Music vs Home Theater Speakers

A question we’re often asked goes something like, “I see that your speakers are top rated for home theater use, but I listen to a lot of music. How good are they for music?”

The question implies that there is a difference between a great home theater speaker and a great music speaker. Here is how we typically answer this question:

When RSL started making speakers in 1970, home theater didn’t really exist. Our speakers were designed specifically for stereo. When we developed our current speakers, our goal was to make the ultimate, but affordable stereo music speaker system. All of the design work and refinements over the years led us to the concept of a 2.1 system, where there would be 2 smaller satellite speakers and a subwoofer. This concept has numerous advantages over large floorstanding speakers, which we covered in an earlier blog.

Once we finished the stereo design, we figured that it would be nice if people had the option of using these speakers for home theater. So, we added a center channel. That way, people could use 4 of our satellites, the center channel, and the subwoofer for a 5.1 system (or 6 satellites for a 7.1 system).

Although the system wasn’t specifically designed for home theater, we decided to submit it to the home theater magazines, just for fun. They went bananas over the system and gave us top ratings including “Top Picks of The Year.” This proves that building a reference quality speaker that offers extreme clarity and accuracy is just as relevant for music as it is for home theater.

If I had to point out any difference between music speakers and home theater speakers, I would say that the difference is often in the bass range. Movie soundtracks, with their explosions, crashes, etc. produce large amounts of the very lowest frequencies; some you hear and some you feel. Most music doesn’t contain as much of this low frequency content, the possible exceptions being pipe organs and synthesizers. Many subwoofers that are capable of handling the low frequency content of movies don’t do a good job on music due to their sloppy response. The RSL Speedwoofer 10 will not only handle the lowest bass frequencies in movies, but its Compression Guide tuning provides the type bass clarity for music that’s usually only found in the most expensive high end subwoofers.

Bottom line: There really shouldn’t be any difference between a home theater and a music speaker.