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RSL CG3, CG23, Speedwoofer 10S 5.1 Speaker System Review

by February 16, 2017
RSLs new CG3 5.1 Home Theater System

RSL's new CG3 5.1 Home Theater System

  • Product Name: CG3, CG23, and Subwoofer 10S Speaker System
  • Manufacturer: RSL
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: February 16, 2017 17:00
  • MSRP: $ 1079 for a 5.1 system (includes shipping)
  • Buy Now

CG3

MSRP: $270/pr

  • Woofer: 4” with Ferrite Magnet, Kevlar Cone
  • Tweeter: 1” Silk Dome, Ferrite Magnet
  • Frequency Response: 100-20,000 Hz ± 3db
  • Sensitivity: 87 db SPL @ 1 watt, 1 meter distance
  • Recommended Power: 25-125 watts
  • Crossover Frequency: 2,500 Hz
  • Crossover Slope: 12 db/octave
  • Crossover Parts: Air core coil, Polypropylene capacitors, Gold Plated binding posts
  • Tuning Method: Compression Guide™
  • System Resonance: 87 Hz
  • Weight: 6 lbs.
  • Dimensions (H x W x D):  9 1/2” x 5 1/16” x 6 3/8 “(Without grille 6”)

CG23

MSRP: $400/pair

  • Woofer : 4” with Ferrite Magnet, Kevlar Cone
  • Tweeter : 1” Silk Dome, Ferrite Magnet
  • Frequency Response: 85-20,000 Hz ± 3db
  • Sensitivity:  89 db SPL @ 1 watt, 1 meter distance
  • Recommended Power: 25-125 watts
  • Crossover Frequency: 2,500 Hz
  • Crossover Slope: 12 db/octave
  • Crossover Parts: Air core coil, Polypropylene capacitors, Gold Plated binding posts
  • Tuning Method: Compression Guide™
  • System Resonance: 75 Hz
  • Weight: 10 lbs.
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 6” x 16” x 6 3/8 “(Without grille 6 ”)

Speedwoofer 10S

MSRP: $399

  • Frequency Response (CEA-2010): 24-200 Hz (+/- 3dB)
  • Woofer: 10" high-excursion cast-frame, double magnet structure
  • Weight: 40 lbs
  • Dimensions (H x W x D): 16" x 15" x 16.75"
  • Power: 350 watts RMS @ 4 ohms, <1% distortion
  • Crossover: 40-200 Hz, 12 dB slope, variable
  • Phase: 0 - 180 variable
  • Wireless Receiver built-in (transmitter +$50)

Pros

  • Musical, engaging sound
  • Outstanding dynamics
  • Compression Guide technology works as advertised
  • The Speedwoofer 10S' performance is astounding for this price-point
  • Wireless option for Speedwoofer 10S
  • Small footprint
  • High-quality, fingerprint-resistant finish
  • Great build quality and design
  • Wall mountable

Cons

  • No auto-EQ on the Speedwoofer 10S
  • Lack of magnetic grilles
  • Overall system won't dig down to 20Hz

 

In 2015, I had an epiphany reviewing RSL’s CG4, CG24 and Speedwoofer 10 loudspeaker system. Until that time, I had never auditioned RSL speakers, much less heard of the company. Let’s just say that once I was done experiencing the incredible CG4 system, the name RSL became unforgettable. I can only say that never before (or since) have I experienced such clean, crisp, and dynamic sound from a home theater system of this size.

Never before have I experienced such clean, crisp, and dynamic sound from a home theater system of this size.

Reviewing the CG4 system was like taking a nostalgic look back at audio history too.  Back in the 1970s, Rogersound Labs founder, Howard Rodgers, started building speakers in the back of his audio store the way he thought they should be built with high quality parts and construction. Howard got his break when a Warner Bros. producer listened to his speakers and the rest, as they say, is history. There’s more to the story from my original review on the RSL CG4s.

Little did I know that a year later it was going to be déjà vu all over again. A few months ago, Howard’s son, Joe Rodgers, asked if I’d be interested in reviewing their new, lower cost CG3-speaker line. My answer? An enthusiastic “yes!”

Relatively speaking, RSL’s CG4 5.1 system price isn’t ridiculous. In fact, in the world of high-end audio, it’s a superb value. At $2,075, there are far more expensive 5.1 systems out there. But shelling out $2,000 for a speaker system is still a daunting financial task for many of us. That’s where RSL’s new CG3 speaker line comes in.

If you get to know Howard and Joe Rodgers, you’ll quickly realize why they created the CG3-line. While many companies would be tempted to go up the price ladder, RSL did the opposite. As Joe told me,

“Most families today are dual income. People work harder and harder to provide for their families, let alone enjoy the rewards of their labor. These are the people we want to address. People who want real sound but have families to support or are still getting established in life.”

RSL Speedwoofer 10S w Wireless

For $50, you an add an optional wireless adapter Speedwoofer 10S has an optional, wireless adapter

But the CG3 line isn’t just about price. It’s about performance too. The aim of CG3 line is to bring the best aspects of the CG4 in a less expensive package—about 50% less to be precise. In fact, you can get started with an RSL CG3 stereo configuration for as little as $699 and a 5.1 system for as little as $999. This puts a full RSL setup complete with the superb Speedwoofer 10S for the same price-point as those plastic HTIB systems in big box stores.  Impressive.  Most impressive.

As Joe told me,

“This is a line of speakers that offers unbelievable, high-end sound but at a price that accommodates people such as veteran audiophiles on a tight budget, audio newcomers who know they want more than an HTIB—even people just starting their careers. The CG3 line has something for everyone, and allows people to step into the world of high-end audio, and still have the funds left over for a receiver, TV, etc…”

Potentially great sound at a great price? It was time to get the review in motion.

Arrival and Unboxing

Whenever RSL gear arrives, I feel like something’s missing. “This can’t be it!” I keep thinking to myself.  “This whole system is just two boxes?” Sure enough, the entire system was two boxes. One box was dedicated to RSL’s Speedwoofer 10S.The other box… well, it had everything else.

Though my review setup was slated to be a traditional 5.1, consisting of four smaller CG3s and a single CG23 for the center channel, I always seem to have a bit of a surprise when my RSL gear gets delivered. The father-son tandem of Howard and Joe Rodgers sent me an additional CG23 so that I could also play with a CG23 setup as a stereo 2.1 pair.

Never tell an audiophile he can have more speakers to play with. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity.

The CG3 is a two-way design with a 1-inch silk dome tweeter and 4-inch Kevlar® cone with a crossover frequency at 2500Hz and a second order crossover slope at 12db/octave. The CG3 is rated to play down to 100Hz.

The CG23 is an MTM (midrange-tweeter-midrange) design. The CG23 adds an additional 4-inch Kevlar cone and can be oriented vertically (as a main speaker) or horizontally (as a center channel). The crossover slope and frequency is identical to the CG3. The CG23 will play down a bit deeper to 85Hz ± 3db.  As you can tell, these monitors are specifically designed to be used with the companion Speedwoofer 10S. If you are planning on setting up a pure two-channel system, my suggestion would be to go with the CG23 if you can afford it because you can have a lower crossover to the subwoofer and get a bit wider soundstage (I’ll get into more about that further down).

RSL CG3 models have a fingerprint-resistant finish that works

The RSL CG3 and CG23 have a fingerprint-resistant finish. I tested it and it works as advertised.

Unboxing the CG3s and CG23s was eerily similar to the CG4 and CG24. Just picking them up out of the box they felt solid and dense—a big nod to their build quality.  They felt more like solid blocks of wood than hollowed-out cabinets.

If they’re so similar, you might ask, then what’s different? Well, as far as I could tell, there are really only a handful of notable physical and component differences between the CG3 and CG4 line.  A difference doesn’t necessarily imply one is better than another. The CG3 is slightly smaller than its CG4 counterpart. The footprint of the CG23 and CG24, however, is identical. The CG3s have a silk dome tweeter with neodymium magnet; Kevlar woofer with stamped basket; air-core coil; a new fingerprint-resistant gloss finish that’s hand-painted; and traditional grilles with pegs.  The CG4s, on the other hand, have a silk dome tweeter with a ferrite magnet (though it's debatable if the ferrite is step up from neodymium in this instance); polypropylene woofer with cast aluminum basket; a hand-painted high-gloss finish (but it doesn’t resist fingerprints); and magnetic grilles. RSL also told me that the CG4/CG24 have more robust air-core coils, which use heavier gauge wire.

Standard Speaker without Compression Guide RSL's patented compression guide technology

RSL's Compression Guide technology is patented.

A standard speaker is pictured left and RSL's compression port, which divides the speaker's cabinet into areas of lower and higher pressure is pictured right.

The core technology at the heart of the CG3s and all RSL speakers is their patented Compression Guide. This is visibly seen as a slim, rectangular port on face of the speaker.  The CG3 has a single port and CG23 has dual ports.  There is no rear port. Joe told me that front mounting the port always a priority so customers could wall mount the speakers and have greater placement flexibility in general.

In case you’re not familiar with RSL’s Compression Guide technology, Howard previously described that his patented Compression Guide design,

“works by essentially dividing the cabinet up into areas of lower and higher pressure (compression). As the sound wave travels though these different pressure zones, the effect of resonance is reduced.  This reduction results in tighter bass and eliminates the ‘boxiness’ that even high-end box speakers tend to suffer from. We also feel that eliminating the ‘boxiness' increases midrange clarity.”  

In some ways, it sounds similar to Atlantic Technology’s H-PAS, where you have internal dividing partitions that compress and accelerate the woofer’s backwave which then exit out a front-mounted rectangular vent. While Atlantic Technology announced H-PAS around 2009, RSL’s Compression Guide was patented decades earlier in the 1980s.

The RSL CG23 is an MTM speaker with the Compression Guide

The RSL CG23 is an MTM speaker that you can use vertically or horizontally.

It features two Compression Guides, one at the top and the other bottom of the speaker if it is oriented vertically.

Over the years, we always run into many manufacturers claims. Some, quite frankly, just don’t hold any weight and it’s just marketing jargon.  Both Gene DellaSala, Audioholics’ President, and I were initially skeptical of Howard’s claims. However, after we both sampled the speakers and the sonic results, we were left quite impressed.

Other notable physical characteristics of the CG3 line include the ability flush mount them to the wall with threaded inserts or a keyhole mount; high quality (though short) binding posts; and a metal grille with traditional pegs. The CG3s are small enough that you could even use them as desktop monitors.

Speedwoofer 10S

The Speedwoofer 10S is one of the most ridiculous subwoofer values on the planet.

The included Speedwoofer 10S is aesthetically similar to its larger sibling, the Speedwoofer 10 Ultimate subwoofer. It too features the distinctive Compression Guide along its lower front baffle. However, the 10S lacks the outboard volume and crossover control and has a physically smaller footprint. Those features are now moved to the 10S’ rear. For $50 you can add a wireless option to the Speedwoofer 10S to make placement anywhere in your room possible.  I did not test the wireless option but have no doubts that it works as advertised.

RSL Speedwoofer 10s

RSL's Speedwoofer 10S is an incredibly impressive performer and stands at the heart of the CG3 home theater system.

Here at Audioholics we previously conducted an in-depth review of the Speedwoofer 10S and found it to be a superb performer, naming it our Budget Subwoofer pick in our 2016 Product of the Year list. I won’t rehash the specifics. You can read the full Speedwoofer 10S review for additional details.

RSL Speedwoofer 10S Review

Having now lived with the 10S, I can back up our review’s conclusions in spades. Let me emphasize that the heart of any multichannel audio system is its sub. It's the anchor and foundation. If the bass is sloppy you won’t enjoy movies and you’ll be robbed of the emotional response clean bass can deliver to the program material.

The Speedwoofer 10S is available separately for $399 shipped! It’s one of the most ridiculous subwoofer values on the planet. While it doesn’t reach down into the deepest regions of the netherworld, I found that it captured much of the essence and emotion of the original Speedwoofer that I reviewed last year.

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About the author:

Theo is a serious audiophile and home theater enthusiast—a passion he's enjoyed for over 20 years. He heads up many of our speaker system and receiver reviews as well as covering the latest in streaming technologies and Ultra HD video.

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Recent Forum Posts:

Hetfield posts on September 03, 2017 21:56
Chris B, post: 1207854, member: 83537
Hi there, I know I'm late to the party, and not sure if any one will read this, but the RSL CG23 5.2 system
(https://rslspeakers.com/products/cg23-5-2-home-theater-speaker-system/) does seem like the best solution for my budget.

Question 1: Is this, being end of August 2017, still my best option? (Larger speakers is not an option..)

Question 2: Which amp should I pair it with? TV from a 4k enabled Roku, and perhaps a 4k player at some point + occasional streaming from iPhone. I don't do normal bluray, dvd or cd. Perhaps I'd get a phono player down the line, but that's a big maybe.
As such, film, docs and series is what the amp will be used for 95% of the time. Budget around $600.

Thanks

Chris

You can't go wrong with RSL, and that particular system I will bet sound ridiculous. That is a nice looking system for $1,638, 1,738 making the subs wireless. Email Joe Rogers and he will give the most detailed and honest answers you will ever want.
Pogre posts on September 01, 2017 09:54
Chris B, post: 1207854, member: 83537
Hi there, I know I'm late to the party, and not sure if any one will read this, but the RSL CG23 5.2 system
(https://rslspeakers.com/products/cg23-5-2-home-theater-speaker-system/) does seem like the best solution for my budget.

Question 1: Is this, being end of August 2017, still my best option? (Larger speakers is not an option..)

Question 2: Which amp should I pair it with? TV from a 4k enabled Roku, and perhaps a 4k player at some point + occasional streaming from iPhone. I don't do normal bluray, dvd or cd. Perhaps I'd get a phono player down the line, but that's a big maybe.
As such, film, docs and series is what the amp will be used for 95% of the time. Budget around $600.

Thanks

Chris
Denon AVR X3300W. Very solid receiver and a great price. Plus it has a full set of preouts if you decide you might want a separate amp.
Chris B posts on August 31, 2017 23:33
Hi there, I know I'm late to the party, and not sure if any one will read this, but the RSL CG23 5.2 system
(https://rslspeakers.com/products/cg23-5-2-home-theater-speaker-system/) does seem like the best solution for my budget.

Question 1: Is this, being end of August 2017, still my best option? (Larger speakers is not an option..)

Question 2: Which amp should I pair it with? TV from a 4k enabled Roku, and perhaps a 4k player at some point + occasional streaming from iPhone. I don't do normal bluray, dvd or cd. Perhaps I'd get a phono player down the line, but that's a big maybe.
As such, film, docs and series is what the amp will be used for 95% of the time. Budget around $600.

Thanks

Chris
shadyJ posts on February 21, 2017 16:21
KEW, post: 1173952, member: 41838
However, if I take your approach, would it not be unreasonable to expect the ULS-15 mk2 to have unlimited headroom in EQ1 mode?
As a con, you listed “Limited headroom in EQ1 mode” but I would surmise that anyone who was familiar with this sub and understood the nature of the EQ1 mode would understand headroom would be limited.
Well, I do explain that critique a bit more in the review, so that ‘con’ listed there is a simplification. More fully explained, EQ1 runs the sub flat to 20 Hz, and that sort of frequency response can be very hard on the sub at the low end. To maintain the same SPL for a drop of one octave, a sealed sub has to have four times the excursion. So for content played back at 100 dB, the ULS will be breezing by in passages with 40 Hz frequencies but struggling with 20 Hz frequencies. For this reason, EQ2 should almost always be used, unless you are only playing back at modest loudness levels.
KEW, post: 1173952, member: 41838
It is customary if there is not an obvious con to “reach” for one. I don't know how many sub reviews I have read where “heavy” is one of the “cons”, but I think almost everyone realizes it takes weight to make a potent sub
Agreed, this is a mostly fair statement to make. The exception to weighty potent subs are cylinder subs, at least for low frequencies. And also ‘heavy’ can really be a con when, as a reviewer, you want to emphasize to the reader that 176 lbs is no joke, as with the PB16-Ultra. You have to take that kind of weight seriously, and I am sure there will be those who buy it and find out they simply can not manage that kind of weight. To move it up and down stairs and to transport it outdoors for testing, I had to get a two-man lifting harness, and even then it was not easy.
KEW posts on February 21, 2017 12:44
shadyJ, post: 1173893, member: 20472
Yeah, but then how many readers will understand what 20 Hz really means, as in the personal experience of it? Most subwoofers do not play down to 20 Hz, and no $400 subwoofer that I know of can do 20 Hz nor can any sub of the size of the 10s do 20 Hz. Asking 20 Hz at this price and size is setting the bar too high.
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on philosophy of presenting information.

However, if I take your approach, would it not be unreasonable to expect the ULS-15 mk2 to have unlimited headroom in EQ1 mode?
As a con, you listed “Limited headroom in EQ1 mode” but I would surmise that anyone who was familiar with this sub and understood the nature of the EQ1 mode would understand headroom would be limited.

It is customary if there is not an obvious con to “reach” for one. I don't know how many sub reviews I have read where “heavy” is one of the “cons”, but I think almost everyone realizes it takes weight to make a potent sub
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