My first proper Klipsch experience was reviewing the Heresy 3 from the top Reference series for Darko Audio. Then shortly afterwards the bigger Forte 3, at the time a £4k purchase. I loved both. Each subscribed to the classic Klipsch sound; a very dynamic, live feel courtesy of horn loading, if a little rough around the edges at times. Darko noted the same live characteristic when reviewing the RP-600M standmount speaker from the Reference Premier series (one down from Reference).
Some people can’t live with the sound, others crave it. I’m in the latter camp, albeit recognising the shortcomings (the Heresy never quite nailed solo piano, sounding a bit clangy). Fast forward a year or two and all three speakers have been upgraded to next generation status. So we now have the Heresy 4, the Forte 4 and the subject of this review, the RP-600M II (£699 / US$649 / €799)
Generally the updates are said to have introduced greater refinement – those rough edges smoothed off – without losing the live feel that Klipsch arguably does better than anyone else. I haven’t heard the original RP-600M so can’t comment on how it compares. The brand’s sonic signature is in my head though. For me the key question is whether the RP-600M II can provide a slice of Klipsch magic at a more beginner-friendly price point.
What you get
The RP-600M II is a large-ish two-way standmount speaker. Bass / midrange is handled by a new 6.5” Cerametallic driver, resplendent in its copper finish. Treble comes courtesy of a 1” Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) titanium diaphragm tweeter.
The latter is horn-loaded, the equivalent of cupping your hands around your mouth when speaking, which concentrates the sound (try it). Handled well – not that easy – it provides an immediacy that’s difficult to match. As with the previous model it’s a Tractrix horn, which describes its shape. It’s just a little larger on the RP-600M II.
Horn-loaded speakers usually have high sensitivity, meaning they don’t need powerful amplifiers to drive them. The RP-600M II is quoted as 94.5dB sensitivity, which is significantly more than the 87dB of typical standmount (a 3dB increase doubles the sound pressure). Bottom line; a 20W amplifier should be able to raise the roof through these Klipsch.
On the rear is a Tractrix port (hole in the speaker) that helps bass reach lower. Together with two sets of speaker terminals to facilitate bi-wiring (two sets of speaker cables, one each for treble and mid/bass) or bi-amping (two amplifiers, one each for treble and mid/bass). Operating either way increases cost – more cables, more amplifiers. Thankfully links for single-wired use are provided, which is how I listened to the RP-600M II. I suspect most people will follow suit these days.
Fit & finish
The RP-600M II is available in Ebony (black) or Walnut. The looks are distinctive thanks to those copper-coloured drive units (and copper ring within the horn unit). If that’s not to your taste (I’m not a huge fan) then attach the magnetic grills for a more discrete look when not in use. Do remove them for listening though.
On the bottom of the speakers is an integrated cork ‘mat’ to aid placement and stability, which proved useful. The cabinets themselves are simple rectangular boxes, complete with angular edges and corners. Which is the Klipsch way, theirs is a mid-century vibe (even more so with the top Reference series speakers). I can’t help think a visual update might be timely though (check out Jony Ives’ fabulous refresh of the Linn LP12 for example)
And so to listening, via three amplifiers at different price points – Prima Luna EVO 300H (£6,500), Musical Fidelity M2si (£700), Marantz PM6006 (£350). Through all of them the Klipsch’ defining characteristics shone consistently. Fresh as a clear spring day, the RP-600M II sounds pristine. Not so much as to assault your senses, the March frost isn’t biting your cheeks. It’s making its presence felt though.
Those craving a splash of warmth, a degree of richness, may want to look elsewhere. Those favouring clarity, transparency and speed will take to this Klipsch big time. It’s very nimble on its feet.
Bass goes surprisingly low when called upon, the paper spec of -3dB at 44Hz believable. It hits more like a bantamweight though; fast, powerful, then gone. Acoustic double bass is punchy rather than sonorous for example. Christian McBride’s groove on ‘Afrika’ (Conversations with Christian) is impressively taut, the ripeness I’m used to slightly curtailed. India.Arie’s ‘What If’ (from Worthy) is similarly restrained, its rich R&B vibe held slightly in check.
Overall the RP-600M II’s low end performance is reminiscent of my old B&W Nautilus 802s; seemingly light until deep bass presented itself. Then impressively low and hard. Not a bad comparison for a £700 speaker (the 802 cost £6k over 20 years ago).
Musicians are easily identified within the RP-600M II’s wide soundstage. Depth is also portrayed well, despite me using the Klipsch closer to the wall (40cm) than usual to fill out the sound a little. The quid pro quo of that is usually a reduction in perceived depth. Not so here. Even more impressive given that rear port, which is inevitably interacting with the wall.
Detail is very good, both in the amount retrieved and the way it’s presented. Chris Wood’s ‘Come Down Jehovah’ (from Trespass) is a case in point. Simple guitar and singer, plus Karine Polwart on backing vocals, the harmonies work so well that at times you want to focus on Polwart rather than Woods. The RP-600M II makes it easy to do so, Polwart’s beautiful tone, the nuances of her singing, made clear.
The level of detail and the splendid soundstaging combine to give an impressively live feel to proceedings. The Klipsch fairy dust has indeed been liberally sprinkled on the RP-600M II.
Overall the sound is precise. Everything is in place, nothing added. The tonality focuses attention on the mid to upper frequencies more than the bass. Like drinking tea or coffee straight, or with just a splash of milk. Definitely no sugar. You get to hear everything going on.
If that reads to you as bright or lean, think again. Yes it gets close but the Klipsch stops just short of crossing the line. That usually means the choice of amplifier is important, you don’t want to accentuate the tonal character. Yet even the tonally-light Marantz PM6006 amplifier worked well, which surprised me. Sure it was a sunlit sound. But even brightly recorded music like Quincy Jones’ ‘The Dude’ or Telarc’s ‘Olympic Fanfare’ from Erich Kunzel & The Cincinnati Pops etc – didn’t cross the boundary.
Switching up to Musical Fidelity’s M2si proved to be the sweet-spot pairing though. A little more body, notes more rounded out than through the Marantz. And a fabulously wide and deep soundstage.
Semyon Bychkov’s newly released Mahler 1 with the Czech Philharmonic is a superb recording coupled to one of the best readings I’ve heard. The M2si and RP-600M II laid it all out in front of me in a huge soundstage. The music was expansive, explosive, stirring; goosebumps abounded. As with the best systems, analysis fell by the wayside as the music gripped me.
Neil Cowley’s Fragmented Recall is more ambient fayre, the pianist and composer moving yet further away from his jazz roots. It’s fascinating music though, the M2si and Klipsch showcasing the intricate arrangements well. Second track ‘Chance’ proved the exception to the rule when it came to the RP-600M II’s bass, its long decay rolling the low notes round the room in true ambient fashion.
At £700 the M2si makes for an ideal partner for the Klipsch. Just add source for a well-judged system. Review coming soon.
Everyone has their preferences. Me? Regardless of the amplifier used, I wanted a slightly richer sound from the RP-600M II. Add a subwoofer said that little fella on my shoulder. More bass, warmer tonality. Perfick.
REL’s Tzero III made a difference but not one I’d stump up £450 for. The Klipsch needed more. Step forward my REL T/7x subwoofer, which worked really well. Bass went quite a lot lower, as specifications would suggest. More importantly the slight uptick in richness rounded out the RP-600M II’s sound to just the right degree. Soundstaging was also enhanced further. The combination was ticking all my boxes, as the Instagram post below showed.
At £999 the T/7x is expensive though (for the Klipsch). REL’s smaller T/5x (£700) might be a better match, doing much the same job, just not going quite as low (I reviewed it for Darko.) Or try a Klipsch subwoofer, the new RP-1000SW at £799 being the recommended partner. If funds are tight the R-121SW at £529 should also work well apparently.
70s / 80s supergroup Steely Dan were renowned for a meticulous approach to recording. Not for them the free-spirited one-take. Rather, every aspect of the music was analysed and reworked, the process only completing when Walter Becker and Donald Fagen were completely happy, Which could, apparently, take quite some time. The outcome was a very polished recording.
So it is with the RP-600M II. Not a hair out of place. Some (myself included) may covet more spontaneity, more character, a slightly richer tone from a speaker. To many that’s anathema though, a speaker’s job is to tell the truth, not to embellish.
The thing is, I love Steely Dan. And the more I got to know the RP-600M II the more its way with music grew on me. It continued to surprise, particularly when fed a good recording (that Mahler was stunning). And its low end prowess had me repeatedly checking if the subwoofer was switched on.
Add in the Klipsch magic, the innately live feel to its sound that demands you listen, and we have a winner. One that’s well worth a Hifi Starters Best Buy award. For those drawn to its particular sound the RP-600M II could well be the standard bearer at its price point.