The performance of the OEM Systems Preference K-5LCR speakers belies their modest suggested retail price of $229 each. Had I not known the price in advance, I would have guessed they sold for more, perhaps as much as $400-$500 each. They are a great value and their sound quality rivals that of speakers costing much more. They are easy to listen to for long periods without fatigue and their balanced sound makes them good for many different genres of music. I do not have the space to describe all of the features and technologies these speakers have to offer, so check out OEM’s Web site for more information. OEM’s Preference K-5LCR in-walls sound good, are well built and easy to install, and they won’t break the bank. What more could you ask?
Definitive Technology is an acknowledged leader in the loudspeaker industry, and a brand that is respected among audio and home-theater enthusiasts alike. The firm manufactures a variety of freestanding speakers, lifestyle, all-weather and in-wall speakers. The UIW (Ultimate In-Wall) RLS II is the company’s flagship in-wall model, with a suggested retail price of $650 each.
Unlike the OEM Systems speakers, the RLS IIs are built with a back box or enclosure, minimizing the performance variances caused by different walls’ structures—a good feature. The enclosure is very solid, inert and heavy, but easy to install and is held in place with ten dogleg clamps. The Definitive Technology RLS II is a two-way speaker with two 6 1/2- inch mid-bass drivers, two 6 1/2-inch pressure-driven passive radiators, and a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter in a D’Appolito line array of drivers. This proven design features a vertically symmetrical driver array with the tweeter centrally positioned between the two mid-bass drivers and their associated passive radiators, a configuration thought to promote more even off-axis response compared with asymmetrical driver arrays.
I noticed immediately two characteristics about the RLS IIs: a deep soundstage and sweet, detailed high frequencies. Rebecca Pidgeon’s “Spanish Harlem” was virtually three-dimensional, with a sound field extending well beyond the outer edges of the speakers with lots of depth behind the
speakers. Pidgeon’s naturally sweet voice sounded very smooth, complemented by the detail in the percussion instruments in the recording. I noticed the same detail in John Williams’s By Request: The Best of John Williams and The Boston Pops Orchestra [Philips Records], a selection of orchestral film soundtracks. In “March From Midway,” the clarity of the triangle was easily distinguished in the mix, and the full impact of the Boston Pops Orchestra came through beautifully in “1941” from the same disc, as did a deep and broad soundstage.
Although the printed specification for the RLS II indicates that low frequency response extends to 22Hz, the speakers require a subwoofer for full, balanced sound quality. Without the two Morel subs, the RLS IIs exhibited rather tubby and punchy mid-bass, but that was easily corrected with the addition of the subs. When the crossover points were adjusted correctly, the Definitive Technology in-walls blended well with the subwoofers and the tubby nature of the bass disappeared. The RLS IIs have wide horizontal dispersion, an important characteristic for in-wall speakers, since they can’t be toed-in towards the listening position. Off-axis response remained very good even when listeners were seated well away from the sweet spot.
I noticed another characteristic about the RLS IIs: More than has been the case with other speakers I have reviewed, the sound quality of the RLS IIs improved significantly with extended break-in. My initial impression was that vocals in all recordings sounded distant through the RLS IIs, a layer or two behind other aspects of the recordings, but midrange clarity and vocal presence improved dramatically with additional playing time. For example, Diana Krall’s voice in Let’s Face the Music and Dance [Verve Records] at first sounded withdrawn, but displayed much greater (and much more appropriate) presence after several hours of playing—almost as if Krall had suddenly moved closer to the microphone. Similarly, the fully broken- in RLS IIs made Chet Atkins and Mark Knopfler sound downright live on “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” from the guitar duet’s Neck and Neck [Columbia Records]. With increased use, the speakers revealed much greater midrange presence, openness, and transparency. It was evident that the two 6 1/2-inch drivers took additional time to loosen up and the result was worth the wait.
The Definitive Technology RLS IIs offer a sweet high-end with lots of detail and good imaging and soundstaging qualities. They also have broad dispersion owing to their D’Appolito con