Klipsch RB-81 II (Black) Bookshelf Speakers

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Klipsch RB-81 II (Black) Bookshelf Speakers 

DESCRIPTION

Your space deserves great sound, and the Klipsch Reference series RB-81 II bookshelf speaker is able to give it to you, without taking over your entire room. Utilizing a 1? titanium horn-loaded tweeter with Klipsch? s Tractrix horn technology, as well as an 8? Cerametallic woofer cone, you? ll be able to enjoy amazing, room filling sound that belies the RB-81 II? s bookshelf size. With the Reference series fifth generation, the updated crossover systems and drivers bring this speaker to a whole new level. Refinements to the look of the speaker make sure that it will seamlessly fit into your home theatre system. Bookshelf speaker (each) 8" woofer, horn-loaded 1" titanium dome tweeter,dual binding posts for bi-amping or bi-wiring,frequency response 44-24

USER REVIEWS

Showing 1-10 of 10  
[Sep 22, 2011]
Dave
Audio Enthusiast

I've owned quite a few Klipsch speakers and have always liked their sonic immediacy, dynamics and presence. From my first set of Heresy I’s from 1978 theirs have been among my favorites. The RB-81II's are no exception and are in my opinion among the best stand-mounted/bookshelf model you can find out there. I admit my fondness for the large JBL L100’s or the first Polk 7’s is a sentimental attachment from days long gone.

Klipsch’ original entry and largest stand mounted speaker in their Reference line from 1999, the RB-5's were well built and heavy, standing 17 in. high and instead of the current 19” height and were available in black, oak or cherry real wood veneers and put out a large amount of sound for their size. Those 5’s were unlike the models that came after in that they were rear ported which increased bass response but made them difficult to place near a room boundary. Not so with the current design. Either on a bookshelf or a stand the new model sounds well balanced but I prefer them out a little more into the room. The horn and eight-inch woofer blend well together and are a redesign of the previous RB-81. With better response from bass to treble they put out some tasty up-front sound that should satisfy listeners with average sized rooms for both home theater or music. The sound is very open and clear, and you'll hear the details you won't likely find in cheaper speakers. The cherry vinyl finish is a little darkish compared to their old light colored veneer but if it doesn't work for you they're available in black vinyl as well. I would have liked to see a real-wood veneer option, standard in their top of the line RF-7II’s and classic Heritage line.

I have a Sheffield lab demo CD that has Clair Marlo singing “I Believe When I Fall in Love” that begins with a solo cello intro and you can easily hear the natural resonance of the instrument. Clair’s vocals have plenty of sweetness and ambience to them. On the last track, Jim Keltner offers up a drum solo, just over a minute long which highlights the RB-81 II’s abilities to translate the power of percussion like few speaker can and on this one everything is absolutely clear and precise from the softest cymbals to the pound of the kick drum! Comparing them with my 2005 RB-35’s there’s a distinct improvement here. The treble is not overemphasized as it is a bit on them. Trumpets and other horns are also much better and the bass is much tighter and rounder. Plucked or bowed acoustic bass is also excellent!

Not everyone is a Klipsch fan since horns have a sound that may take a little getting used to but there are a few other manufacturers that are now offering horn-type tweeters in their models, notably Chase Home Theater, BIC and Hsu. The advantage of not having to worry about the power of your receiver is in itself a plus in that a horn system can pump out lots of sound with modest amplification. I own the Hsu designed BIC Acoustech HT-75 towers, bought back in 2005 and still enjoy them a lot and though they offer a similar overall sound, they don’t have the full-frequency range and detail of the 81 II’s. The Acoustechs will need a subwoofer (unless you really hate bass) since they are purposefully rolled off at 80 Hz.

At the price Klipsch is selling them for I doubt you'll find any speaker that comes close to the RB-81 II bookshelfs in fidelity, balance or refinement as these do. For those that don't have room for a floorstander, which I would recommend for larger rooms, these may be just what you want both for casual or critical listening.

…Just a note on placement and break-in: I have my RB-81 II’s on 20 in. steel stands so that the horn is at ear level about 10 inches out from the long wall and well away from the side walls in my 12 X 16 foot room. You may need taller stands if you’re listening position is further away from the speakers than mine. I also found that a modest toe-in enhances the speakers’ imaging and soundstage but I encourage you to experiment with positioning to suit your own ears. Remember to give yourself a few weeks to get accustomed to the Klipsch sound or the sound of any new speaker and when you buy make sure you get a 30 day trial option to return them if you’re not impressed. Your brain will thank you for being such a smarty. Enjoy!

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[May 15, 2011]
Shake777
Audio Enthusiast

This is a very good speaker which can you can display with confidence that it is among the better bookshelf speakers. I have many of the fine Klipsch reference speakers in an 11.2 system where they serve well as surround speakers. I'm sure in a smaller room these would stand alone and make fine speakers in a stereo set up with a good amp. They are that good. I have auditioned many of the better bookshelf speakers that are worth thousands of dollars and I think the RB81 speakers hold their own just fine among them. They are even that good. I'm not saying these are as good as three thousand dollar speakers but I am saying that if you spend three thousand dollars you are going to get a small amount of improvement for all your money.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
[Jan 18, 2011]
Matt
Audio Enthusiast

These speakers sound fantastic for rock music, funk rock, country, hip hop, and most other genres. I love their seperation and detail. They do provide adequate bass, but for large rooms a powered sub might be in order. I have used them both ways and think they perform well in either scenario. If you like your music lively, detailed, and airy, I highly recommend these. Also, they play exactly what is recorded, so bad recordings will be noticed vs. a well recorded album. I think the horn tweeter's airiness is one reason why I think they stand out from the other brands that I have heard. These are more of a forward sounding speaker as well. Allow these speakers some break in time of at least 100-200 hours before judging them. I am a picky person when it comes the sound and detail of my music, and these speakers are staying with me for quite awhile. I love them.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[May 26, 2010]
emak212
Audio Enthusiast

Well what can I say, these speakers were the ones that let me fall in love with music. I auditioned other speakers in this price range including Polk, Infinity, Mirage, Paradigm, and others, but these were the ones I kept coming back to. Granted, there are much better speakers out there, but if you're on a budget look no further. I have yet to hear another speaker under $1000 that can produce such an open treble, wide soundstage, or bass extension as the RB-81s. Speaking of bass, these RB-81s are some of the best you can get for a bookshelf speaker. I had these bad boys hooked up to a Jolida-1501 (100wpc) Tube Hybrid amp. This is a match made in heaven. The 8" woofers can really kick hard for a bookshelf speaker. On top of that, the detail these speakers are capable of achieving is incredible (especially through a tube amp). I listen to many types of music including Jazz, Classical, Hip Hop, Techno, Electronic, Rock & Alternative. There is not one type of music the RB-81's can't excel at. The only thing you should be concerned with is listening to music through a good source. I used my laptop's USB to a Perpetual Technologies P-3a & P-1a DAC/DSP setup. This combo blew me away; there was so much to take in from every song I played. If you're going to use the headphone jack and a "Y" cable, you really should look into a cheaper speaker because that method will not give these speakers the justice they deserve. Another thing I will caution you on is that these speakers require a considerably long break-in time. I didn't get the sonic balance and wide sound stage that I was looking for until I had used these for well over 100 hours. Therefore, they may sound a little dull or harsh out of the box. Other than that, you really won't be disappointed.

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
[Dec 01, 2009]
Nero
AudioPhile

This is my review of tjhe rb-81 speakers. Well first of all, this is a big speaker. My previos tannoy dc6 speakers loked like a pair of small computer speakers compared to these beasts. Mine are in black and the finish is nice, nothing fancy but good enough for me. The sound, well as my speakers are new, they are not broken in yet. I have played for 5 hours approx as so far. But the sound so far is very open and airy. The upper frequency range is very well extended and precise. Cymbals have a very natural metallic sound and brass instruments sound as they should. As I can hear this is a very honest speaker. That means if you play a lousy recording it will sound as one, but play a good one and you will be rewarded. The middlerange is as good as the upper frequency. Voices are very nice portraited and have body. The only thing is, and I think it is due that they are new, but I can sense a hardness in the sound. But I think the sound will change in time. I think I can hear a diference already from the first hour to the fifth. The sound as whole is spatious and have very nice separation. If you play a jazz record, you can pick out every instrument in the soundfield. They have a nice depth and width (mayde smaller as the tannoys but I will have to check that). The bass, well I am not used to bass as it is played by this speaker. This is in a hole differnt league, if I compare to my old speaker (Tannoy dc6 a good speaker but lacks bass). Bass is the fundament of the sound and we do have a fundament here. But and it is always a but. I think the bass is a tad undefined. As it is now I can not hear a that well the difference from a fender bass and a contra bass. But this has changed as I write. They hit hard and if you like techno and that kind of music, they will not dissapoint, I have played mostly jazz on them, and they perform top noch. I had a little experiment of mine. What I did was that I connected a piece of copper wire, a very thine one to the one of the negative pole of the speakers (bass) and put it on the radiator. Before I did this I could hear som electric interference sometimes from the speaker, but not now. I feel the sound has changed for the better and it is still improving. It is a long way to go, they say that they should be played for 200h before they are ready. Thats why I give them a 4, but it will change to a 5 in 195h. If you want a speaker that plays live, dont miss these speakers, but consult with your wife or girlfriend first. The waf factor is rather low unfortunatelly. Allen

OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
4
[Dec 01, 2009]
Allen
AudioPhile

This is my review of tjhe rb-81 speakers. Well first of all, this is a big speaker. My previos tannoy dc6 speakers loked like a pair of small computer speakers compared to these beasts. Mine are in black and the finish is nice, nothing fancy but good enough for me. The sound, well as my speakers are new, they are not broken in yet. I have played for 5 hours approx as so far. But the sound so far is very open and airy. The upper frequency range is very well extended and precise. Cymbals have a very natural metallic sound and brass instruments sound as they should. As I can hear this is a very honest speaker. That means if you play a lousy recording it will sound as one, but play a good one and you will be rewarded. The middlerange is as good as the upper frequency. Voices are very nice portraited and have body. The only thing is, and I think it is due that they are new, but I can sense a hardness in the sound. But I think the sound will change in time. I think I can hear a diference already from the first hour to the fifth. The sound as whole is spatious and have very nice separation. If you play a jazz record, you can pick out every instrument in the soundfield. They have a nice depth and width (mayde smaller as the tannoys but I will have to check that). The bass, well I am not used to bass as it is played by this speaker. This is in a hole differnt league, if I compare to my old speaker (Tannoy dc6 a good speaker but lacks bass). Bass is the fundament of the sound and we do have a fundament here. But and it is always a but. I think the bass is a tad undefined. As it is now I can not hear a that well the difference from a fender bass and a contra bass. But this has changed as I write. They hit hard and if you like techno and that kind of music, they will not dissapoint, I have played mostly jazz on them, and they perform top noch. I had a little experiment of mine. What I did was that I connected a piece of copper wire, a very thine one to the one of the negative pole of the speakers (bass) and put it on the radiator. Before I did this I could hear som electric interference sometimes from the speaker, but not now. I feel the sound has changed for the better and it is still improving. It is a long way to go, they say that they should be played for 200h before they are ready. Thats why I give them a 4, but it will change to a 5 in 195h. If you want a speaker that plays live, dont miss these speakers, but consult with your wife or girlfriend first. The waf factor is rather low unfortunatelly. Allen

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
[Oct 07, 2008]
hyperpsyched
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Incredibly sensitive: 2 watts of tube creaminess will produce a usable volume.
Capable of resolving fine musical details with superb stereo imaging.
Bass is very well articulated right up to the roll off.
Look sexy with the speaker grille off.
Threaded inserts for stand mounting are a nice touch.
Unforgiving of poorly recorded source material.

Weakness:

The boxiness reduces the WAF factor.
Unforgiving of poorly recorded source material.

Well, I am not sure what was wrong with the gentleman's pair in the previous review. Perhaps he should have waited a little longer and allowed the speaker to properly break in. Most speakers have a break in period. If he would have hung in there, his patience most surely would have been rewarded. As for comparing them to the RB-75... that is a little like comparing a Mini Cooper with a Mini Cooper S. FYI: the binding posts as well as the woofer are the same on both speakers. The RB-75 has the larger 1 3/4 inch tweeter from the RF-7 which had to be attenuated as not to over power the single woofer. Most people find the RB-75 a little harsh, myself included. The RB-81 has a 1 inch tweeter which meshes much better with the single bass driver, no attenuation required. Both speakers have the molded plastic baffle. For 1100 dollars less (MSRP) I can live with the vinyl finish ;) A more fair comparison would be the B&W 602 S3.

I can not find too much with these speakers to fault. The specifications of these speakers alone beg for a listen. What can you say about a speaker that can be run to a decent volume with a 2.5 watt tube amp and can still handle horizontal stereo biamplifiaction with a pair of Rotel RB-03's (where each channel on one amplifier handles a tweeter or woofer)? The latter configuration clamps the loudspeaker by the balls and amplifier clipping is simply not a problem... ever. The midrange is accurate and the horn loaded tweeters are as good as anything I have heard. The resolution of these speakers can be eerily good with the right source material. But therein lies the rub. These speakers are so sensitive and capable of resolving such a fine level of musical detail that a bad recording will sound like the bad recording it is. There is no sugar coating here which is as it should be. They are very unforgiving of poorly recorded source material, period. What you put in is what comes out. They make my well engineered vinyl recordings really sing. However my cheapo Sony CD deck can sound a little harsh. They can also sound a little forward, meaning that they put you front and center in that smokey jazz club unlike many a more laid back speaker where you feel pushed a few rows back. Bass output, thanks to the 8 inch woofer is adequate (to say the least) for my listening area.

The speakers need to be set up properly due to the horn loaded tweeters. This took some time and the speaker has a definite sweet spot. When you sit in front of the speakers after proper set up they will reward you with very realistic sound staging. The speakers will still sound good out of their sweet spot but that remarkable sense of realism is diminished.

I would recommend these to any audio enthusiast.

Similar Products Used:

Energy RVS
B&W 302
JBL LX 2
A&R 3 way brutes from the 80's
Energy Pro Series
Monitor Audio Gold 9
Kef

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Sep 18, 2008]
aaron h.
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Nothing that I could see orhear!

Weakness:

Poor build quality.
Way overpriced considering what it delivers.
The new Tractix horn doesn't have nearly the presence of the older version.

if this represents the top-of-the-line in their 'bookshelf' speaker line, Klipsch should be ashamed of themselves. Once you get past the glitz of the copper-laid woofer, the rest of the components are very cheaply built. The Tractix horn is plastic, the cabinet is vinyl-clad, and the wire-posts are anything but quality.

After listening to them for a few days, I didn't think they were even as good as the far less expensive Axiom's I'm using in another room.. My neighbor has the RB-75's (now discontinued) so when he invited me to bring these over for a comarative listen with assorted music, I grabbed the opportunity. His RB-75's sounded soooo much better than these RB-81's , so that was the clincher - they are going back to Crutchfield.

I can't believe all of the praise I read about these here!!!

Customer Service

N/A

Similar Products Used:

Axiom M2's

OVERALL
RATING
1
VALUE
RATING
1
[Jun 14, 2007]
diblueman
AudioPhile

Strength:

They offer excellent quality sound with a pretty good price tag.
They are very comparable to many other speakers in the $1,000 price range.
Real good for almost all kind of music

Weakness:

Do to lack of bass response I can't use my paradigm sub
Rear Bi Amp Conectors looks cheap

I have listened to a wide variety of material on them ranging from rock and jazz to house trance music. My conclusion is that these would fall into the category of mid-range “audiophile” without any apologies. The bass is solid, the mid-range uncolored, and the high end bright and clear. The soundfield is almost photographic, which may be a turn-off to those who prefer a more diffuse sound. There is a tremendous sense of “air” around instruments and voices. I am now hearing the scraping of bows, breaths being taken and music stands being knocked about in recordings with which I am familiar (and had not noticed before). This is due to the extended high frequency response and wide dispersion pattern of the horn driver. While this is extremely appealing to me, I feel I should warn you that this accuracy also results in hearing all the defects in recordings as well. Source material that you might have thought was perfectly fine may be revealed as having bad things you never noticed before. While I can’t fault the loudspeaker for this, it is something of which to be aware. This Speakers will Sound Excellent after 200 hrs of break in. The cabinets are solidly constructed and very well braced to eliminate any unwanted resonance from them

Similar Products Used:

Dalis, B&W,JBL, Infinity

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
[Jun 14, 2007]
Greg
AudioPhile

Strength:

The inside construction. real good Drivers (woofer & Tweeters)

Weakness:

The metals Bi Amp Conectors.
Do to the bass sound I can't use the subwoofers when I'm listen music

Very detailed and musical sound reproduction. Amazing bass for the its size.
Highs Sound natural, Voices Sound perfect, Bass sound the way should be deep and detailed. After 200 hrs of break in for some people 50 hrs is enough but not for me. When you set this speakers on your stereo for the first time they sound good, but not excellent just wait after the break in and the sound will be better close enough to excellent .

Similar Products Used:

JBL., Dalis, Bose, Paradigms

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
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