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Cardboard and copper: the song doesn’t remain the same

RCF Precision Speakers

Before too long the dynamic loudspeaker will be 100 years old - a copper coil, a cardboard cone and a magnet. Certainly for the last 50 years there has been almost no change in the design, or for that matter, the materials, or even the speaker cabinet technology. The song has remained the same… or has it? (See Birth of the Array for the extended history lesson especially “Herr Helmholtz”).

A quick history lesson

RCF have been manufacturing loudspeakers for well over 50 years and are well known for reliable products. Back in the very late 90s, RCF speaker manufacturing capability was pretty much at the state of the art. This certainly applies to bass drivers where RCF built the highest power handling bass drivers in the world at that time. RCF was (and still is) designing and manufacturing every part that went into its drivers. There were no subcontracted components with the exception of some driver cones that were being produced for them by a most expensive and superior cone manufacturer in Germany. RCF were also supplying most of the concert sound speaker companies and had a reputation as the most durable and sonically first-class driver producer. This particularly applied to bass drivers.

Quality finish is complemented with practical features: you could hit the speaker terminals with a hammer the design is so tough.
Quality finish is complemented with practical features: you could hit the speaker terminals with a hammer the design is so tough.

Enter “loud sound”

Loud Sound was a business arm of Mackie and purchased RCF, as the parent company wanted to expand and consolidate a position in pro-audio speaker systems. Mackie had also purchased EAW who also used RCF speakers, so this was a sensible acquisition.

Loud sound proceeded to invest heavily in RCF to modernise the factory and develop a new line of speaker components that would be so advanced, EAW and Mackie could move forward in the speaker market with a vastly superior product. The end result was a product we now know as RCF Precision. Quality of finish, power handling, efficiency, sonic performance… you name it, this new range was so far in front, it would take years for anybody catch up.

The polymer spider suspension: It will never sag or rip and it’s attached with the same glue that holds Boeing jets together.
The polymer spider suspension: It will never sag or rip and it’s attached with the same glue that holds Boeing jets together.

What happened to loud sound?

Well that’s another long story. Forty million dollars later, there were management and cross-cultural issues between the Mackie management and RCF, and it is sufficient to say that these days RCF is owned by an all-Italian partnership mainly composed of RCF staff. Since the ownership is about as “in-house” as you can get, they’re pretty motivated.

It cools three ways: Magnetism, convection and conduction. And all without power compression or wasted energy.
It cools three ways: Magnetism, convection and conduction. And all without power compression or wasted energy.

So what is RCF Precision?

This is the secret behind the success of the new RCF boxes. Yes the boxes have advanced digitally controlled electronics and blah blah blah etc., but the real reason they work so well and sound so good is the RCF drivers. We could go on so we will…

If you were to roll out all the design and manufacturing features behind RCF precision, it would look like one of those big newsprint rolls, rolling fourth into the sunset, so maybe we will just target a few prominent milestones, bearing in mind that the old RCF factory already had produced the world’s best bass drivers before all that invested money built them the research and manufacturing facility they have now.

RCF manufacture all its own parts in an ultra-modern plant.
RCF manufacture all its own parts in an ultra-modern plant.

Some RCF Precision facts:

• Carbon fibre impregnated cone; it can handle stress like the wings of a jet fighter.

• Features a Constant geometry polymer sandwich double spider suspension. What does that techno-babble mean? The spider suspension is two suspension layers filled with a polymer material that strengthens the suspension while at the same time guarantees uniform cone excursion. It is so tough that if you have to re-cone the driver, this suspension must be removed with an angle-grinder with a rotating wire brush. All other speaker brand’s suspensions are just made from cloth. This also means the RCF precision driver will not change it’s Thiel and Small parameters for the life of the driver, i.e. no sagging performance as the driver ages.

Quality control testing is conducted at every stage of production.
Quality control testing is conducted at every stage of production.

• RCF have introduced a “magnetic circuit” to the magnet geometry. It works in three ways, but unless you are a severe geek that becomes highly stimulated by the prospect of a page of algebra, it will suffice to say that the driver is highly efficient and the magnetic field provides a smoother, quieter and more controlled excursion of the moving mass of the cone and coil assemble.

…and the end product uniform and precise.
…and the end product uniform and precise.

• A new type of non-power compression cooling system has been incorporated into magnet design but it’s hardly worth mentioning as the new RCF “baked on” voice-coil technology will handle over 350 degrees C heat which is more than double most other voice coil manufacturers can claim.

We won’t even bother to mention build quality and finish, as that is the first thing you notice with RCF drivers anyway but the new models are a work of art. It seems a pity to seal them into a box.

The new axial phase plug: We haven’t mentioned them but the new RCF Precision HF drivers are equally if not more groundbreaking.
The new axial phase plug: We haven’t mentioned them but the new RCF Precision HF drivers are equally if not more groundbreaking.

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