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Onix Rocket RS 1000 Loudspeaker

by September 09, 2004
Filed under: Loudspeakers

Introduction to the Newest Rocket Loudspeaker - the RS 1000 
by Mark Schifter - President of AV123

"I've been thinking night and day about our new Rocket RS 1000 after my last visit to China … As this will be the Top Of The Line for the Rocket Series of loudspeakers, I'm going to pour a lot into this product as it represents sort of a milestone for me… Let me explain why… " says Mark Schifter - President of AV123.

Design Details about the RS 1000's by Mark Schifter 
The RS 1000 is my idea of what a "next generation" loudspeaker will sound like. TREMENDOUS versatility and wide-band top to bottom performance will prove to be the hallmarks of this design. I have loads of confidence in the fundamental product concept, and as I've been playing with the two basic alpha samples we've produced… I've grown more and more convinced that we've hit the nail square on the head with this thinking. Can I review the basic design with you once again as I've modified some of my last (best) thinking?

Resized and Re-spec'd
To start with the RS 1K will be about 12 inches taller than the RS 750. We needed this space for various reasons… but let's start with the obvious. This product will have a built-in side firing 8" sealed woofer (NOT a sub woofer)… We need some space for this of course… I want to emphasize that this driver will "see" a primary steep slope high-pass filter of around 28Hz via the built-in amplifier and the associated R-DES (Rocket Digital Equalization System) that comes with it (more about that later).

What I want is for this driver to produce some fundamental (foundational) bass ONLY! I'm doing this mainly (if you follow my thought process) for multi-channel music applications, and let me say this… it REALLY works… You still get the slam from the hallmark 750 design (4X 5.25" woofers in our progressive matrix array) --- PLUS that sealed 8" guy hitting hard "underneath"… I just love the result… and I believe you will too!

O.K. --- more about the extra height. We are going to include in the RS 1K the same custom designed 4" midrange from the RSC 200 Bigfoot center channel. This will be positioned ABOVE the VIFA Ring Radiator Tweeter (to keep the tweeter more at an ear level positioning)… in an isolated and damped sub chamber. We've worked very hard to blend and match the basic signature of the RS 750 with the RSC 200… The results are really off the charts for me… I've never been prouder of anything I've been associated with… (IN other words… I'm really pleased)… Using my test system in China with 2 X UFW-10's crossed out pretty low… it's simply AWESOME… Fast, tight… well defined… and with TONS of slam. Music is stunning… and HT is simply astonishing (sorry for so much hyperbole), surpassing even my own expectations…

The 8" Sealed Woofer and Amplifier 
[Picture_056] Let's talk a bit about the 300 watt woofer amp included in this package (just for that 8" sealed guy) and our new Pacifico Software Interface. We've decided to include Pacifico in this product as I think it's a MUST HAVE for any (sub) woofer in any room (once you use it… there is no turning back). That said though, I've come to a decision include it in its external box form (This will be known as the Rocket Digital Equalization System, or R-DES) for some very "sound" reasons… Let me explain.

The Pacifico Interface is the software that runs R-DES. In its external box form R-DES is a two channel analog in / two channel analog out digital equalization system with five pre-sets that allow you to call up any curve YOU DESIGN using your computer. For those of you that are not as fluent in all of this… we will program R-DES (via Pacifico) with five really neat curves. However… if you want to tinker with your woofer interface to your room… you may do so by using your computer to design your own curves. A few of you have had a look at what the interface can do… and how it operates… and frankly --- its mind blowing. REALLY fun stuff… You build your own curves… upload them in real time (about 200mS) and wham… you hear the results on the spot. Let's please remember that the TI DSP builds the coefficients and sends them as "Perfect Phase Filters"… Like I said… this is a MUST HAVE for any theater.

Originally, I was going to build the interface into the on-board amp in this design, and just offer you the one USB out to go to your computer. But… instead I've decided to give you the complete R-DES product with the speakers as part of the package. In reality, R-DES will be available as an external product in 2004 at a retail price of $399. So, those of you with SVS's or HSU's etc. can buy one to really optimize the performance of your subs… Remember, Pacifico has 5 bands of complete parametric equalization… with variable (selectable) frequency, variable Q and of course… variable gain of each filter band. You assign the values… you make your own calls --- and you design your own filters based on the needs of your subwoofer and room. Oh… and then later… (read on)…

Many of you can (already) imagine what we can offer later with the box being external (in R-DES form)… and with digital I/O's there at the ready… I can promise you that later you'll be able to download from our site a complete software update that will allow you to operate Pacifico as a full band, completely digital, parametric equalizer. That way, regardless of what speakers (or subs) you own now, or on into the future, R-DES has value to you today and tomorrow…

If you think I'm having fun with you… well… you're right, I am. I love the power of digital (think Audio Alchemy and Perpetual Technologies)… and with R-DES and Pacifico there is no limit to where you can go with this. You can save 1000's of curves (one for each movie if you wish) and upload them at will to your (sub) woofer. R-DES can store up to five curves that you can readily call up. To go to a new curve that you've designed… just upload it… it's that simple.

So… R-DES and Pacifico are yours… and for those of you that want ERT's we'll have a special package price for you. I've decided to not include these in the $2799 base price… but if you want them (and I DO)… they will be yours for $199 for the pair. Please remember that any single pair of Rocket loudspeakers may be traded in on RS 1K's and you'll receive 100% of your paid in price in trade (sans freight) towards your purchase (even B-Stock purchasers). No kidding… for real.

The Rocket RS 1000 is my gift back to you… This is my very best thinking, and that of our immensely talented engineering staff… I'm excited about this product, and I know it shows… (My apologies again for so much hyperbole… but this product and the formidable duo of the Pacifico Interface and the R-DES hardware deserves this level of excitement).

Quick Statistics

Availability: Late 2004 
MSRP: $2799 (with discounts available for speaker packages)
Dimensions: 51.6" (H) x 11.7" (W) x 15.7" (D) [55.9" (H) x 15.6" (W) x 19.7" (D) packaged] 
Weight: 115lbs each (130lbs gross)
Impedance: 6.5ohms
Sensitivity: 90.5dB

AV123 is currently offering an Audioholics 10% discount on all pre-orders for the brand new Emotiva 9.4 preamp/processor and power amplifier system as well as the new RS 1000 flagship loudspeaker system through the month of September. Redeem your coupon code "Audioholics" via AV123 shopping cart checkout or via phone orders.

A Comparision of the RS 1000 and the Reference 3 by Mark Schifter

There are several things I am expecting from the Rocket RS 1000 as juxtaposed to an ONIX REF Three. Arnie (Nudell) used to whap me in my ribs and ask if " I heard that "… In the way-early days I'd say " heard what "… and that would make him laugh. He'd ask me if I could hear down into the piano, or did I hear the wood in that clarinet. What the hell are YOU listening to he'd ask me. I inevitably say I was listening to the sound… but I later learned that that was not nearly enough… I had to listen to the "voice" of the instruments, sometimes even one by one… and where they were placed on the stage, and then the leading edge and the last reverberant note (better referred to as attack and decay… Which leads us to today.

These are very different products Ladies and Gentlemen for some very good (and sound) reasons. They are meant to be different, but please know in your hearts that both are VERY GOOD at what they are meant to be good at. (Hope that made sense)… Each has it's own collective voice, but as those that own Rockets and REF Three's can attest to… these are NOT cut from the same "sonic signature" at all. Lets start there, shall we? Lets chat about the Sonic Signature of each by breaking up the band a bit… and then later we will talk about Staging, Rhythm and Pace and the killer --- Transparency. I guess I'm going to give you all the whole nine yards / three bags full and then hope that I've not made a mess of the question at hand.

The REF Three's are our answer to some mighty fine product out there that represents sort of a "mature advancement, or evolution in sound" (notice I did not revolution in sound). The wonderful products from ProAc come to mind… even many of the Dynaudio loudspeakers are of similar ilk… these would make for a good comparison with our REF Three's. These are very revealing speakers with a level of detail transmission that most can never achieve. They reach low (easily, without strain) and with a stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks articulation that borders on the marvelous. They can also be a tad "dark" for some (me included)… but that takes away nothing… Let me explain a bit more…

By "dark" I mean that you feel the impact of the bass notes we are talking about here, but a bit more recessed (as opposed to up-front)… and on the decay side "rebound" you have to listen (more) closely to connect the dots. It's there… but a bit "behind" in the articulation of the instruments own voice. For strings like Cello this presents a very "romantic feel"… Large enough for sure (properly scaled and presented)… but can be a tad fuzzy (the audiophile word is "smeared") when compared to something like a Revel or Genesis (that have their own problem areas also, BTW). Nothing bad at all here… just an observation from someone that highly values micro-dynamics in the music. I want to hear all of it… even if the tonal balance is wrong or flawed.

Midrange Presentation
The midrange is another interesting part of the tale here. Please remember that they midrange is so important as so much of the music is contained there. Have you ever noticed that the midrange is where other speakers just fail? I have, and it's been a long time coming for many speakers to be called out for their poor midrange reproduction.

In the REF's you have BIG and extremely LUSH midrange presentation. I love the way this speaker gets out of the way and just lets you INTO the midrange. I have heard "airier" midranges from planar magnetics or pure ribbons (of course)… but these mids have weight and definition.

Woodwinds are a great example of this… They dig deep and present themselves with authority and verve. This speaker is not shy about its midrange at all… Thanks to the remarkable 7" Athom driver that we can cross high (at 2.5K) while coupled to the VIFA XT25 Series Ring Radiator… the result is a synergy of midrange created by this driver blend. This speaker produces midrange with the weight I was talking about but also a DEXTERITY within the band because of the XT Ring Radiator used down into that last octave or so (of the midrange) before heading to the treble region… ALL in one driver --- VERY Cool… VERY Hip design… Oh, and the other secret… The Crossover.

The REF Series uses a more holistic approach to the entire question of the XO. In the Rocket line we attempt to "control" many of the maladies of "today's network to driver interaction"… Phase, Impedance, Absolute Gain (within the structure of the network to the driver) etc. --- In REF we do almost NONE of this. Why… simply put the drivers are much more advanced in REF (as you would expect)… and require less "controlling" to achieve the desired result. We have done more work on the driver(s) from the onset and we also use some super premium parts in the XO too boot. This takes nothing away from the Rocket (especially the RS1K) Loudspeakers as we have different goals. I'll talk more about those goals when I get to the RS1K section of this series.

So I've called this midrange Lush and Big and I mean all of it, but let me let you in on the "secret sauce here"… The REF Three is sort of a maxi-monitor is a larger framework shell. This allows for the pinpoint imaging and well controlled behaviour --- but extends the extremes with a second woofer doing it's thing down low… and the magneto-static planar magnetic tweeter there to add the air and extension we crave from mini's but hardly ever (if at all) get. The formula here for the midrange is actually set up by all of the other drivers… Like I said… this speaker lets you in… It invites and believe me --- It Delivers the goods in the all-important mid part of the band. Fun stuff indeed…

Weaknesses of the System?
Any weaknesses…? Well, yes, and no. I would like a more EXPLOSIVE midrange like Genesis. The secret sauce there is simple… The 4.5-inch titanium midrange does things that are frankly not possible with our twins here… Take a metal stringed guitar (as I have) and compare our lush (even a bit warm) midrange with the explosively quick Genesis and you can instantly hear what I'm talking about… I can "feel" the leading edges more (or attack if you will) of the string more clearly… but I do very much love the tonal nature of our REF Three though these mids. It's all about compromise, and I think we've made some pretty fine choices here in the REF Three. I can discuss for hours how drivers like this titanium number have to be controlled up into their higher frequencies as they all "oil can" (or resonate) up high. Controlling this is not easy at all… while still allowing their attack to happen…

The point is this… There is real science here and a bit of black art also mixed in when designing loudspeakers. Let no one tell you this is the easy part of our art… It's not. Throwing together drivers into an enclosure will only get you part of the way home… The real key is getting everything to work in concert --- all elements matter, and there is a serious learning curve attached to this art form. More later…

Well… this brings us to the highs of the REF Three, and in my humble opinion one of the strengths of this loudspeaker design…

Just like the mids… the highs are an amalgam of the best of several worlds (and driver) and technologies. The fun stuff never really eases up with this speaker. The maxi-monitor does it's thing so the imaging is World Class in all respects… but the SPECIFICITY of the image is so very important and often really overlooked in even the most high end of designs…

Specificity… Lets talk about layers and texture. On many speakers I can hear a suspended instrument like a Triangle. When it goes "ding" I hear it --- clear as day. But when a design goes further… I can hear it "in its space" and the layers and overtones become apparent. I can make out where on the stage the percussionist is standing and even (physically) how high up he or she has suspended this instrument before striking it. GREAT loudspeakers allow you to make out where on the stage the musicians are standing and if anyone is elevated. Generally speaking for me… it's the highs that allow for this phenomena to make itself appear. The REF Three's flat out do this for me.

What About hte High Frequency Response? 
I sincerely believe that the highs on this speaker are of an ilk and nature that makes it hard for anything in its price class to compete or better it. I find the highs simply SUPERB at any listening level or demand placed on it. Bravo REF Three.

I think the key is again the balance and the blend of the driver technologies being used. The VIFA XT25 Series Ring Radiator is just stunning at what it does. The weight is there, and it's no slouch at extension either. Couple that to the Magneto-Static Super Tweeter and you have a winning combination that can strike out at the best the world has to offer. (Guess by now you would assume I really like the highs on the REF Three)…

The XO is surprisingly simple and straightforward here as we seek neither confinement or control… we only use the very purest of parts and paths… The highs shimmer and glow and extend for miles… Violins have a just right feel and flavour… not too much… not too weak… just right.

I guess it's now time to leave the REF Three and head for the RS1000's… a personal challenge in a loudspeaker design (in this price class) like never before. This is a serious speaker capable of playing BIG (even bigger than the REF Three) without dynamic compression… and with a hammer-like personality that says Play Me… and hold NOTHING back. For those of you that know what a Genesis APM-1 is… then this speaker and it's design criteria should be no surprise. With Multi-Channel music here to stay… more and more demanding HT playback requirements, and my dedication to "the music"… The RS1K is my "bridge the gap" product… and one for the ages at that!

The APM-1 (Arnie, Paul and Mark) was the first Genesis loudspeaker specifically designed from the outset to work in Home Cinema environments. This was a product I personally pushed hard for, and it became (commercially) the largest selling and arguable the most popular speaker in Genesis' history. The RS1K is my natural extension to the message that the APM-1 delivered on… but with some twists of my own. Before venturing into all of that, please allow me a few paragraphs about the "marketing-side" of this undertaking… O.K.?

I felt it very important that as we grow and succeed as a business that all of you derive as many benefits as possible along the way. The RS1K is my attempt to offer all that we can (from a Rocket POV), and we of course want to share it with as many of you as possible. Believe me there were many delicate conversations amongst all of us at av123 as to how best let everyone in on the magic as we grew… I had an idea, and I wanted the RS 1K to be my way of expressing myself product wise, and at the same time making it my way of saying Thank You for coming along on this journey with us (and I mean that)… as no one believed we could ever successfully sell loudspeakers on the Internet… EXCEPT ALL OF US!

Trade-Ins Welcome for the New RS 1000 System
At the same time, I've wanted to drive home a point about "The Rocket Sound" and to do this properly the ONLY way I could come up with was for anyone that wanted to borrow the speakers should be able to do so (I'm speaking mainly of the RS 750 here) and experience our sound for themselves. So… in part one could say I'm serving myself (our company and YOU) by allowing for a complete dollar-for-dollar trade in of your 750's on the 1K's… and you would be right on all three counts.

These trade-ins will allow us to create a "lending library" of RS 750's. I believe that once the rich / lush nature of the 750's could be heard (and their wonderful crank-it-up and enjoy me without fatigue) and experienced, we'd convert some folks from the "other brands"… Many of you know this first hand, but imagine if we could offer some 10 or 20 pairs out there for folks to have at it with. Perhaps my message about overly bright HT-base speakers would be understandable then. (Perhaps not… but heck, I'd love to try)… Many of you have written the obvious about this… You've reminded me that it's the "blend" of 750's and Bigfoot (RSC 200) that MUST BE experienced first hand for The Rocket Sound to be heard at it's best… Perhaps you are right… I'm considering this now. 

I'm also on record as saying that the RS 750 is a Desert Island speaker for me… and it is. We'll be offering the trade-in 750's for around $750 ~ $800 dollars and making lots of people that can't swing the $1500 dollars happy… New members… more fun --- Mission Accomplished.

The Versatile RS 1000 Loudspeaker
O.K. --- here I am again and ready to swing for the fences with our continuing discussion of all of this. Lets start with this word --- Versatile --- as define below…


  • Capable of doing many things competently.
  • Having varied uses or serving many functions: "The most versatile of vegetables is the tomato" (Craig Claiborne).
  • Variable or inconstant; changeable: a versatile temperament.
  • Biology. Capable of moving freely in all directions, as the antenna of an insect, the toe of an owl, or the loosely attached anther of a flower.

[Latin verstilis, from verstus, past participle of versre, to turn. See wer-2 in Indo-European Roots.]  versa·tile·ly adv.
versa·tili·ty (-tl-t) or versa·tile·ness (-tl-ns, -tl-) n.
Synonyms: versatile, all-around, many-sided, multifaceted, multifarious
These adjectives mean having many aspects, uses, or abilities: a versatile writer; an all-around athlete; a many-sided subject; a multifaceted undertaking; multifarious interests.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

Wow… this pretty well covers it for sure. The RS1000 was designed from it's very birth to be a versatile performer in respects. Capable, reliable… is it the last speaker you may ever need --- possibly.

Serving many functions… YES!

Capable of doing many things competently… You Bet!

Changeable as the need arises… In more ways that I'm going to tell you about today!

The compelling thing about the RS1000 and the thinking that went into this product is simply this… A speaker for Today and Tomorrow in all respects, and I mean that. Sure, this speaker has its flaws also (as I'll describe openly with you)… but at this price point there is NOTHING else that I'm personally aware of that can give you ALL that the RS1K can offer.

The Sound of the RS 1000 
I'm going to talk about The Music and I'm going to talk about The Cinematic Experience with the 1K… but first I'm going to tell you about it's voice --- it's heart and soul… it's ability to draw you in and keep you happy in ways that I wasn't even sure we could make happen. It's a big mother… but it's also capable of turning on a dime --- stopping and starting with the best of them (and I'm talking about stuff WAY more expensive)… Before I get too carried away I want everyone here to recognize that I have a distinct bias for this speaker… as I made it for me, and the specific direction I see for the future of Home Entertainment. Is it as audiophile-approved as the REF Three --- No way --- but is it a speaker I will own myself… HELL YES --- for many reasons.

Rhythm and Pace are something that Ivor The Great (from Linn in Scotland ) talks about often, and while many speakers WANT to have this as part of it's DNA… frankly, few have it. The RS1K has this in SPADES. It ROCKS… it wants to be played loud… it wants you to challenge it at every turn… and it will laugh along with you at it's ability to translate the message of Rhythm and Pace so easily… you'll find yourself listening louder than you ever would have before. Get ready to rumble. You will find yourself tapping your foot all the time along with this speaker. It has a natural (here we go again) rhythm and pace that allows you to play song after song… movie after movie. You'll just find yourself wanting more all the time.

But What About the Bottom End
The bottom end is so lovingly tactful… yet absolutely incisive and purely visceral when need be. Who do we have to thank for this… Mr. Dick Pierce, and his invention of the Progressive Matrix Array (PMA). Keep in mind that the RS1K allows you to interact with it --- you configure the speaker for what YOU desire out of your system. You can feed the powered woofer amp a high level input from your amplifier and then cross this woofer over to the PMA at whatever variable frequency you desire (we supply the jumpers to do this with, BTW)… OR, you can run the powered woofer all by itself using it's low level inputs and still run the rest of the 1K full range (sort of like a bulked up RS750 if you will) from your amp. ALL things are possible with this set up… There will be many people talking about Large and Small settings… What I'M talking about is being able to do anything you want with this speaker --- ANYTHING AT ALL!

The bass is equal parts speed, dexterity and tactile response. I want to convey to all of you that this speaker is NOT the last word in DEEP Bass… But as far as "progressive bass" is concerned, Houston , we have liftoff. VERY quick bass is what I found in my listener notes time and time again. Plenty of "slam" --- whether it be the "electric" Stanley Clark or "the lp-like and unadulterated" Charles Mingus… I like what we have here in a real way. Tympanic overtones are heard AND felt… Hand picked (plucked) bass is easily discerned and understood… No muddled mess here to try to hear through… You get it all, and you get it with an immediacy that borders on outstanding.

I tried using the powered woofer to PM Array several different ways… and each time I was pleased with our design decisions to make a speaker for The New Age of Multi-Channel / High Resolution Music… This speaker (in the bottom end) brings it all home to you in a way that's clean and lovely yet primitive in it's own way.

O.K. so now that I've given you most of the good news about the bass… what pray tell can be wrong with it. Well… almost nothing… except… I would wish upon a star that it had a tad more warmth. I purposely did not use metal for the powered woofer and instead went with a material that is a sandwich-like design with an outer stiffening agent (coating). This helps a lot… but as the frequencies rise… I wish it were a tad warmer. Stop and Start are "right-on"… but some of the "skin" I wish I felt more up into the midbass. Yo Yo Ma is so nice and immediate… I just wish he were a tad more approachable and allow me to hear into his instrument more… I'm not unhappy with the trade off… I just would wish for……… . More warmth. Lets move on to the midbass shall we? My favourite part really. Arnie had taught me time and time again to pay attention to this region as so much of the speaker's "character" can be found there…

Mid-Bass Performance
Here is where I have to admit we shine so BRIGHT and so CLEAR… I love what we have here. Instruments like Cello radiant a warmth and invite the listener in to "get closer and closer"… The RS750's did such a fine job here that it should come as no surprise to most of you that we took the same concept and just rounded it into the midrange driver that we have now at our disposal (and what a driver that 4" mid is, BTW)…

By rounded it into I mean simply this… We can band limit a bit of the top 5.25" driver now as we have that midrange at the ready. We can concentrate the power and brute force of these 4 X 5.25's into the midbass where we allow this design to exhibit it's power and it's grace… The trick has always been the XO "talking" to the midrange… but DP does our thinking for us here with the Progressive Array doing the work and taking that last driver to a focus point working WITH the 4" midrange… They can stay comfortably in their band… they produce less THD "in-band" as we ask little of this 11"-like moving mass (4 X 5.25" drivers) that decouples itself as the frequency rises… (Very Cool, BTW)… best of every world… Force when you need it… quiet ascension when asked… What could be better we have this focused like midbass working in complete harmony with the midrange… Ahhhhhhhhhhh…

The midbass is a percussive affair but can easily become a loudspeaker's Achilles heel if it's too syrupy (thick and slow)… as we want speed and slam with a velvety character that allows it to cross to the midrange and not slow IT (the midrange) down… This is another reason why the DP Progressive Array carries so much weight with me… As it decouples with frequency it gets "lighter" --- even airier…

I know not all of you might like Linkon Park's new (unreal great) Meteora, or Brian McKnight's U-Turn… but I sure do… and without this midbass being able to do it's thing you will not be able to uncover the raw anger in Numb or the wild ride in All Night Long (he says this while listening to Dido's Life For Rent right now… ? )… it growls in a way that reminds me of the Genesis APM-1 (or dare I say… the new 6.1) while it purrs for me with something like the wonderful Seal IV…

For Jazz… for Classical… this is a speaker that can (and will prove to) be a wonderful product for all listeners… It's not a speaker that will define or place barriers… it's a speaker that will tear barriers down… and the midbass has as much to do with this as anything… It does HT in spades… (get ready) because it provides the explosive character needed to transport you into the print… This speaker while of course physically so large can "energize" a room like nothing else… and this my friends and neighbors is what we need and desire for Home Cinema… (sorry… I'm excited again… STILL)…

Pu and I ran a few scenes the other day and he was smiling like a little kid… We had the UFW-12 beating down the walls… and RS-1K assaulting us with ALL of the information that Black Hawk Down could offer… the RS1K laughed at us… and we at him. Pu and I just smiled… Pu said knowingly (in my best Taiwanese Pu-like accent)… Mark, the Sounding Quantity is GOOD… maybe Best I Hear… I had to agree… For those of you that have heard the unparalleled Genesis complete HT System (with the 6.1 as the L/R and THAT Centre… whew)… you'll know just how big of a compliment this was to our team… At 26K I would own nothing else… and to place us in that rarified air was an honour…

Mid-Range Performance
Well… here we are --- The Midrange. Oh how this is the bane of every loudspeaker designer. How to make it all work here… This is the spot where you can make your speaker so easily too thin… too thick… too "honky"… to overbearing. Why --- simple, because the midrange is where so much of the music resides. Just think about a female voice (something we audiophiles love to use to zoom in on a speaker's character, or flavour) for a moment. You want the nuance of a Radka Toneff as she transports you to a "starry starry night"… you don't want her unique subtleness or "softness" to cease (although sadly she is gone, and has been since what, 1982)… You want Holly Cole to "bring it home to you", not make you run for cover when she starts to belt it out… The midrange is an easy place for those trained OR untrained to find out too fast if your speaker is "good or bad"… There is no covering up a lousy midrange… believe me.

I love Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Kate Bush etc. etc. and without the midrange… well hombre you can forget about it… It's SO important that I've know speaker designers to just break down and cry (me included, BTW) after they lavished so much time, money and energy on the elusive liquid-like midrange that never saw the light of day. In fact, I can name several designs that stood still for a year PLUS until the midrange could be ferreted out properly (and that ain't no lie)… I've watched several designers just "shut it down" completely as they just could not get it right… Lets just say… I understand… ?

The RS1K gets it right… We use our custom-designed 4" little wonder in a very limited, but oh-so-important band… 1500Hz to 6000Hz… and you know what… Dick is so dang right-on as usual… He also built me an attenuation matrix for the midrange and the tweeter so that I could "feather it all in" (while maintaining the phase and network "Z constant" we always want)… AND tweak away without compromising this part of the design (now THAT is just like our DP-Man)… Think I'm kidding… I'll attach a jpg of the "chart" later… Dick makes this part really rather easy for me… I don't have to recalculate loads and loads of data points… DP feeds it into his Network Optimizing Software and EUREKA … here's are the values mls… now do your thing…

So, what we have here is a nice 5.25" upper midbass / midrange driver, operating as a "perfect" (or as close as we can get) piston making it easy for our 4" guy to stay "cool" in his narrow, but oh-so-important band. You next question is why if this is such a good idea do other multi-driver arrays not fare as well our RS1K (will)… simple… the Progressive Matrix Array that we are using for the 4 X 5.25" guys is NOT simple to design, optimize… or deliver… We have DP, and the other guys do not… Oh yes… IT COSTS BIG MONEY (forgot to mention this)… and requires all sorts of stuff that the other guys can't match (from a production standpoint) in this price range.

The handoff we use makes our 4" midrange Alive and Active sounding (narrow band again)… BIG and BOLD without hurting… (that's that last 5.25" metal cone singing without pain in HIS Band) and producing a "contour" that's easy to fall in love with… Ask some of our more seasoned Audiophiles like BW why these svelte 5.25" mini monitors produce such a lovely midrange and why they image so well… The "contour" between the drive units is easy to manage… and while the RS 1K is hardly a mini-monitor… in many respects he acts like one. Sa-dono quickly figured out that this was the "strategy" with our REF Three also… and it works…. The RS1K is far more complicated (because we are trying to do SO MANY THINGS with him)… but dang, this works in spades with the 1K. We keep the drivers LINEAR (we have lots of guys on our board that will flat out understand this concept and I do hope they'll chime in a bit)… we keep them well fed (phase and impedance controlled) and we ask them to do nothing that will HURT…

The results are incredible… You get the speed I desire with the 4" guy… the big and very linear sound with the 5.25 guy adding his 02 cents worth… and EASE through the band that makes you want to turn it up and enjoy… Each driver working in unison --- sounding out his part of the band in a fluid and highly "coupled" way… Life is good with our RS1K… believe me… The first time you play Diana Krall you'll reach out to kiss her… (and I'm not joking one little bit)… You may think this is a massive load of hyperbole… but ladies and gentlemen there is a reason this beast took me so long to finish and her name is…………. Miss Midrange (remember the ELT midrange… whew, I do). She's sexy and oh so contoured… easy on the ear but capable of rocking (you) steady and hard or behaving like a velvety vixen… You'll see (and hear) what I'm talking about soon enough. We'll have them at the CO GTG, so hang on to your hat.

The Tweeter and High-Frequency Response
So here we are again… After Miss Midrange we now arrive at Sir Thomas Tweeter… a polite and well-weighted gentleman in all respects. Let me tell you a little bit about him, and why he is the perfect mate for Miss Midrange.

Balance --- Balance --- Balance... without a nicely defined balance between the midrange and tweeter all of our work could go for naught… Tizzy highs make me want to loose my nicely prepared lunch faster than anything else. Nothing drives me out of a room quicker than highs that are too "sharp" --- too "wicked" to be enjoyed or absorbed, and right here is where so many loudspeakers flat our fail. Too much treble energy and it'll start to hurt sooner or later… to little energy and you loose so much of the ability to retrieve those ambiance cues we relish… (so much of "THIS" is "up there" in the higher registers)… There are many recordings out there that have captured the magic so well… and today, some of the newer High Resolution media has so much "meat" up there… well… to not be able to properly retrieve this information would be a crime…

At the heart of the matter one must pay supreme attention to the handoff between the midrange and the tweeter… We use our very best parts here --- and we are careful to not use our tweeter in this scenario to close to its Resonant Frequency (simply stated… sort of the lowest it can go)… With the design of the RS1K we are a full two octaves over that line. With a 6KHz handoff to the tweeter, we are nowhere close to his break-up point. The other nice thing to remember about this is his power handling gets much better also… Turn it up… enjoy… and fear not --- the system will stay in tact even during the most demanding of passages.

This loudspeaker system is not at all like the RS 750 where we really keep the energy level to the tweeter in check (we have to)… With the 1K we allow for "much more energy" (given the context of the ENTIRE system) while keeping the "weight" (and contour) right where we want it… You get all the highs you could ever lust after, just not out of balance to the rest of the system needs. High Hats and Ride (Cymbals) are "silky smooth" not "sizzly". I want everything that Weather Report can give me… all of their energy and great gusto --- and I want it loud --- I don't want to have to turn them down because my "speaker said so"… 

I know this is all a bit subjective on my part (but REALLY I don't start to electronically measure until I know I'm real close to the result I'm after… this is sort of a game I play to test myself)… but I can hear AND "feel" the sound I'm after… so I just head for that road, full speed ahead. Again, given the context of this BIG and BOLD multi-driver bad boy, I allowed for more energy, while maintaining the desired balance I'm always after. 

To head for controversial waters here… let me poke my toe in and get something off my chest… I have heard many a speaker described as revealing or very analytical, or (dare I say) "airy" when all this was (IMHO) the treble weighting off the charts to the high side of scary. I can name a raft of speakers that fall into this category… (I won't… but I could…). Just one listen to our REF One tells the story of what road we want to travel. We want a big --- Well Balanced Sound --- even from our little friend named here. ELT LRS… also pretty dang wonderful for a speaker in this price category (and the overall result you get), as is something like the Cse. Nicely weighted and balanced to offer you the best result for dollars you can spend. 

The RS1K is lovely to listen to at any level… Although imposing… (even HUGE)… I've listened to him disappear time and time again listening to Chamber Music, or big imposing Orchestral masterpieces (ah… how about Bartok, Concerto for Orchestra --- Introduzione --- with Erich Leinsdorf conducting)… Solo instruments to Trios… the 1K can place instruments and voices in space with all of the texture and verve each individual voice has to offer… The highs NEVER get in the way… Just a lovely sense of balance and blend with the rest of the "voices" in the speaker system. Paco De Lucia's enticing and lovely (in a mystic sort of way) Zyryab was in full majesty the other day… I was impressed… and I was in love. Music is the only Universal Language this world has to offer… and I want to enjoy the entirety of it… not only parts that present themselves as "listenable".

Managing the Balancing Act
What I enjoy the most though is (still) the dynamic range the 1K has in spades… The highs are so important to this "balancing act"… If the weighting is NOT correct, when you turn it UP (and believe me… you will) you'll feel far too "assaulted" by the high frequencies… In the case of our friend the RS1K this just doesn't happen. You can easily dance with these guys all night long and only later when you turn it off will you realize how loud you've been listening. This has happened to me several times with the 1K… Could I have been listening THAT LOUD? ? Was Shirley Horn really in the room with me… (she was… for sure)…

The sense of ease that this speaker presents is wonderfully appealing and so addictive… I love it. I know, you think I'm not talking about the highs here as I promised I would… but in reality I am… because I AM so sensitive to this area of highlight and reproduction I can confidently and openly share with you that the highs feel so "right" to me on this speaker. If this part of the equation were imbalanced… there would be no way for me to "connect" with this speaker the way I have.

I ALWAYS listen critically in the blackest room possible (concentrating my being on the "hearing sense" as much as I can)… and after a night with artists from every tangent and venue in my arsenal, I am always amazed at the sheer size of this thing after the lights go on… I felt like I was listening to a very personal --- almost mini-monitor-like speaker --- that was (is) capable of dynamic range and contrasts I always wished for. And then BAM… I see the RS1K and laugh… man he's big… but capable of "playing small" also… You have no idea how important this is to me… and MY Holy Grail… I want MY ultimate monitor to be "personal" --- yet have the impact of speaker capable of transporting me to the hall where the CSO is letting loose with Wagner… (By the way… the Strata will knock you into the next dimension when you hear how he does this)…

O.K. short and sweet caveats… here it is in two sentences and one large proviso. In terms of the RS1K's tweeter section being the last word in "resolving power", I would beg off. In terms of him being the last word in "transparency" I would shuffle my feet around a bit before saying this…

I could live with this speaker now and on into the foreseeable future (without hesitation) as My Personal Swiss Army Knife… He can do it all… and he can do it right… and at these "today dollars"… he's just flat out something AMAZING… There, said it… DONE.

In closing for now… the Treble works on this speaker really well… It all comes together in a beautiful way… Weight… Balance… and Dexterity. The blend I'm always searching for (that elusive "blend") is easily found and well appreciated with the RS 1K… I can listen for hour after hour without wanting for something more… I can enjoy any type of music or cinematic experience without compromise… I can have it all… and I can have it at a price that makes me smile for all of us… Before I left on my self-imposed R+R I had one last listen… Evgeny Zarafiants conducting the Four Preludes, Opus 22 No. 2 from Scriabin… in a word… Happiness. I closed the door behind me and you could not have wiped the smile off my kisser for love or money.

I'm proud of this product… and I know that those of you that have signed on will be proud also…

One more shot later… I think I need to tie it together a bit more for all of us… REF Three… RS1K and The Future… I'll have at that in a few days…

Thanks for listening…

Mark Schifter 
President of AV123

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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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