Our first exposure to the Klipsch RVX-54 Home Theater Speaker System came while touring the sea of electronics on the convention floor at the 2005 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. In a matrix-esque line up of stereo equipment as far as the eye can see, it is hard to stand out from the crowd, yet the contemporary eye-catching design of the RVX-54 reference series speakers coupled with their pioneering mixture of cutting edge technology and old school heart brought Klipsch the accolades of the CES Innovations award.
Before I get too far into the review I would like to disclose my situation that probably puts me dead center in Klipsch’s intended target market. I had spent considerable time persuading my wife that a large screen high definition TV was needed for the family room. It was not until the slim form factor of flat panels, DLP and LCD screens arrived that the idea became a reality for our living area. The next challenge was to find the perfect home theater system that could produce the desired high fidelity sounds while still passing the wife acceptance test. Countless systems were fine for the den, but none were allowed to enter the sacred family room. With the slim design and eye-catching styling of the RVX-54 system there was finally a sparkle of hope that superior home theater performance would finally reach the family room.
When the UPS man pulled up with several large boxes containing the Klipsch speakers I was tortured by the fact that the receiver scheduled for the testing configuration was still 10 days out from arrival. After unpacking the speakers I could not stand the wait any longer and decided to hook up the system to a low power entry level Panasonic unit we had laying around. Klipsch has a reputation for efficient speakers and I was pleasantly surprised by the performance of the system when being powered by the Panasonic unit. The speakers maintained an excellent level of clarity when reaching the upper volume limits. This was a good prelude to the expected performance of the incoming Yamaha RX-V2500 unit, pushing 130 watts per channel.
The RVX-54 home theater system speakers were designed from the ground up focusing on use within a flat panel home theater system. The height and depth of the RVX-54 speakers are a perfect complement to the slim design of modern plasma, DLP and LCD high definition units. Klipsch did the research and found the majority of home theater buyers do not mount their speakers on the wall. For this reason the RVX-42 and the RSX-5 come equipped with bases, but also offer straightforward wall mount options.
Three of our editors put the Klipsch system through its paces sampling a wide array of movies, DVD audio and CD audio. Our test configuration consisted of two RVX-54 speakers, a RVX-42 center channel, two RSX-5 surrounds and a RW-12 sub woofer. A Yamaha RX-V2500 provides the power for the system.
The RVX-54 speakers are the heart of the home theater system featuring a single-piece aluminum extrusion enclosure. Each speaker employs four aluminum 5.25 woofers and a 1-inch titanium dome compression driver coupled to Klipsch signature round Tractrix horns. MSRP $800.00 each
The versatile RVX-42 is truly the transformer of the reference series. The RVX-42 can function as the primary floorstanders. Flip the pedestal base 90 degrees and you have a center channel (our test configuration), or remove the base and the RVX-42 has dual keyholes for wall mounting capability, complete with a bass compensation switch allowing the speakers to be used anywhere in the system including as rear surrounds. The speaker features dual 4-inch aluminum woofers and a 1-inch titanium-dome compression driver mated to a round Tractrix horn. MSRP $450.00 each
The RW-12 subwoofer carries through on Klipsch design theme of lots of sound out of a small package, it could be argued that a 12-inch sub enclosure can not really be described as small, but I am speaking in relative terms. The RW-12 utilizes corner port technology, allowing for a longer port tube and deeper bass from a smaller enclosure. A front firing 12-inch Cerametallic cone driver is powered by 340 watts continuous power, peaking at a neighbor disturbing dynamic power rating of 825 watts. The sub features a continuously variable low pass filter from 40-120 Hz, 0-180 phase control, a delayed auto on/off control and plenty of connection options to meet your needs. MSRP $650.00 each
The RSX-5 satellite speakers feature a 1-inch titanium dome compression driver tweeter loaded by a round MicroTractrix horn. A 5.25-inch, long throw Cerametallic cone woofer provides bass that extends down into the low 90hz range. In Klipsch’s modular assortment of home theater arrangements, these vary capable satellites function well as main speakers in the Cinema 10 configuration. MSRP $200.00 each
The RVX-54 system excelled in the DVD home theater section of our evaluation. While watching the opening fight scene from Gladiator the speakers provided great depth and movement as arrows whizzed by our heads with frightening realism, catapult bombs exploded with coffee table shaking force. The assault on Omaha Beach in Saving Private Ryan was startlingly realistic with the RVX-54 system cranked up to ear drum shattering levels. The system showed an impressive dynamic range mixed with raw power while the subtle details remained in pristine condition. On non-action scenes the center channel produced pinpoint accurate, clean sound with accurate, full-bodied recreation of dialogue.
As movie after movie was used to push the system, the speakers continued to perform. From the podrace scene in Star Wars to the harmonious melodies in Ray, the RVX-54 system elevated contemporary home theater viewing to a level previously only attainable through higher priced, larger form factor systems.
The system also performed well in the audiophile portion of our review, but there were a few areas where my musical enthusiast side had hoped for a little more from speakers in this price range. Vocals and highs sounded very clear, crisp and realistic with only the rare occasions of a touch of harshness. The front, center and satellites utilize nearly identically designed woofers and horns, which helped create a seamless surround effect with balanced timbre and tonal accuracy. At most points the mid range was clean, tight and crisp. However when the music became overly complex in certain lower midrange areas where the sub could not reach up to assist, the speakers seemed to fall behind leaving segments of music slightly muddled. The sub continued to be a star performer producing big, deep, full-throated sound with depth and power for truly concussive explosions without ever sounding boomy. The bass remained quick and tight even during the most demanding of hip-hop and rap segments. The system as a whole performed admirably when cranked to high level never showing a sign of distortion or the loss of subtle music details.
The striking contemporary design makes for an easy addition to the decor of most modern living rooms featuring today’s flat panel displays. This system is extremely well designed, produces excellent quality voice reproduction along with sterling highs and exceptional low-end response. If you are looking for a home theater system to be featured in your primary family room, then this system is definitely worth a listen. If you are primarily an audiophile that will watch an occasional movie, then there may be systems out there that will better satisfy your needs. In the end it comes down to what areas you place the most value upon when you are making the decision to purchase a system costing over $3,000. The Klipsch new RVX-54 reference series system focuses on the growing market segment of family rooms featuring high definition flat panel displays and with this product they have landed a bull’s-eye that will provide years of home theater enjoyment.
by Russell Phillips
eCoustics Contributing Editor
The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author, and may not be the views of eCoustics.com. Every effort was made to insure fair, accurate, honest, and reliable reporting. All equipment was purchased at a discount directly from the manufacturer.
At the time of publication the manufacturer was not advertiser, had never purchased advertising, and has no immediate intent to start advertising on eCoustics.com. The author affirms he and all immediate family members are neither shareholders, partners, investors, subsidiary, consultant, contractor, agency, or affiliate of the manufacturer.