I have a confession to make. I have had a love/hate relationship with Klipsch Audio loudspeakers going back to 1990 when I heard my first pair at a friend’s apartment in college. After being introduced through a mutual friend who told the guy that I was a fellow audiophile (already a bad sign), we walked across the GWU campus and he invited us up to his apartment to watch the Giants game.
Do you know people who quietly flip through your music collection and make a judgement call right there and then? Don’t be that person. I was that person in 1990. Had the Klipsch RP-600M existed in 1990, I still would have been that person but more likely to experiment. With music.
His apartment reeked of cigarettes, and you had the feeling that he didn’t do laundry that often; leaving it for those weekend trips home to Cherry Hill where his doting mother could attend to it. He did have a Carver power amplifier, and pre-amplifier – something he clearly liberated from his father’s den once the Risky Business hangover subsided and the old man had moved on to a big Mcintosh rig driving some JBLs or Martin-Logan Sequel IIs.
But what intrigued me the most were a pair of beat-up Klipsch Heresy II loudspeakers that he was using on either side of an Ikea television stand. The Heresy series looked awkward on their risers, but the manner in which they propelled music into his tiny living room wasn’t awkward – it was illuminating.
My Celestion Ditton 33s at the time didn’t exactly stink in the grand scheme of things, but they didn’t raise the hairs on the back of my neck listening to Guns N’ Roses either. You listen calmly to Celestions. You dance and play air guitar with Klipsch.
Take a guess which one I liked better.
Over time though, I found his taste in music depressing (Eagles, Bon Jovi, Metallica), and I developed an allergy to the forward sounding treble of the Hersey’s. Fast forward almost twenty-five years and the opportunity to listen to the Volti Audio Vittora at a trade show; the Vittora represent a state-of-the-art attempt to flesh out the concept behind the Klipsch Heritage series La Scala 3-way horn-loaded loudspeakers. Having listened to them at a multitude of shows, I had this sudden urge; primarily due to the cost difference, to audition the Klipsch La Scala II. I’m glad that I did.
Horn-loaded loudspeakers and tube amplifiers are two of my favorite things; and when you get it right, a well-designed pair of horn-loaded loudspeakers and tubes are a magical thing that most people outside of the audiophile sphere have never really had the opportunity to experience.
Bad on us as a community for not making that happen more often.
Klipsch have been manufacturing loudspeakers for 73 years, making them one of the most significant consumer audio brands in history. Paul Klipsch may no longer be alive, but his legacy of creating loudspeakers that sound like live music is in very capable hands based on the quality of the Heritage line-up, and the Reference RP-600M loudspeakers ($549.00/pair).
The RP-600M are not without their quirks; using the wrong amplifier and not paying attention to set-up degrades their performance and long-term listenability. But for their asking price, they represent one of the best gateway drugs into high-end audio that I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in a very long time.
Wait. Listening to music is supposed to be fun? Don’t tell the adults.
What We Like:
Presence. Vitality. A sense of swagger that works very well with most genres of music.
Klipsch loudspeakers have a reputation for being forward/bright sounding, and while there is certainly a lot of top end energy and detail emanating out of the RP-600M’s 1-inch titanium-dome tweeter with hybrid cross-section Tractrix horn, the loudspeaker never crosses a line that makes them sound etched or hard.
Horns, in particular, have a healthy degree of bite and tone making them a vibrant listen with great jazz recordings like Hank Mobley’s Workout (Tidal/MQA) and Donald’s Byrd A New Perspective (Tidal/16-bit/44.1 kHz). Byrd’s signature track “Cristo Redentor” had me a little nervous leading up to the moment where his trumpet enters, but the combination of the RP-600M and Heed Elixir integrated amplifier with its warm tonal balance was a winning tandem.
The Heed can sound slightly rolled-off in the treble, making it a synergistic match with the more aggressive sounding Klipsch. When I switched back and forth between the Heed, Croft Phono integrated amplifier, and Anthem MRX-520 AVR, it became rather evident that the Klipsch prefer a warmer tonal balance; and something with a greater sense of control in the mid-bass and below.
The RP-600M’s 6.5-inch Cerametallic cone woofer does an admirable job with vocals but nobody will ever confuse it for a paper or polypropylene driver; there was a slight hardness on some recordings like Sam Cooke’s Night Beat (Tidal/16-bit/44.1 kHz) that I have never heard when playing tracks like “Lost and Lookin’” though my Quad S-2s, Wharfedale Diamond 10.1s, or Acoustic Energy AE100s.
When I switched over to my vinyl copy of the aforementioned album, there was less of an edge in the upper midrange that I heard when streaming via Tidal, but it’s clear that the Klipsch sacrifice some midrange warmth for a sharper edge, and more immediate sounding presentation. It’s not a bad thing if you can balance it out with an amplifier or sources that dial back the RP-600M’s exuberance – but it’s clearly there.
If you’re looking for a bass heavy bookshelf loudspeaker; a description I rather loathe for the RP-600M as one could never recommend them to be used in that capacity (unless your bookshelves are 20” deep), they get you part of the way there – but not completely. Having spent some time recently with the Forte III, and La Scala II, I’ve noticed a bit of a trend with Klipsch loudspeakers and bass response. If you’re looking for subterranean bass response that will rattle your walls, the RP-600M are going to leave you hanging somewhat; what you get instead is quick, tuneful bass that is somewhat on the lean side depending on your choice of amplifier.
Listening to Aphex Twin’s “To Cure a Weakling Child” (Tidal, 16-bit/44.1 kHz) made it pretty clear that the RP-600M are very adept with electronica; the track energized my 16 x 13 x 9 den with relatively tight bass that was fairly extended, but I couldn’t help but feel that it would have benefitted from a subwoofer.
I’m not all that obsessed with soundstage depth or width, but I’ve owned enough 2-way monitors, electrostatic, and planar magnetic loudspeakers over the years to understand how the RP-600M compare in that regard. If you can pull them 2-3’ from the front wall, they can recreate the space between you and the musicians, but there is trade-off in tonal balance and bass response. Because they are rear ported, I left them 26” from the wall and that proved to be a good compromise in my listening space; the RP-600M sounded fuller to my ears pointed straight ahead and 72” apart.
Another positive was their overall appearance, which earned a lot of positive comments from both family and friends who walked past them during the review process. Most people didn’t believe the price, and were not turned off by their size (15.7” H by 8″ W by 11.9″ D) on my 24-inch welded iron stands from Gig Harbor Audio. The magnetically attached grill covers reduce the overall output by 1dB; depending on the day/mood/intensity of the rain and wind lashing our home off the ocean, I preferred listening to music with them on.
There is no question that the RP-600M are efficient, high-sensitivity loudspeakers. Klipsch’s claim of 96dB/W/m is not something that I was able to verify, but there is no question that you can drive these loudspeakers to very loud levels with only 50-watts – but they do sound better with 100-watts and something on the warmer side. My Croft Phono integrated utilizes tubes in its preamp section, so I’ve yet to try the RP-600M with an EL34 or EL84-based tube amplifier, but I plan on doing so in the near future.
The RP-600 are above average in the imaging department, but don’t expect them to carve out a palpable, three-dimensional soundstage in your room.
The bass is agile, tight, and extremely good at keeping up with pace of bass heavy tracks, but it’s not going to shake your room to its core. An affordable subwoofer from Klipsch or SVS would turn this into a very serious full-range system for almost anyone.
There is a slight level of hardness in the upper midrange that may bother some people with vocals depending on your amplifier. If you stick with warmer sounding amplifiers or sources, the issue will probably never rear its ugly head; and you’ll think they have unbelievable presence.
It would be easy to say college students, and music listeners on a budget, but the RP-600M have widespread appeal regardless of budget. They are a versatile loudspeaker that work exceptionally well with most genres of music and movies; they would make an ideal pair of front left/right channel loudspeakers in a home theater set-up.
At $549, the Klipsch RP-600M are a lot of fun to listen to. There is a buzz surrounding these loudspeakers that I didn’t quite get at first – but after a few weeks with them – I consider myself a convert. There is a lot to like if your musical tastes lean towards electronica, pop, classic rock, and a steady diet of television and movie soundtracks. Jazz and classical fans may be slightly less enamored if they are used to the classic British bookshelf sound, but driven by the right amplifier, the RP-600M might just surprise you. Very highly recommended.
Video Review: TechnoDad’s Video Review
Type: Two-way, rear-ported, stand-mounted loudspeaker
Drivers: 1″ (25mm) titanium-dome tweeter with hybrid cross-section Tractrix horn; 6.5″ (165mm) Cerametallic-cone woofer
Frequency Response: 45Hz–25kHz, ±3dB
Impedance: 8 ohms
Dimensions: 15.7″ (400mm) H by 8″ (200mm) W by 11.9″ (300mm) D