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RBH Sound R-5 Bookshelf and R-515 LCR Speaker Review

by August 07, 2018
RBH Sound Impression Series R-5 & R-515 Speakers

RBH Sound Impression Series R-5 & R-515 Speakers

  • Product Name: R-5 Bookshelf Speaker and R-515 LCR Speaker
  • Manufacturer: RBH Sound
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: August 07, 2018 00:00
  • MSRP: $ 150/ea R-5 (Black), $175/ea R-5 (High-Gloss Black); $215/ea R-515 (Black), $250/ea: R-515 (High-Gloss Black)
  • Buy Now

Model Name: R-5

  • Series: Impression
  • System Type: Bookshelf Speaker
  • Frequency Response: 57Hz-25kHz (±3dB)
  • Sensitivity: 85.5dB (2.83V @ 1 Meter)
  • Recommended Power: 25-125 Watts
  • Woofer(s): (1) 5.25" (133mm) Poly-mica
  • Tweeter: 1" (25mm) Fabric Dome
  • Crossover Frequency: 3000 Hz
  • Crossover Slope: 12dB/Octave
  • Impedance:8 Ohms
  • Dimensions: 6.89” W x 12.6” H x 8.08” D
  • Weight:10.51 lbs.
  • 5 Year Warranty

Model Name:R-515

  • Series: Impression
  • System Type: LCR/Center Channel Speaker
  • Frequency Response: 57Hz-25kHz (±3dB)
  • Sensitivity: 87dB (2.83V @ 1 Meter)
  • Recommended Power: 25-175 Watts
  • Woofer(s): (2) 5.25" (133mm) Poly-mica
  • Tweeter: 1" (25mm) Fabric Dome
  • Crossover Frequency: 3000 Hz
  • Crossover Slope: 12dB/Octave
  • Impedance: 6 Ohms
  • Dimensions: 21.65” W x 6.89” H x 7.13” D
  • Weight:15.16 lbs.
  • 5 Year Warranty


  • Gorgeous in High-gloss Black finish
  • Nice balanced sound
  • R-5s have very friendly electrical load
  • Very good build quality
  • Excellent control of dispersion on R-515


  • Slight peak in mid treble creates some mild sibilance in R-5 speakers


A past favorite speaker series for Audioholics was EMPtek’s acclaimed Impression speaker line because of its good performance and tasteful appearance and for its amazingly low pricing. In our reviews of the E5TiR and E55Ti, we noted their “stunning appearance” and “detailed and lifelike” sound. The Impression series went on to become a 9 year success for EMPtek and later, RBH Sound. RBH discontinued the original Impression series in order to revamp the production process for better manufacturing consistency and have now brought the Impression speakers back with a new design and new look but still at a very affordable price. The gamut of the new Impression speakers was covered in our RBH Impression Series preview. Of the selection of new Impression speakers, we took a close look at what is considered to be the entry points into this speaker line; the R-5 and R-515. How has RBH followed their widely-admired original Impression series, and is the new Impression speakers the same great bargain that the originals were? Let’s examine what RBH has delivered in the R-5 and R-515 speakers…

RBH Sound Impression Series Overview & First Listen YouTube Discussion

Packing and Appearance

The R-5 and R-515 arrived inordinately well-packed for speakers at this price point, with double-boxing, polyethylene foam protection on all sides and additional cardboard protection, and finally a cotton sleeve over the speaker to protect it from scuffs and moisture. RBH clearly doesn’t want to deal with shipping damage claims. This packing is worth holding onto in case the speakers have to be moved or shipped anywhere else.

R515 packing.jpg 

Once unpacked, the RBH speakers looked both adequate and also terrific.  I know, a little confusing, but I was intentionally sent a regular ‘Phantom’ Black, textured-vinyl finish speaker and also a gloss-black finish so I could get a sense of the difference between the two finishes.

R5 pair.jpg 

The standard Phantom Black finish is fine for the price, but it is not exactly lavish. The gloss-black, on the other hand, is pretty sweet. It is so nice, in fact, that it is well-worth the $25/ea upcharge, and it’s hard to believe that such a nice finish increases the price by such a modest amount. The Phantom Black finish that RBH also calls a satin finish is a textured vinyl that I have seen on a spread of low-cost speakers. It is not bad; it is innocuous and durable. It doesn't scratch or scuff easily, and RBH makes it available for theater rooms with projectors, since it is quite non-reflective. The High-gloss Black finish makes for a very pretty speaker, whereas the Phantom Black looks much more plain in comparison.

R5 3.jpg   R5 11.jpg

RBH R-5 standard black (left pic); high-gloss black (right pic)

The curved cabinet definitely helps to make these speakers look nice by getting away from a box shape. The matte-black woofer with its inverted dustcap looks great, and there is no way I would hide that with the grille, but that is a personal taste in aesthetics. The grilles tone down the speaker’s functional aspect of appearance but rob them of personality. The grilles are not going to do the sound any favors either, because the grille frames will only create more diffraction edges for the front baffle. Overall, I would say that the Phantom Black R-5 looks commensurate for the cost, whereas the High-gloss Black R-5 looks like a much more expensive speaker than it actually is.

R515 6.jpg     R515 grille.jpg

I would imagine the same holds true for the R-515, but I only received one in the Phantom Black finish. Nonetheless, it is a fine looking LCR/ center speaker.

Design Overview

R5 cabinet interior.jpg R5 drivers.jpg

At first glance, the RBH R-5 and R-515 adhere pretty closely to sensible design principles. They are not trying to break any rules or revolutionize loudspeaker design; they are merely trying to use a common form factor in order to produce a good sound from a nice-looking enclosure for a very reasonable cost. The R-5 is a medium-sized bookshelf speaker using a 1” dome tweeter and 5.25” woofer in a second-order crossover. The R-515 is a center speaker/ LCR that uses the same 1” dome tweeter and two 5.25” woofers in a MTM configuration that also uses a second-order crossover. The tweeters use a fabric dome diaphragm and the woofer uses a polymica cone. The woofer motor has a substantial magnet that is 1.5 cm thick, 8 cm diameter magnet, but the tweeter has a relatively huge magnet that is roughly the same mass: 2 cm thick and 7 cm in diameter! Normally, tweeters use a small neodymium magnet, but RBH has decided to use ferrite which has some advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of ferrite is it has better thermal dispersal properties and is less expensive, but a disadvantage is that it has to be a lot bigger, since neodymium has about ten times the magnetic force for the same volume of mass. The woofer uses a stamped steel frame and a bumped-out backplate with a vented pole piece.

 R5 crossover.jpg r515 crossover.jpg

R-5 crossover(left), R-515 crossover (right)

The second-order crossover looR5 rear.jpgks capable for the task of protecting the tweeter and keeping the woofer from interfering with higher frequencies. The R-5 crossover features two inductors, two capacitors, two resistors, and a polyfuse. The R-515 looks to have three capacitors, two inductors, and a polyfuse. The polyfuses protect the tweeters by limiting total current to a safe value. The crossover components are not massively overbuilt but neither are they bottom-of-the-barrel. They look to be a solid build for this price point.

The cabinet is a relatively robust construction that uses 2 cm thick panels all round. The R-5 uses a window brace between the woofer and tweeter, and the R-515 uses two window braces, each between one of the woofers and the tweeter. There is a generous amount of stuffing inside the speakers for damping and also isothermal conversion. The tweeter on the R-515 is offset to the edge of one side of the front baffle. Both speakers are rear-ported using 1.5” ports with slight flaring, with the R-5 having one port and the R-515 using two ports. Neither speaker has feet, but RBH provides two rubber bumpers for the R-515 which allows the user to adjust the tilt of the angle when the speaker is used in a horizontal orientation. The grilles are made from stretching a acoustically transparent fabric over a thick MDF frame. As was mentioned before, the frame of the grille is bound to create additional diffraction, so for the best sound, leave it off. Sturdy five-way binding posts are used to connect the speaker wire.

Listening Sessions

In my 24’ by 13’ (approximately) listening room, I set up the speakers with stand-off distances between the backwall and sidewall, and equal distance between speakers and listening position, with speakers toed-in to face the listening position. Listening distance from the speakers was about 7 feet. Amplification and processing was handled by a Pioneer Elite SC-55. No room correction equalization was used. At times, subwoofers were used to supplement the bass. Different crossover frequencies were used for the subwoofers, and I settled on an 80 Hz crossover.

Music Listening

Melody Gardot.jpg

As usual, I started close listening to the speakers with something that places emphasis on vocals, since getting the human voice right is so critically important for any would-be high-fidelity loudspeaker. For the RBH R-5 speakers, I choose the album “My One and Only Thrill” by Melody Gardot, which was recommended to me as jazz album with impeccably recorded vocals. “My One and Only Thrill” places Melody’s velvety voice squarely at the forefront; this album is a showpiece for her soulful singing as it shifts from a spread of different tempos and moods, from late-night lounge to a classier orchestral backup to higher-energy bossa nova rhythms. The R-5 speakers produced terrific imaging from a vivid soundstage of instruments with Melody’s voice anchored at dead center and absolutely no ambiguity in positioning. All instruments were reconstructed with detail and vitality, as was Melody’s voice. I did note some slight sibilance on ‘sh’ sounds, but it was mild, and Melody’s breathy singing style might have played a part in that as well. Overall this album sounded quite good on the R-5 speakers, but music this beautiful deserves pretty speakers, so the High-gloss Black Impression speakers really do make a better fit for this album than the phantom black finish.

For music of greater complexity and scale, I found a superb recording of Bach’s “St. John’s Passion” on the Teldec label conducted by the late Nikolaus Harnoncourt and performed by Arnold Schoenberg Choir backed with instrumental performance from Concentus Musicus Wien, a baroque music ensemble based in Vienna. This epic 2-hour oratorio recounts the final days of Jesus as related in the Gospel of John, and is given a spirited, energetic performance by Harnoncourt and his performers. The recording is lush yet crystal clear and has a wide dynamic range. The RBH R-5 speakers reproduced “St. John’s Passion” with finesse. Imaging for the lead vocalists was strikingly precise. The different ranges of the chorus had well-defined locations over the soundstage with lower-pitched voices occupying the right side and extending to higher pitches as the soundstage moves to the left. Different string sections had their fixed locations as well. Woodwinds also had a very tangible placement in the soundstage. The R-5 speakers had no problems scaling the dynamic range of this recording as gentle passages sometimes erupted into a crescendo of energy. Some voices had a crispness that could be slightly edgy at times, but that might have been due to the recording rather than the speakers, and the voices were mostly rendered with naturalism as were the instruments. Altogether, the music of Bach was conveyed with aplomb by the RBH R-5 speakers, and I can report that orchestral and choral music sound great with these speakers.  

St John's Passion.jpg     Lose Yor Faith.jpg

Imaging for the lead vocalists on the R-5s was strikingly precise.

On the opposite end of the music spectrum, I decided to throw in one of the rowdiest and least natural sounding albums I had, “Lose Your Faith,” a European album of the hardest electronic music that our friends on the other side of the Atlantic can cook up. This extremely high-tempo mix of tunes from various artists within the genres of hardcore techno and drum ’n’ bass blasts through 65 tracks by the end of the album, averaging about one track per minute. This is a great disc for those who have a very short attention span. I always try to listen to an album like this for each speaker review for something of a stress test for the speakers and also to see how quickly hearing fatigue can set in. This type of music will induce hearing fatigue much more quickly than most other genres due to an excess of high frequency energy, not to mention it's just very loudly recorded music. The R-5 speakers made this music tolerable, and also survived the moments without producing any obvious distortion where I pushed the volume to reference on the dial of my receiver. While I wouldn’t try to run the entire album at a really loud level with these speakers, it is reassuring that they can take some abuse at least for a short duration. Bookshelf speakers with these kinds of specifications aren’t normally party speakers. They can get loud, but the user has to have some sense of when there could be too much heat build-up in the voice-coils if they want the speakers to continue to function. A much better choice for loud music would be the R-55 tower speakers, which splits the thermal load between two midwoofers and also gives them a break in low-frequency excursion by crossing over to three 6.5” woofers at 120 Hz. The R-55 towers would be able to withstand a lot more abuse than the R-5 bookshelf speakers.

Movie Watching

It was with the RBH R-5 and R-515 speakers that I finally sat down to watch “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” As is well-known, sound mixes do not get more professional or polished than in this film, from fantastical yet realistic effect sounds to John Williams’ superbly recorded music score to clear and natural sounding dialogue recording (except for Benicio Del Toro’s character, but that had more to do with that character’s odd vocal tics). The RBH Impression speakers handled everything well, even at the loud levels that I ran for this movie. The lightsaber fights crackled and hummed with menacing power, the spaceship battles had a vivid acoustic soundscape (despite being set in the vacuum of space), and the planet-based carnage roared with a lifelike proximity on the RBH speakers. One notable section of extraordinarily good sound reproduction was the music over the end credits crawl; I don’t think I have heard John Williams’ memorable score sound better than that. Of course, the quality of the recording has a lot to do with it, but the speakers did not stand in its way, and that is very much to the credit of the speakers.

Last Jedi.jpg     How To Train Dragon.jpg

Another movie that I watched with the RBH Impression speakers is the second film in the “How To Train Your Dragon” series. The first “How To Train Your Dragon” film had a dazzling sound mix, and I had guessed that the second movie would be similar in that regard, since Skywalker Sound also did the sound design for this sequel. The sound mix was superb, and the Impression speakers were able to reproduce this movie with enthusiasm. The effects sound of the dragons soaring through the air, blasting fire from their mouths, or the various dragon roars were rendered with verve and dynamism by these speakers. John Powell’s energetic orchestral score was always strong and distinct as well, regardless of the on-screen action. Likewise, dialogue was always very clear, no matter what else was occurring. The RBH speakers helped to make my viewing of “How to Train Your Dragon 2” into a fun, absorbing experience. A movie like this greatly benefits from a capable sound system, and the R-5 and R-515 speakers provided that.

About the author:

James Larson is Audioholics' primary loudspeaker and subwoofer reviewer on account of his deep knowledge of loudspeaker functioning and performance and also his overall enthusiasm toward moving the state of audio science forward.

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