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Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

Bookshelf speaker (Black Ash)

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  • Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

    Black ash with grille off

  • Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

    Black ash back

  • Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

    Black ash with grille on

  • Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

    Front

  • Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

    Front with grille off

 

Our take on the Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

by Kristen Schaub
Klipsch

Why choose bookshelf speakers?

Bookshelf speakers may be small in size, but they can deliver surprisingly big sound. Some ultra-compact models even fit on a desktop. Most are right at home in tight spaces like shelves, so they're usually good choices for your home theater's rear channels. For the best performance, try placing bookshelf speakers on solid speaker stands to help the sound really "open up." If you want full bass impact, add a powered subwoofer and enjoy punchy sound that's as deeply satisfying as that of floor-standing speakers.

Klipsch's top Reference Series II bookshelf speaker

Klipsch's RB-81 II bookshelf speaker provides clear, full-bodied sound to those who demand it, but don't have the room to accommodate a floor-standing speaker. Building on Klipsch's previous Reference speaker line, the Series II models have updated drivers and a new crossover system for even more spacious sound. Pick up a pair, and let these impressive speakers create an intimate listening environment on your next movie or music night.


Horn technology for "front row" sound

All Reference Series II speakers feature a redesigned version of Klipsch's famous horn-loaded tweeter. Because high-frequency sounds are more directional than bass frequencies, it's especially important to target them right toward your ears. Klipsch places their titanium tweeter inside a flared opening, known as a "horn," which disperses the highs evenly across your listening area in a 90°-wide, 60°-high pattern. With their Series II speakers, Klipsch has redesigned the shape and slope of their famous horn enclosure, so your movie soundtracks and music will sound more "open," with improved dynamics and efficiency. All in all, you can count on powerful, "front row" sound that's crystal-clear at all volume levels.


Cabinet construction

High-tech driver design

The RB-81 II also uses a newly machined, light-yet-rigid Cerametallic woofer with a folded edge to produce smoother mids and tighter bass. The specially treated aluminum in the cone helps to dampen unwanted vibrations and reduce distortion, while an integrated dustcap gives it a cleaner look and adds stability. Dual sets of five-way binding posts let you bi-amp or bi-wire each RB-81 II for even more dynamic sound. And the rigid, braced cabinet comes in a handsome woodgrain vinyl finish.

Check out the rest of our Klipsch lineup, and build a complete Reference Series II home theater or stereo speaker system. And don't forget to add a Klipsch subwoofer for high-impact bass.


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Highlights:

  • frequency response 44-24,000 Hz (±3dB)
  • power handling: up to 150 watts RMS (600 watts peak)
  • sensitivity 97 dB
  • 8-ohm impedance
  • Tractrix® horn with 1" titanium dome tweeter
  • 8" Cerametallic™ woofer
  • bass-reflex design via front-firing port
  • black ash woodgrain vinyl finish
  • dual binding posts for bi-amping or bi-wiring
  • dual bottom threaded inserts for use with a stand
  • 9-1/2"W x 19"H x 12-5/8"D
  • warranty: 5 years
  • Our 60-day money-back guarantee

Hands-on research from the Crutchfield Labs (what are the Labs?)

Features and Specs
Enclosure
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Bass Reflex
Video Shielded
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No
Tweeter Type
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Tractrix Horn
Tweeter Size (inches)
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1
Midrange Size (inches)
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---
Woofer Size (inches)
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8
Woofer Composition
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Cerametallic
Woofer Surround
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Rubber
Power Range
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150
Sensitivity
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97 dB
Impedance (Ohms)
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8
Frequency Response
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44-24k Hz
Connector Type
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Binding post
Bi-amp Inputs
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Yes
Height (inches)
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19
Width (inches)
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9-1/2
Depth (inches)
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12-5/8
Weight (pounds)
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27.5
Mounting Bracket Included
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No
Recommended Stand Height (inches)
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18-24
Parts Warranty
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5 Years
Labor Warranty
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5 Years
Product Research
What's in the box?

Download owner's manual

  • Black two-way bookshelf loudspeaker
  • Detachable magnetic grille (attached)
  • 4 Self-adhesive rubber feet
  • Owner's Manual

Our Product Research Team

At Crutchfield, you'll get detailed, accurate information that's hard to find elsewhere. That's because we have our own in-house Product Research team — they open the box, verify contents, check the owner's manual, and record dimensions, features and specs. We stay on top of new products and technologies to help people make informed choices.

Driver Technology
Enclosure Design
Connections
Mounting Options

Driver Technology

Highly-Efficient Design: The Klipsch RB-81 II utilizes a highly efficient design to produce more output using less power & energy for louder sound with less distortion. The RB-81 II is able to fill larger rooms with outstanding, accurate, non-fatiguing sound that you can listen to for hours.

Tractrix Horn Tweeter: The Klipsch RB-81 II features a professional-grade 1.0-inch titanium-diaphragm compression driver inside a square Tractrix Horn for smoother high-end response with greater extension, enhanced imaging, and more powerful dynamics. The Tractrix Horn deliver a 90-degree wide by 60-degree high dispersion pattern for a broader sound-stage. Behind the horn lies a 1.0-inch titanium tweeter with a linear travel suspension for open, natural, sound.

Cerametallic Woofer: The 8.0-inch woofer of the RB-81 II features Klipsch's distinctive, copper-colored Cerametallic cone. Made with an anodized aluminum, this cone is strong and dent resistant. The anodizing process converts the inner and outer surfaces to ceramic. The outcome is a rigid cone with superb damping characteristics that will not flex or resonate at frequencies within the woofer's operating range. The 8.0-inch woofer also employs a rubber surround for added durability.

Crossover Network: For signal purity and perfect driver integration, the crossover on the RB-81 II features the finest components and Klipsch custom internal wiring.

Enclosure Design

Bass Reflex Enclosure: The dual 8.0-inch Cerametallic cone woofer and 1.0" titanium diaphragm compression driver are mounted in a bass reflex enclosure which features a single front-firing port. The RB-81 II's rigid cabinet offers improved internal cross-bracing to minimize panel vibrations that can color sound and a front-firing port to eliminate turbulence noise. A black metallic finished baffle around the horn mouth and woofer dramatically improve acoustics across the sonic range. The bass reflex enclosure features a MDF cabinet finished with either a Black Ash and Cherry wood-grain vinyl veneer.

Magnetic Grille: The bookshelf loudspeaker features a removable magnetic grille which easily snaps into place over its cast-aluminum front baffle. The speaker can be used with or without its grille in place.

Connections

Dual Binding Posts: The bookshelf speaker has two sets of binding posts connected by jumpers. Using the dual binding posts, you can bi-amp or bi-wire the speakers. The binding post terminals will accept banana plugs (single only), pin-connectors, spade-connectors, and bare wire.

Mounting Options

Rubber Feet: The bookshelf speaker comes supplied with four self-adhesive rubber feet so you can sit the speakers on a stand or shelf securely. The rubber feet add approximately 0.3125" to the height of each speaker. There are also two 1/4"-20 threaded inserts on the bottom of the loudspeaker for mounting the speaker to third-party stands (sold separately).

Note: The two threaded inserts are spaced 1.625" apart.

Placement: The Reference Series bookshelf loudspeakers are designed to perform well in a wide variety of locations but you will get the most out of the speakers by following these simple guidelines.

  • Place the front left and right speakers on shelves or stands with their tweeters at approximately ear height for a seated listener. When used surround sound speakers, they normally perform best when placed slightly higher than ear level.
  • The bookshelf loudspeakers should be equal distance from the floor and the wall behind them. It can also helps to have the left and right speakers at different distances from their nearest side walls. This sort of staggering helps smooth the bass range.
 
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Klipsch Reference RB-81 II Reviews

Average Customer Review:

11 people say:

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5 out of 5

Klipsch is fine wih me!

Written By BD, Grenada, MS on Friday, July 11, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I bought the open box version and the units look fine and sound great. I am pleased with my first Klipsch purchase.
Pros:
Just right for bookshelf use. Some say they are too large, I disagree. Sound is clear and full. No distortion at any level I can withstand. I use these for casual music and home theater use.
Cons:
The cabinets are not fancy but the black blends in well.
1 out of 1 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Clean & LOUD...

Written By David S, OZ on Monday, January 27, 2014
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I'm a drummer & guitar player. I like/need loud and accurate performance. The RB-81's are absolute monsters in delivery. I immediately played my fave sound system test-disc collection: ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN, Heaven Up Here; TED NUGENT, Electric Ballroom; ROXY MUSIC, Avalon; ADELE, 21; SINEAD O'CONNOR, any of her albums; FOO FIGHTERS, any. I'm using a self-built pre-amp thru an ALESIS power amp and dual 15-band EQ finally to a BBE Aural Exciter (yes, that's my home sound system.)
Pros:
Super loud and super accurate/clean; the finish on the cabinets is beautiful.
Cons:
Not really a con but a caveat: these are a little larger cabinets and a little heavier than your average bookshelf speaker. Anyone should know that about an 8" loaded cabinet but just to note here to be sure. Wish the cabinets came in cherry or white?
8 out of 8 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

Written By Tim G, Cincinnati, Ohio on Friday, August 16, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Crisp, clean, airy sound to die for with my mono block tube amps. Beautiful cabinets! They sound perfect to Fleetwood Mac, Sleely Dan, and the Eagles. Highly reccomended!
Pros:
Dual binding post for bi-amping. Clean, perfect sounding horns, nice tight low end. Very good looking!
Cons:
Some mixes the highs over do the lows. That can be fixed with bi-amping and controlling the high, and low volumes. Also with a sub they woud be out of this world!
5 out of 5 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great Sound as always from Klipsch

Written By M275, Honolulu, Hawaii on Sunday, August 11, 2013
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Sound quality from Klipsch RB-81-II is excellent as always. The box construction is the right size for a bookshelf speaker system.
Pros:
Excellent Sound
Cons:
Nonoe
2 out of 2 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Got them Friday and i Love them

Written By Cecil, Greensboro on Monday, February 18, 2013
 
These Speakers are amazing! The sound is just like floorstanders. Make sure you have enough power going to them to get the best quality sound out of them
Pros:
Great sound and imaging
Cons:
Size but not really
3 out of 4 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great sound, soundstage, and imaging if you are in the right spot.

Written By dcmorris, Lexington, SC on Sunday, November 25, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I got a pair of these to replace my Infinity Primus P363, which I had just obtained but was not entirely satisfied with. The Primus were good, but the imaging wasn't as good as my old Fried A2s which finally bit the dust after 30 years of wonderful sound. I really like the Klipsch speakers. The imaging is clear and precise, and the soundstage is wide. There is no harshness in the high frequencies (unlike the Infinity). This is a very soft, musical, pleasant speaker that reminds me of my old Frieds. But to get the best imaging, you have to sit in the sweet spot - exactly midway between the speakers, back far enough for the image to snap into focus. They sound good all around the room, but they sound great if you are in the directional beam of the horn tweeters. There is not much bass below 50 hz, but there is some, and it is very good quality, clear bass. Good enough that I occasionally have to turn down the bass control on my amplifier if I play a CD with a lot of low bass.
Pros:
Great imaging, soundstage, clarity, with no harshness. Good, but not great, bass.
Cons:
None really for a speaker of this size and price range.
11 out of 11 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Amazing Sound

Written By Rick, Fort Worth, TX on Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
Amazing sound. Great looking speakers. You can't go wrong with Crutchfield's service and great "special buy" pricing on these speakers.
3 out of 3 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

excellent speakers

Written By klipsch RB-81 ll, Puerto Rico on Friday, May 18, 2012
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
excellent speakers
Pros:
very good sound for my family room and very strong. The sound is clear and fine and be happy with this speaker.
Cons:
none
2 out of 4 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great sensitivity, great sound

Written By Phil D, Easton, MD on Saturday, February 18, 2012
 
At a sensitivity of 97 db, you won't need a big amp to make these speakers sound live. And live is hown they can sound, clear with good high frequency dispersion. As with all bass reflex (ported) speakers, bass drops quickly below the port frequency, so consider a sub if you want some low bass. You better have a beefy 'bookshelf' to put these things on.
Pros:
High sensitivity, clean, natural sound.
Cons:
None for me
14 out of 14 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Big in Size and Big in Sound

Written By Dave, New Britain, CT on Thursday, September 22, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
I've owned quite a few Klipsch speakers and have always liked their sonic immediacy, dynamics and presence. From my first set of Heresy I's from 1978 theirs have been among my favorites. The RB-81II's are no exception and are in my opinion among the best stand-mounted/bookshelf model you can find out there. I admit my fondness for the large JBL L100's or the first Polk 7's is a sentimental attachment from days long gone.

The RB-81 II sounds well balanced but I prefer them out a little more into the room. The horn and eight-inch woofer blend well together and are a redesign of the previous RB-81. With better response from bass to treble they put out some tasty up-front sound that should satisfy listeners with average sized rooms for both home theater or music. The sound is very open and clear, and you'll hear the details you won't likely find in cheaper speakers. The cherry vinyl finish is a little darkish compared to their old light colored veneer but if it doesn't work for you they're available in black vinyl as well. I would have liked to see a real-wood veneer option, standard in their top of the line RF-7II's and classic Heritage line.

At the price Klipsch is selling these for I doubt you'll find any speaker that comes close to the RB-81 II bookshelfs in fidelity, balance or refinement as these do. For those that don't have room for a floorstander, which I would recommend for larger rooms, these may be just what you want both for casual or critical listening.









18 out of 20 people found this helpful
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5 out of 5

Great Bookshelf speakers

Written By Anonymous, San Juan, PR on Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Crutchfield Customer Review (What's this?)
 
These speakers deliver extraordinary fidelity in all frequencies and perform very well at both low and high volume. They are also well built and have a very attractive look. Only drawbacks are that they are front heavy due to depth and don't have a built-in method of anchoring them to a speaker stand or bracket, but there are workarounds to those isues (plan to use straps or something similar if you want to mount them - I do not recommend drilling holes or using screws or other fasteners that will make holes, as doing so may affect the sound and/or void the warrantee).
14 out of 18 people found this helpful
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2 questions already asked

How much scratch or dent should be expected? [ Mike G  Feb 02, 2014 ]
1 answer
  • Scratch & dent are open-box items that have minor cosmetic damage. They may be missing non-essential accessories. In some cases the manufacturer's accessories have been replaced with generic equivalents. The manufacturer's warranty applies. You can get an idea about typical cosmetic damage here: http://www.crutchfield.com/app/product/outlet/CloserLook.aspx [ Jeff Staff  Feb 03, 2014 ]
what type of speaker wire connections does this speaker use...banana, spade, etc? Thanks!! [ gcassidy  Nov 23, 2013 ]
1 answer
  • The bookshelf speaker has two sets of binding posts connected by jumpers. Using the dual binding posts, you can bi-amp or bi-wire the speakers. The binding post terminals will accept banana plugs (single only), pin-connectors, spade-connectors, and bare wire. [ Jeff Staff  Nov 24, 2013 ]

Add accessories for the Klipsch Reference RB-81 II

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Original Monster Cable With gold pin connectors (15-foot pair)
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AudioQuest Type 4 Speaker cables with pre-attached banana connectors (10-foot pair)
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AudioQuest Rocket 33 Bi-wire speaker cables with pre-attached banana plugs (10-foot pair)
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Monster XP Mini Twist-on Pin Connectors 4 pair, 16-gauge (4 pair)
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AudioQuest X2 Speaker Cable 14-gauge cable, connectors optional (30 feet, Gray)
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AudioQuest G2 Speaker Cable 16-gauge cable, connectors optional (30 feet, Gray)
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Monster XPHP™ MKII Speaker cable with clear jacket (100 feet)
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Monster XP® Speaker cable with clear jacket, connectors optional (100 feet)
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Monster XP® Navajo White MkII Speaker cable (50 feet)
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Sanus BF16B Speaker Stands Basic Foundations® — 16" (Black)
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Sanus NF18 Speaker Stands Natural Foundations Series IV — 18" (Black lacquer)
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For a more in-depth review and enhanced detailed information on the Klipsch Reference RB-81 II, please visit the Crutchfield website product page (/ISEO-rccbcspd/p_714RB81IIB/Klipsch-Reference-RB-81-II-Black-Ash.html ).

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