Klipsch RP-600M II Bookshelf Loudspeakers Review
RP-600M II Bookshelf Loudpeakers
AUD $1,349 RRP
“This speaker sounds fantastic!” Say that to certain audiophile types, and you'll likely get a response like: “Well, speakers shouldn't 'sound' anything!” But all loudspeakers display some sort of character, and at the risk of putting the cart before the horses in this review, I reckon this one sounds great.
You'd struggle to notice it, but Klipsch's popular RP-600M has been given a makeover, hence the 'II' suffix to the model number. This new addition to the company's Reference Premiere range features a larger horn tweeter, a new Cerametallic woofer, an improved input panel and additional internal bracing of the cabinet, among its numerous tweaks. No new finishes have been made available for this revision, so the choice remains walnut or ebony vinyl veneer and scratch-resistant satin-painted baffles.
As standmount speakers go, this one is on the large side, measuring 400x202x330mm (HxWxD), so although the manufacturer calls it a bookshelf model, you'll need a pretty deep shelf to accommodate a pair. However you mount them – shelf or stand – cork pads at the base of the box are now used instead of the previous model's rubber bumpers to help protect the surface of any furniture that it is placed upon.
As with all equipment, aesthetics are very much a personal choice. To my eyes, the bronze-coloured woofer and horn tweeter look purposeful and have a professional studio monitor vibe, albeit with a touch of glamour. A magnetically attached cloth grill is provided if you'd rather the speaker appears more discreet, although for this review, they were not used.
Klipsch loudspeakers are renowned for their horn-loaded tweeters. The RP-600M II, along with the other models in the Reference Premiere range, employs the company's proprietary Tractrix horn-loading geometry. The horn features a silicon fascia and computer moulded phase plugs, which acts as a sort of filter, while the tweeter itself uses Klipsch's Linear Travel Suspension technology to generate a piston-like motion in the titanium diaphragm.
Horns are generally known for high efficiency, so Klipsch's quoted sensitivity of 94.5 dB, coupled with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms, means this speaker is incredibly easy to drive – and will go loud with relatively little power. This, in turn, makes it a great choice for low-powered tube amps or similarly 'power-challenged' Class A solid-staters. This is a great feature of this brand of speaker – indeed, you could call it the standout one – and why so many audiophiles have taken to Klipsch over the years.
Making use of a vented housing that is designed to reduce standing waves, the tweeter covers a lot of ground, crossing over from the woofer at a relatively low 1,500 Hz. This puts it towards the low end of the midrange' presence' region, meaning it's less likely to introduce easily audible distortions or phase issues where the human ear is most sensitive.
Following all my tweeter twitter, there's not quite so much to be said about the 6.5” woofer, apart from the fact that it has been completely redesigned with a new motor structure and aluminium shorting rings. It also benefits from uprated voice coils claimed to be seventy percent larger than those on the previous model. As a result, Klipsch says it offers improved power handling and greater cone control. The cone itself is made from the company's own Cerametallic material.
On the rear panel of each speaker is a port featuring more Tractrix geometry, designed for the most efficient, fastest air transfer from the cabinet, according to Klipsch. Below this is a “new and improved” input panel featuring two sets of aluminium binding posts to enable bi-wiring or bi-amping; I settled for a single run of Chord Shawline, connecting the speakers to my Naim NAIT CX3 and vintage Leak TL12 Plus tube amps – although not at the same time, of course!
This is a big, bold and lively-sounding loudspeaker which gives an immersive listening experience. It is remarkably adaptive too, bringing out the best in most types of music, although it is truly in its element with powerful rock and other styles of modern pop music.
While the high sensitivity means it can be driven easily with relatively few watts, owners of low-powered tube amps value midband delicacy, the natural reproduction of human voice and accurate string timbre, above all else. This is not the best speaker for that sort of music lover, but if your tastes veer more towards studio-produced pop and stadium rock, it is perfect. As the saying goes, it is a 'Marmite' loudspeaker.
It is a fair way away from being called 'neutral', but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The RP-600M II excels at smoothing out the inadequacies of poor recordings, injecting some warmth and body into bass-light tracks while at the same time applying a coat of gloss to dull or flat-sounding mixes. Some of my favourite albums are far from being audiophile recordings, and many more accurately balanced speakers – think BBC type monitors – can turn them into a brutally honest warts-and-all proposition. On the other hand, the Klipsch is too busy giving you a good time for that.
Take Bob Dylan's Blonde On Blonde, for example. Brilliant album as it is, it's hardly a state-of-the-art recording even by mid-nineteen sixties standards. Dylan himself described it as “that thin, wild mercury sound”, yet the Klipsch presentation fleshes out the low end to give the overall sound more substance. Although the bass response is on the generous side, it doesn't have the effect of slowing down the action, making music ponderous. Instead, it provides a firm foundation for the explicitly voiced horn tweeter to articulate effectively.
While the two drivers work together to maximise the potential of one another, the bass and treble doesn't gel quite as seamlessly as 'point source' speakers – think coaxial designs or Quad electrostatics – instead expressing more of a live PA rig sound. Imagine attending a gig with 'flown' speaker cabs suspended from the ceiling while the bass-bins fire from under the stage – that's kind of how a pair of RP-600M IIs perform, with thrilling treble underpinned with a forceful bottom end.
Powered by my solid-state Naim amplifier, this speaker generates a lot of excitement, delivering a dynamic, impactful listening experience. The Foo Fighters' Learn To Fly played to these strengths perfectly, with the horn injecting an extra touch of bite and grit to the guitars while the woofer pumped out Dave Grohl's weighty kick drum vigorously. This is how to get the party started!
The Klipsch's verve and strong dynamic expression isn't two-dimensional though, so while the speaker offers a broad sweet spot in terms of stereo imaging, you also get a deep soundstage that draws you into complex recordings. This was most apparent to me when spinning Spirit's wonderfully eclectic Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus LP, which features straight ahead rock mixed with funky grooves along with some psychedelic stereo panning effects. This album could have been made with this speaker in mind, track after track sounding as glorious and engrossing as anything I have ever experienced – with lush soundscapes morphing into tight grooves, and back again. It was a riveting experience and is not nearly as enjoyable through more polite-sounding speakers.
Keen to exploit the efficiency of the RP-600M II by swapping out the Naim for my 14W Leak valve amps, the headbanging stuff was abandoned for a spot of cool jazz. Playing Art Blakey's Blue Note recording of Indestructible, the Klipsch horn made its presence felt with a raspy rendition of Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter's horns (trumpet and tenor sax, respectively), while Reginald Workman's double bass sounded slightly fatter than usual. It wasn't the most neutral reproduction of this session I've heard. However, Art Blakey's drumming lost none of its drive and swing, making for an energetic and vibrant listen.
Relatively unfussy regarding placement and partnering equipment, the RP-600M II is a great choice if your music collection runs the gamut of popular styles from ABBA to Zappa, but maybe less so if you're inclined towards Beethoven and Bach. Enormous fun, this Klipsch really tries to make the most of any music – but doesn't always succeed. It has a big character alright, one that many but not all will take to. Given its modest price, it's well worth a listen and could well suit you down to a tee.
A professional recording engineer since 1985, John strives for the ultimate in sound quality both in the studio and at home. With a passion for vintage equipment, as well as cutting edge technology, he has written for various British hi-fi and pro-audio magazines over the years.