RBH Sound knows a thing or two about speaker design. The Utah-based company has been doing it since the mid-1970s, producing OEM speakers for major players such as McIntosh and JBL before pivoting to focus on their own in-house speaker brand a decade or so later. Fast forward to 2023, and RBH now produces a wide range of high-end gear that spans the audiophile spectrum. Spend a few moments browsing their product page and you will find just about every type of speaker imaginable – from bookshelves to subwoofers to commercial installments, and everything in between.
I recently had the pleasure of auditioning RBH’s entry-level floorstanding loudspeaker, the 6500-SF. At first glance, this modestly-sized, three-way tower feigns the appearance of a standard, no-frills floorstander. Heck, even RBH describes it as “beautifully basic” in promotional materials. But upon closer inspection, the impressiveness of the craftmanship, design, and sonic superiority becomes increasingly clear, separating it from the pack and challenging essentially any $4,000 tower speaker pair for the top spot in its class.
What Makes the RBH 6500-SF Loudspeaker Special?
- The 6500-SF features custom, proprietary drivers as well as a carefully designed enclosure. It features three high-quality 6.5-inch aluminum cone woofers, two 6.5-inch midrange drivers, as well as a one-inch fabric dome tweeter. Many speaker manufacturers shy away from aluminum drivers, especially for midrange purposes, due to their propensity for vibration and breakup at higher frequencies. RBH’s custom design emphasizes posterior bracing and damping, which allows them to take advantage of the rigidity and speed of aluminum, while eliminating its potential drawbacks. This results in a very smooth, natural-sounding speaker that is also agile and extremely responsive.
- The fabric-dome tweeter is world-class. The proprietary fabric-dome design is built with ferro fluid and provides a smooth frequency response with minimal breakup modes. It is extremely clear, never tinny, and can be pushed to high volumes without triggering ear fatigue.
- The 6500-SF is hand-built in the United States and comes with a 10-year warranty. RBH prides itself on quality and customer service, and this is evident in their generous warranty and customer support. In fact, if you call the company’s customer service line, there’s a decent chance one of the in-house speaker engineers will answer.
- The 6500-SF provides a gateway into the ultra-premium speaker market at a reasonable cost. $4,000 is by no means pocket change, especially in this economy. But one could easily assemble a potential end-game hi-fi setup with a pair of these as the centerpiece, eliminating the need or desire to cross the dreaded five-figure threshold.
- The 6500-SF is aesthetically appealing and semi-customizable. It can be ordered in black or white satin, with silver or black drivers to suit most tastes. The pair I received featured the silver-on-black combination. With the grilles removed, the gleaming, vertically stacked driver complement looks quite high-end, and is all but guaranteed to spark some conversations at your next dinner party.
Why Should You Care About the RBH 6500-SF Floorstanding Speakers?
The person who buys RBH Speakers is one who understands performance paired with value. The speakers are handmade in Utah by a team of craftspeople who truly care. That 10-year warranty proves that point. The speaker also has the dynamics to be able to kick total ass for home theater if that is in your wheelhouse. RBH also makes a whole slew of really powerful subwoofers capable of rocking anybody’s world when needed.
Some Things That You Might Not Like About the RBH 6500-SF
- These RBH speakers love lots of power. My 100-watts-per-channel PS Audio Sprout100 (buy on Amazon) had no trouble pushing them, but in order to maximize their potential, RBH recommends amplifiers with significantly more power. In fact, RBH states that their in-house floor models are paired with an amp that puts out a whopping 600 watts per channel, and the 6500-SFs thrive in this configuration.
- These speakers are very heavy for their size. Their unimposing dimensions can be deceptive, especially when moving them around in your listening space. They weigh nearly 75 pounds each with the custom outriggers installed, which, for a moderately-sized floorstanding speaker, is on the heavier side. This can make repositioning in your listening area a little difficult, but not impossible by any means. Just be prepared to lift with your legs.
- RBH Speakers are only available through authorized dealers. While not uncommon in this price range, you will not be able to stroll into your local big box store for an audition or order a pair online. Fortunately, there are RBH dealers in 30 states. Audiophile road trip, anyone?
- While absolutely not required, the RBH 6500-SF loudspeakers sound even more visceral with a subwoofer. Clearly, the speaker was designed with mainstream music in mind, as it absolutely shines in the midrange space. And while it can dip as low as 32Hz, I found the bottom-end presence solid, but not overpowering. When some of the bass burden was transferred to my subwoofer, these towers truly shined. I crossed mine over at 60Hz and was completely blown away. Unsurprisingly, RBH produces some of the best-in-class subwoofers that would blend perfectly with the 6500-SF. Bass-addicts may want to budget for a sub, but for most listeners it would be a matter of preference.
Listening to the RBH 6500-SF Floorstanding Speakers
I chose Mitski’s “Valentine, Texas” (Qobuz, 24-bit/88.2kHz, off the 2022 album Laurel Hell) (Buy on Amazon) to assess the 6500-SF’s ability to recreate the sense of space found on this ethereal synth-pop track. This is a song that blooms significantly as it progresses, going from dark and cold to bursting with color in a matter of milliseconds. There is also a climactic turn that uses dissonance in a frisson-inducing way, and I’ve heard many lesser speakers struggle to capture this musical moment. The RBH 6500-SF extracted more out of this song than any speakers or headphones I have heard. My room was completely filled with reverbed, echoey vocals that were crystal clear and spacious at all volumes. Synths were layered with texture, and the biggest, loudest parts of the song exploded with sonic clarity and character. Listening to this track on the RBH 6500-SFs gave me a taste of what experiencing this song live in a large, open stadium must feel like.
I decided to scale back my listening experience into a more stripped-down context, so I went with Julian Lage’s “Ryland” (Qobuz, 24-bit/96 kHz), off the 2016 Jazz trio album Arclight) (Buy on Amazon). Lage is a guitar virtuoso and former child prodigy, who, on this closing track, puts his signature Collings 470 guitar front and center. The opening sequence was beautifully firm and realistic, allowing Lage’s guitar to speak for itself while capturing every subtle, resonant touch.
The soft, melodic intro quickly transitioned with the snap of a snare, and the various crescendos and more powerful sections of the song were equally interesting and colorful, showing off the RBH 6500-SF’s power and dynamic precision. Percussion was tight, and bass remained steady, smooth, and authoritative, but never overbearing. Lage’s palm muting, plucking, and picking were as clear and concise as if I were sitting six feet away in an intimate club. I loved being able to pick out the subtleties of his one-take performance with ease. And again, the RBH 6500-SF’s sense of space prevailed, leading to many repeated moments of sheer musical joy as I listened back to the rest of the album without interruption several times over.
Do the RBH 6500-SF Floorstanding Speakers Have Good Resale Value?
Certainly, any speaker of this caliber is capable of being re-homed, assuming an educated buyer with knowledge of the brand. The problem with any larger/heavier speaker is the potentially prohibitive cost of shipping. With the outriggers included, these speakers weigh close to 160 pounds per pair, which could cost several hundred dollars to ship. That said, I have seen RBH speakers pop up on local Audio/Video Buy/Sell & Trade groups and Facebook Marketplace from time to time, so there is definitely some potential for local resale.
Who is the Competition for the RBH 6500-SF Floorstanding Speakers?
The Bowers & Wilkins 704 S3 Floorstanding Speakers (buy at Amazon) were the first to come to mind. They are similarly priced at $3,999 per pair, but are quite different in overall design and philosophy. Measurably smaller, shorter, and lighter, they lack the heft and overall physical presence of the 6500-SFs, but do make up for it with their innovative engineering – including an advanced, proprietary midrange driver and carbon dome tweeter. That said, the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 speakers feature two fewer drivers overall, and are 1.5 inches smaller, resulting in reduced low-end frequency response and extension, by comparison.
Another comparable option with a near-identical price tag are the brand-new Wharfedale AURA 3 floorstanding speakers. As with the Bowers & Wilkins 705 S3 speakers, these are smaller overall in comparison to the RBH 6500-SFs, but feature some interesting tech. For under $4,000, you get an advanced Air Motion Transformer (AMT) and Wharfedale’s patented downward-firing SLPP (Slot Loaded Profiled Port), which improves bass response and reduces chuffing/port noise. They also offer a natural walnut-grain finish, which may be of interest to some.
I wouldn’t normally recommend a speaker from the same brand as competition in a review, but I would be remiss to not mention that RBH also produces a reference variant of the 6500-SF, the 6500-SF/R. For $2,500 more per pair, upgrades include a modified crossover, phase plug woofers for the midrange, and, most notably, a proprietary air-motion tweeter (AMT), which enhances clarity and frequency response on the upper end. The RBH 6500-SF itself is an incredible speaker that should wow even the most seasoned audiophiles, but for those with a little extra cash, RBH has you covered with its slightly fancier sibling with some special tricks up its sleeves.
Final Thoughts on the RBH 6500-SF Floorstanding Speakers
It’s rare to find a pair of speakers capable of elevating music the way the RBH 6500-SFs can without necessitating a second mortgage. It is evident that every drop of RBH’s decades of engineering wisdom was poured into these speakers, and the result is a $4,000 floorstanding speaker pair that could easily compete with speakers twice the price. For those music lovers searching for a potential permanent fixture in their audiophile listening room, look no further. The RBH 6500-SF achieves everything an audiophile could desire and leaves nothing on the table.