV, then also use it to control the volume and mute of the RS200. When you turn on your TV, the RS200 will automatically turn on and switch to the ARC HDMI input, making it perfect for a soundbar! Of course, if your TV is older and without ARC, you could use the optical input without the HDMI control. And should you wish to defeat ARC HDMI, there is a switch on the back of the unit to turn it off.
If you want to augment the bass of the RS200, it has a subwoofer out. Unlike a lot of units with a sub out that really do not do anything to the signal for the main unit, if you engage a sub, special crossovers kick in for the RS200 so it no longer produces deep bass and all deep bass is sent to the sub. There is even a trigger output if you wanted to power on a sub with a 12-volt trigger.
The speaker configuration of the RS200 is pretty cool. They use the same tweeters and midrange drivers used in a lot of their high-performance speakers. There is one tweeter and two midrange drivers per side. The left and right midrange tweeter sections are separate enclosures. The woofer section works in mono but there are two oval bass drivers in the cabinet which vents downward. Remember we talked about the floating aspect of the RS200? Raising the cabinet up just a little bit off of a tabletop or shelf reduces a ton of cabinet interaction, giving the RS200 a very open sound without any added resonances from the cabinet. This also allowed McIntosh to vent the woofer cabinet down. The sloping edges of the pedestal help send the bass tones out into the room.
McIntosh is world-renowned for their amplifier technology, so as you might imagine, they went to the max with the RS200. There are actually 5 separate amps with a total of 650 watts of power. The tweeter on each side, the midrange drivers on each channel and the woofer enclosure all have separate power amps using electronic crossovers for perfectly clean sound. The woofer cabinet gets 250 of those 650 watts with the rest divided up among the other drivers. Electronic crossovers are usually reserved for very high end powered speakers and its cool to see McIntosh using DSP (digital signal processing) to squeeze the best performance possible from the speakers. The sound you get from the RS200 certainly speaks for itself too in this regard!
Since they had all the digital speaker processing in place, McIntosh also elected to add an environmental switch which allows you to really fine-tune the RS200 to its surroundings. For those of you who know a little about acoustics, the room and its surfaces can have a big impact on the sound. McIntosh gives you three settings: free, table, wall, and table. Free works when you have the RS200 on a small table not much bigger than the unit with the table a little off the wall or further into the room. There is a wall setting which you would use of the unit was close to a back wall. Finally, there is a table setting you should kick in if the unit is sitting on a larger, flat surface. It’s pretty easy to hear the differences these settings make with just the flick of a switch.
McIntosh also future-proofed the RS200 as much as they could. It has the ability to do firmware updates through a USB service port on the rear of the unit, a nice touch.
You really do get a lot of great technology and useful features in the RS200. While it is $3,000 we really could not think of anything missing from this great little all in one wireless speaker.
Getting the unit on your wireless network does require reading the manual as its a few steps, but they are really pretty straight forward. You’ll first need to download and open the PlayFi app for your device, then hold down the WiFi button on the top of the RS200 until you hear a sound. After this, you will simply follow the prompts on the PlayFi app and get the RS200 on your network. This is also the time you’ll want to enter your credentials for your streaming services into the PlayFi app. We also tested the RS200 using both Airplay2 and Bluetooth. In both cases, connecting to the unit was super simple. When we tested HDMI control, this also worked great with the Sony TV we tried it with.
Once we had things connected we also used PlayFi to run through some of our favorite Tidal selections. The first thing that struck us about the sound of the RS200 was it just sounded very natural with an ease that made you feel good when listening to it. We suspect this is due to the large amount of power the unit has and the fact it is essentially a tri-amped system with a separate amplifier for the tweeters, midranges, and woofers. Systems done like this always have a sound that just draws you in. The separation of individual voices and instruments was quite special, especially on an old Crosby Nash cut we tried where there are several layers of voices. The effortless sense the RS200 gives you means you will be able to listen to it for hours without any fatigue.
When used as a soundbar, its effortless sound really shown through in portraying the emotions in the voices on screen. We’ve heard soundbars that sounded bigger, but the tri-amped speakers really help you hear all of those subtle sounds that make it feel like you are there. It does an amazing job in this regard, especially if you add a subwoofer.
The RS200 also did a good job filling up the roughly 20 by 20 room we were using at the time. Will it rock out like a system with larger speakers? Well, not exactly, it gets to a room-filling level and does not break up as you push it, but you can only get so much out of something this small. It does sound as good or better than any all-in-one unit we have tried, but all of those reach their physical limit at some point. However, the person interested in an RS200 is looking for a simple, great-sounding all in one solution that has a lot of connection flexibility. Plus the RS200 is a McIntosh and comes with that beautiful look that people have fallen in love with for the past 70 years. If we had to pick an all-in-one unit for a personal office, small condo, or bedroom, this would be the ticket, no question about it! The sound it produces is just super pleasing to the ear and it is one of the most beautiful pieces of audio gear we have ever played around with in our opinion.
While $3,000 is a lot of money to spend on an all in one unit, we don’t think you’ll find a better one than the RS200. It sounds as good as its looks and you are buying into the legendary McIntosh brand while adding what many consider to be a work of art to your home or office.
HIGH NOTES UNPACKED
We love the fact you can get McIntosh design, sound, and build quality in a compact unit that has their classic effortless sound. With the RS200, you are getting a piece you should be able to proudly pass down for generations to come.
With its full array of wireless and hard-wired options, you can connect just about anything up to the RS200. We especially love how you can use it as a great soundbar with its ARC HDMI connection.
The RS200 has 5 amplifiers that are broken up to individually power each speaker section. It also uses some of the same speaker components found in the big McIntosh speakers. The end result is one heck of a sweet-sounding unit!