It’s not often we are presented with a product such as the Klipsch The Fives. They’re clearly a pair of stereo speakers, and yet we have to ask ourselves what they are actually for. That only happens when a product’s feature list blurs the lines between hi-fi and TV sound, and also occasionally the morning after the What Hi-Fi? Awards ceremony.
Klipsch describes The Fives as a ‘powered speaker system’, which is about as specific as you can get. They can be used as a hi-fi system – either standalone or with a source plugged in – as desktop speakers, or indeed as a true stereo alternative to a soundbar thanks to the seemingly simple, but nonetheless shrewdly incorporated, HDMI ARC connection.
Klipsch sees this as a potential driver for many customers adopting The Fives. And, as a publication that generally favours stereo speakers as an alternative to a comparatively priced soundbar – in terms of basic audio performance for the money, at least – we don't see anything wrong with that concept.
This isn’t due to a lack of focus on Klipsch’s part, but part of the forward movement of the company as a whole. The company is trying to expand its reach, rather than simply throwing what it can at their speakers to see what sticks.
The Fives represent a step towards what Klipsch describes as a more global sound. The ‘American’ tuning with which the brand is so familiar remains, but some of the leanings of the European and Asian markets – typically favouring delicacy over sheer scale – have been deliberately addressed.
What we hear is not exactly the final destination, and there isn’t, we’re told, a particular sound at which Klipsch would like to arrive. But anyone on our side of the Atlantic who might have written the brand off for its sonic presentation could afford the brand a keener ear in the future.
An open mind is preferable when approaching The Fives, as are some relatively deep pockets. At £839 ($969, AU$1599), they aren’t going to be an impulse buy for many.
That price tag places The Fives in roughly the same realm as the Naim Mu-so Qb, Sonos Arc and KEF LSX. The fact that those are three entirely different products only highlights just what a versatile product you’re getting for the money. Its rivals depend entirely on how you plan to use them; there isn’t really a direct competitor.
In short, The Fives will connect to virtually anything. The HDMI ARC connection for TVs is joined by analogue RCA, 3.5mm aux, digital optical and USB inputs. Bluetooth 5.0 is also present for simple wireless playback, while a subwoofer output allows for expansion into the lower frequencies.
Drivers 25mm tweeter; 11.5cm mid/bass
Reflex port Rear-firing
Cabinet MDF with wood veneer
HDMI ARC Yes
Dimensions (hwd) 30.5 x 16.5 x 23.5cm
Weight 5.35kg (primary); 4.85kg (secondary)
There is also a phono preamp built in, proving Klipsch’s dedication to hi-fi and that these are not only TV speakers, so by adding just a simple deck you really can have a tidy home entertainment system with The Fives as its mouthpiece.
The Fives are capable of hi-res music playback, while Klipsch’s Dynamic Bass EQ is designed to enhance low frequencies at lower volumes. It can be turned off as a feature, for a more traditional bass response, or you can cut the bass if it’s getting too boomy near a back wall. That is indeed a possibility, due to the rear-firing reflex port. It features Klipsch’s Tractrix horn shape, in a similar but narrower form to that found on the front surrounding the 25mm titanium dome tweeter.
Just below is an 11.5cm long-throw woofer, which appears smaller than it is thanks to the proportions of the horn above it, but is well capable of filling a small to medium-sized room without overstretching.
Despite Klipsch speakers' reputation for room-filling sound, at 30cm tall and 23.5cm wide, these are relatively small bookshelf speakers; don’t expect them to project across a room the size of an air hangar. Besides, you will want to be close by to admire the design.
The walnut veneer on our review sample resonates with the price tag, but of all this almost mid-century design, the rollers on the top of the right-hand speaker stand out most.
If we were to compile a coffee table book of dials and knobs found on hi-fi kit since What Hi-Fi? was first published 45 years ago, the controls on these Klipsch speakers could easily make the first edition. The fact The Fives come packaged with a remote is almost irrelevant, given how keen you’ll be to get up and use these dials to change volume and source.
The Fives would feel like a premium product with the kind of touch panel we usually see on powered speakers such as these, but the individuality of this design should be praised – especially if it is an indicator of the attention paid to everything else.
At least we can say that Klipsch has paid equal attention to each of The Fives’ many potential sources. It’s no faint praise when we say how pleased we are that these speakers’ character is pretty much uniform, however we decide to use them; that can’t be a simple task when being asked to take material from a TV, turntable, streamer, laptop and a smartphone.
The Fives do well, all told. They offer a good level of detail that will dig out texture and timbre regardless of whether it is from the voices of a chamber choir or daytime soap. Is it comparable to a grand’s worth of hi-fi separates? Not quite – nor would we expect it to be – but it is enough to deliver a kind of sonic maturity you won’t get from a budget soundbar or wireless speaker. And as a package, they’re a neater proposition than separates.
It’s a punchy sound, too, able to take on stabbing snares and hi-hats as well as heavy artillery. A good pair of hi-fi speakers should always be able to do both, and so it transpires with The Fives. Stereo imaging is good, provided the speakers are positioned with care and placed on a solid support.
So The Fives are a pleasing listen, but they’re not perfect. We’d like a more even frequency balance with better top-end refinement. While there’s a decent amount of bass for the speakers' size and treble doesn’t sound particularly rolled off, certain frequencies tend to stick out in an almost arbitrary fashion – and, to a degree, this detrimentally affects the way these Klipschs convey timing and organisation.
Overall, though, you do get a good return on your investment as a one-stop shop for home audio. If you want to use them for one thing in particular, you might get better value with a more dedicated component, but if it’s a do-all pair of speakers you crave, it’s well worth giving The Fives a go.
- Sound 4
- Features 5
- Build 4
Read our guide to the best stereo speakers or best desktop computer speakers
Or our pick of the best soundbars