Klipsch makes a vast range of conventional passive speakers as well as soundbars, Bluetooth speakers and headphones. The Fives are an intriguing combination of some of those different disciplines that might turn out to be exactly what you need. They look like a conventional pair of stereo speakers but they have their own built-in amplification and the easy plug-and-play benefit of a soundbar – so there is little need to add anything else. They even borrow an HDMI ARC (audio return channel) connection from the soundbar range to allow easy TV connection with a single cable.
The speakers themselves are two-way standmount units and in the Klipsch tradition, the front panel is dominated by an example of the company’s long standing ‘Tractrix’ horn loaded tweeter where a 25mm titanium dome is mounted in the throat of a square horn to improve sound sensitivity and imaging. This is partnered with a 120mm long throw mid bass driver. Each set of drivers has its own amplifier; 60 watts for the mid bass and 20 for the tweeters. This isn’t huge power but The Fives seldom struggle in daily use. Unlike a true active speaker, The Fives consist of a powered main speaker that takes power and connections and a passive partner speaker which is connected to it by an ‘umbilical’ cable.
There are several ways to connect your music source. As well as that HDMI connection, you get Apt-X HD Bluetooth, a USB audio input good for high resolution audio sample rates up to 24/192kHz, an optical digital connection and an analogue input that can be switched between a standard line level connection and a moving magnet phono stage. In short, there’s not much you can’t connect to the Klipsch and if you use your TV as a media hub for music and viewing, that HDMI connection might be all you actually need.
Build quality is every bit as good as you would expect at the price and inspires confidence since each cabinet appears robust and carefully assembled. The remote feels a bit small and plastic compared with the speakers but it is logical enough to use and gives access to all the functions you might routinely want.
One tremendously important aspect when listening to The Fives is to make a note of a feature that Klipsch calls Dynamic Bass EQ which is switched in and out on the remote control. As standard, it is set to ‘on’ and the result with music can feel a bit overblown and bottom heavy (although it works superbly for boosting the low end for late night TV viewing). Switch it off, though, and things improve dramatically.
The Fives do manage to get a number of things absolutely right. Not least among these is the width and precise imaging they give to the performance that a single chassis speaker or soundbar can’t easily replicate. There is far less of the feeling that the music is being beamed at you and little perception of the sort of DSP and other processing that some rivals use to create an illusion of width. Recordings are presented in a believable, almost tangible, space and this is further helped by the tonal balance being very natural. Push them very hard indeed and the sound can harden up a little but for the most part, they present voices and instruments in a way that sounds lively and immediate.
Something else that’s impressive is the amount of low end weight that The Fives deliver. Even with Dynamic Bass EQ firmly set to off, the impact that these compact cabinets can deliver is enough to fill the room and give powerful, uptempo music the clout it needs to convince. It also means that large scale film and TV action can be handled without feeling restricted.
Thanks to their prominent horns, Klipsch speakers have one of the most distinctive designs of any manufacturer and The Fives take this and tweak it a little for modernity. The black finish has a sheen which suits the speakers well (a walnut option is also available) but the grilles are the traditional heavy fabric type. The most important thing to take into account if you are thinking about The Fives is that your connections need to be made to the master speaker (which can be set to either left or right channel) and the wiring for this may be harder to conceal than when using a soundbar on a rack. Get it right, though, and the result is a very neat and compact system indeed.
Spend some time with The Fives and they start to make more and more sense. What Klipsch has done is turn its powered speaker concept into something that sits halfway between a soundbar and a wireless speaker and does justice to both concepts. Connectivity is well suited to a variety of uses, while the stereo ability is head and shoulders above that of most one-box systems.
Labi Siffre The Vulture
Peak 70s Labi Siffre is a wonderful thing and although there are more famous tracks on Remember My Song, this effortlessly snappy and compelling effort might be the finest thing he’s ever done and demonstrates the control and timing of The Fives.
Marina Soft to be Strong
One of the most sublimely talented songwriters and performers going, Marina Diamandis pours her heart out into this poignant but euphoric closing track from her Love + Fear album which is given the space and scale it needs.
Sturgill Simpson Remember to Breathe
Utterly impossible to categorise (electro country?, breakbeat bluegrass? The spiritual successor to ZZ Top’s Afterburner?), Sturgill Simpson’s remarkable creative effort is underpinned by great songwriting and exceptional musicianship – The Fives have a riot with it.
The Fives mix lifestyle sensibilities with traditional hi-fi values to great effect. This is a well thought out, adaptable and capable piece of kit that will suit many listeners down to the ground.