Richter Legend Series V

Richter Acoustics is an Australian loudspeaker maker established almost 30 years ago. Its flagship series has long been its Legend range, now up to its fifth version with significant revisions all round, and this is an impressive 5.1-channel package using, in all, four separate but complementary models from the Legend group to deliver impressive results.

This system consisted of the second-from-the-top stereo Wizard speakers ($1699 per pair), intended for duty as the front stereo pair, the Griffin centre-channel speaker ($499), the Merlin bookshelf-sized speakers ($799) for surround, and the Thor subwoofer ($1299). Individually they would come to $4296, but as a package they cost $3999.

The Wizards are floorstanders. Richter calls them ‘quasi’ three-way, which is its term for 2.5 way. That is, of the two 130mm drivers, one is wired for bass-only sound reproduction, while the other delivers both bass and the midrange frequencies. Sitting above these drivers is a 25mm soft-dome tweeter with neodymium magnet.

Their enclosure stands 970mm tall, 205mm wide and 350mm deep. The bass reflex port is at the rear and they are provided with foam bungs in case you wish to tweak the way the bass is delivered. Also provided are spikes. Richter rates their frequency response at 32 to 25,000Hz, sensitivity at 90dB, and recommends amplifiers rated up to 250W. The Wizards (and also the Merlins) adopt a gentle wedge shape, very slightly wider at the front than at the back.

Both these and the centre-channel Griffin speaker are rated at four ohms impedance. You should ensure that your AV receiver is rated to handle low-impedance loudspeakers, and you may be required to make a specific setting for four-ohm speakers. Receivers from at least one major brand (Yamaha) will be, at least according to the company’s paperwork, not suitable for use with this system because they at best support 4-ohm loudspeakers only on the left and right front channels.

The Griffin centre sports two 105mm midrange drivers, one either side of the same kind of tweeter used in the Wizards. This enclosure looks mid-sized from the front, measuring 495mm wide by 165mm tall, but it’s quite deep at 385mm. It has two bass reflex ports at the rear, so care should be taken to make sure it can breathe. Otherwise, set the crossover to the subwoofer in your receiver to at least 80Hz so that there’s little output at the intended port resonance. Richter specifies its frequency response at 48 to 25,000Hz, sensitivity at 89dB, with an amplifier suitability which ‘depends on the main speakers’.

The Series V Merlin speakers are bookshelf-sized and serve as surround speakers. At 320mm tall, 230mm deep and 180mm wide, these rear-ported bass reflex speakers are quite substantial units. Each has a quarter-inch threaded mounting point at the rear. With a single 105mm mid/bass and the same 25mm tweeter each, these are rated at 55 to 25,000Hz, with a sensitivity of 87dB, amplifier suitability up to 150W, and impedance of six ohms.

All of these speakers are available in black oak or Jarrah finish, and all are fitted four gold-plated binding posts, suitable for bi-wiring.

The Thor subwoofer is also a Series V unit. This is a nice big unit featuring a mix of traditional and modern technology. Traditional in that it has generous dimensions of 500 by 440 by 450mm and a solid build indicated by the 28kg of weight, and in the 300mm driver with up to 32mm excursion operating in a twin ported enclosure. There are both line-level and speaker high-level inputs, and the speaker-level outputs incorporate a high-pass filter at 80Hz, making this subwoofer suitable for stereo systems with compact speakers.

But it is also modern in using a 300W Class-D amplifier offering 82% efficiency and low distortion, and an Analogue Devices DSP system for controlling the signal, including separate home theatre and music modes.

Richter specifies the frequency response of the subwoofer as better than 19Hz to 120Hz in music mode. (There is mention of a lower figure in the manual, but I confirmed with Richter that this was printed in error.)

The Wizard stereo speakers presented an extremely attractive musical performance. The essence of it was a degree of relaxed delivery, almost a laidback performance. There was a clear leaning towards a slight lower frequency emphasis — not to say anything like boomy bass, indeed the bottom end seemed very smooth and extended. But the upper midrange and lower treble were relatively restrained. This can be an advantage. For example I sometimes find the voice of Radiohead’s singer to be a touch whiny for my taste, despite the excellence of the music. With these speakers the opening refrains of ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ from ‘OK Computer’ quite banished that sense, leaving a more masculine sense for the same voice.

And it was clear that while the lower treble was well controlled, there was plenty of upper treble, with the cymbals and vocal plosives (popping against the microphone) standing out a little more than usual, by contrast to the subtly recessed band beneath.

While we usually assess systems using music and material with which we are extremely familiar, I must remark on a new release first sampled with these speakers: Primus’ new album ‘Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble’. As expected from Primus, this is weird — think chunks of 1971 musical ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ rendered in the style of the South Park theme. But one under-appreciated aspect of Primus is the quality of the recordings. This new one clearly uses a lot of studio manipulation, with interesting phasing effects, and from the opening the sense of placement of the percussion in particular was astonishing in depth and width. Rather than a stage-style spread, with a bias towards the centre, the instruments take their places across the full width and depth of the virtual stage. Those familiar with Primus will know the importance of strong bass support, given the prominence of the bass guitar as a lead instrument. The Wizards loped through this without being at all challenged.

The other speakers shared the general tonal characteristics, but for home theatre use we allowed the home theatre receiver’s EQ to do its stuff. Whether employed or not, the surround sound imaging was highly effective, with good handling of a male voice walking around the perimeter of the room in Dolby Digital 5.1, and excellent impact from the street-gun battle in the movie ‘Heat’. We had a good 140W on tap for each channel, yet at thunderous levels the speakers remained clean and precise and controlled.

The Thor subwoofer was simply excellent. Often we find 5.1 package subwoofers to be under-done when compared to the ‘5’ part of the system — a good rule of thumb is that the subwoofer should be roughly one third of the value of the entire system for proper balance. That’s pretty close to what Richter offers here.

It was capable of delivering any realistic level of bass reinforcement with all the movies and 5.1 music played throughout the review period, and there was a great deal of it, often at thrillingly high levels. And we left the subwoofer in music mode throughout testing — why vary the performance of a subwoofer from an even bass response? The room was not engaged in the infrasonic quite to the extent it is with my regular subwoofer (which is flat down to 16Hz), but that apart it pounded the senses when required on movies, yet remained tuneful and tight on music.

Some measurements revealed that the Wizard speakers delivered solid, balanced bass all the way down to 30Hz, below which their output fell away sharply. There was indeed a gentle down slope in output from the bass to around 5000Hz, which was around six decibels down, above which the response returned to full output.

As for the subwoofer, in music mode the frequency response was very impressive: a remarkably even output from 23Hz and up. Below that frequency there’s a fast falling away of output, but it was still usable to at least 20Hz. This is a rare feat for any subwoofer selling for under two thousand dollars. At less than $1300 it’s quite extraordinary.

As for the Theatre mode for the subwoofer, the most obvious difference is a much higher output level, roughly 12dB up. You should calibrate your system after deciding whether to go for music or movie. This mode also brings 30Hz down by about three decibels compared to 60Hz. The music mode delivers a more even response; there’s no good reason not to use it.

The Legend Series V speaker system from Richter provides very good sound overall, both with stereo and surround, and is topped off (bottomed off, perhaps!) with an outstanding subwoofer. 

Richter Legend Series V Wizard/Griffin/Merlin/Thor 5.1-channel speaker package

Price: $3999

FOR: Well-balanced system, Very solid build, Outstanding subwoofer

AGAINST: Low impedance centre and front speakers may not be suitable for some receivers

Full specifications and stats accompany the original magazine pages: click below to downlad the PDF (1.56MB).