Component-based home theater audio systems don’t get a lot of buzz these days, but they’re still the only way to get a true, immersive home theater experience in larger rooms. The Klipsch HD Theater 600 ($599.99 direct) strikes a nice balance between unobtrusive, stylish design and smooth sound quality, even despite its unusually slender satellite speakers. We still prefer the Energy Take Classic 5.1for its slightly larger satellites and incredible value at $200 less. But the HD Theater 600 acquits itself very well as a small but surprisingly effective home theater speaker system.
Design, Subwoofer, and Setup
One note up front: This is a traditional, passive speaker system that requires separate amplification. Home theater and audio enthusiasts know this, of course, but since we tend to test mostly powered speakers here at PCMag, I just want to make that clear.
Each satellite measures 6.0 by 3.6 by 3.85 inches (HWD), while the center channel measures 3.6 by 9 by 3.85 inches. The general design motif is curved and sophisticated, with a smooth, even black gloss finish on the satellites. The main satellites include a 2.5-inch, long-throw IMG driver and a 0.75-inch aluminum dome tweeter, along with the company’s trademark, super-efficient horn design. The center channel features the same tweeter in the center, plus a pair of 2.5-inch IMG woofers surrounding the tweeter. Klipsch says it also improved the voice coil and increased woofer excursion to enhance midbass output.
In all cases, the cabinets consist of ABS plastic with removable cloth speaker grilles. Klipsch also includes five plastic wall mount pieces in the package, along with the appropriate screws, plus a rubberized, curved center channel stand that helps anchor the speaker to your TV or furniture.
The 100-watt subwoofer measures 14 by 13.5 by 13.5 inches, and features a downward-firing, 8-inch fiber-composite cone driver. The hefty enclosure is constructed of vinyl-wrapped, medium-density fiberboard (MDF), with a matte black finish. There’s a variable crossover that you can set anywhere from 80Hz (a tad optimistic, given the tiny satellite speakers) to 160Hz.
To wire up the system, you’ll need a standard roll of speaker cable. The spring-loaded terminals on the back of each Klipsch speaker are of the cheap plastic variety, as opposed to the classier, more versatile 5-way binding posts on the back of Energy’s Take Classic satellites.
Combination subwoofer and satellite systems (or “sub/sat systems,” as they are often called) blend in with your home decor much more easily than larger, floorstanding tower speakers. Usually, you also get more powerful bass that extends lower on the frequency spectrum, which is ideal for watching movies in a home theater, and small satellite speakers also tend to excel at throwing an impressively realistic and deep soundstage.
That said, sub/sat systems can also be a little difficult to set up and balance properly, particularly with regard to subwoofer placement and volume. And systems with really small satellites like the HD Theater 600 tend to end up with a hole in the frequency response, as each tiny woofer struggles to output enough upper bass (particularly in the 150Hz region) to match up evenly with the subwoofer’s output.
So that’s the challenge—and one that Klipsch is keenly aware of, having produced sub/sat systems like the HD Theater 600 for many years now. Klipsch rates the complete HD Theater 600 system at 33Hz to 20kHz, although without + or – figures, those numbers are essentially meaningless (is it 3dB down at 33Hz? 10dB down?). Klipsch rates the satellites at 150Hz-20kHz—again, lacking dB numbers, these figures don’t help much, but the 150Hz is a good indicator of where you should be working in terms of the subwoofer’s variable crossover. Klipsch recommends an amplifier up to 100 watts-per-channel in order to properly drive the satellites.
As you would expect, all five satellite speakers are voice-matched to ensure they play well together in a home theater context, so that a sound source starting in the left speaker, moving to the center, and then moving to the right speaker or rear speakers sounds even the entire time, without changing timbre in any way. The center channel is especially effective in this context, thanks to its dual-woofer design.
Audio Performance and Conclusions
For this review, I tested the Klipsch HD Theater 600 with a Yamaha RX-V473 home theater receiver. Sound quality was quite good as expected—especially with movies. During testing, I listened to Avatar on Blu-ray, which sounded as dynamic and expressive as you could want for this price, at least at low to medium volumes. While the system gets quite loud, with reasonably thunderous bass extension, the Energy Take Classic 5.1 can reach higher levels still, without sounding strained. With music, the Klipsch system sounds incredibly transparent, but a bit thin and bright as well. Muse’s “Undisclosed Desires” sounded the best, because it’s a fairly warm and muted mix to begin with, which the Klipsch system rendered with aplomb. But 2 Chainz “No Lie” was a little too in-your-face, although there was plenty of low-end extension from the 808 synth bass. The system also brought the percussion and cymbals from Queens of the Stone Age’s “The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret” a little too far forward in the mix.
I heard the cleanest results with the subwoofer’s variable crossover set to roughly 140Hz. At this setting, it turns out you’ll still be able to hear enough midbass and upper bass output from the subwoofer that you can pinpoint its location a bit. While you can put it off to the side in your living room, you’ll still be able to hear that the subwoofer isn’t up front with the satellites. With that in mind, if you can work out a situation that lets you place the subwoofer up front, you’ll be better off. The satellites are simply too small to extend far enough down into the midbass region.
Partially because of that, but also just in overall sound quality and value, we prefer the Energy Take Classic 5.1. It’s ever so slightly larger, but it delivers cleaner, more natural output at higher volumes for $200 less. The Klipsch HD Theater 600 features smaller and less noticeable satellite in your living room, they’re more efficient and work with less powerful amplifiers, and they’re definitely more attractive than the boxy-looking Energy speakers. Also, the HD Theater 600 system sounds really good overall, but it does come at a very high price. But for ultimate sound quality for a bargain price, the Energy system edges out the Klipsch HD Theater 600.
More Speaker Reviews:
|Wireless Remote Control||No|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc