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Reference Fidelity Components Raptor speakers Review

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I need not have worried so. Installed back home in my listening room and connected to a pair of Vincent SP-995 monoblocks, they immediately reassured by sounding un-hi-fi. I left them playing while my wife and I cooked and ate supper. Even from within the kitchen where we ate, it was obvious that the Vincents and Raptors were great partners, the Vincent SP-995 monoblocks delivering ample grunt within their claimed output of 100 Watts in class A to make the RFC speakers boogie in a most entertaining way. In more extended listening, it was even more evident that Coupe has not voiced the Raptors for instant showroom appeal. You want shouty and over-forward highs with a fat, boomy bottom? Well, there’s a gazillion speakers out there that’ll deliver that kind of nonsense – but you’ll not get it from the Raptors. They are understated in a ‘it simply sounds right’ kind of way, voiced for unfatiguing long–term listener satisfaction.

Coupe loaned me a pair of Mordaunt Short Performance 2 stands (which I managed to set up back to front, thus confirming my level of technical prowess) but pretty much any stand will do as long as it supports the Raptors at an appropriate height. In the manual that ships with every pair of Raptors RFC go to considerable lengths to help buyers achieve the optimum positioning in the listening room with a guide that is as informative as it is instructive, even down to detailing the required stand height reduction or downward speaker tilt required as the listening chair is moved away from the speakers.

Coupe’s design goals were to produce a speaker with relatively modest dimensions that combines minimum distortion with maximum extension. Using a stepped front baffle enables driver time domain alignment to be achieved and a simple 12dB/octave crossover allows efficiency to be kept high for maximum transfer function. Above all, the RFC Raptors are conceived to be as room friendly as Coupe knows how without compromising the other qualities he holds so important. If he can’t control your room, and as noted earlier in this review Coupe is one designer who acknowledges the limitations, then he’ll make damn sure his speakers at least are on their best behavior wherever they end up. If I risk labouring the point it’s because some speaker designs of my recent and past acquaintance are fundamentally and profoundly fussy about room placement and room dimensions. Some are never going to work satisfactorily in anything other than a commodious space such as a New York Loft or a Scandinavian barn, and some are never going to work satisfactorily anywhere, period. That’s frustrating enough if you’re a reviewer, but it’s damn infuriating if you’ve laid out serious money on them and the manufacturer is telling you that your system’s responsible for the overpowering bass. Classified adverts here we come again…

Coupe’s choice for the Raptor of a Scanspeak seven-inch Revelator midwoofer and an Illuminator tweeter will win approval and also raise eyebrows among the knowledgeable: these are serious quality items more usually but not commonly seen in speakers selling at much more than Reference Fidelity Components charges for the Raptor. The front-ported cabinet of the Raptor is RFC’s own design, and places the drivers optimally to minimize edge diffraction. It is internally braced so that panels are effectively divided into multiple smaller ones, each with a different resonance amplitude for lower colouration. RFC’s choice of cabinet material is slow grown Latvian Birch ply of the highest quality, 38 mm thick on the front baffle. A similarly inert and unexcitable cabinet could be made with more exotic, more costly material, but Coupe likes working with organic matter and ply is reasonably price, too. Joints are designed especially for use with glue that retains a degree of plasticity when cured which further aids the dissipation of resonant energy. Grade A veneers are hand selected and matched and glued to the cabinets using the same self-damped glues.

Internally, the cabinet walls are coated with acoustic foam panels to prevent unwanted internal reflections in the upper mid range where they would otherwise be reflected back through the main driver causing out-of-phase distortion. An additional BAFF/Lambswool mixed section is applied directly behind the main driver.

Essentially, the production crossover remains as originally conceived; an acoustic and electrical second order, but simulation and measurement – both in-room and anechoic – enabled the design to be refined and simplified. Several elements including a tweeter notch filter which according to Coupe a conservative initial addition, and more notably a mid-woofer Zobel, were dispensed with along the process, improving energy transfer. Crossovers are point-to-point hard wired and individually matched to each driver to ensure close pair matching between speakers. They are built using ClarityCaps, Mundorf resistors, Jantzen inductors and Black Rhodium wiring.

Reference Fidelity Components refuses to copy frequent industry practise by claiming a new model is the ‘best possible’, then some time later – hey-presto! – revealing a ‘new improved’ model at a higher price. So confident is RFC in its design integrity and performance of the Raptors, that it makes what to my knowledge is a highly unusual – perhaps even unique at the price point, pledge. If at any time in the life of the speakers it becomes possible for RFC to improve on the crossover then the original owner will be contacted and offered the upgrade free of charge.

As a long time buyer of audio kit – Lord knows I’ve spent embarrassing amount of money over the years – I find this refreshing.

Living with the Raptors in my system proved easy. They were a breeze to position for minimum room interaction and maximum sound stage, and thereafter I didn’t give their physical aspects any further thought, paying sole attention instead to what I was hearing. My wife was approving of them because of their relatively compact size, and also for the rather fetching American Curly Figured Maple veneer that they wore.

The Vincent SP-995 monoblocks I used to drive the Raptors have a presentation that is notably more organic and less etched than many solid state amplifiers I could name, and they suited the Raptors very well, together producing a sound that was recognisably devoid of colouration and other undesirable artefacts, yet was musically entertaining, too, with punch and snap and drive, plus a good helping of harmonically rich tonality. Had I not previously exchanged emails with Coupe discussing his design goals, and had I also not seen lab test results of the Raptors, I’d perhaps have been tempted to think that, to me, the satisfying tonality meant he’d ultimately failed to deliver wholly on his aim of low colouration. We’ve all heard ‘monitor’ speakers that are measurably accurate but which sound sterile and uninvolving. Is that really what accurate sounds like? No it isn’t. The Raptors are accurate alright, yet at the same time are musical and entertaining too.

During the time I had the Reference Fidelity Components Raptors in my listening room I was visited by the designer of Cut Loose interconnects who had with him some prototype digital cables that he wanted me to hear. The physical differences between the cables were ostensibly marginal – a slightly wider silver ribbon here, a few microns more Palladium plating there. However, when we did A/B listening tests the Raptors’ low distortion and highly resolving nature spotlighted the subtle sonic differences between the cables, enabling us to identify a clear winner with no equivocation.

2 Responses to Reference Fidelity Components Raptor speakers Review

  1. Anonymous says:

    After reading this review, I can only mention that many “audiophiles” should be focusing on the room as much, if not more than the equipment being purchased. I know, that most of us just want a good/great stereo and that’s where we typically spend our money, but if we spend the time to have our rooms properly treated for broadband absorption, low frequency absorption (probably the most costly and the biggest problem associated with small room acoustics) and diffusion, the speakers will be a lot easier to drive and to sound their best. I’ve been in rooms that had proper room treatment and they made what was considered to be mid-fi speakers sound like a high end system and it will have a profound effect on higher end systems. What I have seen/heard is that the room can make/break a system. So, for those people that sell their speakers saying they can’t get them to work in their room, then it’s probably the room that needs to be treated so you can get the room to work with the speakers.

  2. Right on, except you can also tune your room to sync with your speakers for a unified, accurate, very musical sound simply with digital EQ, pulse control, digital phase control and digital time alignment of all drivers involved. The only thing digital sound control cannot fix is excessive reverberation such as slap echo and room with wall construction that is way too stiff and has no flex to them (such as a concrete wall. Only room mechanical room conditioning with absorbent and sound wave scattering devices can remedy the issues those type of room situations cause.

    Digital room sound control as mentioned above cost less, is clearly adjustable to the speaker AND the room to put them both together as an idea musical instrument reproduction system that is accurate and real sounding. Further, should you move from your apartment or sell your home, you don’t have a lot of room sound conditioning to tear out. With digital, its portable and can be used again to configure the next sound room in which you set up your speakers. In other words, “think out of the box”… think digital control, tuning and conditioning of your speakers AND the room together. It cost far less, takes way less work and as an audiophile, it is fascinating and fun to set up on a lap top computer, then disconnect your computer and its set to work perfect every time you spin up your favorite music.

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