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RBH MC-4C Sound Quality Tests

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I powered the RBH MC-4C with the Yamaha RX-A2040, a new, high-end AVR. They were connected with 12-gauge, Blue Jeans speaker cable. The mains were perched atop 24” of cinder-block and all channels were used with Auralex Mo-Pad isolation pads and aimed at ear level. When used with an SVS PB12-NSD subwoofer, the MC-4C Studio HD were crossed over at 160Hz as recommended by the Yamaha YPAO setup. In surround, 3 RBH MC-4C were used for the fronts, with JBL Control One as rear channels. No auto-EQ was used. The room is lightly-treated, 13x14’ with a vaulted 9-14’ ceiling, and has lots of openings to the rest of the house.

Music

With regard to bass response, the MC-4C performed as you’d expect exceptionally compact speakers to perform.  Like any sealed speaker with a 4” woofer, they’ll sound a little thin and bass-limited if you’re not using a subwoofer, so though I did a little listening at a variety of distances in a variety of rooms with the speakers running full-range, 90% of my listening was with a subwoofer.

Ani DiFranco - Red Letter Year

Ani DiFranco - Red Letter Year 

I started with stereo listening and fired up a high-definition copy of Ani DiFranco’s Red Letter Year from HDTracks.com.  On the track “Present/Infant”, a variety of percussion including tambourines and shakers take turns keeping the 2s and 4s.  The MC-4C had good high-end detail which keeps each instrument distinct in the mix.  In my big space, I found the MC-4C were clean and clear throughout Ani’s vocal range at moderately-high volumes.

 The RBH MC-4C produced clean and clear vocals even at moderately high listening levels.

Looking for a good mid- and low-frequency test, I moved on to “Way Tight” which feature a nice guitar and bass interplay.  The MC-4C captured the crisp, snappy finger-picking and the woody body of the guitar.  Ani’s unique vocal gesticulations, from breathy fadeaways to sibilant stings, are on full display and the MC-4C carried them with a natural presentation that stayed true to the lifelike, almost under-produced performance.

My Brightest Diamond - This Is My Hand

My Brightest Diamond - This Is My Hand

For something with a little more studio orchestration, I put on This is My Hand by My Brightest Diamond.  This album wastes no time setting the tone with the opening track “Pressure”.  It’s hugely dynamic with varied instrumentation.  Showing off the good center imaging the MC-4C, the Rat-a-tat-tat of the marching band-style snare work was captured in a cohesive image, with just a little bounce between the channels.  They did sound a little “small” compared to my standard, larger speakers.  In the measurements, we’ll see that the highest frequencies dip a bit at 30 degrees off center, which, I think, when combined with the limited bass response, makes them more localizable in stereo listening if you aren’t seated exactly center.  I found, compared to my larger speakers, that I preferred them spaced a little closer together which made for a slightly smaller, but more cohesive soundstage.
 
As I pushed the volumes towards triple digit peaks, the booming kick drum and synth bass line felt a little disconnected.  I’m not certain I’d perfectly dialed in the integration between the low-mids from the sub and the rest of the spectrum being reproduced by the MC-4C. At those volumes, there may have also been a little low-frequency compression from the smaller woofer, but short of missing a touch of low-frequency weight, there was nothing else left lacking.  There was no distortion or other nastiness, it’s just that small speakers aren’t designed for high 90 decibel playback.
 
The following track, “Before the Words”, features less separation between the individual elements, weaving a more dense tapestry of a “beating-heart” kick drum, swelling brass, unison vocals and guitar, and a galloping bass line.  Here again, the MC-4C proved especially adept at handling high-dynamics with composure as I pushed the overall volume, with my sound meter showing peaks around 96dB.  As the elements rise and recede, high frequency detail never turned brittle, and bass stayed clean.  With the MC-4C reproducing good clarity of all the instruments, I never felt the bass-managed MC-4C were out of their element.

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - All This Useless Beauty

Elvis Costello and the Attractions - All This Useless Beauty

Switching to male vocals, I cued up “All This Useless Beauty” from the Elvis Costello album of the same title.  It’s notable for being the last album featuring the full Attractions lineup including bassist Bruce Thomas.  Steve Nieve’s twinkling piano work has great air with MC-4C really capturing the resonance of the right-handed, high-octave counter-melody.  Costello’s vocals, never known for their polish or lack of emotion, are conveyed, strain by squeak, right up to the final outro.
 
“Complicated Shadows” puts Pete Thomas’ drum work on full display giving him ample opportunity to show off his rock chops with lots of improvised tom work and big swinging cymbal hits during the instrumental breaks.  The MC-4C have a nice mid-frequency presence which lets you really feel the tautness of the skin stretched over those toms as Pete’s sticks snap off.

Surround/Movies

I used the MC-4C as the front three main speakers on Gravity, a movie that has a very active sound design with lots of pans, off-center dialog, huge orchestration, and all channels being used for discrete cues.  Set in the vacuum of space, both sound and silence are important to the telling of this story, so speakers need to be able to reproduce low-level detail as well as high-level impact.  The movie opens with a full-range cacophony that builds to wall rattling levels.  As the MC-4C hits the sonic apex, 97dB at my listening level, I was a little worried for these compact speakers, but they handled the swell graciously.

Gravity

Gravity

The RBH MC-4C produces a large and accurate soundstage in small listening spaces.

At 10 minutes in, the primary incident of the movie occurs, and we’re treated to a bounty of dialogue coming from every direction, movement-matched pans, and a soundtrack that mirrors the onscreen tone as the focus expands and contracts around the characters.  With all of this going on, the MC-4C integrate with each other perfectly creating seamless pans, even with critical dialog.

Gravity Still

Motion picture still from the film Gravity

Just for giggles, I put the MC-4C into duty as surround channels, which is no doubt where they will find a home in many systems, and thought they were right at home there thanks to their accuracy and compact size.  For dynamic movie content in a larger room, if you’re looking for RBH mains, I think you’ll want to consider stepping up to a full-sized bookshelf like the RBH MC-6C or tower speakers.  However, in a smaller room like my 12 x12 office, the RBH MC-4C offered a large, accurate soundstage, so if you have a smaller room, don’t be afraid to use the MC-4C, with an appropriate subwoofer, as a high-quality, full-range sound system.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

nova posts on May 12, 2015 22:52
Too bad these are being phased out. I think they are a great little speaker. I did not think these were all that “bass shy”, though mine are the originals not the Mark II reviewed here. Not to say there is a lot of bass but crossed at 160 Hz? I've run mine full range with an Acurus A250 (okay I've abused mine) at very high volume and they never complained and sounded quite good. Was rather amused at the driver excursion and quality of upper mid-bass.

I typically run mine in a small (~12'x~14') room, crossover at 120 Hz and an RBH TS-10AP sub. At times I enjoy them more than my SE-1266's
KEW posts on May 07, 2015 22:18
Reorx, post: 1082844, member: 9134
It seems like it would be more headache then what it's worth to run these as a LCR.

I think that is a fair assessment. These speakers are so bass shy, I would only really consider them as satellites. I suppose you might pair them with a competent 8" sub to complete the bass in a 2 channel system… and then add a sub.
Reorx posts on May 07, 2015 18:01
That's what I thought you would say. I didn't want to put words into your mouth though. And I had not thought about the directionality of the mid-bass.

It seems like it would be more headache then what it's worth to run these as a LCR. if you need to purchase 2 subs to provide that mid-bass extension, your already taking up the floor space, plus adding cost. If you are using existing subs, then it might be a pain for the normal person to calibrate properly.

You might as well get larger bookshelf or tower speakers that already are capable. RBH MC-6C, or 661 series for example.

I really do like the fact that they are not rear ported. And I could see myself getting these little guys for surround, surround rears, wide, or height. Maybe suspending them from the ceiling for an Atmos setup. o_O

Thanks for the review.
gene posts on May 07, 2015 14:10
Reorx, post: 1082818, member: 9134
Quote: “You might also consider purchasing two small subs, placing them in close proximity to the left and right speakers, and running them in stereo. This would give you full-frequency range response in a compact package while accommodating a higher crossover point, smoothing out low frequency response, and giving you the best stereo separation at high-bass frequencies.”

Question: Did something change recently?

Before the recommendations were to put dual sub's in opposing symmetrical sides of the room. To properly balance the bass. As well as running the dual subs in mono.

Thanks.

Reorx
As Kew stated I recommend placing dual subs on the front wall in close proximity to the front speakers if you're using satellite speakers that require a higher than 80Hz crossover setting to get a good mid bass integration. This works very well especially with 1/4L and 3/4L placement.
KEW posts on May 07, 2015 13:59
Reorx, post: 1082818, member: 9134
Quote: “You might also consider purchasing two small subs, placing them in close proximity to the left and right speakers, and running them in stereo. This would give you full-frequency range response in a compact package while accommodating a higher crossover point, smoothing out low frequency response, and giving you the best stereo separation at high-bass frequencies.”

Question: Did something change recently?

Before the recommendations were to put dual sub's in opposing symmetrical sides of the room. To properly balance the bass. As well as running the dual subs in mono.

Thanks.

Reorx

I think the idea is that since you would want to cross over these speakers at 150Hz or higher, you would be able to tell where the sound came from. Normally subs are crossed low enough that most of us can't locate it by sound.
So you are sacrificing optimal placement to prevent a greater sin - having the bass player behind you while the rest of the band is in front!
Crossing over so high puts the sub in the role normally played by a mid-woofer, and you want your mid-woofer near the tweeter.
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