One of the most intriguing things about the high-end audio industry has always been the smaller companies that make great products but don’t get the media attention that they deserve.
RSL Speakers (Rogersound Labs) have been making loudspeakers for over fifty years. The family-owned business started back in 1970 by Howard Rodgers and was one of the first audio companies to sell factory direct to keep prices low. Originally located in North Hollywood, the company’s big break came when a record producer from Warner Bros fell in love with a pair of their hand-built bookshelf loudspeakers. When news spread, RSL speakers soon became a staple at record companies across Southern California in the 1970s
RSL Speakers have always stood for “excellent sound at affordable prices” according to Howard. At their peak in 1989, they were not only a successful speaker company, but also the #1 audio/video specialty chain in Southern California with a total of 8 stores.
Howard sold the business to new owners who were unable to maintain the company’s prominence. Years later, Howard was able to buy back the company and it is now being run by his son, Joe Rodgers.
RSL no longer has retail storefronts and has returned to its direct-to-consumer model to keep both prices and overhead low. Today the company offers lines of bookshelf sized speakers for music and home theater, in-ceiling speakers, and one very popular subwoofer called the RSL Speedwoofer 10S which is priced at $429.
The RSL Speedwoofer 10S crossed my radar when I noticed that the Wirecutter website awarded it Best High-Performance Subwoofer in 2020 — a title it still holds today. That title has a lot to do with its value for the money but don’t let its $429 price fool you.
This subwoofer is highly capable and uniquely designed to set itself away from the pack. Although it looks like most box subwoofers, the secret is in its patented compression guide technology.
Intrigued, I had to check it out for myself.
After speaking with Joe Rodgers, he recommended I review not one but two based on my room size.
Two new subwoofers arrived in ordinary, but well padded boxes. RSL provided samples finished in both white and black and the fit and finish is quite good for the money.
Since my Denon AVR-X3700H A/V Receiver (previously reviewed) has two subwoofer outputs, each subwoofer only required a single RCA cable connection from the “LFE out” on the AVR into the “LFE In” on the Speedwoofer. In such case, bass management settings are mostly handled by the receiver. You will need to adjust gain (volume) on the rear panel of the Speedwoofer 10S. Additional options on the rear panel include variable crossover adjustments, variable phase control, and speaker-level inputs.
The next step in subwoofer setup, is the crawl. Not a typo.
I wish there was a better way, but the subwoofer crawl is still the best way to optimally place your subwoofer. A subwoofer benefits from boundary reinforcement but that doesn’t mean that you just unpack it and place it in a corner.
Otherwise, even the best subwoofers can sound anywhere from bloated to anemic when improperly placed.
Place the subwoofer in the most common location of your listening area. (Usually your couch, chair, or bean bag).
Play a bass heavy CD or other format that you are familiar with and turn the volume up so that the sub is really working.
Note: The reason why you should crawl is that standing will put you about 5 feet off axis (depending on how tall you are) with the sub and thus will change the characteristics of the sound enough to potentially cause you to place the sub in a non optimal position.
Crawl around the listening room and listen for when the sub seems to sound the best. (IE. Listen for depth, loudness, tightness and definition). Once you find it, that’s the spot to place the sub.
In rooms with an open floor plan to one side, the process can be time consuming. I settled on a spot near the front corner of the closed end of the room about 15 inches from the rear wall and 22 inches from the side wall. It’s not a coincidence that the measurements are not the same.
Tip: Avoid symmetrical distances in subwoofer placement, which can cause sound waves to cancel out.
With just one subwoofer placed, I began listening with the volume set half way, and crossover set to 80 Hz on the receiver. Even before any calibration, it was clear the Speedwoofer 10S was capable of some serious punch. However, it certainly wasn’t dialed in yet at this point.
For fun, I began randomly placing the second subwoofer around the room where I thought it could work. I learned very quickly a second subwoofer can actually make things worse when not ideally placed. I could easily write a second article detailing dual subwoofer placement. However, to keep things succinct for this review I mainly want to let readers know a second subwoofer can create a more balanced sounding low end and it often improves the imaging and midrange clarity of the front channel loudspeakers.
Tip: If your A/V receiver is handling bass management through its LFE subwoofer output, the crossover setting on the back of the subwoofer needs to be set at maximum (or turned off) to avoid double crossover problems. The Speedwoofer 10S has a Crossover Bypass switch to make this easy.
The easiest way to place the second subwoofer is to simply stack them. This method, in theory, doubles SPL (+6 dB), and I can certainly attest to the added slam and enhanced sense of scale.
The trade-off (as with just one subwoofer) is that bass output generally will only sound its best at one seating location. When a second subwoofer is placed elsewhere, bass may not play as loudly, but should be evenly distributed to more seating locations.
Although, I preferred the stacked subwoofer setup, it was quickly vetoed by my better half who wanted all subwoofers out of sight. Luckily the black subwoofer was non-conspicuous enough to remain where I wanted it next to the nearly black BDI Elements 8779 Media Console. The second subwoofer (the white one) got tucked beside adjoining couches, which tested well during the crawl.
No wires were needed to connect the second sub, because each Speedwoofer includes built-in wireless connectivity; although you still need RSL’s wireless transmitter which costs an additional $49.99. This tiny box gets connected to a power outlet and plugs into the “LFE Out” on a receiver. Once paired, solid blue lights appear when it’s working, red lights when it’s in standby mode.
I’m usually skeptical of wireless systems like this, but RSL nailed it from two perspectives; the initial pairing was very easy and it has never lost the connection over the many months the subwoofers have been in my system.
Another issue of concern with wireless connectivity can be signal delay (latency), but RSL has gotten latency down to an imperceptible 20ms.
The wireless range is claimed to be 50 feet, which should be more than enough for most home theaters. Another benefit is that one wireless transmitter can pair to up to 4 of the subwoofers at the same time, which creates a lot of home theater flexibility.
With both Speedwoofers finally connected I could start fine tuning. I ran the Audyssey setup on the Denon AVR multiple times just to make sure I wasn’t getting any anomalies. Audyssey is a room calibration feature included with the Denon A/V receiver. It’s not required, but returned some interesting results.
Audyssey’s calibration suggested that I turn down the gain and use the 90Hz low-pass crossover setting. However, in my room with in-ceiling speakers I thought it sounded better with an even higher crossover point. That’s somewhat unexpected, but could speak to the range of frequencies the Speedwoofer can cover.
Note: Crossover settings will vary based on the room and size and type of accompanying loudspeakers.
I settled with the gain at only 25% and a crossover setting of 120Hz for each subwoofer.
The blending of my in-ceiling loudspeakers and the subwoofers hit its sweet spot at these settings; the additional bass was present, yet natural sounding as if the added low-end was coming from the in-ceiling speakers themselves. That’s not an easy task considering the subwoofers and speakers were over nine feet apart.
What I appreciated most about the RSL Speedwoofers was their dynamic capabilities and speed; these are subwoofers that can handle some wide dynamic shifts and bass notes are quick and rather detailed.
RSL says the secret to the Speedwoofer’s quickness and clarity comes from its proprietary compression guide technology, which redirects internal reverberations through a specially designed internal channel.
I found the Speedwoofer 10S equally enjoyable with both music and movies. If I had to pick what they’re better with, I’d lean towards music. I’ve heard much larger and more expensive subwoofers for movies that can rattle the rafters. But that may not be what everyone wants or needs.
There’s a now famous scene from Season 2 of The Mandalorian (Chapter 14: The Tragedy) that our EIC, Ian White, wrote about when he reviewed the $20,000 Theory Audio System where the Razor Crest gets obliterated by a blast from an Imperial Light Cruiser.
While the scene is certainly jolting with two Speedwoofers, I have no doubt a home theater system with some of the most expensive subwoofers from SVS would deliver a more visceral blow. The RSL was very good with films but a $449 subwoofer is not going to deliver the same impact of a $3,000 subwoofer with well recorded content. For the money — the RSL subwoofers delivered an extremely satisfying experience.
What delighted me was how well the Speedwoofer10S blended into any song or movie. There’s just enough bass weight and definition to enhance the impact and improve the scale and clarity of the sound overall.
You really owe it to yourself to give the Speedwoofer 10S an audition. There is a lot of competition from SVS, REL, ELAC, and Monoprice as we discovered in our recent subwoofer shoot-out, but the RSL Speedwoofer 10S is not without its own merits.
The only problem with the RSL Speedwoofer 10S is they are selling faster than they can make them. That may tell you all you need if you skipped reading the review.
And just before going to press we learned there’s a successor to the Speedwoofer 10S called the Speedwoofer 10S MKII due out this month. It’s got more power (400 versus 350 watts) and is said to extend even deeper than the original (22Hz versus 24Hz). It also switches to rear porting and has even greater wireless range. The price takes a jump to $449, but is still an outright steal. The first pre-order batch is already sold-out and nobody has even tried it yet.
The bottom line is regardless what you listen to, the RSL Speedwoofer 10S (and likely the MKII) will make it sound more enjoyable. A remarkable achievement at such an affordable price.
- Frequency Response: 24-200 Hz ± 3db, substantial output down to 20Hz (CEA-2010)
- Woofer: 10” high-excursion cast-frame woofer, double magnet structure
- Nominal Impedance: 4 ohms
- Weight: 46lbs (Shipping weight: 52lbs)
- Dimensions: H: 16” W: 15” D: 16 3/4”
- Feet: Includes 4 rubber feet
- Power: 350 watts RMS @ 4 ohms
- Distortion: <1% at rated power
- Crossover Frequency: 40-200 Hz variable
- Crossover Slope: 12 db
- Auto On: Activated by audio signal, shuts off after 20 minutes with no signal
- Phase Control: 0 to 180 variable
- Power Draw: Auto on (no signal input): 13 watts
- Power Draw: standby mode: 1 watt
- Power Input: 115V, 60Hz, 230V, 50/60Hz AC
- Fuse: 115V T5.0AL/250V
- Fuse: 230V T2.5.0AL/250V
For more information: rslspeakers.com
|Speedwoofer 10S||Speedwoofer 10S MKII|
|Frequency Response||24-200 Hz ± 3db||22-200 Hz ± 3db|
|Woofer||10” high-excursion cast-frame woofer, double magnet structure||10” high-excursion cast-frame woofer w/ improved thermal capacity|
|Enclosure||Front-vented Compression Guide™ tuning||Rear-vented Compression Guide™ tuning|
|Weight||46 lbs||40.6 lbs|
|Shipping Weight||52 lbs||48.6 lbs|
|Dimensions||H: 16” W: 15” D: 16 3/4”||H: 15 1/2” W: 15” D: 15 3/4”|
|Power||350 watts RMS @ 4 ohms||400 watts RMS @ 4 ohms|
|Peak Dynamic Power||840 watts||1020 watts|
|Crossover Slope||12 db/oct||24 db/oct|
|DSP||–||LFE mode or Music Mode|
|–||Integrated double-precision 56-bit, 50 MIPS DSP processor|
|Wireless Transmitter||AT2||AT3, AT4|
March 18, 2022 at 4:52 pm
Who me? I got my one Speedwoofer 5-years ago when it earned high praise on Sound & Vision web-a-zine, and it blew me away at both rocking the house and movies. Maybe I should add a second like in this here review.
March 18, 2022 at 10:20 pm
I have a white Speedwoofer 10S, and it makes me smile for all the right reasons. I’ve ordered a white 10S Mk II as well in the first batch mentioned above. Can’t wait!
Also, RSL’s customer service is everything they say it is–they’re absolutely on top of things. Bravo.
March 22, 2022 at 3:04 am
Do they make them in a down-firing unit? I do NOT much care for front-firing subs.
March 22, 2022 at 6:28 am
RSL only makes one subwoofer right now, and it is front-firing.
March 23, 2022 at 2:21 am
July 17, 2022 at 6:58 pm
My receiver only has one LFE output and I already own a sub that connects directly to the AVR. How would I connect the RSL Speedwoofer and my existing subwoofer when I would need to use the wireless system from RSL for the Speedwoofer?
July 17, 2022 at 7:36 pm
The wireless transmitter needs an available LFE RCA out. The easiest solution is probably to buy a Y-splitter to split the signal between the wired and wireless subwoofers. This is one example on Amazon.