RBH Sound has been around since 1976, quite some time, but has really only marketed products under their own name for the last decade or so. In that relatively short time, the former OEM component manufacturer to a number of prominent brands has built a reputation for high quality loudspeakers and relatively reasonable prices. They have also built up something of a small, loyal following as their name reaches further into the audio mainstream.
The 8300 SE/R tower speakers were recently introduced at the 2009 CES and represents near statement/reference quality loudspeakers for RBH Sound. Aside from some of the T Series modular speakers and the limited edition T-30LSE, the 8300 SE/R represents what RBH Sound is really all about, what they think speakers should sound like, without the compromises required to hit a market price point. At $9,700 per pair, the 8300 SE/R loudspeakers are not cheap, but they are far less pricey than where some loudspeaker companies mark their high-end products. Diminishing returns dominates at these prices with little gained, objectively, between large price differences such that as long as a speaker performs well, it often becomes more about subjective preference for voicing and very subtle minutia than about any concrete gain from spending more or less money leaving ardent audiophiles to argue nuanced subtleties until their dying breath. There will be many fine sounding loudspeakers available for top dollar; it becomes a matter of if ones wallet can keep up with ones preferences.
So, we will now see how the 8300 SE/Rs perform, both objectively as well as subjectively.
Design and Construction
An imposing loudspeaker system that will command attention, to say the least, the nearly 4’-8” 8300 SE/R towers will stand out in just about any room. So it is a good thing that considerable care was put into the cabinet construction to produce furniture quality finishes because these speakers will not be hidden from view easily.
The Signature Reference Series loudspeakers are available in 30 wood veneer finishes in combination with black or white grille colors, with the review pair finished in South American Rosewood matched with black cloth grilles. The slender, rectangular towers feature radiused vertical front corners, semicircular grille ends and a large flared tuned port on the front, exposed below the grille. The grille frame appears to be composite construction with a 3/8” MDF layer backed with a layer of 1/8” plywood and has six metal lugs to attach it to the towers. Around the back of the 8300 SE/R speakers are dual gold plated binding posts to allow bi-amping or bi-wiring.
RBH claims that the ported 8300 SE/R is tuned to hit an impressive 22 Hz, a bass extension that few dedicated subwoofer designs actually hit. The large diameter tuned port is dimpled, presumably to raise the critical velocity that helps prevent those untoward noises that occur after the transition from laminar to turbulent airflow. This is an important consideration for any loudspeaker design that is intended to move a lot of air at low frequencies.
I evaluated the 8300 SE/R loudspeakers driven by my primary stereo audio gear. The setup consists of a PS Audio 100 Delta power amplifier with a SimAudio Celeste P-4002 preamplifier, a Wadia 12 D/A converter, and a California Audio Delta CD transport.
Firing up these babies, my immediate impression was of a thick midrange, but I do not mean that in a bad way. It is simply that these loudspeakers present a generous amount of midrange, at least more than I was used to. This does have its up and down side as well, though.
While the 8300 SE/Rs are a very detailed set of loudspeakers in an absolute sense, they did not seem quite as detailed or as forward and enveloping with the imaging as I am used to with my Kappa 600 reference speakers. This is not necessarily a fault with the speakers, but with human hearing and masking. A slight increase in output of particular sounds may lead to a slight decrease in perception of other sounds that do not have an increase in output. The change in relative magnitude can obscure certain details and ambience slightly.
Case in point of this phenomenon where personal experience comes in is with re-masters of older recordings. The original digital releases of certain records, Peter Gabriel era Genesis comes to mind, were somewhat thin in the midrange. This is perhaps in part because recording engineers who were used to equalizing for vinyl were mastering digital the same way or in some cases the recording was reissued using the vinyl LP masters. The same thing happened with some early DVD releases that looked like transfers straight from video tape. I found this lack of midrange to be increasingly noticeable on lower quality audio gear while higher quality gear tended to de-emphasize this thinness to some extent. With subsequent purchases of these albums re-mastered, I found the midrange to be much more lush, but in turn, I found a certain amount of low level detail that I was used to obscured slightly. All the detail is still there, perhaps even more, but it takes a bit of listening retraining to get accustomed to. Despite a slight perceived loss in detail, I quickly became accustomed to the fuller reproduction of the re-masters and I find something similar happening with the 8300 SE/Rs. Life is full of tradeoffs; each has their own decisions to make.
What I found with the RBH 8300 SE/R loudspeakers was a very natural sound with a lush midrange that was simultaneously laid back and yet dynamic, solid imaging, and natural timbre. The 8300 SE/Rs did present a significant amount of detail without sounding analytical or unnatural by drawing attention to the detail in an artificial way. Nothing about the sonic presentation was forced or strained in any way from the deepest bass to the highest treble with these speakers. Bass was deep with tight control and the treble was smooth and open, one might say airy in audiophile speak, with no grain or harshness audible even at elevated listening levels.
Read the full review at Audioholics.com
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