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RSL CG4, CG24, and Speedwoofer 10 Setup and Listening Tests

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I can’t recall explicitly commenting on a vendor’s owner’s manual before.  However, the RSL owner’s manual is in a league of its own.  It’s hysterical and spot-on informative.  To give you an idea, the cover has the tagline, “Written by people with short attention spans who hate manuals.”  The first page continues that tone.  The Introduction section’s first paragraph says, “This is the part of the manual where companies normally make you feel warm and fuzzy for choosing their products. And, as much as we’d like to point out what an intelligent and insightful person you are for choosing our speakers, we would rather let our products do the talking.”   Throughout the manual, a large “You Can Skip This Section” heading hovers over non-essential sections; and when they want you to take special note of something there is a clear heading, “This Section is Important.”  For a manual written by people with short attention spans, don’t let them fool you. It’s 46 pages long of great, informative topics—especially for the novice—on 8 1/2” x 11” pages.

As part of my review setup, RSL shipped me a set of the 33” speaker stands that they sell on their site.  After having lived with all metal monitor stands from Revel, I’ve become completely intolerant of poor quality stands—in particular, flimsy MDF stands.  When I looked at the packaging of the stands RSL sent, I just shook my head.  “Once again, poor quality stands for budget monitors,” I thought to myself.

Speaker Stands

I was pleasantly surprised by the solid wood build quality of the speaker stands

Once again to my pleasant surprise, looks were deceiving.  There was no MDF here.  These stands are made of all hardwood and were exceptionally sturdy.  They also came with real metal spikes and not the cheap plastic spikes of lower-end stands.  Putting the stands together was straightforward and I found them to be an ideal fit for either set of monitors.  

Other than the included rubber pads that provide some grip, there is nothing else to hold the speakers to the stands.  You will therefore need to be careful where you place the speakers so that they aren’t accidentally knocked over. 

During my review period, I initially set up the RSL speakers with an Anthem AVM50v running ARC and for the majority of my listening time switched to the sweet-sounding Classé Sigma SSP and AMP5 (200wpc x 5) duo that I had in for review.  Most prospective RSL users won’t necessarily be driving their setup with $10,000 worth of Classé electronics; but I felt it would allow me a chance to see what these speakers were really capable of delivering.

When all was said and done, I stepped back to admire the setup and it looked… well… tiny.  Dare I say, unimposing?  “On the plus side,” I said to myself, “at least those looking for a spouse-friendly solution or an inconspicuous setup will discover that these RSL speakers are a great find.” Let’s be frank, such small setups rarely delivered the sonic goods.

 Sound Quality Tests

I guess I should have learned my lesson not to judge outward appearances, but I hadn't.  I raised an eyebrow looking at that finished, lean setup.  Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the sound caught me by such complete surprise.  Upon hearing the RSL speakers I went from a raised eyebrow to a dropped jaw.  I remember saying to Gene, “I really like the sound of these RSLs.  I’m telling you bluntly, these are some fun speakers” 

Four things immediately stood out: 

  1. The soundstage was utterly uncanny for such small speakers.  It was wide, deep, and well-defined.   
  2. The speakers disappeared into space.  There wasn’t a single time during my listening period when I felt as though the soundstage illusion collapsed and that the sound was coming out as a pinpoint from one speaker or the other.   
  3. Box, what box?!  I was dumbfounded how these tiny things didn’t sound boxy.  
  4. They blended wonderfully with the Speedwoofer sub.  

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these guys had some serious “you can feel it” punch.  Listen, I tend to take all the marketing hype around products with a grain of salt.  Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting to experience that I heard out of this setup. What I can tell you is that you can spend a lot more money and still not get the physical wallop that these guys delivered.

But it wasn’t just me who noticed something truly extraordinary about this setup.  My niece and one of my kids happened to be walking by the RSL CG24 setup one evening and out of the blue the both stopped and remarked, “Wow, that sounds really good.”

Music

Rush Moving Pictures“That sounds really good” was a constant theme regardless of the music I played through the RSL setup.  Let me highlight a few specific tracks:

The live, a cappella version of “Down to the River to Pray” by Allison Karaus and Union Station was beautifully engaging.  Without instruments, it’s all about handling the delicate aspects of an all-vocal rendition.  Allison’s soothing vocals were smooth, warm, and conveyed an intimate, “you are there” sensation.  I fell for the presentation of this song.

Mozart’s violin Sonata in C is a good test of a speaker’s ability to handle the dancing intricacy of  violin and piano.  The CG4s reproduced the violin’s timbre in an inviting way.  In the final 1:30 of the movement, the piano dances across the soundstage in a nimble ballet of jumping notes.  For a set of speakers this size, I never got the sense that the piano sounded tinny or that the overall body of the piano notes were compressed.   On the contrary, the piano sounded surprisingly full-bodied (though I certainly wouldn’t say it would rival the presentation through a pair of Magnepans).   Through it all, the speakers completely disappeared.  I was unable to localize them at all. The subwoofer didn’t call attention to itself and the crossover was flawless.  

Turning it up a notch, I spun up some Rush.  “Tom Sawyer” from Moving Pictures is one of the band’s signature songs.  The classic track opens with Neal Peart’s addictive, precise drum beats.  I’m challenged to think of another drummer whose work is so much like a siren song to my ears.  Through the RSL CG4s, the superb detail, dynamics, and instrument separation drew me into the music.  Louder went the volume!  Neal’s drum beats remained clean, tight, and punched you in the chest.  Geddy Lee’s vocals were solidly placed and always intelligible.  I loved the song so much through this combo that I played it over and over just to soak it in.

Mad Max

If you’re a fan of the Mad Max series of movies then you owe it to yourself to see the post-apocalyptic visual spectacle that is Mad Max Fury Road.   Complementing the cinematic artistry is a bold and primal soundtrack by Junkie XL that communicates the movie’s fury, despair, and fragile sense of hope.  Not since Daft Punk’s Tron Legacy soundtrack have I felt a soundtrack to be so perfectly mated to a movie.  This tiny powerhouse sound system nailed the soundtrack. Emotive, melancholy tracks such as “We Are Not Things,” “Redemption,” and “Many Mothers” were ethereal—hauntingly beautiful.  All-out audio assaults such as “Spikey Cars,” “Storm is Coming,” “The Chase,” and “Claw Trucks,” attacked you in full, rock operatic force. 

Tone it down, jazz it up, crank up the rock, start all over again.  These speakers didn’t care about the mood or genre I threw at them.  All this RSL setup cared about was doling out superb, toe-tapping, audio enjoyment

Movies

Movies are probably where I noticed the greatest difference with the RSL setup.  Everything I described with music listening was true of movies and TV shows.  However, the one area where I felt the RSLs had a bit of a shortcoming vs. my reference sub, an SVS SB13-Ultra, was in the truly deep bottom end of the audible spectrum in the 20Hz-30Hz range.  

To be very fair, my listening room is very large for a 10” sub. It’s 30x24 at points and 30x18 at others. The SVS SB13-Ultra is a much larger subwoofer (13” driver vs. 10”), and retail price of the SB13-Ultra sub alone is more than the total price of the RSL 2.1 setup.  In my setup, I felt as though the SB13-Ultra packed a deeper and cleaner bottom end than the Speedwoofer 10.  I felt as though this single Speedwoofer 10 would have performed far better in a smaller or medium-sized space.  At least two Speedwoofers would be needed in a large space such as mine.  That’s not to say that the Speedwoofer was a slouch—by no means.  Within its range, it was a superb, detailed, and clean performer.  I’m simply saying that in my room setup, I felt that the Speedwoofer just didn’t command visceral output at the lower end.  None of that took away the delight I had. 

Note: Please see the addendum at the end of this review for additional notes on the Speedwoofer 10 and the retest I did using dual Speedwoofer 10s in my system.

Upon hearing the RSL speakers I went from a raised eyebrow to a dropped jaw.

In the opening scene of Gladiator, I could distinctly make out the rustling of each stalk as Russell Crowe’s hand passed through the wheat field.  During the Gladiatorial match in chapter 11 where the gladiators are chained to each other in pairs, the clanging of swords against metal shields and rustling of chains were sharp, distinct, and detailed.  Some might find such a sound the slightest bit on the bright side.  However, I never found it to be annoying or overly distracting.  Rather, I found it added to the sonic ambiance of the spectacle.  Chapter 15 depicts a gladiatorial contest in the Colosseum mimicking the 2nd fall of Carthage.  In a clash with the chariots, the pounding of horse hoofs was exceptionally clean and satisfying but didn’t completely rock my larger room.  I noticed the absence of the deepest foundational bass in the accompanying soundtrack.

Gladiator   Les Miserables

The superb motion picture adaptation of Lés Miserables, starring Hugh Jackman, opens with this visually stunning, cinematic scene where hundreds of convicts are pulling a huge wooden ship into dry dock with massive ropes as rain pounds down upon them.  Drums beat in the background of the gripping musical score.  While the strings and other instruments were well rendered, I again longed for a bit more “oomph” out of the lower region. The death of Fantine, played by Anne Hathaway, in Chapter 6 was emotionally powerful. Vocals were warm and delicate. The theatrical power of that scene came through in all its glory.  The subsequent exchange between Valjean, played by Hugh Jackman, and Javer, played by Russell Crowe, likewise carried superb emotional impact.  The accompanying soundtrack, discreet sounds, and final splash of water as Hugh Jackman jumps into the river were all rendered with superb realism.    

Dawn of the Planet of the ApesChapter 2 of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, opens amidst the backdrop of a thundery, rainy afternoon. Caesar leads hundreds of apes as they herd a group of deer through the northern California forest.  The detail of the raindrops and the soft patter of individual ape’s feet as they landed on branches was phenomenal.  Want to know if the RSLs can handle dynamic elements? Chapter 21 leaves no doubt as the pop of machine gun fire had an explosive quality to it. When necessary, sounds had impact while always being kept under control.

Many a speaker system will be seething with jealousy.  This RSL speaker system performs a whole lot bigger than it looks.  The physical impact conveyed by the RSL setup with music and movies reminded me a lot of my experience with the Joseph Audio Pulsar monitors in the sense that they sound considerably bigger than their physical footprint would suggest, and they deliver a dynamic, acoustic experience.

Between music, movies, and TV shows, I played with the RSL setup constantly for over two months.   I interchanged between the CG24s and the CG4s.  To be frank, I didn’t notice a lot of difference between the two speaker systems.  If pressed to identify a difference, I might be tempted to say that I felt that the CG24s had a bit warmer presentation.  In any event, the top end of the audible spectrum was thoroughly satisfying.  I found both models to blend exceptionally well with the Speedwoofer 10 to the point that I was truly unable to discern any issues at the crossover point.  

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

JPyman325 posts on January 01, 2016 10:52
An update on this amazing systems sub woofer. Last night while watching fireworks with our neighbors we were making sure that neither of could hear our outdoor speakers. He says the only thing he can hear is the neighbor on our other side son playing his new bass. Well its actually my sub watching movies. My HT is upstairs over the garage and there is probably 50 feet between our house and theres -
JPyman325 posts on December 31, 2015 09:20
I would suggest giving RSL a call and talk to either Joe or his dad Roger who designed the speakers. These are one the best speakers I have heard in a long time even off-axis listening as in my bedroom with bookshelf. One of the most impressive is how good these speakers sound at each volume level. My old Def Tech's (1990's) needed power and volume to really come a live. My Mirage's also had their sweet spot. I have not found a volume that these don't sound good but loud is always better.

The speed woofer is amazing a good tight bass for music and with enough power to feel the movie throughout my house. My HT is upstairs above the garage and my wife feels the vibration in our bedroom - other side of the house downstairs and our house is not small (nor large unless you live in New York).
TLS Guy posts on December 31, 2015 09:05
ski2xblack, post: 1111009, member: 9107
That impedance curve looks a bit like that of a speaker with an aperiodic port that needs a bit more stuffing. Those rsl cabs are interesting. They remind me somewhat of Atlantic Technology's HPAS cabs. Although AT's goal was extension, both have unconventional enclosures that feature some sort of novel hybrid/truncated/reverse taper transmission lines with side chamber, and from the looks of it they must damp the active driver a bit differently than by-the-numbers bass reflex. I would actually have been surprised to see the classic symmetric impedance peaks Gene expected.

I have been looking at this. It is not a reverse taper TL. If it were the start of the pipe would be widest. It is more like a horn that is too short. There is an expansion box, throat, and another expansion, just like a horn would have. Then there is that port.

The impedance curve looks like a that of an incorrectly tuned QB4 box. The 3 db point is around 100 Hz and the roll off is fourth order like a ported box would.

I'm not at all convinced that internal contributes anything but bracing. I would like to see the comparison of the same drivers and crossover in a properly deigned QB4 box. My feeling is it would be superior.

The speaker sounds good because the crossover seems spot on and the drivers are perfectly integrated.

As for the bass loading, it seems a mish mash of a too short TL with expansion and taper of a horn and then an attempt as mass loading with a port. Pending further information and data from the company, I'm not impressed with this loading arrangement.

The Speedwoofer on the other hand at first glance looks more promising. Although F3 is fairly high, it is rolling off second order, like a TL would.

I would like to see more measurements of that, and details.

I have tried various configurations over the years to try and reduce the real estate of TLs, including mass loading them with ABRs. The only ones any good were labyrinths. I suspect if that GL4 where a labyrinth it would be much more promising as far as the low end is concerned.
The price would be higher as there would be a lot more internals. However I think the 3db point would be lower and roll off second order, with more low bass, and low Q to boot.
TLS Guy posts on December 31, 2015 08:56
ski2xblack, post: 1111009, member: 9107
That impedance curve looks a bit like that of a speaker with an aperiodic port that needs a bit more stuffing. Those rsl cabs are interesting. They remind me somewhat of Atlantic Technology's HPAS cabs. Although AT's goal was extension, both have unconventional enclosures that feature some sort of novel hybrid/truncated/reverse taper transmission lines with side chamber, and from the looks of it they must damp the active driver a bit differently than by-the-numbers bass reflex. I would actually have been surprised to see the classic symmetric impedance peaks Gene expected.

I have been looking at this. It is not a reverse taper TL. If it were the start of the pipe would be widest. It is more like a horn that is too short. There is an expansion box, throat, and another expansion, just like a horn would have. Then there is that port.

The impedance curve looks like a that of an incorrectly tuned QB4 box. The 3 db point is around 100 Hz and the roll off is fourth order like a ported box would.

I'm not at all convinced that internal contributes anything but bracing. I would like to see the comparison of the same drivers and crossover in a properly deigned QB4 box. My feeling is it would be superior.

The speaker sounds good because the crossover seems spot on and the drivers are perfectly integrated.

As for the bass loading, it seems a mish mash of a too short TL with expansion and taper of a horn and then an attempt as mass loading with a port. Pending further information and data from the company, I'm not impressed with this loading arrangement.

The Speedwoofer on the other hand at first glance looks more promising. Although F3 is fairly high, it is rolling off second order, like a TL would.

I would like to see more measurements of that, and details.

I have tried various configurations over the years to try and reduce the real estate of TLs, including mass loading them with ABRs. The only ones any good were labyrinths. I suspect if that GL4 where a labyrinth it would be much more promising as far as the low end is concerned.
The price would be higher as there would be a lot more internals. However I think the 3db point would be lower and roll off second order, with more low bass, and low Q to boot.
ski2xblack posts on December 31, 2015 02:17
KEW, post: 1108809, member: 41838
In the measurement section, Gene wrote:

The CG4 measured a nominal 8 ohms just like RSL states, never dropping below 7 ohms (6.4 ohm min per IEC requirement). However you can see the box is a little too small for the driver with the asymmetric peaks between the saddle point. To RSL's credit, didn't hear any ill effects in bass. However, in my opinion, a speaker this small should be sealed since a port can't do a whole lot in this scenario.


Did either of you try sealing the port to see if it affected the sound quality? That would be interesting to establish since the port is designed to reduce resonance rather than be a source of added sound (as I understand it).

That impedance curve looks a bit like that of a speaker with an aperiodic port that needs a bit more stuffing. Those rsl cabs are interesting. They remind me somewhat of Atlantic Technology's HPAS cabs. Although AT's goal was extension, both have unconventional enclosures that feature some sort of novel hybrid/truncated/reverse taper transmission lines with side chamber, and from the looks of it they must damp the active driver a bit differently than by-the-numbers bass reflex. I would actually have been surprised to see the classic symmetric impedance peaks Gene expected.
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