Overview -- After a series of long-term tests and demos, I'm happy to say Klipsch's second-generation Reference Premiere Speakers are simply sublime. Blending stylish scratch-resistant finishes and eye-catching copper woofers with dynamic performance and attractive price-points make the entire series Highly Recommended for home theater enthusiasts at many budget levels. Just make sure to leave room for a subwoofer.
Almost everyone sells good speakers. But what elevates a speaker to greatness? Klipsch makes the case for efficiency as a top priority, wrapping careful engineering around horn tweeters, which are more efficient than their dome tweeter competitors. Less impedance means less required power and less distortion and, ideally, cleaner and clearer mid/high frequencies. Look inside every great Klipsch speaker, and you'll discover a great horn paired with equally impressive woofers.
At the heart of each new Reference Premiere speaker, we have a 1" Titanium LTS Vented Tweeter with Hybrid Cross-Section Tractrix® Horn. Set aside all the trademarks and branding, and you find improved efficiency unleashing clarity in dialog and high-frequency tone rendering. Fresh off a 2018 redesign, the new Reference Premiere speakers promise smoother and cleaner performance than the (already stunning) previous generation. On the low end, the RP speakers feature low-distortion copper Cerametallic™ woofers ranging in size from 4" to 8" (or 10" if you step up to the RF-7 III towers reviewed HERE).
For this review, Klipsch sent over a kickass home cinema system consisting of two RP-8000F floorstanding speakers, one RP-504C center channel, four RP-600M bookshelf speakers for side and rear surrounds, four RP-500SA Dolby Atmos elevation speakers (full review HERE), and dual SPL-120 subwoofers (full review HERE).
From music to movies, these speakers delivered in ways that surprised and reinforced my respect for the Klipsch brand. They weren't perfect, nor the best I've ever heard, but at this price point, it's hard to argue their performance value.
Are they right for you?
That depends on your tastes and budget, of course, but if you're in the market for new speakers (and don't already own the previous generation), then hopefully this review will convince you to hear them for yourself.
Before we dive in, I have one disclaimer: it wasn't possible to compare the new Reference Premiere speakers to the 2015 versions. No doubt the newer ones are improved, but I can't describe exactly how or if it's worth upgrading if you already own first gens. My instinct says you don't need-need-NEED to upgrade but, again, a demo is the only way to know if certain speakers are for you.
Scroll on down if you're not into numbers, or feel free to click on each model name to see Klipsch.com's official spec sheets for each speaker. The big takeaways are these: as mentioned above, each speaker shares the same horn tweeter, while pricier models add bigger woofers with added dynamic range.
RP-8060FA ($1,099 each)
RP-8000F ($599 each)
RP-6000F ($499 each)
RP-5000F ($374 each)
RP-4000F ($299 each)
RP-504C ($649 each)
RP-404C ($549 each)
RP-600C ($499 each)
RP-500C ($369 each)
RP-400C ($299 each)
Surround & Dolby Atmos Speakers
From a design standpoint, I adore having Klipsch speakers in the house. The two standard satin finishes -- walnut and ebony -- are scratch-resistant and look very much like wood. The upgraded piano glass finish is gorgeous too, but a fingerprint magnet. Towers include cast aluminum feet -- so you don't have to attach any plinths during installation -- reducing resonance and contact with the floor. Visually, Klipsch's copper woofers pop, practically screaming, "I love audio, can you tell?" The center channel, bookshelf, and surround speakers all include rubber feet, once again aiding sound isolation. Included speaker grilles attach magnetically and, unless you have curious must-touch-everything little ones in your home, I recommend showing these puppies off.
The craftsmanship and quality appear elevated as well. My loaner set (and the Reference Premiere speakers I've encountered at a local Best Buy) was flawless, which is something I can't say about every speaker I've ever borrowed. The satin finishes do seem scratch resistant, and my loaner walnut set barely shows dust and fingerprints. In showing them off to friends, or the previous review coverage, the compliments have been kind and plenty. Before this, I was mostly a black-speaker kinda guy, but the RP walnut won me over and plays the part of high-end, hi-po speaker quite well.
I placed the RP-504C center channel on an entertainment stand under a wall-mounted display, then dropped the two SPL-120 subwoofers on each side of the stand. Then I set the twin RP-8000F floorstanders on each side of the subs, creating an eight-foot (or so) wide sound stage. The RP-600M bookshelf speakers took up home on tables in the side and rear-surround positions. And the four RP-500SA Dolby Atmos speaker settled nicely atop the RP-8000F and rear-surround RP-600M speakers. (I also spend some time testing the system with my KEF Ci-200RR in-ceiling speakers.)
I next ran Audyssey Multeq xt32 room calibration via a Denon AVR, which helped balance the subwoofer volumes and correct for my living room's odd shape. With processing applied, I like to manually check speaker distances and then boost up the Dolby Atmos height channels by 1-2 dB to really build that hemispherical dome effect.
Oh, and if you're setting up Dolby Atmos elevation speakers for the first time (bouncing sound off your ceiling) and you're checking distances, you can measure directly from the speaker to your main listening position OR include the distance of the sound bouncing off your ceiling. I've seen both recommended. I've tried both. Both work. I usually go with literally speaker-to-ear distance, for whatever that's worth.
We should also note that the RP-500SA can be mounted on a speaker or shelf or high up on a wall, pointing down at the listener. Although I wasn't able to do this for our review, I recommend the latter because it's more akin to theatrical Dolby Atmos. In other words, I recommend in-ceiling if you can (most precise), high wall-mounting as second choice (more precise), and speaker mounting as the last option (the Atmos effect works; it's just less precise than having actual height speakers).
Before we dive into whole system escapades, let's spend a little time with each individual model.
RP-8000F Floorstanding Speakers. As the (non-Atmos) flagship towers for the 2018 Reference Premiere series, I only have one complaint. They're not as gobsmackingly-good as the RF-7 III towers, which I reviewed before moving onto this series. RF-7 IIIs offer vastly improved LFE versus the 8000F or 8060FA. That said, RF-7 III speakers cost over a thousand dollars more PER SPEAKER so they better be a night-and-day difference.
Outside of that specific comparison, the RP-8000F are handsome and powerful floorstanders. And I think they're a straight-up bargain at $600 each. They blend crystal-clear highs with punchy mids and more bass than many home-theater-in-a-box subwoofers. If you're into vinyl or high-quality digital downloads, they're a great pair for serious music listening. Should you add a sub for full dynamic range? Of course. Paired with a dedicated bass-bomb, the RP-8000F towers become monsters for your favorite music and movies.
Also, while I didn't review the Dolby Atmos equipped 8060FA towers, I enjoyed the previous-gen iterations very much and have a couple of recommendations for anyone considering the new versions. At $1,099, an 8060FA costs $500 more than an 8000F (each), which is a huge surcharge. So, if you can mount in-ceiling or on-wall speakers for your Dolby Atmos system, I think you'll get a more precise listening experience and possibly save a few bucks ($1,000 gives you a lot of room to play). That said, if up-firing Dolby Atmos speakers are your only option, 8060FAs boast a larger 6.5" up-firing woofer and they out-perform the RP-500SA Dolby Atmos elevation speakers. In other words, the 8060FAs are great speakers, but the pricing seems high.
RP-504C Center Channel. As the flagship center channel for Klipsch Reference Premiere speakers, the RP-504C delivers superb dialog rendering and a wide soundstage that fills in gaps between two front channels. (At 31.13", it's wider than many sound bars.) It's also relatively compact (shorter than some centers I've tested), which is great for flexible placement. It's not a full-range speaker, by any means, but paired with big towers and a sub, it more than pulled its weight. My only complaint comes down to pricing. For $150 less, you can opt for the RP-600C center channel, which offers the same frequency response via dual 6.5" woofers rather than quad 5.25" woofers. You won't get the same wide soundstage, of course, and the 600C is taller (so less placement-flexible), it doesn't have the same elegance as a quad-woofer. Still, that's a great way to save a few bucks without sacrificing performance.
RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers. I started calling these little beasts because, next to the towers, they're small, but compared to most bookshelf speakers, they look (and sound) like mini-towers. If you're on a budget or don't have the space for floorstanders, putting together a full surround system with two or more pairs of RP-600M speakers might be the way to go. You'll definitely need a quality sub to make up for some missing low-mid frequencies, but these bookshelves speakers are terrific. As stereo pairs, they reproduced vocals and guitars and string instruments with precision and clarity. As surround speakers, they render screeching tires, rolling explosions, and symphonic orchestrations with real-world aplomb.
RP-500SA Dolby Atmos Speakers. Check out our full review of the RP-500SA over HERE, but the short summary is this: They produce rich life-like sound for Dolby Atmos soundtracks, can serve as full surround speakers when mounted to all wall, and even do a nice job playing music. The only potential con here is pricing -- $500 / pair ain't exactly cheap -- but if you have that budget, these are Highly Recommended.
SPL-120 Subwoofers. Check out our full review of the SPL-120 subwoofers over HERE, but the short summary is this: The Klipsch SPL-120 Subwoofer is a 300W 12" active sub that looks handsome and delivers room-filling bass. Test in both single and dual configurations alongside a set of 2018 Reference Premiere speakers, we were generally impressed by the sub's performance at quiet and reference volumes, but found it lacking compared to Klipsch's larger (and pricier) 15" offerings and the KEF KUBE 12B, which costs about $100 more than the SPL-120.
With the right subwoofers and room correction/calibration, you can make just about any system sound quite good. But when you install speakers of the Klipsch Reference Premiere caliber, you're about to experience greatness. In other words, your friends are going to say your living room "sounds better than a movie theater!"
I begin system testing by revisiting my favorite Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound mixes. Mad Max Fury Road is a thundering symphony of metallic carnage. Aggressive overhead and all the way around, it is the Atmos mix by which I judge all others. It also tells you when your speakers don't have range or your Atmos system isn't fully hemispherical. Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, and The Matrix boast some of the best hemispherical remixes for movies created back in the channel-based surround era. They too offer tons of overhead action as well as some killer LFE moments. Blade Runner 2049 wows with wall-to-wall immersion for the movie's entire runtime thanks to some of the most dynamic sound effects I've ever heard (not to mention Hans Zimmer's BWOOOOONGing score). Most recently, the Reference Premiere speakers brought James Horner's emotional and iconic Glory orchestrations to life, perfectly rendering the strings and the angelic voices of the Harlem Boys Choir. Oh, and if you ever get a chance to dance and sing along to The Greatest Showman in Dolby Atmos, do it. The opening moments will shake your subs and the rest is a metric ton of fun.
In addition to native DTS:X and Dolby Atmos mixes, the Reference Premiere speakers did a wondrous job with native and up-mixed 5.1 and 7.1 content. Stranger Things Season 3, which really should be an Atmos mix, features a number of killer monster moments with heavy LFE, creepy-crawly sound effects, and super immersive atmospherics. Another afternoon, my wife and I did a Moulin Rouge / Great Gatsby double feature. From the melodic voices to the aggressive instrument panning and the hip-hop bass notes, these speakers really brought those modern musicals to life. And lastly, I revisited Close Encounters of the Third Kind, letting John Williams' intense orchestrations and the terrifying guttural low-end of extended encounter sequences was over me. I know Star Wars gets all the credit for being 1977's high-tech soundtrack -- and it certainly does a lot of things right -- but for my money, CE3K is a more complex aural experience.
I also spent a great deal of time using the system to enjoy vinyl and digital music. With Dolby Surround or DTS:Neural:X engaged, my living room transformed into Central Park circa 1982 as Simon & Garfunkel played their greatest hits. With multi-channel stereo activated, my living room thumped like a club as Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus crooned about the Old Town Road. For those unfamiliar, Multi-Channel stereo turns off Atmos processing and matches the front L/R channels in your side and rear surrounds. It's great for whole-home style audio and a torture test for surround speakers because, if they can't keep up with your front channels, you'll hear it.
At the end of the day, outside of knowing there are a couple of other Klipsch products I might swap into this system, I have no complaints about the Klipsch Reference Premiere Speakers. They aren't exactly cheap, but they still punch way above their price-class without costing a fortune.
The new Klipsch Reference Premiere speakers are a sonic joy from top to bottom. Yes, I didn't adore the SPL-120 subwoofers as much as the previous generation 15" subs. And we all bow down to the aural righteousness of the RF-7 III towers, but those towers cost more than double the flagship Reference Premiere 8000F floorstanders.
Despite a couple of caveats, it's an excellent system that blends value, performance, and good looks. (Seriously, at less than $600 each, the RP-8000F towers are hard to beat.) If you're into dynamic music, multi-channel surround, or hemispherically immersive Dolby Atmos soundtracks, Klipsch's Reference Premiere speakers are Highly Recommended. Just leave room in your budget for a hefty subwoofer and if you can swing for those RF-7 III towers, you'll never look back.
Entry-Level 5.1.2 Dolby Atmos
Elevated 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos
Enthusiast 7.1.4 Dolby Atmos
Reference 7.2.4 Dolby Atmos