KLIPSCH THE SIXES POWERED SPEAKER SYSTEM REVIEW
I’ve been talking about pulling my old turntable out of mothballs since I moved to my current home, oh…20 years ago. Which is why I jumped at the chance when asked if I had any interest in auditioning The Sixes, the latest entry in Klipsch’s Heritage Wireless series.
The impeccably crafted Sixes look like speakers your father (or grandfather) might have owned in the 1960s or ’70s, with one key difference: They’re self-powered. The gold-coloured band running along the bottom of the right speaker, with its toggle switch and glistening control knobs, is a dead giveaway that an amplifier resides within. Those controls and the jack panel around back also explain why the right speaker weighs almost a couple of pounds more than the left one.
The beauty of a powered speaker system is mostly simplicity. With 2 x 100 watts of power onboard the Klipsch, all you have to do is add a source component, and you’re good to go; there’s no need for an outboard amplifier or receiver (although you will have to locate the amp-equipped speaker near a power outlet or bring power to it). But there are technical virtues, too. Before the audio signal hits, the amps, it’s filtered by an electronic (or active) crossover network, which is more power efficient and flexible than the passive networks found in non-powered speakers. A powered model also enables designers to match the amp to the drivers — in this case, a 6.5-inch woofer and a Tractrix horn-loaded 1-inch titanium tweeter, housed in a vented enclosure.
The Sixes are finished in an attractive natural walnut veneer, with chunky grilles covered in nubby fabric that attach magnetically for easy removal. And as lifestyle speakers go, they’re a bit imposing, each standing almost 43cm tall x 21cm wide x 27cm deep. You might think speakers this size could be mounted on stands, but that’s not the case here: Instead of a flat bottom with screw inserts for securing the speaker to a stand, the base of each speaker has a hollow wood riser that elevates the cabinet about an inch and tilts the top backwards ever so slightly.
Now, back to those glistening knobs. One controls volume, and the other is a source selector that toggles through five input options: Bluetooth, Aux (for analogue hook-ups via a 3.5mm minijack), USB, Digital (via an optical connector), and — ta da! — Phono (via a switchable set of RCA jacks that double as a second line input). Making it easy to connect a turntable strikes me as a great idea, especially given the vinyl renaissance of late. Klipsch includes a simple remote control, as well as a cable for each hook-up scenario, except phono.
The remote covers all the bases, with buttons for each source mode, mute, and LED (to turn off the indicator light) plus a toggle ring that controls system volume and subwoofer level (if one is connected to the speaker’s sub out).
I have to admit, I was a little disappointed when I realised The Sixes don’t natively support streaming over Wi-Fi — a feature offered in the Three. Having the capability to network with other Wi-Fi-enabled speakers in a multiroom setup and access music services such as Pandora and Tidal would be a welcome addition. Arrival of The Sixes gave me a much-needed kick in the vinyl pants Fortunately, the folks at Klipsch were kind enough to loan me a Klipsch Debut Carbon turntable, introduced a year and a half ago in collaboration with the phono wizards at Pro-Ject Audio Systems. The belt-drive table has a beautiful walnut base and includes a preinstalled Ortofon 2M Red cartridge. Perfect.
System setup is dead simple: You run a thick braided cable with fourpin locking-collar connectors on either end between the speakers, plug in your source component of choice, and flip the power switch. I set up The Sixes in a 3.35m x 3.65m room on either end of a 76cm dresser and created a classic stereo triangle with my chair positioned about 6 feet from the speakers, which were about 1.2m apart. After breaking them in for a week or so, I began my formal evaluation using the simplest of music sources: my iPad and phone connected wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Within seconds of selecting “Klipsch The Sixes” from the Bluetooth menu — first the phone and then the iPad — I was immersed in an impromptu tribute to the late Walter Becker, courtesy of my Steely Dan channel on Pandora.
Satisfied that Bluetooth was working about as well as I’d expect — and at a distance of more than 9 metres — I connected my laptop to The
Sixes via USB and settled in for a little hi-res listening. Starting with a few revealing jazz cuts from 2xHD’s excellent Audiophile Hi-Res System Test, downloaded in 192-kilohertz/24-bit WAV format, I was instantly captivated by the sax on the live recording of “Jeep’s Blues” (1977’s Jazz at the Pawnshop) — reedy and in your face, with lots of air around it, just like you’d expect it to sound if you were sitting up front in a small club
I listened to a wide variety of music over an extended period and eventually circled back to a straight-off-the-master 44.1/16 recording of “Running Sideways” from Micah Sheveloff’s 2013 EP Things I Know for a final gut check. I was not disappointed.
The Sixes are a fine-sounding set of speakers with the substantial bonus of built-in power and the lure of being able to connect directly to a turntable. But if vinyl figures into your plan, you’ll want to spring for an outboard phono preamp to enjoy the speakers at their best. And as much as I appreciate the simplicity of a receiver-less setup, I did miss having tone controls on board as well as the ability to summon popular music services via Wi-Fi. Still, if these caveats don’t deter you and you’re looking for an easy-to-set-up, retro-styled stereo system with overall good sound, give The Sixes a listen.
These Klipsch speakers go for $1699 in Australia.
These solid build speakers are an easy set up and has plenty of bass to go around