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TK-5C Build Quality and Setup

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Introduction

Over the summer, I rallied up the primary Audioholics staff to come over to my place for a little bookshelf speaker shootout. This was an enlightening experience where we all learned that the old saying “you get what you pay for” did prove itself quite admirably here as we progressively jumped up the loudspeaker price ladder from $200/pair to over $1k/pair, though the differences at the top end of the scale seemed to be more diminutive. Nonetheless, we found two gems in the $400/pair price class; one being the Usher S-520s and the others being the RBH Sound TK-5Cs. I decided to explore these speakers further by engaging them in a formal review using the Ushers as a reference for comparative purposes.

Build Qualitytk5cinside.jpg

On the surface, there is nothing substantial about the RBHs. I would classify their build quality as average and their appearance as acceptable. They certainly don’t hold a candle to the Ushers when it comes to appearance in my opinion but they don’t stick out like a sore thumb like the HSU bookshelf speakers we previously reviewed either. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder I suppose but I did tend to find the fiberglass cones somewhat sexy and thus preferred how they looked with no grills, naked if you will.

The TK-5Cs are a vinyl wrapped cabinet constructed of MDF with piano glossy tops to add more aesthetic appeal. Standing at only a foot tall, they are rather unobtrusive and are relatively easy to place in a room, though because of their rear ports, I’d advise against placing them directly up against a wall or into a cabinet enclosure without first stuffing the port and bass managing them through your receiver or processor.

Just like with the Ushers, the manufacturer did NOT include a gasket ring around the woofer to minimize cabinet / driver resonance. Quite frankly I don’t understand this omission as it is certainly a useful design tool at virtually no cost added other than a few seconds in labor to place it on the driver.

Editorial Note about the Driver Gasket Ringgasket-rbh.JPG

In speaking with RBH Sound, they did inform me that in fact these speakers do implement a gasket ring around the woofers and they were unsure why my review samples didn’t have them. It's quite possible since I had the first run of speakers in for review before they went into production that they were inadvertently left off during assembly.  I have included a picture they supplied me of one of their production units that shows the gasket ring. They also explained why they chose to use a smaller sized gasket that doesn’t cover the entire outer diameter of the driver.

With the type of stamped basket the woofer of the TK-5C employees, the surface of the basket is actually raised so that there is no contact with the cabinet except at the area where the gasket is and the very thin outer edge of the basket. According to RBH engineer Shane Rich, since the rim of the basket is raised and does not come in contact at all with the cabinet except at the very thin outer edge a smaller sized gasket ring was employed which purposely doesn’t cover the entire diameter of the outer edge of the basket frame. Since the driver cutout of the cabinet is recessed and due to the thin nature of the outer edge of the basket, a gasket will not pinch between the basket and cabinet, it will simply slip underneath the raised portion of the basket and the thin outer edge of the gasket will bend slightly outwards towards the recess in the cabinet. The smaller gasket employed in this speaker does a good job of effectively sealing the cabinet and damping the basket.

The TK-5Cs utilize a magnetically shielded glass fiber 5 ¼” midbass driver with butyl rubber surrounds and a stamped basket. Having some good personal experience working with fiberglass cones in my days of telecommunication work for the government, I can attest to the fact that this is a very good and cost effective cone material to use and is at least on par with Kevlar at only a fraction of the cost. The tweeter is a 1” silk dome ferrofluid cooled design with a conventional ferrite magnet motor structure. I was relieved to find RBH didn’t skimp here and use a cheap neodymium driver or substandard metal dome, not to say that either driver types can't be good, but the inexpensive ones often tend not to be. The crossover is an electro-acoustical second order design, utilizing air core inductors and polypropylene capacitors instead of lower fidelity electrolytics some manufacturers tend to utilize in series with tweeters as a cost cutting technique at the expense of harshness and graininess in the sound. The cabinet is heavily stuffed with Dacron insulation but has no physical bracing making it sound a bit hollow when rapping on a side wall. There is a pair of gold plated binding posts so no bi-wiring or bi-amping is possible with these speakers.

Set-Uptk5cstand.jpg

I placed the TK-5Cs on my 30” sand-filled Plateau speaker stands which puts the tweeter right at about ear level on my Continental theater seats. The speakers were positioned about 5ft from side and back walls and spread apart about 10ft from each other which was roughly the distance from my primary listening position. After experimenting, I found they sounded their best with moderate toe-in, adding more focus and tightening up the soundstage. Be careful not to over toe these speakers as they will sound bright or too hot in the top end. I used the Emotiva Reference Theater Series preamp and processor, the Denon DVD-5910CI as the source and a pair of Usher S-520 speakers I had on hand for direct comparative purposes. All cables were furnished by Impact Acoustics (Sonicwave toslink) and Bluejeans Cable (10AWG speaker cable and analog interconnects).

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Audioholics posts on February 02, 2008 19:27
silversurfer, post: 368922
Depending on source material? It either colorizes the signal or it doesn't.
No, he means you can't always hear the coloration.
zhimbo posts on February 02, 2008 10:03
Josuah, post: 368602
I have a hard time reconciling a 4.5 performance rating with the individual scores which never exceed 4….

Something with no weaknesses is darn good to have.

The overall scores aren't mathematically derived, they're subjective, but even if mathematically derived it wouldn't have to work by simple averaging. If you did something like percentile rank within a price range for all the sub-scores, then converted to a star score, 4.5 is probably about dead on (90th percentile).
silversurfer posts on February 01, 2008 23:24
This comment in the “cons” puzzles me:

A bit of lower midrange coloration present depending on source material
Depending on source material? It either colorizes the signal or it doesn't.
Josuah posts on February 01, 2008 13:17
I have a hard time reconciling a 4.5 performance rating with the individual scores which never exceed 4….
gene posts on December 06, 2007 22:12
Was that a typo in the review or just a mistake in pricing? I'm curious to know if that would effect the ratings considering that the costs were off by 25% ….

It was an error on RBH's part as I was originally told they were $400/pair. I was on the fence about giving them a 4.25 for value but since we only rate in 1/2 point scales now, I rounded down to 4 stars. The price adder would drop them to 3.75 but in that case I round up to 4 so it stays around the same.

While I believe you can find speakers at $500/pair that blow these away in aesthetics, I am still confident they perform up to par with some of the best speakers in their price class.
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