KLIP­SCH THE SIXES POW­ERED SPEAKER SYS­TEM RE­VIEW

SoundMag - - Contents - Source: Sound and Vi­sion

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.

Sim­ple Setup

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.

Con­clu­sion

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

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