RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Loudspeakers Reviewed

Price: $2,400.00

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I was first introduced, in-person, to Utah-based RBH Sound in 2023, when I had the opportunity to review their excellent entry-level floorstanding speakers, the RBH 6500-SF (read my review here). During the course of my research for that particular review, I was informed by RBH that a reference variant of this line exists in both floorstanding and bookshelf form. Fast forward to 2024 and, for this review, RBH was gracious enough to send me a customized pair of the RBH 61-SF/Rs, a hefty, reference-level bookshelf speaker pair from the same line that adds a slew of upgrades to an already promising speaker. 

Priced at $2,400 per pair, the RBH 61-SF/R bookshelf speakers are higher-end products in the pantheon of audiophile speakers today. Do they represent a solid value that punches above their price tag? Are they worth the extra $800, compared to the RBH non-reference 61-SF series? Or are they just another pair of $2,000-plus bookshelf speakers in a sea of familiar competitors? Let’s dig in.

RBH 61 SF/R speakers with their AMT tweeter paired up at Eric Forst's house
RBH 61 SF/R speakers with their AMT tweeter paired up at Eric Forst’s house

What Makes the RBH 61-SF/R Audiophile Loudspeakers Special?

  • The RBH 61-SF/R bookshelf speakers offer some technology and design elements typically reserved for much more expensive loudspeakers. Upgrades from the non-reference variant include a custom 6.5-inch aluminum driver, featuring a polished, solid metal phase plug at its center, which not only elevates its appearance, but enhances high-frequency response and control. Also included is an upgraded crossover circuit, reportedly allowing smoother filtering. 
  • The star of the show, however, is RBH’s custom Air Motion Transformer tweeter (AMT). There are plenty of reputable yet lower-cost competitors in the bookshelf speaker market that feature Air Motion Transformer tweeters. AMTs, however, are not always superior to traditional dome tweeters, and can sound harsh and unbalanced when not implemented correctly. RBH’s AMT, however, paired with their impressive crossover and near-resonance-free cabinet, provides some of the most impressive high-frequency representation I have heard in any smaller speaker under $5,000. RBH’s standard dome tweeter is no slouch, but with the AMT, the high frequencies often sparkle with clarity, presence and authority. Beyond that, ear fatigue was really nonexistent – even when I pushed these speakers hard. Lesser speakers tend to get a little squirrely when you push them, while these RBHs seem to just ask for more.
  • The RBH 61-SF/R bookshelf speakers are hand-built in Utah and come with a 10-year warranty – double that of most audiophile brands. Purchasing speakers from RBH comes with the added assurance that you are connected to a company that cares about its customers and stands by their products. They are only a phone call away should the customer have any issues or questions. This level of commitment is quite unique to RBH and speaks to both the quality of their products and the philosophy of the company as a whole.
  • The RBH 61-SF/R speakers are sleek, modern and customizable. They can be purchased in black or white satin, with either black or silver-colored drivers. RBH sent me a pair with white cabinets and slick-looking silver metallic drivers with matching phase plugs paired with black cloth grilles, thus giving an elegant, high end vibe without looking overly modern or futuristic. The custom grilles are attached via integrated hidden magnets that snap on and off with ease. While the grilles are attractive, I much prefer the speakers in full-frontal mode, meaning with grilles off, in order to show off their good looks. 

Why Should You Care About the RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Speakers?

 For the audiophile who wants really fantastic imaging but has limited physical space, the RBH 61-SR/R speakers might be a Goldilocks product. They are easy to drive. They are easy to get to image. They are dynamic and benefit from the really open sound that comes from an AMT tweeter. The RBH 61-SR/R speakers match well with any number of subs (RBH makes some really good ones, in case you were looking). They are also timbre -matched to other speakers in the RBH line more designed for home theater applications, thus you can have your audiophile cake and eat it, too (in a home theater).

The RBH 61 SF/R speakers come in white and black. They also come with black or silver drivers. Custom cabinets are likely possible too for an additional spend.
The RBH 61 SF/R speakers come in white and black. They also come with black or silver drivers. Custom cabinets are likely possible too for an additional spend.

Some Things That You Might Not Like About the RBH 61-SF Bookshelf Speakers

  • While not enormous, the RBH 61-SF/Rs are not super-small bookshelf speakers, and may not always fit comfortably in smaller spots. At almost 15 inches tall, eight inches wide and over 12 inches deep, some may find it difficult to place these under a modern 4K or 8K monitor without obstructing the onscreen image. For some my evaluations, I utilized these RBH speakers in my TV and gaming room and placed them under my 55-inch 4K TV on a 60-inch-wide stand. The speakers fit, thanks to my flexible full-motion TV mount, but it was tight, and they hugged the edges of the stand. If I were to purchase and keep these, I would need a wider, lower TV stand and may not be able to upgrade my TV size without raising its height considerably above eye level, which is never ideal. This problem, however, is easily remedied via the purchase of speaker stands if space allows, so it isn’t a dealbreaker for most. 
  • For speakers of this size, bass response is admirable but not incredible. I expected a little more oomph, given their larger dimensions and stated low-end frequency rating of 55Hz. While bass response was adequate, they sounded much better paired with a subwoofer. As I mentioned in my previous RBH 6500 SF review, RBH makes some killer subwoofers, and I would definitely urge prospective buyers of the RBH 61-SF/R to browse their offerings in order to maximize the listening experience long-term. 

Listening to the RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Speakers…

I powered my RBH 61-SF/Rs with my Monolith M2100X power amplifier (read the review), paired with a low-cost Schiit Modi 3e DAC and ADCOM GFP-915 stereo preamp. All music was streamed through Qobuz at max settings and connected directly through my Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop. 

On New Year’s Eve 2023, my wife and I spent part of the evening listening to our favorite songs of the past year, courtesy of the RBH 61-SF/Rs. The final track of the night was Boygenius’ masterfully recorded rendition of “The Parting Glass”, a traditional Irish/Scottish folk song perhaps made most recently famous by the late Sinead O’Connor in the early 2000s. The RBH 61-SF/Rs caught our attention as soon as the three-part harmonies kicked in. Tonal and harmonic separation sounded out of this world, allowing us to pick out each individual voice belonging to respective members of this all-girl indie supergroup. The RBH 61-SF/Rs allowed us to appreciate the textural differences of each voice, which blended in and out throughout the track to create a tapestry of lush vocals, set above haunting and delicate strings. The overall sound was spacious, emotive, and captivating. An apropos farewell song to a wonderful year – brought to life by a beautifully engineered pair of speakers. This is what the hobby is all about. 

Boygenius doing “The Parting Glass”

When Masters of the Air on Apple TV Plus was announced, I crossed my fingers in hopes that Blake Neely would return as composer-in-chief. I’ve been a fan since his work on The Pacificand the opening track “Soar” (Hi-Res / 48 kHz) from the Masters of the Air Soundtrack did not disappoint. Neely’s poignant use of brass instrumentation in the opening quarter of the score is heartfelt and heavy, and the RBH 61-SF/Rs captured its intended haunting beauty with grace. As the song progressed and engines fired, the 61-SF/R readied for takeoff. The song swelled and climbed toward a pre-crescendo near the one-minute mark, captured astutely by these mighty bookshelf speakers – allowing this track to truly take flight as it ignited into a colorful, blaring climax before landing quietly back to a single clarinet. Percussion was particularly impressive as well, showing off the sheer range and power of the Air Motion Transformer tweeter – sounding capable and confident throughout. The dynamic scale of these bookshelf speakers was staggering. I can’t wait to watch the series and soak in the rest of the score on full volume. Apologies in advance to my wife, kids and neighbors. 

The title theme from Masters of the Air entitled “Soar”

Will the RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Speakers Hold Their Value?

The RBH 61-SF/R speakers should retain a good part of their value, as they have home theater crossover appeal, are made in the USA, and RBH is a highly respected brand in the audiophile community. There are other audiophile speaker brands with more dealers or better distribution (Bowers & Wilkins, KEF, MartinLogan come to mind) that might do better, but I think your speaker money is going to be pretty safe invested in some forward-thinking speakers like the 61-SF/Rs from RBH. 

The RBH 61 SF/R finished in black.
The RBH 61 SF/R finished in black.

Who is the Competition for the RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Speakers? 

When RBH sent me pricing for the 61-SF/R, the first bookshelf speaker in its price range I thought of as a competitor was the Mobile Fidelity (MoFi) SourcePoint 8 bookshelf speaker. This was the star of the show at Axpona 2023, partially fueled by the hype-train behind famed speaker designer Andrew Jones (and deservingly so). The MoFi SourcePoint 8s speakers (buy at Crutchfield) are priced slightly higher than the 61-SF/Rs at $2,750 per pair and, while the design philosophy couldn’t be more different, the overall presentation and quality are quite comparable. They feature a custom-designed, eight-inch concentric driver and 1.25-inch soft-dome tweeter, and come in black, white, or natural wood veneer finishes. They are slightly bigger than the RBH bookshelves, and can go a little deeper, down to 47Hz, but lack the sparkle of the 61-SF/R due to the absence of RBH’s incredible AMT tweeter. The concentric design is uniquely capable, however, turning the entire woofer into a waveguide to produce exceptional imaging and accuracy, while boosting efficiency as well. Either speaker would be an excellent choice for a mid- to high-end system – leaving very little to be desired at this price range.  

Another comparable option with a similar price tag is the new-to-market Wharfedale Aura 2 bookshelf speaker (buy at Crutchfield). Priced at $2,499, the Aura 2 is a traditional three-way bookshelf speaker featuring a 6.5-inch glass fiber matrix woofer, a four-inch woven glass-fiber matrix midrange driver, and Wharfedale’s very own Air Motion Transformer (AMT) tweeter. Taller than both the RBH and MoFi speakers at 22 inches, the Wharfedale Aura 2s are quite large and imposing, and would likely require stands in mixed-use entertainment spaces. With their increased girth comes lower-frequency extension and range, dipping down to low 40 hertz territory, which is quite impressive for a bookshelf speaker, even at this size. This may eliminate the need for a subwoofer altogether for some listeners – a boon to traditional audiophiles who prefer straight 2.0 stereo configurations.  

One other pair in this price class worth mentioning are the KEF R3 Meta bookshelf speakers (buy at Crutchfield), priced at $2,199. These are KEF’s latest three-way bookshelf offering and feature their renowned twelfth-generation Uni-Q driver array, proprietary Metamaterial Absorption Technology (MAT), and a one-inch vented aluminum dome tweeter with MAT absorption. They are the smallest and lightest of the bunch at just under eight inches wide, 16 inches tall and 13 inches deep, and thus are unlikely to compare to the others in terms of bass response. They are also slightly more difficult to drive at four ohms and a sensitivity rating of 87 dB. These are solid speakers made from a brand that has been pushing the envelope in terms of speaker design for decades, and would be a sound choice for those looking for a smaller form factor – just be prepared to purchase a subwoofer. 

The RBH 61 SF/R speakers installed around Eric's 4K UHD TV.
The RBH 61 SF/R speakers installed around Eric’s 4K UHD TV.

Final Thoughts on the RBH 61-SF/R Bookshelf Speakers…

Having now reviewed two pairs of speakers from RBH Sound in the last year, I continue to be impressed by their combination of boutique design, unmatched quality, incredible customer service/support and, most importantly, class-leading sonic performance. 

Whether you are an experienced audiophile looking to add bookshelves to a secondary system or a newcomer or even a budget-minded listener looking to purchase or upgrade to your first pair of building block speakers, there are very few competitors offering what RBH does at this price range. For $2,400 per pair, RBH packs more into the 61-SF/R than meets the eye and ear, which is an incredible feat in today’s challenging audiophile loudspeaker market. 

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