Onix Rocket RS450 Towers

Onix Rocket RS450 Towers

December 2, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

One of the best parts of reviewing equipment is getting to know the various manufacturers. In conversations and reading their emails and posts, one truly gets the sense of how much work and emotional equity is placed in their product. They talk of the hundreds of hours in matching components. Then comes the endless listening sessions, followed by debates and tweakings. In the end comes not just a product, but more importantly, a dream fulfilled.

Specifications:

  • System: 2-way, three-driver direct-radiating system, vented enclosure with two rear-firing flared ports.
  • Drivers: Vifa Ring Radiator tweeter, two custom 5.25″ long-throw mid-woofers
  • Frequency Response: ±1.35db 200Hz to 20KHz; ± 3 dB 38 Hz to 20 KHz
  • Crossover Point: 2.5kHz Slope: 12dB acoustic Impedance: 8 Ohms nominal
  • Efficiency: 87dB (@ 1 watt / 1 meter)
  • Dimensions: 37 5/16″ H x 15 5/8″ D x 8 13/16″ W at widest point; 6 7/16” at the front; 5 3/8” at the rear

In the past two years I’ve had the pleasure of personally reviewing two Onix products, the magical SP3 integrated tube amp, which I was so blown away by that I bought the piece. The second was the killer value CD-5, which I believe has no peer at under $400. This past summer as I perused the various audio forums, one thing continued to pop up, the incredible loyalty and fervor of Onix Rocket speaker owners. It’s akin to a mini version of the Macintosh computer fanatics (which I calmly find myself a member). Once September arrived and my new home was finally together minus the kitchen remodel, I requested a pair of the smallest Rocket towers, the RS450’s. After all, I was going to be moving them around by myself, and being that my rooms are not large by any means it seemed the appropriate choice.

Onix Rocket RS450 review

As most readers know, AV123 is an Internet direct company meaning that in order to get a buyer interested enough to order, they offer a 30 day trial on their products. Just as important, is for the shipment to arrive safely. The photos show how well packed the RS450’s came, doubleboxed, with several inches of Styrofoam padding and crush zones to protect the cabinets.

Once out of the box and protective cloth sleeve, I placed the towers on their side and screwed in the high quality brass spikes. With the supplied gloves, I then bearhugged each speaker and lifted it into position. A word of warning, proper care should be observed when placing these towers upright as the base is not very wide. If the listener has a concrete floor I would recommend listening without the spikes, they may not be needed. If on a wood floor, brass coasters are provided to prevent scratching.

Normally, I break in monitors by banishing them to a closet for a hundred plus hours. The RS450’s being towers required another option. With a bit of cajoling my wife agreed to let the speakers play whenever neither of us was home. It took about three weeks to reach the one hundred hour mark, but time flew by and before I knew it they were ready.

Construction of RS450

The RS450’s are a member of the 1 inch thick MDF cabinet group. The shape if viewed from the top looks closest to a dual elliptical with each long end cut off. This wave style shape is becoming quite popular in the industry, but does require more precision in construction. To support the cabinet asymetrical bracing is used at various points. The exterior is wrapped in a stunning Brazilian rosewood veneer in a red, not burgundy stain. It’s important to note that the trees are harvested in according to proper renewable standards.

The top and bottom of each speaker have a piano black lacquer cap attached. Some may find this a turn-off in photos, but in person they are quite attractive. The front grill is attached with plastic nail tabs. Be warned when removing the grill pull straight off, not at an angle as a tab may break off. The drivers consist of the outstanding (when properly matched) Vifa Ring-Radiator tweeter, and two, 5.25inch aluminum coned mid drivers designed by AV123. All three are mounted in the top third of the cabinet. On the back is a single large port and a beefy pair of binding posts.

Onix Rocket RS450 Towers review

Mark L. Schifter’s goal in creating the RS450’s can best be described in a recent statement: OK… so what about the RS450… Don’t get me started… I’m in love with this little elf that hits like Tyson… She’s so pretty to look at – so easy on the eye as well as the pocket book – and then she opens her mouth and you just fall backwards…

Very clean and “open” – a really lovely speaker for smaller spaces or those on a limited budget… At our current $499 per pair – simply amazing in my (not so) humble opinion… (Apologies again)…

Same bracing and construction techniques as our earlier RS750/RS760 – made using Cold Molding techniques like all of our Rocket products… Skinned to die for in our Rocket Rosewood – just an amazing value…

The RS450 is a favourite of mine because of the way this speaker presents “herself”… I love the silky smooth textures of the 450 – lush actually – but one needs to recognize that this speaker will not fill a HUGE space… The 450 simply cannot pressurize a room like (say) the RS850 – but again – at the prices we are talking about… just incredible…

Yes, that’s the way Mark talks about his creations. Part salesman, and part proud parent. Once again, dreams becoming reality.

RS450 Sound

After a couple of placements I settled on approximately 36 inches from the rear wall (really a bay window wall), with a slight toe-in. I found this to bring out the best all around performance. I started my initial listening session using the Onix SP3 tube, as I felt that MLS had probably done the same during the testing phase. As is the case in most speaker reviews I first take notice of the tweeter. It’s fair to say that Vifa is a real stunner, open and airy, with a depth and warmth that few tweeters dare to match. The off angle response is spectacular. From my dining room table that sits a perfect 90 degrees and a good ten feet away the upper frequencies were nearly full, and that was with the grill on! The ability of that missile tweeter when properly harnessed is magic.

After my initial impression I settled in that evening with some Spyro Gyra’s Catching the Sun. The slightly funky up-tempo rhythm with singing saxophone in the title track highlights the design goal of lush midrange. Throughout this disc there are several stanzas of multiple layerings that have tripped up some other speakers I come across. In my notes I remember the Infinity Kappa 200’s losing coherence and detail at the 40 second mark of the fourth track “Laser Material”, the RS450’s stayed detailed and clean, easily delineating the different instruments.

The detail and depth of the middle frequencies can be best confirmed by playing acoustic guitar and xylophone solos. Luckily, the final track “Safari” has a couple of fine xylophone solos. The naturalness and texture of the mallet hits make the RS450’s shine.

The cabinet design allows for a well-defined bottom end as the towers are rated down to 38hz. No doubt that they reached that low, with a tight thump. The MDF and bracing keeping the RS450’s tight and focused. As someone who despises rumbly bass, these Rockets earn high praise for their control of the bottom octave. I don’t want the reader to construe that these red grain beauties lack punch, they have a pleasant forwardness that engages the listener. One feels their presence and energy, but doesn’t feel pummeled, unlike car stereo subs that seek maximum irritation.

In another listening session while my wife was working late, I changed amps to a modified PS Audio Trio C-100 integrated that MLS’s semi-silent partner Walter Leiderman sent for a future review. Wanting to see what ICE power can do, I grabbed my trusty and universally praised  Aja (other than Wayne Garcia of TAS) by Steely Dan. With the volume rotated up to 80db, the RS450’s brought out a whole new level of music that I had not heard in my new home. The soundstage, presentation, power, dynamics, basically everything was phenomenal. I half convinced myself that I actually heard a few new details. The entire 39 minute experience with the lights off is a true sonic highlight of this fall season.

Onix Rocket RS450 Towers back

Limitations

When dealing with audio products under $1k, there is always a tradeoff. MLS himself points out that in a large room the RS450’s can’t move enough air to truly fill the room. Since I don’t have a mansion I’ll take his word for it. My own experience with these mini-towers pointed two items out that I feel should be mentioned. One, if you rarely, or never listen to music above 70 db, I would suggest you look into AV123’s X series. The RS450’s need to be enjoyed above 75db to bring out their full capabilities. It’s the difference between drinking Budweiser and Fat Tire. Budweiser is smooth and nice, but Fat Tire has richness and flavor.
My second quibble is my wife’s, she wishes there was more than one veneer/finish choice. A medium maple would have looked stunning with our furniture.

Final Thoughts about Onix Rocket RS450

I’ll be honest, I’ve never been much of a mini-tower/ full range fan. But for the first time since I reviewed the Linn Kelidhs, I’m very impressed by what the RS450’s can provide. They present a fine, clear soundstage, with a pleasant forwardness that left me wanting to hear more. The Onix Rocket RS450’s handled every type of music I threw at them with confidence. From Gustov Holst’s The Planets, to Rickey Lee Jones Pirates, The RS450’s are just plain enjoyable and a terrific value. No wonder Mark L. Schifter holds a special place for these mini-towers. All that’s left to say is the words of William Shakespeare, “Parting is such sweet sorrow”

Onix Rocket RS450 Towers

from affordableaudio,  By Mark Marcantonio

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