Klipsch The Fives Review
There are many active lifestyle loudspeakers with high sound and design standards. However, only a few appear as unvarnished and jumping as the Klipsch The Fives. LowBeats has extensively tested the inexpensive fun boxes in different listening situations and is more than impressed.
The omens for this meeting were not particularly good. Firstly, I’m not a big fan of retro design, and secondly, horn speakers aren’t necessarily my favorites in terms of sound. It’s not that I don’t appreciate their primary characteristics, such as impulsiveness and high efficiency, but horn loudspeakers rarely fulfill my tonal priorities.
But I don’t walk around with blinders on either. When you first looked at the small active speakers from Klipsch, everything was different. For example, the retro attitude of The Fives is harmonious overall. The proportions, the natural veneer (in the walnut version), the baffle in a hammered look, plus the chassis without visible screws, a tweeter horn that takes up almost the entire width of the cabinet, (Magnetic) front covers with casual, coarse-meshed fabric. It all fits together really well except perhaps for the knobs on top of the main speaker, which look a bit modernistic and slightly out of place, and the included plastic remote control. But the boxes themselves? They are cool and space-friendly.
Anyway, I was immediately hooked on The Fives, which has never happened to me before when looking at Klipsch loudspeakers, nor with any other range from the manufacturer. Perhaps the compact dimensions play a certain role. With their 305 x 165 x 235 mm (H x W x D), the “five” do not dominate the room like a Klipsch Cornwall or a Klipschorn (the mention of which was, of course, unavoidable) despite the box shape.
Why this unusual name, The Fives? It doesn’t flow smoothly from the lips in every sentence; in principle, very simple. It is the fifth model variant in the Klipsch Heritage series. This consists of one-box speakers of different sizes, namely the models’ Heritage Groove, The One (Mark II), The Three (II), and The Sixes. The Fives are the fifth Heritage model variant.
Nevertheless, the naming remains extremely confusing since there is no four-model, for example. This may have something to do with the fact that four is an unlucky number in China and Japan. But why are the Sixes located below the Fives? And what is “Groove” doing in the series? Why no “The Seconds”?Some marketing decisions don’t need to be understood.
- Pouncing, powerful sound
- Versatile, practical connections
- Wonderfully “rustic” design
- App of no great use (except for updates)
Under the hood of the Klipsch The Fives
The Fives technique is simple and efficient. Here, Klipsch relies on the more cost-effective concept of active master and passive slave loudspeakers. This means that not everything has to be available in duplicate and installed on every speaker. For example, one DAC in the master is sufficient, which converts the signal for both channels to analog. A power connection is also only required on the master speaker. In the case of playback via Bluetooth, just two strings are required: power for the master and the speaker cable to the slave.
However, the five are quite connection-friendly in terms of cables. In addition to today’s most common connection sockets such as analog cinch, USB for computers, and Toslink for televisions, Klipsch goes one step further and gives the master an HDMI-ARC input for TV. The advantage over Toslink, HDMI transmits the sound to the speakers and controls commands. So, for example, the volume can be controlled using the TV remote control. Unfortunately, although HDMI-ARC can be found on many soundbars, it is still the exception in active stereo sets like this one.
The analog stereo cinch input can be used for high-level devices such as CD players and turntables. All you have to do is set the corresponding toggle switch on the back to the correct position (phono). There is even a ground terminal on the master.
The slave is connected via a loudspeaker cable that is supplied and is probably sufficiently long (4 m) in most cases. The cable has twist-proof, four-pin plugs with a locking nut for securing. Why four poles? I did not get an official answer to this question from Klipsch in time, but the assumption is that the frequency distribution for the slave is already done in the master.
Other active-passive pairs in a multi-way construction, where the slave is connected with a conventional, two-wire LS cable, need their passive crossover. The division appears to be active and possibly even digital in the master in the Fives. Of course, this makes perfect sense from a sound point of view.
If you like, you can also add an active subwoofer. The power pack is integrated into the master. There is also a switch for the correct channel configuration that determines whether the master should be left or right.
The D/A conversion of digital input signals via an unspecified DAC chip with 24 bits/192 kHz. Four power amplifiers, all housed in the active master, take care of the signal amplification—two of 20W each for the tweeters and two of 60W each for the woofers/midrange drivers. The titanium dome tweeters tested with a large horn attachment are more than adequately supplied with 20 watts of continuous output power. Correspondingly more power is provided for the long-excursion woofers/midrange drivers, which also work on horn-shaped bass reflex openings on the back.
Of course, due to the active concept, we don’t have to worry about the efficiency of horn loudspeakers in general and The Fives in particular. However, the total result will show whether we deal with typical horn representatives.
With active loudspeakers at this price, one should not expect ultra-precious finishes and artisan processing quality. The Fives are no exception. Their housing made of MDF is comparatively simple. Nevertheless, Klipsch works with natural walnut real wood veneer as a finish. That makes something.
Setting up the compact Klipsch is a snap and largely self-explanatory. Using the example of a desktop setup, it works. First, place the boxes to the left and right of the screen or in the stereo triangle. The underside of The Fives has a cork layer to protect the floor space. However, it is advisable to set it up on suitable stands or pucks for decoupling and angling for sound reasons. Then use the switch on the master to determine whether it is on the left or right. Then connect the cable marked “Speaker Wire” between master and slave. Next, connect the USB cable between the computer and master. Finally, connect the power cable to the master and finish.
When set up as a TV speaker, we recommend connecting via HDMI cable (included) or an optical Toslink cable (not included). Of course, the smartphone (or the Mac/PC) can be connected via Bluetooth.
Once the power cord is connected, the Klipsch The Fives are ready to use. There is no main switch. However, the boxes can be switched to standby using the remote control. With HDMI connection (if TV is selected as the source), they automatically switch to standby when the TV is switched off and switch on with the TV.
In case you’re wondering why there hasn’t been any talk of an app before, well, there is. The relevant app stores contain the free Klipsch Connect app, originally developed for the one-box models and the Klipsch in-ear headphones, but can also communicate with the Fives.
The app helps with the coupling, which is just as easy via the BT settings of the iDevice. However, at least in the current version at testing, the app for The Fives does not offer any additional functions such as switchable sound modes or equalizers. The most important feature. Updates can be imported via the app, which happened once during the test.
What bothers me is the forced registration, without which you cannot complete the app setup. At least the name, e-mail address, country, and product are required to use the app. If you don’t like that, you can enter fake data – or leave the app alone. However, firmware updates are then denied. Voluntary registration would be nicer.
The operation of the speakers does not pose any riddles. There are two knobs on the master speaker. One switches the input indicated by the LED, and the other controls the volume. Both are also possible using the supplied remote control, but it also offers a standby button, mute, play/pause, subwoofer adjustments, and a hidden feature. I’ll come back to that in the description of the sound. Incidentally, I did not use a subwoofer in the test.
Klipsch The Fives: Rock Me, Baby!
My very first reaction, The Fives sound rich and powerful. Typically American! After a few tracks with low to medium volume, this impression hardened, and the little Klipsch just seemed so fat to me that I started setting up bass correction via DSP in Roon.
However, another rummaging through the operating instructions revealed that the loudspeakers have a “Dynamic Bass EQ,” which turned out to be a loudness correction on closer inspection. So a volume-dependent adjustment in the bass range. And it is switched on by default – or at least it was in my test samples, which brings me back to the hidden feature mentioned earlier, To turn off Dynamic Bass EQ, press and hold the Sub button on the remote for three seconds. And boom! A Rubens figure becomes an athletic decathlete. Still powerful and by no means ascetic, but no longer as lavishly baroque.
Maybe the tuning of the “Dynamic Bass EQ” is a bit too strong, and the level dependency is a bit too broad. On the other hand, anyone who mainly enjoys background music at a low volume could benefit from the circuit. A less audiophile audience may even want to engage with it fully. Since the Fives are not specifically aimed at high-end riders, it is understandable that the circuit is activated ex-works. However, I prefer the neutral position.
Also striking: Contrary to the prejudice against horns, the mids and highs are largely free of discoloration and resolved. It’s dynamic and has elegance—no trace of horn-typical hardness.
A little tip: The magnetic front cover is chic, but it absorbs the finest highs despite its coarse-meshed woven structure. This applies to the vast majority of front covers, which is why I generally omit them. However, the fabric covers of the Fives can be attached and removed with a flick of the wrist and without fiddling. So they can be operated one way or the other, depending on your needs and mood. The chassis-mounted without screws and the visible parts of the baffle with a hammered look are not unattractive either.
So let’s go back to the sound experience. First, of course, the Klipsch The Fives are not real full-range horns. Only the tweeters are amplified by the Tractrix horns (a Klipsch trademark). So their radiation behavior should be even over a relatively wide range, horizontally and vertically. The tweeter horns are also reflected in the overall character of the boxes, which otherwise largely sound like normal, non-horn-reinforced, dynamic loudspeakers. Just with a good portion more verve in the upper mids and highs.
The Klipsch The Fives turns on and seems surprisingly effortless and effortless even at high levels. Unfortunately, the basic tone range cannot quite keep up with that. Now and then, the relatively simple housing construction with its sound (resonances) adds its two cents. The deep bass only gives out at around 60 Hz, which is remarkable for a speaker of this size. A subwoofer can be added accordingly in larger rooms for deep bass fans or generally to support film sound. The decisive point, The Fives are definitely among the rockiest, most rousing boxes of this size, design (two-way compact), and price range, real fun!
The stage depiction is also convincing. The Klipsch may not achieve the same imaging precision, depth, and airiness as a coax armored KEF LSX. On the other hand, The Fives have more music bar flair and bring the listener closer to what’s happening on stage. However, this does not predestine them exclusively for rock and jazz. Pop and electronic lovers alike will appreciate the direct, outspoken nature of the active Klipsch. I liked the Fives best as a supplement for the TV. Because they transport the dynamics required in film sound better than any other active speaker of this size, I would always prefer it to a soundbar if the installation situation allows it.
I can’t sum it up any shorter or more succinctly. If the characteristics described above appeal to you and you’re looking for all-around active loudspeakers in this price range, then boldly grab them. The Fives do almost everything right in terms of practicality.
Whether as living room speakers for music enjoyment or as a significant sound improvement for the TV and better stereo alternative to soundbars. Whether for the desktop – or simply anywhere where they can be set up with a few simple steps, the Fives is a real pleasure and make a home look good almost everywhere.