Powered Speaker System
Powered Speaker System
The retro, beautiful The Fives take everything Klipsch has learned about speakers over the last 70 years to deliver a package that is compact, yet with big sound and every input for the modern listener. From high-tech HDMI ARC and USB, to old school vinyl, you’ll be lacking nothing with The Fives. They remind us a lot of the classic sound we love from the Klipsch RP-600M bookshelf speaker: big, deep and smooth!
Company and Product Overview
It’s funny how what starts out as a small thing can sometimes change the course of history. Way back in 1946, Paul Klipsch had an idea for a speaker design that was pretty radical for the time. His engineering background led him to come up with 4 design principles he felt would lead to the creation of a speaker capable of coming closer than anything yet to producing the experience of a live concert in the home.
Those 4 principles were: High Efficiency, Low Distortion, Controlled Directivity, and Flat Frequency Response. Paul worked out of a tin shed and experimented with many designs before he came up with a large speaker called the Klipschorn. Now, over 70 years later the Klipschorn is in its 6th revision and the speaker company that had its humble beginnings in a tin shed is one of the most famous speaker companies in the world.
A New Type of Speaker for the Modern World
Today’s review is on a new product from Klipsch that follows those same four design principles, but in a bit of a different format than a traditional loudspeaker. As people spend more time at their desks and living spaces have gotten smaller, there has been a trend emerging in the speaker market of an all-in-one powered speaker. These types of speakers have multiple connections and also usually have some kind of wireless connectivity as well. With a pair of powered speakers, you don’t need to take up any more space to get music into your home or office.
Klipsch has been manufacturing powered speakers for quite a few years, but the new The Fives Powered Speakers bring everything they have learned about powered speakers into a brand new product. The Fives are all about packing a ton of great performance and technology into a small and beautiful package, while at the same time adhering to all four of the Klipsch design principles.
After spending a great deal of time with this new model, we think they have hit a home run with these beautiful new powered speakers! They actually offer up everything you would expect to get in a separate audio amplifier and pair of speakers in an elegant all-in-one package.
Design and Build Quality
Klipsch had a design goal to fit The Fives into just about any environment, yet still offer incredibly high performance. Klipsch already has a pretty big variety of powered speakers, but some of them are too large to comfortably fit on a desk, flanking a monitor. Klipsch put a lot of engineering into ensuring that The Fives could be much more compact than their older model speakers while guaranteeing that they would not sacrifice any performance by shrinking them. In fact, what they came up with is actually an improvement in performance to our ears!
We Love the Look
With their slim profile, we agree that The Fives will be able to fit into a lot of places. They are about 12” tall, 6 ½ ” wide, and a shade over 9” deep. This ratio of roughly double the height to width gives them a sleek, slender appearance. They’re available in a walnut or matte black finish. We tested the walnut pair and have to say, the veneer is beautiful! The grill has a modern design with magnetic connections so you can keep them on for an elegant look, or take them off for the more hip look that you might find in a cool loft or tech-forward space. We’re especially impressed with the look of the grills, which got their inspiration from the classic Klipsch speakers from decades ago.
A New Control Idea
The Fives were designed to be totally stand alone so all you need to do is add sources to get the music going, and boy do they have a lot of source options. We will review these in the features section below. Klipsch took a new path in the volume control and source input selector on The Fives that adds to the unique appearance. Most powered speakers put the volume control under the grill on the front or on the back, and if they have multiple inputs, do the same thing for input switching. Klipsch opted for two very beefy metal knobs on the top right side of the main speaker that contribute to the bold and powerful look of the speakers. These provide quick access to both volume and input selection.
4 Separate Amps on Board
As with most powered speakers, one unit has the amps built-in with all of the inputs, while the other speaker connects up to the main unit with a piece of speaker wire. The Fives are slightly different from most powered speakers in that the connection is not a typical speaker wire connection but rather a 4 conductor DIN plug. This has some big pros and one con. A huge pro and the reason Klipsch designed it this way is there is actually a separate amplifier for the woofers and another one for the tweeters.
This concept has big performance advantages, allowing these powered speakers to function more like higher performance setups. We can see why Klipsch went for the DIN plug connector as there is no way to connect things up backward like there would be had they put 4 connections on the back of each speaker to allow for standard speaker wire. The con is the fact you can’t just place the speakers further apart by extending standard speaker wire. They come with a 15 ft connecting cable and should have an extension available in the future. There is no question though, the bi-amping advantage greatly outweighs the somewhat proprietary connection.
Great Build Quality
With today’s automated assembly lines around the world, you get great build quality on just about anything above a couple of hundred dollars and The Fives are no exception. They are manufactured to expectation with high-quality wooden cabinets, great fit and finish, and the same type of quality connections you might see on the back of an $800 home theater receiver. And funny enough, they almost have as many features as a home theater receiver, but with a fraction of the footprint and complexity!
Features and Technology
Inputs for Everything - Just Add Music, Movies, or Gaming
The input capability of The Fives checks off a lot of boxes for a pair of active speakers. It's hard to be competitive in the powered speaker world without having Bluetooth these days, so The Fives perform great with Bluetooth, and for us, connecting was quick and simple. There is an optical input that could be used from a CD player or TV optical out, plus a 3.5mm analog input.
For computer audio use, Klipsch includes a USB input. You’ll have no issues with even your high-resolution audio files as it can handle 24/192 Hi-Res Audio files.
The previous Klipsch powered speakers had phono inputs, but they seemed like a bit of an afterthought as a $79 phono preamp would typically sound far better. Klipsch paid attention and upped their game on the included phono pre input which works with a moving magnet cartridge. This one adjustment really makes a difference if you are setting up a cool room with these speakers and want to add a turntable now or in the future, which is becoming a hot trend. You can even flip a switch and make it a second analog input should you need it.
They Can Pull A Reverse
Speaking of flipping, most powered speakers force you to keep the left and right layout based on one speaker having the amplifier. But what if your turntable was on the right side of your space and the speaker with all the connections needed to stay on the left to keep the channels correct? Klipsch added a little switch to the back of The Fives that lets you designate if the speaker with all the connections is on the right or left side, a nice touch that really differentiates The Fives.
The Right Kind of Subwoofer Output Tech
There are few powered speakers that give you a subwoofer out, which The Fives do, but they take things one step further. One big advantage of adding a subwoofer to a small speaker is you take the deep bass notes away from the smaller woofer and send them to the subwoofer. This has an interesting advantage. Since the smaller woofer is no longer having to produce deep bass, the midrange (think voices) sounds much cleaner and will reveal more details.
Most powered bookshelf speakers simply send a full-range audio signal out of their subwoofer out, but do nothing to the main powered speakers when you connect a sub. Since The Fives have a pretty powerful DSP (digital signal processor) engine on board, when you connect a cable to the subwoofer out, they actually kick in a crossover that takes the bass away from The Fives and sends the deep bass to the sub! We tried them with a sub and did notice an improvement in the midrange, which is great!
First On the Market with HDMI ARC
We have saved the best new type of input for last. Have you heard about HDMI ARC? This is a new standard for HDMI connections that has two pretty cool advantages. First, ARC stands for audio return channel. When you plug an HDMI cable into an HDMI ARC connection on a TV, the TV sends the audio track back down the HDMI cable. That is nice by itself, but it's not nearly as cool as the next advantage.
If you’re going to put an HDMI ARC connection on a piece of audio equipment, you must meet a control standard that has some great ramifications. When you connect up to HDMI ARC through a TV, the TV’s remote controls the power, volume, and mute of the audio piece it's connected to. Think about that. This means you can use The Fives with an HDMI ARC enabled TV instead of a soundbar and just use your TV remote for volume and mute!
The HDMI ARC feature (or if you have an older TV you can use the Toslink digital input) means you can use these instead of a soundbar. This allows you to spread them farther apart, giving you a much bigger soundfield. Music, gaming, movies, and more will all sound bigger than almost any soundbar with this great stereo separation.
A Great TV Interface for Music
The Fives don’t have a WiFi connection so you might think the only way to get streaming music to them is through Bluetooth. Well, if you connect them up to a smart TV, the game changes. Most smart TV’s have all the popular types of music streaming services built into them, with a pretty decent visual interface. This means you can browse music on a much bigger screen than your smartphone, select it, and control the volume of The Fives with the TV remote control. It also means if you have an Apple TV or Roku connected up to your smart TV, you can use either of those as a music source with The Fives. And don’t forget, as soon as you turn on the TV, The Fives will connect to their HDMI ARC input. Very slick!
Full of Klipsch Technology In a Great Package
From a flexibility standpoint, The Fives are obviously setting some new standards, but what about how they cover the classic DNA of all Klipsch speakers?
Starting at the top, the tweeter comes from their Reference Premiere series. It uses their 1” LTS ceramic vented, titanium tweeters with their Tractrix® horn. That’s a mouthful, but this is a very well-proven tweeter you’ll find on Klipsch speakers costing far more than The Fives. The woofer used is a 4 ½’ long-throw woofer which also comes from their Reference Premiere series. This might seem small, but Klipsch beefed it up with a 1 ½” voice coil and its long-throw coupled with the Tractrix® bass port gives us bass down to 50hz, which is very impressive for its size.
There are two discrete power amps inside The Fives that supply 60 watts each to the woofers and 20 watts each to the horn tweeters, for a total of 160 watts. This combo enables The Fives to hit up to 109db sound pressure level a meter away from them, which if you know what that number means is super loud!
The combination of great drivers, Tractrix® horn lens, and the powerful bi-amped system enable The Fives to hit all four of the Klipsch pillars of great sound: High Efficiency, Low Distortion, Controlled Directivity, and Flat Frequency Response.
App Control and More
When The Fives first come out there will be an app that is designed to be more of a help guide in setting them up. A few months after The Fives release, Klipsch plans to add a full complement of audio adjustments to the app. There will be a fully parametric equalizer to fine-tune The Fives perfectly to your tastes, along with several presets for various positioning and listening situations. You’ll be able to tell the app where your set of The Fives is positioned in relation to walls and the app will apply the correct room correction. The app will also add source selection and volume control.
Klipsch has also added a pretty neat thing they call dynamic EQ. The human ear does not hear the lower bass frequencies as well as the volume decreases. This circuit adds some bass back in as the volume decreases giving them a very warm sound at even super low listening levels.
With all of this great tech and heritage, we were really curious to see how The Fives would perform.
Since we knew the models we had were brand new, we hooked them up just in a casual manner to start breaking them in. We basically just plopped them down on a small table about 6” off the back wall, 6’ apart, and put on a Tidal playlist through Bluetooth to get some hours on them. We turned the volume down pretty low and started to do some computer work. What happened next was pretty interesting.
Amazing Low Volume Sound
We kept getting pulled back into listening to The Fives as they just sounded amazingly pleasant at a very low volume level. Normally, when you play speakers at a really low level, a lot of the little details and dynamics are lost, not so with The Fives! The little dynamic changes and small things that pull you into the music normally only heard at a somewhat higher level were there on The Fives. This makes The Fives especially good for use as a music speaker while you are working when you normally might have the sound turned down to a lower level.
Of course, this immediately increased our curiosity into how good they could sound, so we started dragging out some nice speaker stands and measuring their distance off the rear wall to get them symmetrical.
When we tried them this way, we were even more impressed. Some of the less expensive Klipsch powered speakers we have tested could sound a little too much in our face and upfront. The Fives maintained that great sense of dynamics, plus the Reference Premiere series tweeter is much sweeter sounding than what’s used in their less expensive powered models. Imaging was just fantastic with a wide and deep soundstage. Vocals that were centered floated out in the room far in front of the speakers with great front to back depth. This was no surprise as most speakers with a small front baffle can usually throw out a great image validating their decision to slim these down. Next came a test with a subwoofer, and wow, did things get even better.
Coupling The Fives to a small subwoofer really shows off how well Klipsch engineered the internal crossover, which kicks in when you plug a cable into the sub output. To our ears, the change to the midrange and midbass was substantial. By taking the deep bass tones away from the woofer, the midrange got even more effortless. We used the R100SW, a 10” sub from Klipsch. When you consider this whole system was less than $1300, the sound it was throwing out was amazing! The new cut False Prophet from Bob Dylan sounded so effortless with Dylan’s voice feeling like it was right in the room.
The powered all-in-one speaker market has become pretty crowded over the last few years as more music lovers want compact systems capable of providing great sound. Klipsch was in this game early and brings a lot of expertise to the design of The Fives. While their prior models were very good, they have taken it to a totally new level with The Fives. They pulled in speaker drivers from one of the best home audio speaker series, used their decades of cabinet craftsmanship to design a beautiful cabinet, and loaded them with best-in-class connectivity. Not only will The Fives deliver the big sound you expect from Klipsch, they also keep that full sound when you turn the volume way down. The end result to us is actually greater than the sum of all the parts.
The Fives will be outstanding in many different use cases. We feel they will make great computer speakers, can fill a large room with big, dynamic sound, or pair up incredibly well with a TV for movies and gaming.
You can spend less for powered speakers than The Fives, but you will not get the sound, connectivity, and just flat out cool retro appearance we love in The Fives.
High Notes Unpacked
The Performance of Separates In One Elegant Package
The Fives take the best tech from the famous Klipsch Reference Premiere series and integrate it with almost 75 years of award-winning acoustic design to create an amazing all-in-one speaker. These have the amplifier tech you would normally get in a separate amp, with speaker drivers usually found in great bookshelf speakers delivering the sound and performance of separate components in an elegant package.
Connectivity for the Modern and Retro World
With HDMI-ARC you’ll have the first powered speakers with this great TV connectivity. Add in Bluetooth streaming, an upgraded premium phono preamp, and digital optical, Hi-Res USB, and analog line inputs and you’ve got all your musical bases covered!
Beautiful Luxury Finishing Touches
The Fives combine hand-crafted real wood finishes with a unique retro control wheel system that gives you luxury design with great user experience. We also love the look of the grills, inspired by classic Klipsch speakers of decades ago.
Control powerful, detailed Klipsch sound using the TV remote you already have.
REAL HI-FI SOUND
Powered stereo speakers with premium components deliver an immersive soundstage.
Get immersive, room-filling sound – right from your TV with just one cable.
Immensely improve your TV’s sound with The Fives - easy-to-use, powered, high-def speakers that connect directly to your TV - and virtually anything else!
The Fives incorporate award-winning, proprietary Klipsch Reference acoustic horn-loaded technology, from the dedicated left and right speakers for a big, bold soundstage. Built-in dynamic bass equalization delivers powerful bass at any volume. The Fives also feature 192kHz/24-bit decoding for flawless reproduction of high-resolution audio tracks.
The Fives are the first powered monitors on the market with HDMI-ARC to connect directly to a TV for true, discrete 2-channel TV sound. includes a phono preamp, Bluetooth® 5, HDMI-ARC, digital optical, analog RCA and USB inputs, and a subwoofer output.
Audio Advice is the exclusive launch partner of the Klipsch The Fives Powered Speakers. Stop by one of our world-class showrooms in Raleigh or Charlotte, North Carolina to experience them yourself. We do have to warn you, though - give them a listen and you just might become one of the millions of people who have helped Klipsch stand the test of time for the past 70+ years. You may even wind up taking a pair home for yourself!
Over the last 75 years, Klipsch has perfected their classic performance guidelines and combined them with all of the latest technology to deliver a powered speaker that will bring a smile to your face the first time you hear them. The new The Fives are retro, beautiful, compact, and have all of the latest inputs for the modern world or old school vinyl. Their compact size allows them to fit on your desktop, but their huge sound will fill a large room.