This article appeared in the September/October 2003 issue of Robb Report's Home Entertainment & Design
The Towering RBH T-2P System can knock you back into your chair…or softly caress you.
It happens without fail. In the six weeks that my home theater plays host to the RBH T-2P system, everyone who enters the room stops in their tracks, speechless, and stares at the tremendous tower speakers that stand tall on either side of my video projection screen. "I didn't know they made speakers this large," says a guest, sizing herself up against a speaker stack that matches her height and outweighs her by 60 pounds.
No doubt about it, RBH designed the T-2P system to turn heads. Besides its sheer size, the T-2P attracts attention with its striking complement of proprietary aluminum-coned drivers—16 in the front speakers alone. This system looks like a diabolical machine designed for the sole purpose of slamming listeners into the backs of their seats with action movie soundtracks. And perhaps it is. But to my great surprise, this system can perform tricks that few audio aficionados would expect at first glance.
First, a few details about the speakers. RBH centers the system on the T-1 speaker, which is intended for use as the front left, center and right channels in a surround-sound system. It can stand upright or lie on its side. The T-2P is a T-1 stacked atop RBH's 1010-SEN subwoofer, with an SA-400 amplifier providing power for the sub. Custom-designed aluminum clamps hold the T-1 and the 1010-SEN firmly together. The 66-SE, a wall-mounted surround speaker, is intended for the side or back walls of your home theater.
While this system can dominate a room visually, the T-2P also slips easily between a pair of studs so it can be built into a wall. For those who choose to display their T-2P system outright, RBH offers a selection of 30 veneer veneers (all visible on the company's website at www.rbhsound.com), as well as gloss or matte black.
Since I have the T-2P system for only a few weeks, I place the speakers on my listening room floor where, by the looks of them, they stand ready to bowl me over with sheer muscle. And they do. The first DVD I play is Star Wars II:Attack of the Clones, and with practically the first sound—Senator Amidala's sleek space yacht passing overhead—the system shows off what it can do. Having heard this scene many times before, I expect a soft rumble of bass as the ship glides through my room. Instead, it sounds as if King Kong has snuck up behind me and is tearing an 18-wheeler in half. The rippling force of the ship's engine noise shakes my listening mom and scares me half to death.
However, the sound is never boomy or muddy as it can be with many monster subwoofers. Credit the 1010-SEN subwoofer's aluminum drivers for this excellent bass reproduction. Aluminum is stiffer than the plastic or paper used for most woofer cones, thus it typically distorts less and sounds clean, controlled and precise. As a result, the 1010-SEN ranks among the most extraordinary subwoofers I have heard. Two 1010-SENs impress; four would likely overwhelm. So get four.
The company designed the T-1 speakers, which sit atop the 1010-SENs, along the same lines, with a focus on high sound levels and low distortion. Like the 1010-SEN, the T-1 uses aluminum for its woofer cones. It also uses multiple drivers: four woofers and three tweeters. Just as spreading a load among three men allows them to lift more, spreading sound among three or four drivers allows a speaker to play louder.
No matter what DVD I play, the T-1s keep up with the 1010-SENs. I would need a larger amplifier—and some cotton for my ears—to test the limits of the T-2P system's output capability. The system never seems to distort, or to fatigue my ears. Voices from the T-1 center speaker, which rests on its side below my video projection screen, take on a meticulous, dry accuracy — an effect I enjoy with movies, although I prefer a more lush, warmer sound for surround-sound music.
After a few weeks, I think I have a good idea of what the T-2P system sounds like—but my perception changes considerably when I play some audiophile CDs to see what the towers can do with stereo music. I start this listening session with the idea that the T-2P is a large, loud home theater system that will sound merely competent with stereo music. I could not be more wrong. In fact, stereo reproduction is where the T-2P truly distinguishes itself. With my favorite CDs from Chesky Records—some of the best music recordings available today—the T-2Ps produce the deepest soundstage I have experienced in my listening room. It seems as if a door opens up between the left and right speakers to reveal a concert hall. Despite the speakers' size, they reveal unexpected delicacy reproducing the faintest whisps of sound—cymbals, acoustic guitars, flautists' breaths—as if the performers are right in the room with me.
Most astonishing, though, is that the stereo effect does not fall flat if I move to the other side of the couch. With most speakers, stereo imaging disappears if your head is not positioned at exactly the same distance from the two speakers. With the T-2P, though, I hear a realistic stereo effect even when sitting directly in front of the left speaker, about 13 feet away. Even without the surrounds playing, I hear sounds coming from behind me—a mark of excellent stereo soundstaging, and an effect I expect to hear only when sitting the same distance from each speaker.
I long ago tired of reading Arnold Schwarzenegger analogies in audio equipment reviews, but permit me one last transgression: In the same way the Terminator could show both tenderness and brute force, so can the T-2P system faithfully reproduce material both delicate and robust. Sonically and visually, this is a mighty impressive system.