RSL Speakers CG5 5.1 Speaker System Review Page 2

The Speedwoofer 10S subwoofer ($399) that RSL sent me to test with the system, a previous S&V Top Pick, also features Compression Guide Technology and is ported via a wide, narrow slot on its front baffle. A 350-watt RMS class-D amplifier powers a 10-inch cast basket woofer on the 10S, which has a few handy features like wireless operation (requires RSL's optional $50 transmitter) and a continuously variable phase adjustment. Both speaker- and line-level inputs are provided, along with a crossover control that can also be fully bypassed.

RSL shipped me four CG5s and two CG25s so that I could try out various stereo and surround setup combinations. But for most of my listening I ended up using four CG5s with a CG25 center and the Speedwoofer 10S sub, as I found the primary benefits of the bigger CG25 were higher peak dynamics and output, as opposed to providing a distinct sound quality benefit. A simple 2.1 setup consisting of a pair of CG5s and the Speedwoofer 10S delivered plenty of dynamic punch for stereo listening in my 14 x 17-foot listening room, while the extra output provided by a CG25 in the center channel position proved useful when watching loud action movies.


To coax as much bass weight as possible from the small CG5s, I positioned them on 24-inch-tall stands with the back of each speaker about a foot away from my front wall. The tweeter switch on each CG5 was left in the Reference position. The CG25 was placed in my usual center speaker location directly under the TV. Despite being located somewhat closer to the wall in my room than normal, a little toe-in enabled the CG5s to deliver a soundstage with plenty of dimensionality and depth. The second CG5 pair I used for surrounds was placed against the side walls, a bit behind and a foot above my ears, while the sub was located in the front left corner facing the listening area.

Pink noise played through each channel in turn in a surround sound system can be a brutal test of speaker-to- speaker frequency response matching, but it's a test the system passed with flying colors. With levels carefully matched, the CG5 and CG25 really do sound identical. I did find it tricky to get a good blend between the CG5s, the CG25, and the sub during setup.

RSL suggested I try a higher than normal crossover point, but after careful listening with some of my bass coherency test tracks such as Bela Fleck's "Flight of the Cosmic Hippo," I settled on an 80 Hz setting.


Music Performance
The old East Coast/West Coast speaker debates of 45 years ago are pretty much ancient history at this point, but I could definitely hear a lingering remnant of Howard Rodgers' preference for the buttoned-down East Coast sound in the voicing of the CG5s. These are very tidy, clean-sounding speakers, with just a hint of a bump in the lower midrange to warm things up. Given this combination, sibilant sounds came across as smooth and clear, though voices could sound very slightly chesty. The CG5 is not the type of speaker that throws lots of detail in your face; it's relaxing to listen to yet can still cut loose when you open up the taps.

Streaming "Last Plane Out" from Toy Matinee's self-titled album via Qobuz demonstrated the CG5's ability to take a dense sound mix and present the various elements clearly. This track has plenty of the gated reverb sound that was so popular in the 1980s but heard through the CG5s it sounded natural and powerful rather than hard and annoying. Playing the CG5s solo without the sub revealed bass that was punchy and tuneful, though with just a five-inch woofer, it obviously couldn't reach the bottom octave and move air in the same manner as the speaker/ subwoofer combination.


To hear some more natural- sounding instrumental timbres, I next played a CD of Segments by jazz pianist Geri Allen. This is a trio recording with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian—a group I saw play live several times in the 1980s—that highlights the rich roundness of Allen's touch on the piano, Motian's staccato rhythms and shimmering cymbals, and Haden's deep bass underpinnings. Listened to through the CG5 system, the music had a more laid-back perspective than I get with my reference PSB speakers, with a slightly softer shimmer to Motian's cymbals. Bass definition and tunefulness were both excellent, however, making it easy to follow Haden's bending of notes on his big acoustic bass.

Movies Performance
The benefits of good speaker matching became clear as soon as I fired up Star Wars: The Last Jedi on the RSL system. Right from the opening scene, my room was transformed into a seamless soundscape, with X-Wing fighters zooming overhead, explosions rumbling below, and firmly centered dialogue—all of it tied together by John Williams' sweeping score. The overall effect was big and enveloping, but not bone- crushingly dynamic. Considering that this was a simple 5.1 setup rather than a fancy Atmos system that employs a lot more speakers, the scale of the presentation was especially impressive.

Evaluating this $2,499 package on an absolute scale, it became clear to me what a great value it is. When this particular CG5/CG25/Speedwoofer 10S configuration is used within its capabilities, it delivers fine performance with movies and enjoyable sound with music. The system may not end up cracking the plaster on the walls of your room, but it does manage to deliver a seamless sonic experience from a beautifully finished and compact package.

RSL Speakers