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RSL CG3 Loudspeaker System: Setup and Listening Tests

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I set up the RSL system in my Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and Auro-3D basement home theater with speaker placement identical to where I placed the SVS Ultra line of speakers. That means the front speakers came approximately 4.5 feet into the room. They had plenty of room to breathe.  I set the Speedwoofer 10S directly next to the SVS PB13-Ultra. No, I wasn’t going to move that monster!

I first set up the CG23s and Speedwoofer 10S as a pure 2.1 stereo configuration and mounted them on RSL’s now discontinued high-quality, real wood speaker stands and then moved one of the CG23s to center channel duty and set up the remaining CG3s for all the other channels in the 5.1 setup. Therefore please note my observations below for music pertain to the CG23s.

RSL CG3 Binding Posts

The binding posts on both the CG3 and CG23 are solid and high quality but they are a bit short.

If you have long banana tips for your speaker wire, they will stick out just a hair.

Since I had both the Anthem’s outstanding AVM 60 (our 2016 pre-pro of the year) and Monoprice Monolith 7-channel amplifier review units still on hand and in my setup, I used them for the associated equipment. I calibrated the system with Anthem’s top-notch ARC-2 room correction. Denon's venerable X7200WA Atmos/DTS:X AVR that usually does home theater duty in that setup took a back seat this time around.

I do want to make a specific note here: RSL’s manual explicitly states that you should cross the speakers over at either 90 or 100Hz which makes sense given the limited bass output of these small speakers. ARC actually set the crossover point at 110Hz. I’ve been through too many calibrations with ARC over the years to question its measured results under 5000Hz. If I was using another AVR or room correction system technology, then I would have absolutely followed the corresponding settings mentioned in the user manual. 

Editorial Note about Sub/Sat Xover Point by Gene DellaSala:

In actuality, if you're running dual 10S subs, you can get away with setting the crossover point a bit higher (120-150Hz) if you place the subs in close proximity to the left/right speakers toward the front wall in a stereo configuration. This will increase your systems dynamic range in the upper bass range and provide a more seamless blend between the satellite speakers and subs.

With all that out of the way, it was time to enjoy the music.

Judge me by my size do you?

With every review I conduct, I listen for an extended period of time in two-channel first to see how the system responds to music. I've said it time and again: if a system can nail two-channel, then it can tackle a full-on home theater setup with ease.  Always judge a system by its music performance first.

Needless, to say, the CG23 just blew me away. If you’ve never heard RSL speakers before, then take note. They have superlative dynamics and convey the sheer emotion and energy of live music.  It’s just so hard to put into words if you haven’t experienced these speakers in person. What differentiates an RSL speaker from the rest of the pack is the way it breathes life into whatever you throw at it.

CG3 and CG23 speakers from RSL

I played both the CG3 and CG23 speakers in stereo as a 2.1 setup. I preferred the larger CG23.

Isn’t that what speaker’s are supposed to do: convey the emotion behind the music and not simply reproduce it in a boring, analytical way?

Sarah McLachlan’s Afterglow Live album and “Sweet Surrender” in particular encapsulated my experience best. Percussion, instruments, and Sarah’s vocals burst out and the sheer musical energy filled my listening space. Like a siren, the RSL system beckoned me to crank up the volume. Louder and louder I went without even a hint of strain or distortion until I averaged 94 db on my SPL meter. The system and speakers? Wow, they weren’t breaking a sweat.  Oh how good a system sounds when it can play clean and loud.

RSL Speedwoofer 10S Measurements 2m

CEA 2010 2-meter measurements of the Speedwoofer 10S conducted by Brent Butterworth.

The 10S exceeds our Medium Bassaholic room size rating.

It was time to jam to some classic U2 and “Mysterious Ways” was up next. The Edge’s guitar strokes shot out in dynamic flashes. The tambourine on U2’s God Part II was pin-point perfect and solidly placed in space and time. The opening guitar of Amy MacDonald’s “Run” from This is the Life had a tight, realistic snap to it.  Timbre was warm and involving and imaging was strong with a deep and wide soundstage.

Slow it down and RSL system will sound warm and inviting.  The CG23s anchored by the Speedwoofer rendered U2’s “Song for Someone” in an intimate, yet powerful way.  Bono’s vocals rang out clearly.  Andrea Boccelli’s “Besame  Mucho” from Amore was simply beautiful and intoxicating. The CG23s and Speedwoofer 10S transported me to an intimate cafe in a small Italian town.

Detail of the RSL CG3 Tweeter

Detail of the RSL CG3 tweeter.  The CG3 has the tweeter mounted below the woofer.

What differentiates an RSL speaker from the rest of the pack is the way it breathes life into whatever you throw at it.

You think you can’t get big sound out of these RSL’s? Well, I had my wife sit down and asked her, “Tell me which speakers are playing, the big ones or the small ones?” “Hmm, the big ones,” she responded.  Chalk another one up for RSL. There’s nothing small about the sound they produce when used in conjunction with the 10S subwoofer. You can put these speakers next to four foot speakers and people won’t be able to tell which ones are playing.

What about the bass? Oh boy.  Auditioning this relatively budget-priced subwoofer first-hand is amazing.  This sub is $399. Let me repeat, $399 (shipped).  The Speedwoofer is a ridiculous value. This guy has no right to perform as well as it does. RSL’s Speedwoofer 10S will disabuse you of any previous notions you have about budget subs or how large a space a 10-inch sub can pressurize.   And best of all, it does so without gimmickry. 

REM out of time CDThe Kick drum on U2’s “Every Breaking Wave” dug deep and with chest-thumping impact.  Dido’s “See You when you’re 40” from Dido Live had a good punch to it.  When the deep synthesizer notes on that song kicked in, I thought to myself, “Are you kidding me?”  This is a 10-inch woofer and it’s filling my home theater space with ease. Moreover it dug deep.  I had strong output down to the high 20s but don’t look for this sub to give you substantive SPL output at 20Hz.

The Speedwoofer 10S laid down the bass on Robert Plant’s and Allison Krauss’ “Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us” beautifully. The Speedwoofer 10S commanded the addictive bass lines on REM’s Texarkana from “Out of Time.” There was just consistently good bass control throughout.  I played these tracks both with and without ARC engaged and naturally the primary difference being a tightening and refinement of the bass with ARC engaged. 

The RSL system loved channeling the energy of live albums. If you don’t have a capable system, you’ll completely miss the uncannily deep bass lines on Sarah McLachlan’s “Perfect Girl” from Afterglow Live.  Cheryl Crow’s “There Got the Neighborhood” rocked. Imaging was simply superb and the soundstage was more relaxed compared to other recordings with a deep and wide presentation.

Detail of the RSL CG23 Speaker Grille

The RSL CG3 speaker grille is an acoustically transparent mesh with plastic pegs.

The CG4 series, by contrast, has metal magnetic grilles.

Ok, have you gotten my hint by now? Let me be more explicit; While listening to the RSL’s I just wanted to play song after song and track after track.  This is one musical system. I found myself physically nodding and tapping to the beat of so many songs.

Though I did almost all my two-channel listening with the CG23, you may be wondering about the main difference between the larger CG23 and the smaller CG3. I set up and played both in two-channel stereo (sans sub) in HiFi store style with the two pairs next to each other and level matched. Aside from the obvious difference in frequency response, the major difference I noted is that the CG23 throws a much larger and wider soundstage than the CG3.  Oh, and it's noticeable.  You might get away using only a pair of CG23 for stereo, but I would not be happy with just a pair of CG3s without a sub accompanying them. If I had to chose only a single pair for two channel, then my preference would be the CG23 over the CG3.

5.1 Surround Sound

At this point, I swapped out the CG23s for the CG3s and fired up the RSL’s in their 5.1 configuration. Switching gears to home theater performance, I had to fire up my consummate demo disc, Tron Legacy and it didn’t disappoint.  I love the energy when Sam Flynn enters the grid in Chapter 4. When the recognizer thunders in to pick up Sam there is a superb sense of space all around.  Surround imaging was seamless but I found that pointing the surrounds at the listening position was just too crisp. My setup is large and far better suited for a 7.1 as opposed to a 5.1 system so I needed to play with the placement of the surrounds.

Tron LegacyI settled on having the surround speakers firing across the room behind my listening position.  Doing so rendered a much more natural and enveloping and immersive soundstage.  Whether it was the Recognizers, computerized voices in “The Games,” the roar of the crowd, or bombastic score from Daft Punk, I was sitting in the seamless world of the grid.  The fireworks and pulsating musical score before the light cycle battle shook the room with deep, clean bass. But the bass mix in Castor’s (Zeus’s) club astounded.  The bass didn’t just hit my chest, it penetrated it.

While I sensed deep bass, I didn’t sense the full SPL onslaught in the deepest bass notes that I’ve experienced with much larger subs (like the SVS PB13-ultra) in this room. Size does matter in this case.

Next, it was time to spin up the Star Trek reboot. There are some great test scenes throughout the movie.  The opening scene where the Romulan ship enters through the spacial anomaly and attacks the federation ship captained by Kirk’s father played by Chris Hemsworth is rife with complex sounds and chaos. The RSL setup kept its composure without losing its punch.

star trek 2009The bar scene where cadet Uhura played by Zoe Saldana enters goes from a muted, behind the glass sound to a full-on club experience when she opens the door. The RSL’s did a great job reproducing the dynamic energy at that precise moment in the scene.

In the latter part of chapter 5, all the Federation star ships burst into warp to head to Vulcan. As they jump to warp, you’ll have a forceful “thwap” right in your chest as each ship makes the jump. Here, the RSL setup did an admirable job but failed to reproduce the incredible SPL sensation I’ve heard from this scene when dialed in with dual JL Fathom F113 subwoofers.

Now, you’re investing in a surround system because you want you experience the envelopment of sound around you, right? Well, after the Enterprise drops out of warp in orbit around Vulcan, debris from the destroyed Federation ships strikes the Enterprise. The scraped off metal panels flew off in a timbrally seamless soundstage to my left and right. It was awesome.

So after all that, you’re probably wondering what’s the sonic difference between the more expensive CG4 system and new CG3 system. Alas, I can’t relate the intimate differences between the systems reliably because of the year lapse and the fact that my electronics and amplification were different between both reviews. However, if I were hard-pressed to relay general impressions, then I’d have to say that I felt as though the CG4 setup was all-around more refined in the microdynamics and had much greater impact and definition in the bottom end. Are you getting 80% of the performance of the CG4 in the CG3 system? Absolutely! Do you get better all around performance if you upgrade to the CG4? Yes, you do.  Your values and your wallet will need to be the ultimate decision maker.  Thankfully, RSL offers a free 30-day in-home trial and no risk money-back guarantee with free shipping both ways.  Either way, the one thing I can guarantee is that RSL doesn’t get many returns once people experience their gear first-hand.

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Hetfield posts on September 03, 2017 22:56
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 10:54
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 September 01, 2017 00:33
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 17:21
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 13:44
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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