Review: Klipsch The Fives- Do you want good TV sound and your music in stereo in a decent way? This can be done in more and more ways, but few solutions are as versatile as Klipsch The Fives. Because in addition to connecting your television via HDMI or streaming via Bluetooth, you can also connect a turntable. The compact shape and attractive retro design made of wood makes these active stereo speakers as practical as they are attractive.
The Fives are a new creation by Klipsch, intended for anyone looking for a reasonably priced music and TV solution for the living room that sounds better than a soundbar and is not overly complex. The Americans do this in a very authentic and at the same time typically opinionated way. Just look at the design of these active speakers: it is a big nod to the fifties and sixties, but thanks to the presence of an HDMI input, connection for a record player and Bluetooth, The Fives are also completely in line with the year 2020. Or else put, it is an original synthesis of the benefits of a soundbar and a music system. The biggest plus is that the two separate speakers from The Fives deliver real stereo. And that is a requirement if you want to listen to music in higher quality.
Klipsch The Fives: Surprisingly compact
We looked up for a moment when unpacking the The Fives. The marketing photos gave the impression that they are a bit larger, but the Klipsch speakers turn out to be surprisingly compact in reality. The fact that they immediately look slim is probably due to the limited width. Modest dimensions in height and width are often compensated for by a greater depth of speakers, but that is not the case here. It makes that you can easily place The Fives on furniture or small stands. What a contrast to the 65-inch television in our workspace, say.
You have to be a fan of it, of course, but the retro vibe is very strong with these speakers. The build quality is also excellent, especially when you take the price into account. Ok, nine hundred euros is certainly not nothing, but it is also not the ultimate price tag. And yet Klipsch provides a look that makes you never think: “Hmm, this could be better.” Compared to quite a few dedicated TV solutions and sound bars, The Fives come across as more luxurious anyway. That word ‘luxury’ was chosen deliberately, because that retro look is simply more luxurious than the austere (but not necessarily less quality) finish of most mainstream brand soundbars. Either way, The Fives’ finish is top notch, with no visible screws and barely noticeable seams.
There are two color versions: walnut and black. We were visited by the first version, a beautiful edition that fits really nicely in a living room with a Scandinavian TV unit or retro sofa. Just like speakers of yore, the wood has been applied all around and there is a front with a rougher texture that is mounted slightly recessed. As a result, that black front panel is framed by wood, seen from the sofa, which is a classic look in hi-fi. Equally classic – especially for Klipsch – is the immense horn speaker that takes up half of the front, with a smaller woofer underneath. Take a quick look at these speakers and you will immediately believe that they are original devices from a long time ago. We suspect that many retro fans will get a kick out of that. For whom the view of all this seems just too busy (and we are honestly in that group) Klipsch has provided an alternative. The box contains fronts of a Scandinavian-looking fabric, gray with dark and lighter threads woven through. It is ‘only’ a front, but because of this The Fives suddenly fit very well in a modern interior. You never really lose the retro feeling, partly because of the controls on the top of one of the two Klipsch speakers. When we saw it, we spontaneously thought of the post-apocalyptic game series Fallout. Modern, but how they understood that term seventy years ago. It is ‘only’ a front, but because of this The Fives suddenly fit very well in a modern interior. You never really lose the retro feeling, partly because of the controls on the top of one of the two Klipsch speakers. When we saw it, we spontaneously thought of the post-apocalyptic game series Fallout. Modern, but how they understood that term seventy years ago. It is ‘only’ a front, but because of this The Fives suddenly fit very well in a modern interior. You never really lose the retro feeling, partly because of the controls on the top of one of the two Klipsch speakers. When we saw it, we spontaneously thought of the post-apocalyptic game series Fallout. Modern, but how they understood that term seventy years ago.
Nothing difficult about it
A big plus at The Fives is that you can start using them quickly. A few minutes after you free the two speakers from the box, they are ready to play. Because there are no streaming options outside of Bluetooth, you don’t have to waste time connecting to WiFi, for example. It mainly comes down to connecting cables. Which, that again depends on which devices you want to connect to these speakers. It’s not really difficult, but if you still want some explanation, a Klipsch app (iOS and Android) provides the necessary. Everything is clear in this app and illustrated with illustrations. Then you can store the smartphones, because after setting up The Fives you only need this app to make any firmware updates.
Klipsch opted for a master-slave approach at The Fives. This means that one of the two speakers is dominant and all connections and controls can be found there. A cable (supplied) departs from this primary or master speaker, which merely carries the audio signal to the second, passive device. So only one socket is needed, which is a plus in many living rooms. Don’t mess with extension cables or power strips. Fortunately, Klipsch thought that electrical outlets are not always where they are needed. You can indicate via a switch whether the primary speaker is on the left or right.
The included cable is approximately four meters long, which immediately indicates how far apart you can place the two speakers. It is a special cable with a kind of DIN plug with screw connection, which you cannot replace 1-2-3 with a longer one. If you are indeed using the Klipsch speakers with your TV, we would recommend placing them equidistant from the television screen. Otherwise you may experience that the TV sound does not seem to come ‘from’ the screen, which can be disturbing in dialogues, among other things. While we are still busy handing out tips: place the speakers at the same height and (ideally) halfway between the screen
On the back of the master speaker you will find a surprising number of connection options. This is where the flexibility of these speakers lies. You can connect a television to the HDMI-ARC input, a CD player to the line-in or the optical input. You can also connect a record player, which is quite a unique feature in this segment. This goes via the line-in, which you can turn into a phono-in by flipping a toggle switch. The fact that you can connect both a turntable and a television makes these speakers really very interesting for the living room. There are more active speakers on the market (and more and more with HDMI), but few manufacturers also take vinyl enthusiasts into account. The phono input accepts MM cartridges, as found on most affordable record players.
Armed with the vinyl release on a silver-colored pressing of Calexico’s ‘Feast of Wire’, we want to put that phono playback capability to the test. What we hear is certainly not bad, the phono input does not disappoint. Klipsch has a certain American sound and that is exactly what we hear on desert-inspired tracks like ‘Sunken Waltz’ and ‘Pepita’. It may be emphasized again: the fact that you have two speakers here is a real plus for the music lover. It is not one speaker that tries to reproduce the richness of stereo, but two pieces that (correctly arranged) make music much more interesting to listen to.
Klipsch does indeed have a certain sound that gives a certain priority to the middle and does not aim at revealing every detail. At first it may even seem a bit dull, although that impression changes if you dare to turn up the volume. We think the Americans always make rock and metal sound really good. That is almost a stereotypical statement – pardon the pun – because their scope is somewhat wider than those loud genres. You can also enjoy listening to those cozy old jazz recordings, such as Dexter Gordon’s ‘Our Man in Paris’ or Gerschwin’s ‘Porgy and Bess’ with Miles Davis.
Klipsch The Fives: Bring out your smartphone
In terms of streaming, Bluetooth is your only option. That may seem limited, but it is a universal way of working. Every smartphone, tablet and laptop has it on board. You could even establish a connection to your TV via Bluetooth, for a wireless connection between speakers and television set. However, it will depend on your TV whether that is possible without visible delay on the sound. Just use the HDMI connection and it will work for sure.
The door is open for those who want more in terms of streaming. The Fives have a USB class B port to which you can connect a streamer. There are several good options in this area (such as the Volumio Primo or Project Stream Box S2 Ultra), or you can create something low-cost with a Raspberry Pi (for example with RoPieee XL, with which you can use Spotify, AirPlay, DLNA and Roon compatibility). You can also connect a laptop or a smartphone to that USB Class B port, so that you can play hi-res files in high quality (up to 192 kHz / 32-bit). It may not be something that many members of the intended audience are going to do – but it can be.
Let’s talk about the controls on top of The Fives again. Do not expect touch controls or illuminated keys here, which would not be really authentic. Klipsch opted for nostalgia, in the form of two quite large wheels made of metal and with a ribbed structure. The furthest one selects the input, the nearest wheel changes the volume. It is simple and simple. LEDs just next to the two wheels provide some visual feedback on what you are doing.
The metal wheels are a real attention grabber and somehow cool. But to be honest, they are also a gimmick, because we bet that you will usually reach for the included remote rather than roll out of the couch and go to the speaker.
When watching TV, you can simply use the TV remote control to adjust the volume. However, the included remote is handy to keep at hand because you can also control the bass level with it. And that is really useful with these fierce juniors.
We have set up The Fives in two places. First in the living room, connected to an LG OLED55C9 and a Pro-Ject The Classic turntable, later in the workspace, where the speaker set was connected to a Sony KD-65AF9 and the ELAC record player. The reason for the move was partly for practical reasons (a soundbar arrived for testing that could be better set up in the living room), partly because The Fives in the living room seemed to activate a room mode by chance, making the bass sound a bit too intense. A plug in the bass port at the back largely solved that problem. However, it was upstairs in the larger workspace (and a bit further from the wall) that the The Fives really came into their own for us. The lesson from all of this: with these Klipsch speakers you have to take the time to put them in the right place.
It also doesn’t hurt to first bring that Sub setting on the remote to the minimum setting and then gradually add some bass again. There is also a Dynamic Bass setting worth trying out. It is a bit hidden (you have to press a button on the remote for three seconds), but it does bring more balance to the playback when you listen quietly.
On the positive side, the The Fives worked flawlessly with those two televisions, which isn’t always the case. The speakers were immediately recognized and could be used, and we never experienced those typical HDMI-CEC problems where the speakers suddenly did not obey the TV remote. A point of attention: on some TV sets you will have to set the audio output to ‘PCM’. Just like most stereo solutions with HDMI, the Klipsch speakers cannot process Dolby Digital or other surround streams (on two speakers that would not provide any added value). If you leave the audio output on ‘Passthrough’, ‘Auto’ or something similar, there is a chance that when you start a Netflix movie you will suddenly get no sound anymore.
The rich, dynamic sound that Klipsch stands for promises to be a nice match with action films like ‘Kingsman: The Golden Circle’ or ‘Avengers: End Game’. In previous tests of ‘large’ Klipsch speakers in a surround setup, this was proven time and again. The baffling thing is that despite their size (don’t forget, there’s a ton of electronics in that speaker cabinet, too) provide much of that authentic American blow-your-way experience. Everything that is music and fierce effects in a soundtrack, you will receive burly. The gunshots echoing and the roar of the tuned engine in the London taxi in which Kingsman Galahad tries to escape a gang of pursuers have a powerful and profound quality that is – there the word again – surprising. At such a moment, The Fives makes average soundbars smell a shit effortlessly. They really perform best when they are a bit louder, which you especially notice in dialogues. Their character also makes them interesting for gaming. Competitive gamers will obviously go for something else that can reproduce positional audio so they can track their opponents in ‘CoD: Warzone’ by ear, but if you’re not aiming for an esports champion title, The Fives will deliver a powerful experience.
We suspect a lot of people would be satisfied with The Fives in the living room. They are handsome to begin with and excellently built, and compact enough to be easy to place. The misleading thing about the soft, formerly-it-better retro look is that you might expect a decent speaker set that colors neatly between the lines. However, The Fives are roguish, fierce and dynamic like the larger Klipsch speakers. In some smaller rooms it will take some getting used to, and you will quickly reach for the minus button at the Sub function.
For 900 euros, The Fives gives you a flexible audio solution that not only brings the fun factor to your living room but immediately writes the word ‘fun’ in capital letters. Action film enthusiasts, gamers and anyone who loves music in which a dash of bombast is not shunned, are chiseled with The Fives.
PLUS POINTS of Klipsch The Fives
- Record player and TV friendly
- Play as great speakers
- Bigger and more powerful than many soundbar
- Dynamically strong, great music with zest
MINUSES of Klipsch The Fives
- Less suitable for very small living rooms
- Streaming via WiFi requires extra steps (but Bluetooth is there)
- Turning in may be necessary to increase dialog clarity