The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar is a 3.1 channel model equipped with a true center channel and a wireless subwoofer. Sold for 699 euros, this Klipsch soundbar incorporates seven drivers, an HDMI ARC input, an optical input and a Bluetooth receiver. Its main advantage is that it allows you to create a genuine 5.1 channel wireless home theater system by combining it with the optional Klipsch Surround 3 speakers, a setup that we decided to test for this review.
Klipsch Bar 48: the brand
The Klipsch saga began in the late 30s when Paul Wilbur Klipsch began developing his first speakers inside a small hangar in Hope, Arkansas. Met with great enthusiasm from his audiophile friends, Paul Wilbur Klipsch decided to found his company and commercialize his first loudspeaker, the Klipschorn, in 1946. This patented model was developed for a very specific purpose: to reproduce the emotion of a live concert at home. This feat was achieved thanks to the integration of a 15” low frequency driver, a 2” midrange driver with a compression chamber, and a 1” tweeter with a compression chamber and Tractrix horn. This model was so successful that more than 70 years after its release, the sixth generation of this speaker is still in the brand’s catalog under the reference Klipsch Klipschorn AK6.
In 1957, Klipsch introduced the first version of the Klipsch Heresy loudspeaker, a 3-way model made to accompany a pair of Klipschorns and deliver the center channel in high fidelity. This novel idea didn’t find an audience and was quickly abandoned in favor of a classic stereo configuration. The fourth generation of the Klipsch Heresy speaker is still available in the American manufacturer’s catalog. For this fourth version, Klipsch took the main features of the Klipsch Heresy III, which impressed us during our review (read our review of the Klipsch Heresy III), and made a few improvements, such as the addition of a rear-firing port for even more efficiency.
Today, Klipsch is also a major player in the movie theater speaker market. It all began in 1980 when the brand designed a digital sound system for John Allen. In this system, each channel was reproduced by a Klipsch MCM loudspeaker, an exceptional model equipped with a 15” subwoofer, a 12” Tractrix horn-loaded midbass driver and a titanium Tractrix horn-loaded tweeter.
After gaining a solid reputation for professional movie theater audio systems, Klipsch set out to conquer the home theater market in 1992 with the release of its first in-wall speakers, the Klipsch IW 100 and IW 200, followed by the first Klipsch Rebel 8 satellite speakers in 1996.
The early 2000s were a pivotal moment for Klipsch. The American brand continued to produce its iconic hi-fi and home theater speakers, but expanded its product range to cater to new ways of listening to music. As a result, the brand now has an extensive catalog featuring hi-fi headphones, Bluetooth headphones, Bluetooth earphones, wireless and smart speakers, as well as soundbars, the category we are reviewing here with the Klipsch Bar 48, the brand’s latest addition. Its main advantage is that it can be turned into a wireless home theater system when paired with the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers.
Klipsch Bar 48: packaging & accessories
The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar comes in a long box that also holds the wireless subwoofer. Both of these elements are held in place and protected by thick sheets of polystyrene. The Klipsch Bar 48 comes with two power cables (one for the bar and one for the subwoofer), a quick start guide, a drilling template for wall mounting, side covers (black and brown), an HDMI cable, as well as a remote control with batteries. This backlit remote control provides quick access to the soundbar’s different features: selecting the source, volume control, bass level, different effects, etc.
For this review, we decided to perform various listening tests with the Klipsch Bar 48, with and without the optional Klipsch Surround 3 speakers. These speakers are sold as a pair in a much smaller box. They come with a power cable, a quick start guide and a WiFi module.
Klipsch Bar 48: presentation
Klipsch Bar 48
As soon as we took it out of its box, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar conveyed an impression of high-quality and left no doubt as to its origins. The two Tractrix horns situated at each end of the bar immediately indicated that we were dealing with a Klipsch speaker. Its chassis is made of polymer plastic, making it very sturdy whilst maintaining a very reasonable weight. The front and upper panels of the soundbar are almost entirely covered with black acoustic fabric. This makes the Klipsch Bar 48 rather discreet and prevents light from the television or projector from being reflected. At both ends, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar features a removable polymer cover covered with an imitation wood vinyl. Two models are included with the soundbar: black wood and walnut. This makes it easy to personalize the soundbar to suit your personal taste or the furniture it sits on. This is an excellent feature that is rarely seen on competing models.
The Klipsch Bar 48 is a very wide soundbar. It is no less than 121cm long, making it more suited to large TVs. That said, it is very well proportioned, being only 7.3cm high and 8.6cm deep. As a result, it can be installed underneath most televisions without blocking the bottom of the screen. Because it isn’t very deep, it is easy to wall mount and doesn’t protrude much.
Underneath the acoustic fabric, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar is equipped with no fewer than nine drivers divided over three channels. Four drivers are allocated to the mids and lows. They feature a 3” composite cone and are paired to two passive radiators. Three 1” fabric dome tweeters are responsible for the restitution of the highs. They are loaded in a Tractrix horn to improve the distribution of high frequencies while reducing distortion. Dialogues are therefore clearer, whether the soundbar is paced on a TV stand or wall-mounted underneath the television.
There is no doubt that the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar’s main advantage is the included wireless subwoofer. Particularly convenient, the latter only requires a mains socket to work. Consequently, it can be placed anywhere without having to run long cables across the room. To ensure that the lows are successfully reproduced, this Klipsch subwoofer incorporates an 8” driver loaded in a bass-reflex enclosure with a downward-firing port. This configuration provides deep lows that are evenly distributed throughout the room.
Concerning connections, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar features an HDMI ARC input to retrieve the soundtrack of any source connected to or viewed on the television. This input is CEC-compatible, allowing the Klipsch Bar 48 to be turned on and its volume controlled using the TV’s remote control. Sound from a television that isn’t ARC-compatible can be transferred using an optical or mini-jack cable. A subwoofer output is also included, meaning a second subwoofer can be connected to the Klipsch soundbar.
Klipsch Surround 3
The optional Klipsch Surround 3 speakers are wireless models specifically designed to be used with the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar to reproduce surround sound effects and establish a genuine wireless home theater system. To do this, each Klipsch Surround 3 speaker features a 60-watt digital amplifier. The latter is tasked with powering a 3” wideband driver mounted in a closed cabinet containing a large volume of air.
Klipsch Bar 48: different listening modes
The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar offers three listening modes: night, dialog enhance and virtual surround. The night mode lowers the volume and limits dynamic shifts in the soundtrack. This saves you from having to constantly adjust the volume in between action scenes and more intimate scenes. The dialog enhance mode reinforces the soundbar’s center channel to make voices clearer. This mode is particularly useful for talk shows, news broadcasts and documentaries. Lastly, a virtual surround mode is available to simulate surround sound effects when the soundbar is used without the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers. These settings are accessible via the Klipsch Bar 48’s remote control.
Klipsch Bar 48: compatible audio formats
The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar supports a wide range of audio formats, notably the various versions of Dolby Digital and DTS up to 5.1 channels via its HDMI or optical input. Dolby Digital Plus is also handled, which means it’s possible to listen to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video shows and even DTV programs. The Klipsch Bar 48 can also replicate surround sound effects with a stereo signal.
Klipsch Bar 48: Bluetooth
More than a simple soundbar, the Klipsch Bar 48 can also be used as a Bluetooth speaker to play music from a smartphone, tablet, DAP or computer. Consequently, it is possible to stream music stored in your device’s internal memory or from an online music service such as Deezer, Qobuz, Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music. However, the Klipsch Bar 48’s Bluetooth controller is limited to SBC and AAC codecs. This mode therefore isn’t the most appropriate for audiophile listening, but that isn’t the goal of this type of soundbar, which is mainly dedicated to restituting movies, series and TV programs. However, this Klipsch soundbar’s musical restitution proved to be pleasant.
Klipsch Bar 48: configuration
The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar is incredibly easy to set up. If you want to place the soundbar on a piece of furniture, you simply have to connect the various sources, then connect the bar to the mains for it to be instantly operational. It is also easy to wall mount thanks to the drilling template and wall mount brackets that are included with the soundbar. Only two holes need to be drilled to mount the Klipsch Bar 48. Once the bar is turned on, it automatically pairs with the wireless subwoofer. Conveniently, the latter goes into standby mode when the soundbar is turned off, and comes out of standby mode when the bar is turned back on (auto stand by feature).
However, it isn’t particularly easy to pair the soundbar with the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers to create a wireless home theater system. After connecting the speakers to the mains and the USB WiFi emitter to the soundbar, you must allocate a channel (left or right) to each speaker. This step isn’t particularly complicated and is carried out quickly using the switch on the back of the surround speakers. Next, you have to press the Pair button on the back of the Klipsch Surround 3s, before activating the surround pairing on the soundbar. Once this has been done, the speakers should be paired. But this isn’t always the case. When we were configuring the wireless Klipsch surround speakers, the pairing process with the soundbar proved to be tedious: we had to do it several times before it worked… Thankfully, once the pairing has been carried out successfully, it doesn’t need to be done again, even after the speakers have been turned off or unplugged. Phew!
Klipsch Bar 48: listening impressions
First, we tested the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar’s performance without the surround speakers. We connected it to the HDMI ARC port of an LG OLED television using an Audioquest Cinnamon HDMI cable. The source we used was the Zappiti Pro 4K HDR network media player connected to the television using a Norstone Jura HDMI cable. With the movie Interstellar in DTS, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar was particularly convincing. The lows were deep, powerful and expertly handled. We could feel both the explosions and the roaring of the engines. Dialogues were incredibly clear and always audible, even when the movie’s soundtrack reached its peak. It was very clear why the iconic Tractrix horn was used here, as they perfectly reproduced the dialogues. The loudest cries and quietest whispers were consistently audible, whether we were seated, standing, or at the side.
Klipsch Bar 48 in virtual surround mode
We continued our review of the Klipsch Bar 48 without the surround speakers, but this time, we activated the virtual surround mode. This feature provided an obvious improvement regarding spatialization. The soundstage became wider and deeper. The lateral sound effects were precisely spatialized and weren’t limited to the proportions of the Klipsch Bar 48. Naturally, the surround sound effects didn’t really seem to come from behind us, but could be more easily distinguished from the rest of the soundstage. This mode also proved to be very effective with stereo programs, providing a wider and more spacious soundstage.
Klipsch Bar 48 + Klipsch Surround 3 speakers
With the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers to create a wireless home theater system, the Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar was even more immersive. With the movie Avatar in DTS HD Master Audio, the confrontation between the indiginous Na’vi and the humans was excellently restituted. The different effects flew from one side of the room to the other and we were genuinely plunged into the heart of the movie. However, it is necessary to place the speakers pretty close to the listening area to clearly hear the different surround sound effects. When they are too far away, the powerful sound of the Klipsch Bar 48 quickly drowns out certain sounds and the spatialization is much less convincing. Klipsch lets you adjust the volume of the surround speakers to solve this problem, but even at full volume, the sound effects remained very low-key.
Klipsch Bar 48: compared to…
JBL BAR 5.1: sold for €599 with a wireless subwoofer and a pair of wireless surround speakers, the JBL BAR 5.1 is a serious alternative to the Klipsch Bar 48. In addition to its attractive price point, it has the advantage of featuring battery-powered surround speakers that provide complete freedom of placement as a result. However, this could also be considered its weak point, as they often need recharging (maximum battery life of 10 hours). The Klipsch Bar 48 therefore triumphs when it comes to practicality. The JBL soundbar’s subwoofer is very big, which is ideal for enjoying powerful bass, but not for blending in. Lastly, the Klipsch Bar 48’s frontal spatialization is slightly better, with a wider soundstage and more spacious sound effects.
Harman Kardon Bar 5.1: sold for almost €1200 more when combined with the Harman Kardon Citation Sub wireless subwoofer and the Harman Kardon Citation Surround speakers, this Harman Kardon soundbar isn’t really in the same league. More powerful, it is more suited to providing sound in a very large living room. Although the Harman Kardon Citation soundbar’s surround speakers have almost the same amount of power as the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers, the reproduction of the various sound effects is much more effective, even when the speakers are very far away from the listening area. Lastly, the Citation Bar is also more versatile due to the integration of a WiFi module, Google Assistant and a Chromecast Audio.
Sonos Beam: sold for €1399 with the Sonos SUB wireless subwoofer and a pair of Sonos One SL connected speakers, the Sonos Beam soundbar is a connected model with numerous advantages as a result: online music services, AirPlay 2, voice assistants, etc. It can be controlled vocally, via its tactile interface, a smartphone, or even the TV’s remote control when the HDMI ARC connection is used. The Sonos Beam also has the advantage of using a pair of Sonos One SL speakers for the surround sound effects. Therefore, the latter aren’t limited to reproducing surround effects, but can also be used as a connected speaker, with access to online music services and AirPlay 2, for example. Consequently, this Sonos Beam 4.1 system is much more versatile. Lastly, both of these soundbars are very similar concerning sound quality, but the Klipsch model is slightly more precise in the highs and provides a slightly wider frontal soundstage because it is much wider (121cm for the Klipsch compared to 65cm for the Sonos).
Klipsch Bar 48: conclusion
The Klipsch Bar 48 soundbar is just as effective at subtly reproducing the faintest whispers in intimate scenes as it is at powerfully restituting the biggest explosions in Hollywood productions. The iconic Tractrix horn allows it to consistently deliver natural and clearly audible dialogues, no matter where the listener is in the room. The overall restitution is also very natural and perfectly handled, even at high volume. The soundstage is wide and the various frontal sound effects are expertly spatialized, especially when the virtual surround mode is activated. The sound becomes even more immersive when it is used with the Klipsch Surround 3 speakers. The latter are very effective, as long as they are placed close to the listening area.
What we liked:
- The clarity of the restitution
- The power
- The wireless subwoofer
What we would have liked:
- Better balance between the soundbar and the surround speakers
- For the surround speakers to have been easier to set up