The Klipsch Reference Premiere 600M might startle you. It definitely shook me up, and I've heard a ton of speakers at all prices this year, and sure some of them sounded better than the RP 600M. So I'm not claiming it's the best sounding speaker I've heard, just that it's the one I can't shake loose. I kept coming back to it, prolonging the reviewing process precisely because it sounded so alive and visceral. Priced at $549 a pair in the US, £625 in the UK, and AU$1,500 in Australia the RP 600M is the Audiophiliac Speaker of the Year!
Tech details are out of the ordinary, and they include a 1-inch (28mm) titanium tweeter mounted in a Tractrix horn, which is a specialty of Klipsch: all of its speakers feature Tractrix horns. The horn allows the acoustic power of the tweeter to be tapped much more efficiently, so the tweeter's output is greatly increased. There's also a 6.5-inch (165mm) Cerametallic woofer. The spun cooper woofers look sharp!
Readers of speaker specs might raise their eyebrows when they spot the RP 600M's 96 dB sensitivity number, that's a lot higher than average. The high sensitivity allows the RP 600M to use a lot less power to play at a given volume level than most speakers. So it will sound great with low power amplifiers, and still sing with more power, the RP 600M has a 100 watt continuous/400 watt peak power handling rating. The rear panel hosts bi-wire speaker cable connectors.
The RP 600M is a ported design, but instead of the usual round port this speaker features a Tractrix shaped port like the one for the tweeter. The RP 600M measures 15.7 x 8 x 11.9 inches (399 x 202 x 301mm), and it weighs 16 pounds (7.3 kg). Finish options run to a snazzy Ebony and more conservative Walnut (both are vinyl), and if you prefer something a little classier, move up to Piano Black RP 600M.
I teamed the RP 600Ms with myintegrated amp and an Oppo BDP 205 Blu-ray player for almost all of my listening sessions. I squeezed in a few hours listening with a power amp, and that one took the RP 600M sound to the next level. The tone smoothed out and treble clarified, and vocal sounded more flesh and blood human. Lesson learned: feed the RP 600M well and it just sounds better and better. Low power tube amplifiers will likely be a sweet combination.
I listened to a bunch of concert recordings, like the altogether brilliant R.E.M. Live at the BBC set with the RP 600Ms. The connection between the band and the audiences was terrific. The band's rhythm section kicked butt big time, and Michael Stipe's impassioned vocals were given free reign. The RP 600M likes to rock!
As for jazz, the Bill Evans Trio's Live at the Village Vanguard LP, the One Step Mobile Fidelity LP had me again reevaluating the RP 600M's sound. Scott La Faro's string bass' presence was palpably real, as were Paul Motian's drums and Evans' deft touch on the piano keys. The cymbal's brassy shimmers sent shivers up and down my spine. The atmosphere of this 1961 live club recording was positively vivid, with all of this beautiful sound coming from a $550 a pair set of speakers, wow!
The treble can be a tad bright at times, and that will bother some listeners more than others. I was surprised how easy it was for me to listen past that. These speakers do scale, they sound a lot bigger than they are.
With audiophile recordings without dynamic range compression like Sheila Jordan and Harvie Swartz' The Very Thought of You album the sound was startlingly realistic. Jordan is an extraordinary jazz singer, she's accompanied by Swartz on stand up bass in a club in Tokyo, and the RP 600Ms took me there. Jordan's vocals swoop and soar, while Swartz' supple foundation and dazzling solos made me smile. The music charged the air in my listening room.
On Sous Les Voutes, Le Serpent French tuba player Michel Godard plays a valveless ancestor of a modern-day tuba. That leather-covered Serpent has a deeply organic, billowing sound, and there are vocals and all manner of large and small percussion instruments. The RP 600Ms set the music free.
The RP 600M lacks some bottom end punch, so I added my trusty oldsubwoofer and that did the trick. The sub filled in the under-50Hz bass nicely, and then the RP 600M sounded like it had the muscle of a tower speaker. Even so, I mostly listened sans sub, the RP 600M's bass definition and texture were so satisfying. The bass isn't the deepest, but it's so darn nimble, never thick or muddy.
The speaker presents small and large scale dynamics with an ease that no similar sized speaker can muster. Pianos sound more like the real thing. The crack of a well recorded snare drum will make you jump, the RP 600M relishes dynamics like a dog on a bone. While they play loud with ease hushed late night sessions were still very exciting.
Stereo imaging isn't as precise or 3D holographic as thespeakers, the RP 600M sound is more diffuse, but still very open sounding. It's a lot more dynamically alive than the UB5s, that speaker is a power hungry beast, and even when it's mated with a potent amp it still won't match the RP 600Ms freewheeling dynamics.
The Klipsch Reference Premiere 600M is a lot of fun, it's the sort of speaker that's hard to stop listening to. You just want to keep playing one more song, or even one more album. I love when that happens.