Klipsch Reference Series Cinema 8 System (black) review: Klipsch Reference Series Cinema 8 System (black)

The Good High-performance, decorator-friendly satellite package; four two-way satellites mated with a dedicated center speaker; integral table/wall brackets.

The Bad Treble is ever so slightly bright.

The Bottom Line Klipsch's most affordable Reference speaker set combines small stylish looks with great big home-theater sound.

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8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review summary

With the introduction of the Cinema 8 speaker package, Klipsch's Reference Series' advanced technology is available in a smaller, lifestyle-friendly design. That's great, but we were concerned that the engineers might have forfeited some quality to satisfy style-conscious buyers. Our first listening session quickly dispelled those fears; the Cinema 8 package is a true Reference-quality package. The five-piece system retails for $845, but that doesn't include a subwoofer--and you'll want to use a sub with this system. Cinema 8 is usually sold with an RW-8 sub, which brings the complete 5.1 system's suggested retail price to $1,195. However, we tested the system with a larger RW-10 subwoofer (for a total price of $1,345) since we have a larger room. The Cinema 8 package includes four RSX-4 satellites and an RCX-4 center speaker. The podlike RSX-4 has a curved cast-aluminum front baffle and an integrated pedestal stand that can be used as a wall-mount bracket. A form-fitting, magnetically attached grille covers the speaker's drivers and swoops over the top of the cabinet. The RSX-4 weighs 4.5 pounds and measures 10.25 inches high, 5.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches deep. Extra RSX-4s are available for $149 each.

The horizontally oriented RCX-4 center channel speaker carries over the RSX-4's styling cues and pedestal/wall bracket. It's an unusually compact center speaker, just 7.5 inches high, 14.5 inches wide, and 8.25 inches deep. It weighs 8 pounds. The Cinema 8 ensemble is available in a black or silver finish. The RSX-4 packs a 1-inch titanium-dome tweeter driver and a 4-inch copper-colored Cerametallic woofer. The RCX-4 center speaker uses identical drive units but features twin woofers. Like every Klipsch speaker we've ever tested, the RSX-4 and RCX-4 offer unusually high efficiency. That means they'll sound fine even with low-powered, 50-watt-or-less-per-channel receivers. And sure, they can handle powerful 100-watt-per-channel amps as well.

The speakers' high-quality crossover networks feature heavy-duty internal wiring, courtesy of Monster Cable. The RSX-4 and RCX-4's sturdy binding posts accept banana jacks, pins, or bare-wire leads. For all of our listening tests, we mated the Cinema 8 speakers with a Klipsch RW-10 subwoofer, but you could also use the less expensive RW-8 sub in smaller rooms (300 square feet or less) with great success.

The RSX-4's sound is very live and immediate--the system strutted its stuff on the Concert for George DVD, the tribute concert for the late Beatle George Harrison. Eric Clapton's peak moment comes on "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," which also features an all-star band with Paul McCartney on piano and Ringo Starr on drums. The small speakers never came close to cramping the band's emotionally charged performances and hard-hitting dynamics.

With the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD, the Cinema 8 put us in the midst of the action. The clink and clang of dueling swords, the creaking wooden ships, the pounding surf, and the lushly orchestrated score were all vividly presented. The RCX-4 center speaker never betrayed its wee stature; male and female voices sounded naturally balanced and clear. The speakers' ability to disappear and portray a vast soundstage goes beyond the call of duty for everyday lifestyle speakers. Few small speakers sound this big.

We must scale back our raves ever so slightly when it comes to CDs. The little speakers' warm midrange sounds great on big, booming male voices, and that's a rare talent among pipsqueak satellites. But we were concerned about the Cinema 8s' highly detailed but slightly aggressive treble, which might ring harsh on bright-sounding receivers. Our Duke Ellington CDs sounded a tad coarse--even mated with Harman Kardon's superb AVR 330 receiver. Naturally the effect varies with different recordings; our treble reservations melted away when we cranked up Nirvana's Nevermind CD. Wow, the little speakers belted out grunge with a vengeance that belied their size.

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