Klipsch RP-600M II Bookshelf Speakers: Review
Having received the royal seal of approval from the hi-fi press over the past five years, Klipsch have experienced a rather interesting resurgence in the audiophile community and that has proven to be somewhat of a double-edged sword.
Being invited back into the fold comes with a list of expectations and rules — audiophiles who don’t think the folks at Klipsch who have been making wonderful loudspeakers for more than 70 years have reason to enjoy this form of adulation with a guarded degree of skepticism have a very short term memory.
Products like the Klipsch RP-600M II Loudspeakers are a perfect example of this fickle behavior.
It wasn’t so long ago that audiophiles and the hi–fi press wrote Klipsch off as nothing more than “sell-outs” and a “home theater” company. If you disagree, do some research online and look for any current high-end publication that heaped any degree of praise on their products for over a decade.
As a long-term Klipsch owner, the sudden interest in the Klipsch Heritage Series Loudspeakers on the part of the press has been interesting to observe from the outside as someone who wasn’t part of the press club. Spend any amount of time on the Klipsch forum and you will have a better understanding of what I’m talking about.
Klipsch hit pay dirt with the RP-600M and it helped create greater interest in affordable stand-mounted loudspeakers in the $500 to $1,000 range; not every consumer has the budget or space for floor standing loudspeakers and there are so many good options right now from PSB, Polk Audio, Paradigm, Sonus faber, Wharfedale, Mission, Focal, and ELAC.
Our review of the original RP-600M was read more than 100,000 times so it is fair to say that both audiophiles and mainstream consumers have shifted their priorities somewhat.
There was a definite upside to the RP-600M; a lot of performance for an affordable price, solid build quality, and it was rather easy to drive.
From my perspective, the downside was that it wasn’t the most transparent sounding speaker compared to other loudspeakers in the Klipsch range and it left a bit to be desired when it came to detail and top end airiness.
It was a great speaker for the “money” but I never felt that it was as “great” as the hi-fi press made it out to be. A quick search on YouTube will reveal more than a dozen respected reviews that are long on over-the-top hyperbole and somewhat light on criticism.
EIC Ian White and I are in different camps on this one, but we also used them with completely different power amplifiers and sources; his take is that Klipsch made a huge mistake replacing the RP-600M with a new version.
The existing model has been a very strong seller and we were surprised to see the Klipsch RP-600M II in the new 2022 Reference Premiere lineup. The first series of video reviews have been somewhat of a mixed bag and we started to wonder if Klipsch succeeded at fixing one area and messing up the overall tonal balance and presentation.
Klipsch were very kind to send me a review pair and after 3 weeks of listening, it became apparent that EIC Ian White and I were not doing to agree on this one.
At first glance, the Klipsch RP-600M II do not look very different from the original model; they are roughly the same size and only add 1-inch to the depth of the cabinet. The new model is 16″ x 8″ x 13″ and less than 2 pounds heavier.
The finishes are also the same; one can order the RP-600M II in Walnut or Ebony Veneer. The supplied magnetic grille covers are finished in a black fabric and the satin-painted front baffles are scratch resistant — which is not the same thing as scratch proof.
Internally, the RP-600M II is 2-way design with a 6.5-inch woofer and a 1-inch tweeter which may sound like things haven’t changed much, but just about every aspect of the drivers have been redesigned.
The new hybrid “tractrix” wave-guide surrounding the tweeter is considerably larger extending to nearly the edge of the baffle whereas the older model had about an inch of space between the guide and the edge.
The port on the rear is still roughly the same as the original in both size and position behind the tweeter. The tweeter itself is the 1-inch titanium linear travel suspension design which first appeared in Klipsch’s more expensive loudspeakers.
The tweeter’s structure forces the diaphragm to have a pistonic motion reducing distortion in the process and also gains a new acoustic lens and phase plug with the lens covering the entire face.
The venting of the tweeter also allows it to be air cooled with no need for ferrofluid.
The industrial design has also been updated with the tweeter having a copper accent ring that matches the woofer cone, giving the speaker a more uniform and cohesive look.
The 6.5-inch Cerametallic woofer has also been updated on the Klipsch RP-600M II; the Cerametallic material consists of layers of ceramic and metal plates to provide extra rigidity to the cone and is actually the only part of the woofer that hasn’t been changed.
The new design features a redesigned motor with a larger voice coil and aluminum shorting rings as well as a new suspension design improving efficiency and helping lower distortion.
This is most certainly a case of trickle down technology from the Klipsch Fives being used in the less expensive RP-600M II.
The loudspeaker cabinet has also been redesigned with the front baffle made from a composite material which helps reduce cabinet resonance. The Tractrix porting and new interior bracing that helps add stiffness to the cabinet are two new design features that help minimize the amount of coloration in the sound.
The binding posts have been updated with the plastic plate of the earlier version removed and the connectors are now mounted through the cabinet material itself which helps preserve the stiffness of the box.
Klipsch have also made bi-wiring easier with new speaker cable jumpers instead of the earlier metal designs.
The final result is a speaker rated at 94.5 dB @2.83v/1m efficiency which is 2 dB lower than the original model; Klipsch have a reputation for being somewhat liberal with their specs in this regard and the measurements from both loudspeakers have suggested that the real world sensitivity is certainly 2-3 dB less. The nominal impedance is 8 ohms and RMS is 100 watts/channel with a 400 watt peak and the frequency response is rated at 44Hz – 25kHz.
Neither model is difficult to drive, but both EIC Ian White and I agree that it is quality and not quantity with these loudspeakers. Can you live with 8 watts of SET power? Absolutely, but both speakers tend to come alive with 40 to 75 watts and you would be surprised how well older vintage amplifiers can drive this loudspeaker.
As tempting as it was to connect the Klipsch RP-600M to my main system which utilizes Bryston, and Mark Levinson amplification, with BelCanto digital sources — that didn’t seem like the most appropriate system considering the $750 price of the loudspeakers.
Very few potential RPM-600M II customers are going to use $15,000 worth of components with them.
Instead, the Klipsch were driven by the new Topping LA90, Kenwood KA-9100, Yamaha A-S1000, and a vintage Dynaco ST-70 to see how 4 different sounding amplifiers would tame the beast…I mean treble.
Klipsch likes to refer to the RP-600M II as “bookshelf” loudspeakers and that’s rather misleading from the perspective that they are too large for most bookshelves, and require at least 2-3 feet from the walls behind them to really work properly.
I ended up with them on 26-inch stands positioned thirty inches from the wall so consider these to be stand-mount loudspeakers; because of the weight and dimensions, I would look for stands with larger top plates. Klipsch have also replaced the original rubber feet with a cork bottom plate for improved isolation.
The RP-600M II were positioned facing straight ahead and I was quite surprised that they did not require any toe-in to sound more focused. The soundstage depth and width were certainly quite adequate but after a few days of moving them around, I settled on the speakers being angled slightly inward (10 degrees) toward my listening position.
There was greater specificity in the center imaging but also a decrease in soundstage width.
Bookshelf or stand-mounted loudspeakers can’t be lumped into the same category when it comes to bass response and that is certainly true in regard to the RP-600M II. I knew from my experience with the RP-600M that while they were not bass shy, there isn’t as much impact in the low end as you might expect.
Listening to big timpani strikes, it was clear that the RP-600M II have greater authority and definition down into the 40Hz range and certainly more texture. Movies benefitted from the additional bass response and I turned the television off for the night thinking that a subwoofer might not be necessary in every scenario with these loudspeakers.
The mid bass performance of the RP-600M II was rather different as well; bass notes had greater definition, impact, and there was a lot more detail this time around.
The midrange was the most impressive feature of the RP-600M, but my experience also taught me that the loudspeaker’s performance was greatly influenced by the quality of the amplification and sources.
When I drove the RP-600M II with my Kenwood KA-9100 and RME ADI-2 DAC, it was rather obvious that the new loudspeakers are more accurate sounding; vocals had greater resolution, texture, detail, and a far more realistic sounding tonal balance.
The presentation also changed with vocals pushed forward of the front baffle and slightly above the loudspeaker.
Strings were reproduced with strong levels of detail and slightly more color; the new tonal balance also made them less bright. Upper strings were slightly hard sounding on the RP-600M and I did not enjoy listening to them as much unless I turned the volume level down.
The same recordings came across with slightly less energy through the RP-600M II and the tonal balance was more accurate this time around.
The treble is where the RP-600M II will go off the reservation for some people. The newly designed wave guide has created a top end that is definitely brighter sounding, but also more refined and detailed.
The lower treble is more forward sounding in comparison to the original model and the overall balance in the treble is leaner with more energy. Some listeners will compare both speakers and find the RP-600M II to be slightly harder in the treble and they would be correct.
The imaging and soundstage are far superior on the RP-600M II; wider and deeper with every recording when it exists, and the imaging is much better defined. Listening to The Who’s Quadrophenia, the RP-600M II was better at making sense of the multiple layers of vocals and instrumentation that were overdubbed and it was easier to follow all of the movement and hear it with an enhanced sense of clarity.
Listening to the Cowboy Junkie’s Trinity Sessions, I was surprised by the degree of accuracy and imaging capabilities of this loudspeaker. I also own a pair of large Maggies and Focal Kanta 3s and they never fail to engage me with this recording because they can handle the scale, soundstage, and are wonderfully transparent.
The Klipsch can’t deliver the scale or transparency of the aforementioned loudspeakers, but they didn’t exactly fall apart when pushed. The Maggies are $3,000 more than the Klipsch and utilize a much larger planar driver to handle the entire frequency range. That I rather enjoyed how the RP-600M II handled this recording in comparison to the much larger speakers is proof positive that the Klipsch engineers have improved this loudspeaker in a substantial way.
The original Klipsch RP-600M were overachievers and that was a huge reason for their success; they delivered a rather lively and energetic presentation and could be driven by a wide range of affordable electronics.
They also fell short in the imaging and soundstage departments, and their dispersion pattern impacted the off-axis performance.
The RP-600M II have benefitted from technology developed for the Fives and Forte IV and remained extremely affordable in a loudspeaker package that does not take up a lot of room.
From my perspective, the RP-600M II take what listeners loved about its predecessor, and offer better detail retrieval, more articulate bass, and vastly improved soundstage width and imaging. The changes also result in better horizontal dispersion which makes off-axis listening more consistent throughout your room.
The treble is definitely brighter and those who are sensitive to a more aggressive top end might not agree with my assessment. The imaging is far superior to the older model and that contributed to my enjoyment of the loudspeakers in a significant way.
Do the Klipsch RPM-600 II deliver a better performance than their beloved predecessor?
Not only have Klipsch succeeded on that front, but they have created a $750 pair of loudspeakers that compare favorably with other loudspeakers below $1,500 USD and that makes them one of the best buys around.
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