Klipsch The Fives review: active speakers that combine a vintage design with modern technologies

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This week we reviewed the Klipsch The Fives: wireless speakers equipped with a 160W amplifier. In keeping with the Klipsch Heritage speaker look, the Klipsch The Fives also offer an all-in-one system with a Bluetooth receiver, 24-bit/192kHz USB DAC, line, phono and digital inputs, as well as an HDMI ARC input. At €899 per pair, is this wireless speaker as musical as the American manufacturer’s passive speakers?

The Klipsch The Fives are active speakers equipped with a 160W amplifier and a wide range of connectors, including an HDMI ARC input.

Klipsch The Five: the brand

Klipsch is an American brand founded in the late 1930s. At the time, founder Paul Wilbur Klipsch was beginning to develop his first speakers inside a small hangar in Hope, Arkansas. It wasn’t until 1946 that the brand made a name for itself among audiophiles with the Klipschorn, an exceptional model praised for its ability to reproduce the emotion of a live concert. Over 70 years after its original release, the sixth generation of this speaker is still in the American manufacturer’s catalog under the reference Klipsch Klipschorn AK6. Klipsch is known for constantly updating its iconic speakers to offer increasingly efficient systems. A notable example is the latest Klipsch Heresy IV, descendant of the legendary Klipsch Heresy released in 1957, which now features new drivers and a bass-reflex enclosure.

Paul Wilbur Klipsch in front of the first Klipschorn, released in 1946.

Klipsch is also a pioneering company when it comes to the design and development of cinema speakers. It all began in the 80s when the brand managed to design a speaker that combined the precision of hi-fi sound with the requirements and dynamics demanded by movie soundtracks. The manufacturer now features a large number of home theater speaker packs and compact speaker packs in its catalog, as well as subwoofers, in-wall/in-ceiling subwoofers, Atmos speakers and soundbars. Many Klipsch home theater speakers even benefit from the prestigious THX certification.

Many Klipsch home theater speakers like the Klipsch THX-502-L benefit from the prestigious THX certification.

Throughout its eighty years of existence, Klipsch has always known how to adapt to new ways of listening to music. The biggest pivotal moment was in the 2000s, when the brand harnessed the latest streaming technologies and incorporated it into its equipment. The manufacturer’s catalog now includes Klipsch Bluetooth speakers, portable Klipsch Bluetooth speakers and wireless Klipsch hi-fi speakers like the Klipsch The Fives from this review.

The Klipsch The Fives speakers are the latest creation from the brand and combine Klipsch’s iconic vintage design with the latest audio technologies.

Klipsch The Fives: packaging & accessories

The Klipsch The Fives speakers come as a pair inside one cardboard box in which they are protected by two sheets of polystyrene. The top sheet includes a cutout containing the accessories which include a quick setup guide, a power cable, a remote control and batteries, and the six meter long cable for connecting the passive speaker to the master speaker.

The Klipsch The Fives active speakers come with a remote control, a power cable, a USB-A to USB-B cable, two acoustic grilles, an HDMI cable and a cable to connect the speakers together.

Klipsch The Fives: presentation 

Design 

True to the American manufacturer’s traditions, the Klipsch The Fives speaker has kept the very appealing vintage design inherited from the brand’s hi-fi speakers. It features an MDF cabinet covered with an imitation wood vinyl coating. The front panel is coated with a textured resin that has damping properties. This coating has also been used on the Klipsch Heresy IV speakers. That’s not the only similarity shared with these speakers, as the black version of the Klipsch The Fives uses the same polymer fiber acoustic grille that features the brand’s logo. This grille is magnetically mounted onto the speaker, making them very easy to remove but also leaving the speaker’s front panel free of perforations and indentations. The walnut version of the Klipsch The Fives comes with a grille in gray acoustic fabric.

The top of the Klipsch The Fives speakers features an aluminum plaque with two large metal knobs. The first has an infinite scrolling mechanism to adjust the volume very precisely and smoothly. The second is notched for selecting the input source (TV, Bluetooth, optical, USB, analog and phono). To make it easier to select the right source, a LED lights up beside the name of the source being played. The Klipsch The Fives speaker can also be controlled remotely with its infrared remote control. The remote control offers a few additional functions, including the bass level adjustment of the subwoofer output.

The Klipsch The Fives wireless speaker can be controlled using either the control interface located on the top panel or the infrared remote control.

Acoustic design

Each Klipsch The Fives wireless speaker uses a 1” titanium dome tweeter. True to the customs of the brand, the tweeter is horn-loaded. This design reduces distortion in the high frequencies by mechanically amplifying the output. This means that the amplifier required less power input. The driver’s cone therefore vibrates less, limiting distortion. The horn also acts as a waveguide to further channel the sound, which is less attenuated when it reaches the listener. Klipsch mastered this technology with the very first speaker it released.

The Klipsch The Fives’ tweeter is placed inside an acoustic horn to optimize the reproduction of the highs and limit distortion.

The reproduction of the lows and mids is handled by a 5½” composite fiber cone driver. This combination of drivers provides a frequency response ranging from 50Hz to 25kHz. It is powered by a class D amplification module capable of delivering up to 160 watts RMS and a peak power of 320 watts. This module is located inside the right speaker, so the two Klipsch The Fives need to be connected to each other using the included cable. The cable is six meters long, which gives you quite a bit of freedom when positioning your speakers and contributes to the spaciousness of the soundstage.

The low and mid frequencies are handled by the Klipsch The Fives’ 5½” composite fiber cone driver.

The Klipsch The Fives wireless speaker has a bass-reflex enclosure with a rear-firing laminar port. The streamlined design of this port was developed by Klipsch to ensure smooth airflow and, as a result, optimize the transient response and guarantee a better bass response.

The Klipsch The Fives speaker has a bass-reflex enclosure with a rear-firing laminar port.

Klipsch The Fives: Bluetooth 

The Klipsch The Fives is equipped with a 5.0 Bluetooth receiver that allows you to stream music from a smartphone, a tablet, a DAP or even a computer. The transmission range is about 10 meters, which gives the user quite a lot of flexibility to move freely from room to room with their smartphone in their pocket without the music being interrupted. The receiver, however, is only compatible with the SBC codec. Although the latter provides support for all Bluetooth devices, its transmission rate is limited to 320 kbits, which isn’t enough to enjoy Hi-Res music. Despite this, we found that the sound was clear and detailed enough via Bluetooth to enjoy online music services like Deezer and Spotify.

The Klipsch The Fives speaker’s Bluetooth receiver lets you easily stream music from a smartphone, tablet, computer or DAP.

Klipsch The Fives: connectors

The Klipsch The Fives wireless speaker benefits from a wide range of connectors so that you can centralize all your sources without having to use an external preamplifier or DAC. All of these connectors are located on the rear panel of the right speaker. They include an RCA line input that can be switched to a phono input to connect a turntable that isn’t preamplified. A ground connection is available to eliminate unwanted ground noise. The Klipsch The Fives speaker also features a 3.5mm mini-jack input to connect a DAP for example. Better still, the Klipsch The Fives speaker is not only designed for playing music, but also movie soundtracks. To do so, it has an HDMI ARC input to recover the sound of the program being watched on the connected TV. However, the TV must be HDMI ARC compatible and the audio stream needs to be transmitted in PCM format. For televisions that aren’t HDMI ARC compatible, the speaker is equipped with an optical digital input. Once again, the sound must be streamed in PCM format for the speaker to receive it. As there isn’t a built-in network player, you can connect a Google Chromecast Audio or a network media player to the speaker’s optical input to listen to Deezer, Spotify or Qobuz without having to use Bluetooth. Lastly, a subwoofer output lets you connect a subwoofer to boost the Klipsch The Fives speaker in the lows.

The Klipsch The Fives speaker is equipped with an RCA line/phono input, 3.5mm mini-jack input, HDMI ARC input, optical input, USB-B input and subwoofer output.

Klipsch The Fives: 24-bit/192kHz USB DAC

In addition to its analog and digital inputs, the Klipsch The Fives speaker also has an integrated USB DAC so that you can connect a computer. The DAC supports the vast majority of audio formats, including WAV, WMA, MP3 and FLAC up to 24-bit/192kHz. It works asynchronously, meaning that it uses its own clock to completely bypass the computer’s audio circuitry. This ensures more accurate decoding and reduces jitter. With a Mac, the Klipsch The Fives speaker can be used as a USB DAC as soon as it is connected to the computer. With a Windows PC however, it is necessary to download specific drivers from the Klipsch website.

Klipsch The Fives: key specifications

Design

  • Real wood cabinet
  • Enclosure: bass-reflex, rear-firing laminar port
  • Control interface
  • Remote control
  • 24-bit/192kHz USB DAC

Drivers

  • 1 x titanium dome tweeter, 1” (25.4mm) diameter, Tractrix horn
  • 1 x low frequency driver, 5½” (11.43cm) diameter

Measurements

  • Frequency response: 50Hz to 25kHz
  • Sensitivity: 109 dB
  • RMS power: 160 watts (2 x 80 watts – lows: 60 watts / highs: 20 watts)
  • Peak power: 320 watts

Connectivity

  • Bluetooth 5.0, range approx. 10m
  • Auxiliary input: 3.5mm mini-jack
  • Switchable line/phono input (preamplified): 2 x RCA
  • Audio USB port (B type)
  • Optical digital audio input
  • HDMI ARC input

Included accessories

  • Right speaker to left speaker connection cable (4 conductors, 4 meters long)
  • 3.5mm mini-jack auxiliary cable
  • USB cable (A type connector to B type connector)
  • HDMI cable
  • Remote control
  • Power cord

General

  • Dimensions (W x H x D): 165 x 305.5 x 240mm
  • Right speaker weight: 5.05kg
  • Left speaker weight: 4.85kg

Klipsch The Fives: configuration

The Klipsch The Fives were very easy to set up. First, we had to connect both speakers using the included 6 meter cable. We could then connect the various sources and turn on the master speaker. The first time the Klipsch The Fives system is turned on, it automatically goes into Bluetooth pairing mode. Simply go into the source’s Bluetooth settings and select the Klipsch The Fives speakers as the audio receiver.

We began setting up the Klipsch The Fives by connecting them together using the 6 meter long cable.

For our review of the Klipsch The Fives, we first tested their musical performance by connecting them to an iOS smartphone via Bluetooth, then to a Mac computer. We used an Audioquest Carbon USB cable. We also tested the Klipsch The Fives speakers’ HDMI ARC input to connect a Samsung UHD 4K TV and a LG UHD 4K TV using a Norstone Jura HDMI cable. In order for the speaker to be able to decode the audio signal, we set the output format of the TVs to PCM.

Klipsch The Fives: listening impressions

Music test

From the very first track we listened to, we were treated to the American manufacturer’s iconic sound signature, which has been the key to the brand’s success. With the track Black Rider from Bob Dylan’s latest album, the Klipsch The Fives wireless speaker displayed a lot of character in the lows, with tight and surprisingly extensive lows for a driver that is only 5½” in diameter. The folk singer’s voice, which is a lot more gravelly on this last album, was very naturally reproduced with a lot of nuances.

The Klipsch The Fives speaker’s 5½” driver managed to deliver tight and nicely extended lows.

In a different musical genre with the track Yes, I Have Ghosts by David Gilmour, the Klipsch The Fives speaker’s horn-loaded tweeter brought extreme clarity to the highs. The acoustic guitar was well rendered, with crystalline and natural notes. The plethora of tiny details in the strumming of the strings were clearly perceptible. This tweeter also did justice to David Gilmour’s voice, which was consistently centered and incredibly natural sounding. The tonal balance of the Klipsch The Fives speakers was generally very good, although the low mids were sometimes a little subdued when the volume was high. This phenomenon mainly occurred with tracks where the lows were very intense, which sometimes caused some overlap with the midrange.

Home theater test

Despite the absence of a virtual surround sound mode, the Klipsch The Fives speakers proved to be particularly convincing and provided much better immersion than the TV’s built-in speakers. With the movie Interstellar, the Klipsch The Fives speakers provided deep and powerful lows. The dialogue was very clear and very well projected by the horns so that it was always in the foreground, even when many effects were flying out from every direction. Both the loudest shouts and the quietest whispers were always intelligible. The Klipsch The Fives wireless speakers also provided a lot of space, allowing the soundstage to gain width and depth.

The Klipsch The Fives’ Tractrix acoustic horns ensured a clear and natural reproduction of dialogues.

Klipsch The Fives: compared to…

Klipsch The Sixes: as their name suggests, the Klipsch The Sixes wireless speakers are the Klipsch The Fives’ larger siblings. They have the advantage of being equipped with a 6½” midbass driver that produces deeper and better controlled lows. However, at high volume we noticed some harshness in the mids due to cabinet resonance. This has been pretty much resolved on the Klipsch The Fives. The Fives also have the advantage of including a HDMI ARC input. Other than that, the connectors on both these speakers are identical. 

The larger siblings of the Klipsch the Fives, the Klipsch the Sixes are equipped with 6½” midbass drivers capable of producing even deeper bass.

KEF LSX Wireless: sold for €1200, the KEF LSX Wireless speakers are equipped with a 4½” coaxial driver that features a 1” tweeter at its center. This design provides a more energetic, lively and balanced sound. The KEF LSX Wireless also have the added benefit of a built-in network player with DLNA playback, AirPlay 2 and access to many online music services such as Spotify and Tidal. The Klipsch The Fives don’t lose the battle, however, thanks to slightly more detailed and transparent highs as well as their HDMI ARC input. 

Elipson Prestige Facet 6BT: sold for €590 a pair, these active speakers from French manufacturer Elipson impressed us a lot during our review (read our review of the Elipson Prestige Facet 6BT speakers). They use the same two-way bass-reflex structure as the Elipson Prestige Facet 6B compact speakers, but can be differentiated by their integrated 2 x 70 watt amplifier. These Elipson speakers aren’t quite as generous in the lows as the Klipsch The Fives, but they provide a more balanced, softer and warmer sound. Regarding connectors, there is an RCA input that can be switched to a phono input, a 3.5mm mini-jack auxiliary port, an optical input and a subwoofer output. The only difference between the two models is the Klipsch The Fives’ HDMI ARC input. 

The Elipson Prestige Facet 6BT speakers offer a softer, warmer and more balanced sound. However, they don’t have an HDMI input.

Klipsch The Fives: conclusion 

With the Klipsch The Fives, the American manufacturer offers a pair of very impressive compact active speakers. They excel through their design and their connectivity which allows them to be connected to a variety of sources, including televisions using the HDMI ARC protocol. The sound reproduction is very pleasant with both music and movie soundtracks. In keeping with the traditions of the brand, the acoustic horn provides clear, lively and detailed highs. The lows are powerful, dynamic and deep. The DSP is very effective in emphasizing this frequency range and balancing the sound at low volume. However, it doesn’t seem to be reduced at high volume and with some tracks, the lows can bleed into the low-mids. A customizable equalizer would have been a nice addition to balance the sound out. Other than that, the Klipsch The Fives are beautiful speakers that combine a vintage design and the latest audio technology.

What we liked

  • The vintage design
  • The HDMI ARC input
  • The transparent highs

What we would have liked

  • For the sound to have been more balanced at low volume
  • A customizable equalizer
  • An integrated network player

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