OK, let’s get the issue about the high cost of these speakers out of the way before we begin!
The RCF Art 745A’s are not cheap. A pair of these 15″+Horn boxes will set you back over £2,000. They are high-end speakers which sit unashamedly at the top of the MI portable speaker price range. If you want to move any higher up the scale than these speakers, you’ll need to get in to the more expensive and heavier tour grade stuff.
Debates always rage whether speakers are worth their price or whether they sound good or not and there’s no easy answer. If you love the sound of the RCF Art 745A’s then you’ll probably think they’re worth it, and if you don’t, then, well, you probably won’t (a bit obvious, I know, but that’s just the way it is with sound – it’s a very subjective thing).
In this article I want to concentrate a little bit more on how these speakers actually perform at a live gig, how portable they are, how reliable they are, how well built they are, what makes these speakers so different from other speakers, and most importantly can the difference impact and improve your gigs? Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll not only know whether RCF Art 745A’s are right for you but whether high-end speakers in general are right for you.
First off let me assure you that I’m not one of those audiophile snobs who only likes high-end gear and turns his nose up at cheap gear. Not me. If a piece of cheap gear sounds good, it’s good and I say so. Similarly, if I think something is just high priced junk I also say so.
So with that, let me just say right off the bat that the RCF Art 745A’s are superb speakers and in my humble opinion are well worth the money.
However before you rush out and spend a ton of your hard earned cash on a pair of high-end speakers like the 745’s, bear in mind that there are also a few relatively inexpensive speakers on the market that, despite their low(ish) prices, still put out really good sound quality. Even the build quality of some of the cheaper boxes are pretty good. The Yamaha DBR’s, QSC CP’s, and EV ZLX range of speakers come immediately to mind.
Never forget though that even though cheap, entry level speakers can often sound surprisingly good, a good rule of thumb to remember is that all cheap speakers lose their sound quality when you turn the volume up.
Although cheap speakers can sound great when you’re listening to them at relatively low or medium volumes, as soon as you whack the volume up on them the quality of their sound disintegrates very quickly, often leaving you with a woolly or harsh pile of indecipherable sounding mush!
It saddens me (and annoys me a little bit too) that music shops sell a ton of these cheap speakers to customers knowing full well that the customer will NOT get the same quality of sound out of the speakers at a gig as they heard in the shop. Demo’s in the music shop are usually at low/medium volumes and even cheap speakers can often sound great at these volume levels. But at a live gig you’ll often be playing at a much higher volume level, and that’s when the sound quality of cheaper speakers deteriorates (and becomes VERY noticeable to the audience). OK, rant over!
If you are, say, a solo pianist or a small jazz combo performing in small venues at lower volumes (for example in a coffee shop or restaurant), then a pair of inexpensive good sounding speakers such as the ones I’ve mentioned above may suit you just fine because you’ll probably never have to turn them up loud. But if you’re playing in venues where you need be heard, then a pair of cheap speakers can prove to be false economy.
OK, back to the RCF Art 745A’s.
So, what’s so special about these RCF745A’s that make them worth over £2,000? After all RCF make an almost identical looking 15″+Horn speaker, the RCF Art 715A, which costs half the price of the 745. What does the 745 bring to the table that other budget and medium priced speakers can’t?
Well, as I’m sure you’ve probably already figured out for yourself by now, the difference is that the 745’s can go loud. Very loud in fact. And when they go loud they still retain superb sound quality. The sound quality of the 745’s doesn’t deteriorate in the same way less expensive speakers do when you turn the volume up. RCF have achieved this by cramming the 745’s with high quality drivers, high quality components, high quality amplifier circuitry, high quality DSP, high quality DAC’s (you get the idea).
Unfortunately the use of everything high quality costs money, hence the high price tag to match.
But it’s not just the quality of the parts inside the box that makes this speaker so special. It’s the years of research and development and the superb design of the whole thing that makes this product stand out from the crowd. It really is much more than the sum of all its parts.
The 745’s main secret weapon which helps put it head and shoulders above pretty much all other speakers in its class is, without doubt, the massive 4″ voice coil in the horn – it’s the absolute star of the show. As a comparison, the cheaper RCF 715A has a 1″ voice coil in its horn.
Most of the high-end speakers from other manufacturers only have 1.75″ or 2″ voice coils in their horns (which is still good, but not in the same league as the 745).
The difference the 4″ voice coil makes to this RCF box is colossal. For a start, it means RCF have been able to drop the crossover in this box down to 650 Hz which is a far better match for a 15″ woofer than the usual 1600 Hz or 1700 Hz crossover frequencies in most other boxes.
This also means that pretty much all of your mids and highs are effectively coming out the horn. In real-world gigging terms, this basically means that the 745 throws the mids and highs much, much further in to the room than other speakers…and it does it with far more clarity and definition than most other speakers. Vocals just sparkle out of the 745 and it doesn’t suffer from the ‘scooped mids’ problem that haunts most 15″+Horn boxes because in the 745 the horn is handling all those mid frequencies, not the woofer.
So while other speakers with smaller horns will start to sound a bit muddy and lose their clarity half way up the room, the 745’s don’t. They project the sound far in to the audience with a clarity that is so crystal clear it has to be heard to be appreciated. Believe me, if you A/B test a pair of 745’s beside any other similar 15″+Horn speakers in a large venue you’ll VERY quickly realise why the 745’s are so expensive (and why they are worth every penny)!
Let’s look at weight and portability now.
Not only are the speaker components in the 745 top notch, RCF have used neodymium magnets in the drivers, class D amps, and a composite type of material for the casing. These are all designed to keep the weight of the box down and it does exactly that. The 745 weighs in at just 19.8kg.
Always remember though, the 745 is still a 15″ speaker and all 15″ speakers by their very size and nature tend to be a little bit bulky. The 745 has two handles at the side and one on top so it’s very easily manageable by one person but a pair of them may not be totally suitable for fitting in to the back of your standard family hatchback or lifting on to tripod stands on your own.
However this is the same with any 15″+Horn box, and to be fair, most other similarly priced 15″+Horn boxes are actually much heavier than the RCF’s.
By the way, don’t think because these are ‘plastic’ boxes that they don’t sound as full, or as good, or as warm as traditional wooden 15″+Horn boxes. They do!
Let’s move on to the bass/lows and how they sound through the 15″ woofer.
As you can probably guess, the 15″ woofer sounds great. I can’t totally rave about it in the same way as I rave about the horn, but it’s still a high-end 15″ woofer made from high quality components and it handles the low frequencies exceptionally well, just as you would expect from a box at this price.
I’d probably describe the the 15″ as having enough depth and punch to easily handle and reproduce a drummers kick drum well, while still retaining good enough definition that you can hear the individual bass guitar notes clearly too. Most 15″ woofers tend to only excel at one or the other, but the 745 sounds good with both a kick drum and a bass guitar going through it at the same time. Hey, I suppose it should at the price.
If I was really forced to try and pick out something negative about the 745, at a push I’d maybe suggest that the horn in the 745 is so exceptional that, arguably, it could do with a bit more than just a single 15″ woofer in the box to match it. As it happens, I’ve used the 745’s in a large hall sitting on top of a pair of 18″ subs and the sound was just stunning, absolutely magical.
So that’s pretty much the RCF Art 745A in a nutshell.
If you play lively gigs where it’s important that the whole audience can hear you loud and clear, you should definitely consider a pair of 745’s if they’re within your budget. You will not be disappointed. The 745’s totally blow away most of the other MI grade speakers out there and your audience WILL notice a BIG difference in your performance when you play through these boxes.
Even when you push them to the limit, the 745’s still retain clarity and warmth. In essence, that’s really what you’re paying for here: the ability to fill a large room with high quality sound at good volume levels, even getting it to the ears of those audience members sitting at the back.
Having used these RCF speakers for more than two years at many small and medium sized gigs (and a few large gigs too), they have proved to be robust and reliable with no breakdown or failures or problems of any kind.
Before I finish, I should maybe just quickly mention that the rear panel of the 745 has only very basic ins and outs and this may not be enough for some folks. Personally, I use my 745’s with a separate mixing desk so the lack of ins and outs isn’t a problem for me. All I need is a single XLR cable coming from my mixer to each speaker and I’m good to go.
However the lack of ins and outs on the back of the 745 may be a bit of a problem for some folks if you don’t use a mixer and need multiple ins and outs on the actual speaker itself. So just remember that on the 745 you DON’T get multiple channels, fx, rca ins, minijack ins, bluetooth, or preset eq’s etc. In fact RCF don’t even provide a sub output! Even cheap powered speakers usually have something like an 80hz, 100hz or 120hz output for using with subs, but alas not so on the 745.
So is the RCF Art 745A the right speaker for you?
Maybe, maybe not.
I suggest before you even think about rushing out and investing in these fabulous speakers (and trust me, they ARE fabulous), bear in mind that £2,000 can buy you an awful lot of kit and there a lot of good speakers out there.
All the big players like QSC, JBL, Yamaha, EV etc make high end speakers priced similarly to the 745’s (give or take £100 or two). They all sound slightly different and each has a slightly different character to its sound. For example, the horns on the QSC’s are very smooth compared to the Yamahas which are a bit more cutting and in your face. That doesn’t necessarily mean one is better than the other. One person might find the QSC’s too dull while another person may find them to be more natural because of it. One person may find the Yamahas too bright and harsh while another person may find that they cut through better because of it!
Every speaker from every manufacturer has its pros and cons, but the good news is that when you pay over £2,000 for any pair of speakers, you’re very unlikely to get a bad sounding speaker. They all sound great in their own individual ways and so they should.
RCF, QSC, JBL, Yamaha, EV, take your pick. Quite frankly I’d be happy to play a gig through any of them (and I have indeed played gigs through most of them).
So “you pay your money and make your choice” as the old saying goes.