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Klipsch The Fives - Review 2020


It’s not often that we review powered bookshelf speakers these days, and it’s even rarer when they cost $799. But we test a fair number of soundbars in this price range, and with The Fives, Klipsch aims to provide a hearty, left/right channel alternative. These powered speakers are handsomely designed, powerful, and can be used with a sub, but hardly need one. The modern connections you expect from a soundbar are all here, including Bluetooth connectivity. The result is a pair of speakers that act as a self-powered, remote-controlled entertainment system solution for those who want real stereo separation, real bass depth, crisp highs, and ease of use. The Fives earn our Editors’ Choice award for their grace, versatility, and most of all, their excellent sound quality.

Design

Available in matte black or walnut models, The Fives have MDF enclosures covered in real wood veneers, with tweed-covered cloth grilles that snap into place magnetically for easy removal and placement. The grilles are attractive and have a retro Klipsch logo emblazoned on a medallion in the lower right corner. For the black model, the grilles have a grid-like tweed pattern, while the walnut grilles have a less geometric, more natural crosshatched tweed pattern.

What the grilles hide are, for some of us, the real things of beauty—each speaker is armed with a horn-style 1-inch titanium dome tweeter and a 4.5-inch fiber composite cone woofer. With or without the grilles, these speakers look fantastic—the surface underneath the grilles is all black, and the horns, in particular, catch the light in a lovely way.

Measuring 12.0 by 6.5 by 9.3 inches each (HWD), the speakers combine for a total of 160 watts. The woofers account for 60 watts apiece and the tweeters for 20 watts apiece, delivering a frequency range of 50Hz to 25kHz. The main speaker weighs 11.8 pounds and the secondary one is 10.7 pounds.

Up top on the main speaker, there are attractive built-in rotary dial source selectors and volume controls. (The volume works independently of, not in conjunction with, your paired or connected device’s master volume.) The source selector uses a white LED to show which input is currently selected. The same LEDs, when you adjust the volume, momentarily become meters, gradually fading until only one is lit (when at the lowest volume levels) or all of them are (at maximum volume).

Both speakers house rear-firing ports for efficient driver movement and airflow. You’ll want to place these, ideally, at least a couple of feet away from walls. The back panel of the secondary speaker has only the connection for the included 4M cable that connects the two speakers, while the back panel for the main speaker is loaded with connections. There’s an HDMI (ARC) port, a L/R switch for assigning channels to the main and secondary speakers, a pairing button for Bluetooth devices, and connections for phono (RCA style with a ground-screw terminal), aux (3.5mm), and subwoofer output (RCA). Those are the analog connections, but there’s also a digital panel with Optical and USB inputs.

All of these connections mean it’s possible to have a Blu-ray player or media streamer connected, as well as a turntable, a TV, a computer, any device with a 3.5mm output, and, of course, it’s possible to pair Bluetooth devices. In all, this is better connectivity than some soundbars we test.

Klipsch The Fives

The aforementioned 4M cable that connects the two speakers is of generous length so you can achieve serious stereo separation. The main power cable connects the back panel of the main speaker.

The Fives also ship with a remote control that runs off of two AAA batteries (included). The remote has buttons for play/pause, volume up/down, subwoofer up/down, mute, and dedicated buttons for the various sources you can have connected: TV, Aux, Phono, Optical, and USB. There’s also a Bluetooth button and a Subwoofer level reset. Out of the box, after putting the batteries in, the remote worked perfectly and was easy to use, playing and pausing music from a paired iPhone without issue or much delay, though you do have to make sure to aim for the main speaker’s front face—the sensor is on the right side between the tweeter and woofer.

The speakers utilize dynamic bass EQ—DSP (digital signal processing) that adjusts the bass levels as the volume changes. You can enable or disable this feature by pressing the Sub reset button on the remote for three seconds. The difference in performance will sound more subtle on certain tracks than others, but it’s easy to switch back and forth with the remote.

The Fives are compatible with Bluetooth 5, with support for AptX, AptX HD, AAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs.

Later this year, Klipsch claims there will be support in the Klipsch Connect app (for Android and iOS) for The Fives, which should include EQ to tweak the sound signature. It’s disappointing that it isn’t available at launch, but the speakers sound great out of the box. The EQ will most likely be useful in tuning the system to a room rather than radically altering the sound signature.

Performance 

On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” The Fives deliver powerful bass depth. At top volumes and with the bass management in play, the speakers don’t distort, and manage to deliver a healthy dose of deep lows while balancing things well with the higher-frequency content. It should also be noted that The Fives can get quite loud. At both high and moderate volumes, they deliver a powerful, balanced audio experience.

How We Test Speakers

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of The Fives’ general sound signature. The drums on this track sound almost thunderous, but stop shy of sounding unnatural—they manage to absorb some notable bass boosting and never seem to overshadow any other element of the mix, sitting back despite sounding fuller and deeper. Callahan’s baritone vocals have an ideal mix of low-mid richness and detailed high-mid treble edge here. The acoustic strums are also delivered with bright, crisp detail—what we end up with is a lovely balance. Yes, the lows are boosted and end up making the kick drum heavier, but it never threatens the rest of the mix—there’s plenty of space for the vocals and guitars and higher-register percussive hits to operate.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives ideal high-mid presence, while the loop’s sustain gets some added low-frequency heft. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with less power than higher bass frequencies are—this is what that subwoofer output is for. Even if the sub-bass on this track doesn’t make the house shake, the lows and low-mids are full and rich—The Fives deliver a powerful low-frequency response that bass lovers will enjoy. The vocals on this track are delivered with crisp clarity and no real hint of added sibilance. This is a balanced sound that nonetheless pushes the bass forward without making things muddy.

Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound stunning through The Fives. The lower-register instrumentation is given a little bit more body than purists may prefer, but it’s balanced with the higher-register brass, strings, and vocals. With some wide separation between the speakers, you get a wonderful spatial feel on recordings like this—something that soundbars and all-in-one speakers can’t touch. 

Conclusions

There’s not much that we’ve tested recently that compares directly with The Fives in terms of design or price. In the $500 to $1,000 range, you have plenty of options, and they take many forms. Our favorite soundbars in this price range, for instance, include the $600 LG SL10YG and the $800 Sonos Arc. In the bookshelf realm, the $500 Audioengine A5+ speakers deliver a solid audio experience in an attractive design, while the $400 Klipsch R-41PM is a smaller pair with similar features to The Fives. But for $800, Klipsch doesn’t disappoint. Even without a sub, you get an excellent audio experience with The Fives, as well as the necessary ports to connect just about any sound source to them, earning our Editors’ Choice.

Klipsch The Fives Specs

Channels Stereo
Bluetooth Yes
Wi-Fi No
Multi-Room No
Physical Connections HDMI, Optical, Stereo RCA
Portable No
Water-Resistant No
Speakerphone No
Voice Assistant None

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