The RW-8 is the smallest subwoofer in Klipsch's Reference line, but it still represents something of a price and performance benchmark. At $350, it's the least expensive Klipsch model featuring the company's Corner Port technology, in which a D-shaped port tube spans the cabinet from the upper rear to just under the front baffle. By enabling an enclosure to be tuned to a lower frequency, this design can create remarkably deep bass from a fairly small cabinet--and it really works.
The 29-pound RW-8 is just 10 inches wide, so it looks pretty darn small. However, be aware that it's 17.9 inches deep. The medium-density-fiberboard cabinet comes in a black-ash, vinyl finish.
The front-firing 8-inch cone woofer is made of Klipsch's familiar, copper-colored Cerametallic: the aluminum-anodizing process converts the metal's surface to ceramic, creating a more rigid structure. The woofer's high-temperature, long-excursion voice coil is said to produce lower distortion. Klipsch used Monster cable for all of the sub's internal wiring.
The RW-8 has one of the few subwoofer amps that meet the Federal Trade Commission's stringent rating criteria. The sub's power is rated at 100 continuous watts and 200 watts on peaks. The continuously variable low-pass crossover runs from 40Hz to 120Hz, and the volume knob is conveniently side-mounted for easy access.
One small feature caught our attention: the RW-8's continuously variable phase control. Rarely found on budget subwoofers, it facilitates a sub's integration with satellite speakers. Once the control has been properly adjusted, it can slightly increase a system's overall bass response.
We had to turn up the subwoofer's volume to maximum to match the level of the Klipsch RF-15 tower speakers when we used the RW-8's direct input. Even then, we needed a bit more low-end volume, so we used a Y-connector in the right and left stereo inputs to increase the level, and that did the trick, delivering enough of a boost to make us happy. This sort of level-matching problem is system-dependent; your bass "mileage" may vary.
The RF-15 towers are somewhat bass-challenged on their own; they ran out of steam by 50Hz. The RW-8 extended the system's bass down into the mid-30Hz range--pretty darn deep for a compact subwoofer with an 8-inch driver. The heavy-duty depth-charge blasts in the U-571 submarine drama sounded impressively powerful. We certainly didn't hear any flatulence noises, buzzes, or rattles from the port. Most budget subs aren't this well behaved.
On every DVD and CD we tried, the RW-8 went about its business, meshing so perfectly with the RF-15s that we never really thought about the sub. It never called attention to itself--a rare feat among budget subwoofers.