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Onix Rocket RS450 Loudspeaker Review

by October 03, 2006
  • Product Name: Rocket RS450 Loudspeaker
  • Manufacturer: Onix
  • Distributor: AV123
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStar
  • Review Date: October 03, 2006 20:00
  • MSRP: $ 899

System: 2-way, three-driver direct-radiating system, vented enclosure with two rear-firing flared ports.
Drivers: Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter, two custom 5.25" long-throw mid-woofers
Frequency Response: ±1.35db 200Hz to 20KHz; ± 3 dB 38 Hz to 20 KHz
Crossover Point: 2.5kHz
Slope: 12dB acoustic
Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
Efficiency: 87dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
Dimensions: 37 5/16" H x 15 5/8" D x 8 13/16" W at widest point; 6 7/16” at the front; 5 3/8” at the rear
Weight: 70 lbs/pc shipped


  • Great aesthetics
  • Accurate and articulate
  • Good bass extension for a bookshelf speaker


  • Unstable – want to tip over
  • Flimsy grill


RS450 Build Quality and Setup

The Rocket RS450s came double boxed, capped by foam with two additional foam collars around the body of the speaker, and covered in a cotton sock. White cotton gloves are provided to assist you in removing the speakers without getting a ton of fingerprints all over the glossy finish. The Rocket RS450s are presented with the standard Rosewood finish with black piano gloss top and bottom caps. The finish on these speakers is frankly gorgeous. It is actually a shame to put these speakers in a dark room. I took many of my photographs outside and the finish really popped (as did the white foam endcap). Back inside, they lost a lot of that luster.

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clip_image012_016.jpgThe speakers are quite substantial at just under 70lbs a piece. Handling them in the cotton sleeve with the cotton gloves is akin to trying to hold a soaped-up, cranky, 5 month old in the shower (believe me, I know). After I wrestled them out of the box and got them unpacked, I had a choice between fairly substantial brass carpet spikes and small sticky rubber half spheres. At first, I thought the carpet spikes were outrageously large until I started trying to adjust them. With my fairly long pile carpet, I still had plenty of space to get my fingers underneath for quick adjustments. The grill was a bit flimsy and ill fitting. It seemed to constantly stick at the bottom and the spacing was a bit off at the top. If I didn't have kids, I'd just throw them away, they look better with them off anyways.

Taking the RS450s apart, I found a single internal brace between the tweeter and the woofer and another between the two woofers. The brace ran the circumference of the interior and had a single cross member across the width. The cabinet is constructed out of 1" MDF (rare at this price point but a constant design attribute to all AV123 loudspeaker products I've had the pleasure of reviewing). The internal volume of the cabinet is limited through the presence of an internal sheet of MDF that completely blocks off slightly more than the bottom half of the speaker. While I am sure this ensures the proper box volume for the drivers to get the best extension half an octave above free air driver resonance and smooth roll off below it as per the engineers design goals, it also transforms the RS450 into a bookshelf speaker in a floorstanding cabinet. If you factor in the cost of stands into the cost of a set of bookshelf speakers, Rocket may have saved you a couple of dollars by providing you their own stands.

The drivers consist of a Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter and two custom 5.25" aluminum coned mid woofers. I was very excited to see the Vifa tweeter used as it is generally reserved for systems costing many times what the RS450's cost. The aluminum drivers used stamped baskets instead of cast but at this price point, so does pretty much everyone else. The magnet structure on all of the drivers was substantial and I was impressed with the size of them. The crossover uses all high quality parts including air core inductors and polypropylene capacitors. Thankfully no cheap electrolytic caps were found wired in series with the tweeter as often present in moderately cost products like this one from other manufacturers.

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Setup and Placement

I messed with the placement a lot with these speakers. First of all, if you've read that Rocket speakers are a bit unstable , that would be correct. The sides are convex making the front and back baffles the smallest areas on the speakers. There is only about 4 inches between the carpet spikes on a speaker that is over 8 inches wide in the middle. No matter how much I fiddled and adjusted the spikes, I never could get them to a place that I'd consider stable. If you have kids (like me) or pets (especially medium sized dogs or larger ones with tails) you'd better think carefully about these speakers. They are tippy. AV123 offers a 6.5 inch riser that is supposed to make the speaker more stable. Personally, the tweeters were perfectly at ear level so I wouldn't want the speakers any higher. I'd love to see AV123 offer some sort of outrigger setup that could make their Rocket line more stable without raising the speaker. Plus, outriggers just look cool.

I had the speakers sitting about 22 inches off the back wall and nearly three feet off either side wall. They were spaced about six feet apart. I adjusted the toe in all the way from straight ahead to pointing directly at me to see which position offered the best imaging. Personally, I found that they sounded best with just a tiny bit of toe in (you could probably set them straight ahead and do just fine).

The RS450's seemed a bit power hungry and my Denon 3805 strained to keep up at higher volumes. At normal and even high listening levels, the Denon was fine. But once you moved near reference levels the amp section of the Denon just couldnst keep up. To really hear these speakers sing, you're probably going to want to invest in some external amplification.

RS450 Listening Tests and Conclusion

clip_image002_136.jpgOverall, I found the RS450s to be an exceptional speaker. Usually, when I set up new speakers, I notice the biggest differences from my reference Axiom M22ti(s ) right away. A/Bing the speakers just solidifies my opinions. With the RS450s, I was a bit flummoxed. The high end sounded a tad smoother with a bit more extension and there was a more bass in comparison to my reference speakers. I was hearing linear, articulate, and well-controlled sound.

As I told a friend, writing a review about a bad speaker is like writing a review about a car that randomly ejects people when you roll down the windows - there's plenty to talk about. What do you say about something that performs well - other than just that? Well, read on...

Listening Tests: Movies

In a two channel setup, multi-channel listening tests have limited value. Still, I wanted to see how the speakers would handle some of the LFE that makes a home theater such a desirable investment. I wasn't expecting a $900 pair of "floorstanders" to replace a well placed and calibrated subwoofer but I did want to see if I could have an enjoyable movie experience without the benefit of a sub.

Silent Hill

clip_image004_086.jpgBased (loosely) on the game of the same name, Silent Hill is an atmospheric movie that gets a lot of things right - except pesky things like a coherent plot and a satisfying ending. Personally, I liked this movie for its ability to set a creepy mood and for some incredibly tense scenes. Some might say that the pace is too slow but I found it just right, allowing the viewer to agonize over what was about to come popping out from behind the next door.

I first watched this movie without a sub. I didn't want to taint my non-sub experience with the memories of what the Axiom EP500 would provide. Not knowing what was possible I thought the movie seemed to have enough bass. Sure, I never felt the bass but I sure heard it. Of course, once I went back and enabled the sub, I felt what I was missing. There is really no substitute for a good sub with movies. Compared to my Axiom M22ti (s), they seemed to have more bass but you are definitely going to want to invest in a sub for movie playback.

Listening Tests: Music

clip_image006_067.jpgI spent the majority of my listening time demoing different two-channel music. I tested the RS450s full range (no sub), full range (with sub), and set to small (crossover at 80Hz with sub). I don't think I needed to set the crossover so high, during two channel playback - I thought 60Hz sounded nearly as good. But for multi-channel playback, a global crossover was too low at 60Hz. Plus, I had used the Onix R-DES to calibrate my sub using the 80Hz crossover and I didn't want to lose those benefits.

Lorna Hunt - All in One Day 

clip_image008_043.jpgI like this album for a number of reasons but I find it well suited for reviews because of the husky female vocals and the acoustic instruments. I've spent a lot of time with this album and know it quite well. The RS450s presented an accurate soundstage and conveyed Hunt's voice convincingly. It's hard to say that her voice was "lifelike" without ever hearing her live but I detected nothing artificial about the presentation of the vocals or the instruments. There is an airy quality to the recording that, to me, is indicative of a live performance. The noise floor is detectable but not distracting. The RS450s presented both the good and the bad of the recording. I A/Bed them with my reference speakers and found the presentations to be extremely similar. The Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter in the RS450s seemed a bit more forgiving at the top end giving a bit more extension than my Axioms.

Yello - The Eye 

clip_image010_030.jpgI hope you're not tired of reading about this album because I'm going to write a lot more about it in future reviews. It just has so much going for it from a review standpoint. I don't think I'd recommend it for casual listening, but for a reviewer, it is an invaluable tool. I first played Track 6, "Junior B." Again female vocals dominate in this slow, methodical techno track. What is nice is the bass run that slips down near subsonics at a few points in the song. Here it was obvious that the RS450s really require a subwoofer for best reproduction of two-channel music. You could easily hear the difference between the rendition of this song with and without a sub - the bass run just ends way too early without. Other than that, I was completely impressed with the reproduction of this track.

While I spent a lot of time on all the tracks, the final track, "Planet Dada (Flamboyant)", has some amazing imaging possibilities (with the right speaker). I've heard this track played on $20k+ electrostats and I felt like my head was going to explode. Of course, if I moved my head two inches to the left or right the imaging collapsed. Playing this track at a fairly reasonable volume (or unreasonable if you ask my wife) I found the imaging and soundstage to be both convincing and wide. I have a double recliner in the center of my theater seating (the better for snuggling with my better half) which I sit in the middle of during listening tests. I was able to move from on side of the double recliner to the other without significant harm to the soundstage and imaging. The imagining was very good and the soundstage was tight and controlled.

Rusted Root - When I Woke

clip_image012_017.jpgI've had this album for a number of years and have enjoyed it to no end. Sure, it stinks of Phish and Dead but the female vocals really make it for me. I hadn't listened to the album for a very long time until I watched Ice Age with my son recently and noticed Rusted Root on the soundtrack. I dug it out and gave it a listen, remembering why I liked it so much. Now it is back in regular rotation. The first song, "Drum Trip", is mostly a percussion solo that is very demanding on a loudspeaker. All the drums and the different levels really taxes a speaker's ability to keep up. The RS450 was no slouch and handled it well with no hint of strain or lag. Cymbals crashed and faded while drums remained tight and quick. Everything sounded alive and realistic.

The sixth track, "Beautiful People", is a "love it or hate it" kind of song. Personally, I land squarely in the former camp. There is a huge range of volume, not to mention an extremely strong alto and soprano performance. The female vocals are each anchored in one of the speakers while the male vocal is centered in the soundstage. I actually used this song quite a bit in determining the proper toe in of the speakers. Too much and you couldn't locate the female vocals properly. Too little and the male vocal seemed too diffuse. Behind all this is a nice recorder riff that has that hollow/airy sound that is characteristic of the instrument. The RS450s performed admirably on all aspects. I was extremely impressed with these speakers' ability to maintain a coherent soundstage with all the different elements going on at the same time. The Rockets performed so well, I had to listen to the track again... and again... and again...


clip_image014_012.jpgWow, so what have we learned today? That Rocket makes a beautiful speaker? Well, we already knew that. If their speakers are half as good looking as the pictures on the AV123 website, the speakers would satisfy all but the most critical. Esthetically, I can find nothing to fault the Rocket RS450s on. They are simply gorgeous. But this is about sound folks - and the Rockets deliver in spades. Tight accurate bass, controlled highs, stunning midrange - the Rocket RS450 delivers on all counts. If I had to sum them up with one word it would be linear. Linear and accurate. OK, two words. Linear and accurate and gorgeous. Three! Three words. OK, this is harder than it looks. If you were going to order stands for your bookshelves anyways, the RS450 provides a speaker with stellar performance, fantastic esthetics, and unbeatable WAF. Most mid-fi receivers will drive these speakers to respectable levels though you may want to invest in a solid pair of monoblocks or a stereo amplifier to help these speakers realize their true potential. Regardless, you won't be disappointed with the Rocket RS450s. They sound as good as they look, and they look great!

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Build QualityStarStarStarStar
Treble ExtensionStarStarStarStar
Treble SmoothnessStarStarStarStar
Midrange AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Bass ExtensionStarStarStar
Bass AccuracyStarStarStarStar
Dynamic RangeStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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