RS450 Build Quality and Setup
The Rocket RS450s came double boxed, capped by foam with two additional foam collars around the body of the speaker, and covered in a cotton sock. White cotton gloves are provided to assist you in removing the speakers without getting a ton of fingerprints all over the glossy finish. The Rocket RS450s are presented with the standard Rosewood finish with black piano gloss top and bottom caps. The finish on these speakers is frankly gorgeous. It is actually a shame to put these speakers in a dark room. I took many of my photographs outside and the finish really popped (as did the white foam endcap). Back inside, they lost a lot of that luster.
The speakers are quite substantial at just under 70lbs a piece. Handling them in the cotton sleeve with the cotton gloves is akin to trying to hold a soaped-up, cranky, 5 month old in the shower (believe me, I know). After I wrestled them out of the box and got them unpacked, I had a choice between fairly substantial brass carpet spikes and small sticky rubber half spheres. At first, I thought the carpet spikes were outrageously large until I started trying to adjust them. With my fairly long pile carpet, I still had plenty of space to get my fingers underneath for quick adjustments. The grill was a bit flimsy and ill fitting. It seemed to constantly stick at the bottom and the spacing was a bit off at the top. If I didn't have kids, I'd just throw them away, they look better with them off anyways.
Taking the RS450s apart, I found a single internal brace between the tweeter and the woofer and another between the two woofers. The brace ran the circumference of the interior and had a single cross member across the width. The cabinet is constructed out of 1" MDF (rare at this price point but a constant design attribute to all AV123 loudspeaker products I've had the pleasure of reviewing). The internal volume of the cabinet is limited through the presence of an internal sheet of MDF that completely blocks off slightly more than the bottom half of the speaker. While I am sure this ensures the proper box volume for the drivers to get the best extension half an octave above free air driver resonance and smooth roll off below it as per the engineers design goals, it also transforms the RS450 into a bookshelf speaker in a floorstanding cabinet. If you factor in the cost of stands into the cost of a set of bookshelf speakers, Rocket may have saved you a couple of dollars by providing you their own stands.
The drivers consist of a Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter and two custom 5.25" aluminum coned mid woofers. I was very excited to see the Vifa tweeter used as it is generally reserved for systems costing many times what the RS450's cost. The aluminum drivers used stamped baskets instead of cast but at this price point, so does pretty much everyone else. The magnet structure on all of the drivers was substantial and I was impressed with the size of them. The crossover uses all high quality parts including air core inductors and polypropylene capacitors. Thankfully no cheap electrolytic caps were found wired in series with the tweeter as often present in moderately cost products like this one from other manufacturers.
Setup and Placement
I messed with the placement a lot with these speakers. First of all, if you've read that Rocket speakers are a bit unstable , that would be correct. The sides are convex making the front and back baffles the smallest areas on the speakers. There is only about 4 inches between the carpet spikes on a speaker that is over 8 inches wide in the middle. No matter how much I fiddled and adjusted the spikes, I never could get them to a place that I'd consider stable. If you have kids (like me) or pets (especially medium sized dogs or larger ones with tails) you'd better think carefully about these speakers. They are tippy. AV123 offers a 6.5 inch riser that is supposed to make the speaker more stable. Personally, the tweeters were perfectly at ear level so I wouldn't want the speakers any higher. I'd love to see AV123 offer some sort of outrigger setup that could make their Rocket line more stable without raising the speaker. Plus, outriggers just look cool.
I had the speakers sitting about 22 inches off the back wall and nearly three feet off either side wall. They were spaced about six feet apart. I adjusted the toe in all the way from straight ahead to pointing directly at me to see which position offered the best imaging. Personally, I found that they sounded best with just a tiny bit of toe in (you could probably set them straight ahead and do just fine).
The RS450's seemed a bit power hungry and my Denon 3805 strained to keep up at higher volumes. At normal and even high listening levels, the Denon was fine. But once you moved near reference levels the amp section of the Denon just couldnst keep up. To really hear these speakers sing, you're probably going to want to invest in some external amplification.