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Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 Home Theater System review: Rock and roll in the surround

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The Good All of the Klipsch Reference Premiere speakers feature horn-loaded titanium tweeters and copper-toned cerametallic woofers. These speakers are unusually efficient, so they can make a big sound with even modestly powered receivers. They're decently priced compared with the competition.

The Bad The speakers and sub have a big and bulky design. The system is lopsided in terms of cost as the bipole surrounds are the most expensive part.

The Bottom Line The Klipsch Reference Premiere speakers and subwoofer deliver maximum home theater dynamics and power with ease, and sound great with music, too.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 8
  • Value 8

As one of the biggest names in American home theater, Klipsch created some high expectations when it released something called the Reference Premiere system. It turns out this system is more than worthy of the new name.

With new cosmetics and a completely redesigned tweeter horn -- Klipsh's signature driver -- the company's latest speakers are both striking-looking and accomplished performers.

When we reviewed the Premieres' forebears, the Klipsch's Reference II , we loved their dynamics but found them occasionally too brash and less refined, especially with classical music. The Reference Premiers kept their composure even at volume, and sounded at home with all types of material.

At $2,599, the system isn't what you'd call a "budget buy," but for the price the Klipsch Reference Premiere RP-160 Home Theater System offers generous performance -- whether you are looking for musical richness or home theater bombast. If you just want stereo speakers, the RP-160M Monitor is a steal at $600.

Design and features

The Klipsch Reference Premiere uses the company's tried-and-true black-and-copper color scheme, but the cosmetics have been simplified.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you're familiar with Klipsch speakers, then you will have come to know the trademark Tractrix Klipsch horn. It gets a workout again here but in new and unfamiliar ways.

The company has surrounded the 1-inch titanium "LTS" (Linear Travel Suspension) driver with a brand new enclosure it calls the Hybrid Cross-Section Tractrix Horn. It forms an organic part of the speaker, spiraling out from the tweeter to meet the stylish "Brushed Polymer Veneer Baffle Finish." But the old-school Tractrix horn isn't forgotten: it now serves as a bass reflex port on the rear of the enclosure.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The main RP-160 Monitors are fairly large for stand-mounters at 16.67 inches tall and 8.81 inches wide. The striking 6.5-inch woofer is composed of the company's "cerametallic" material and helps the speakers achieve a claimed frequency response of 45Hz to 25kHz (+/- 3dB).

While the RP160 is the star of the show here, the system also includes the supporting cast: the $450 RP-250C center channel, the $900-a-pair RP-250S bipole surround speakers and the $649 R-110SW subwoofer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The R-110SW subwoofer has a 450-watt amplifier and 10-inch cerametallic woofer. The speaker is quite large at roughly 16 inches square and heavy at 39 pounds.

Sarah Tew/CNET
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