We've collaborated with Joe of Joe N Tell to bring you a comprehensive review of The Fives by Klipsch. In his video, Joe reveals what he likes and dislikes about the speaker system, and also provides some objective measurements of performance. In addition to giving you a rundown of The Fives' features, we'll also look at how they stand up to their predecessor and similar systems in their league.
Although it's a two-channel system, The Fives is ideal as a soundbar replacement. It's also great if you're looking for a decent speaker system in a small room but don't want to buy a subwoofer (although a dedicated sub output enables you to add some bottom end if you want). The Fives also makes an excellent desktop speaker, provided you give it enough space to breathe.
The HiFi Summit 2020 Best in Show winner, The Fives features premium stereo sound with a matte black or walnut finish. They have a throwback, legacy design with classic Klipsch real wood veneer, sleek metallic controls, textured front, and non-slip cork bottom. Retailing for $799, the use of premium wood is an added luxury at this price point. The retro design is perfect for the audiophile looking for an alternative to the modern classic Wharfedale Denton.
The Fives comes with removable metallic grills, so you can show off the vented tweeter and Tractrix horn, or keep it covered for a more vintage feel.
This Klipsch uses the same 1-inch titanium LTS vented tweeter as the popular RP600M, in tandem with the Tractrix horn. We're glad to see Klipsch has decided to keep this tweeter in the build of The Fives. It helped the RP600M significantly reduce the harshness of the sound heard in some previous Klipsch models. Each unit also features a 4.5-inch long-throw, ported woofer for enhanced bass.
The tweeter is stylishly covered to prevent accidental inversions. As Joe mentions in the video, the RP600M is popular for its sound quality and also the outward projection of high frequencies.
The two embedded, aluminum, toothed knobs have a weighty feel and light click when spun. The metal knobs are so much more satisfying than the typical plastic-coated rotary dials you get with other powered bookshelf speakers, such as Edifiers. You can see and hear the Klipsch knobs in action at 2:20 in Joe's video. Also featured alongside the dials is an intuitive LED light system to signal the volume level, mute status, and input.
The most significant feature is the HDMI ARC port, which allows you to connect the speakers to your TV. "It's very handy. Once you turn on your TV, you turn on the speakers. You turn off the TV, it turns off the speakers. Volume control, mute, everything can be done there," Joe explains.
The HDMI ARC inclusion is first of its kind in a powered bookshelf speaker, making plug-and-play TV setup as easy as a soundbar. Klipsch's HDMI functionality has bred a new species of speaker, bridging the gap between soundbar and bookshelf speaker.
As is commonplace with modern speakers in this price range, Klipsch's The Fives have Bluetooth 5.0, phono/line analog (with switch and ground screw terminal), USB, and optical inputs. So you have a range of options for home entertainment and gaming, and you can even plug in a turntable. The remote includes volume control for the sub, assuming you add one.
The speaker makes excellent use of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) and comes with Dynamic Bass EQ. This handy bit of technology changes the level of the bass depending on the volume of the speakers. This is especially important if you like listening to the sound at a low volume.
According to the specifications sheet for The Fives: "As the human ear perceives frequencies differently with variations in output, The Fives will dynamically match the ear's ability to hear lower frequencies. Typically, only available with audio/video receivers, dynamic volume is a first for Klipsch powered monitors. What you get is powerful bass whether the listening volume is low, cranked up or somewhere in between."
Joe recommends setting any connected source devices at or near max volume to avoid any compensation confusion by the DSP. If you begin to hear any "crunchiness" or clipping, reduce the source volume slightly.
While soundbars try their best to trick the ear into hearing sound coming from the left and right of the room, it never results in as convincing a soundstage as you would get from separate speakers. Then, again, the typical two-channel system can come up short in terms of delivering a phantom center image. Thankfully, The Fives solves both problems. In the video, Joe explores the soundstage and imaging of the two-channel Klipsch. He is impressed with its unique ability to provide a phantom center image. It's almost like getting three channels for the price of two.
For a powered bookshelf speaker, The Fives can hold its own on sound quality. It doesn't quite match the excitement we get from ELAC's ARB-51, so it takes up the number two spot on Joe's leaderboard. But, if you don't have $2K to spend on your home stereo system, The Fives really is the next best thing.
There's more than enough volume for any home stereo enthusiast. The speakers play loudly and cleanly: approximately 109dB at one meter, it's louder than a helicopter at that range. But the best part is, the DSP will recognize when you're overdriving the speakers and activate a distortion-limiter.
Klipsch offers another way to control your audio experience: the Klipsch Connect app. You can now set up your device and update the firmware from your phone. Klipsch also claims you can fully customize your audio experience by adjusting the EQ. Unfortunately, there have been some teething issues with app functionality. It's a cool feature, and when the bugs are fixed, it should set this speaker astronomically above the others in its class.
In his video, Joe goes into detail about his REW measurements of The Fives. We'll briefly cover his findings, but if you want the readings and full breakdown, watch his video from 12:16.
The Fives feature a different sound signature than a typical Klipsch speaker. The treble was slightly lower than the measurements from the dynamic RP600M. That difference was more pronounced when listening off-axis.
"This is not typical of what you'd normally see with a Klipsch speaker, Joe says. "They went with a different approach here that's very surprising."
The measurements also show a difference in bass response with loudness compensation turned on and off. This difference was more pronounced when the speakers were positioned near a wall, so if you're considering that placement, you'll want to try it out with the loudness compensation turned off.
Probably the coolest revelation from the measurements: You can see the dip in the crossover is removed with The Fives versus the RP600M. This is all thanks to the DSP.
Joe says, "[The bass] seems like it extends further than the RP600Ms, because of DSP."
Related: Hear the binaural sound demo in Joe's video at 23:08.
The Fives is an excellent system and undoubtedly deserves its Best in Show award, but we are still on the lookout for the perfect speaker. Here are a few minor details that we wanted to point out:
Joe thinks these speakers are ideal for replacing a TV soundbar in a small room. We agree and also think they'd be perfect for anyone looking for a desk speaker. Klipsch's clever engineering has particularly improved on the smaller speaker's ability to play low sounds at low volume. This makes it a great choice for working and studying.
If you want even more bass, you have the option of adding a subwoofer to The Fives. For more high-performance alternatives, you can check out ELAC Debut Reference at a similar price point or splurge on the ELAC Navis ARB-51.
Still shopping around for a speaker with a vintage aesthetic in a similar price range? Try the Triangle Borea BR03 or the Wharfedale Denton 85th Anniversary speakers, both of which come in a walnut cabinet. The dimensions are slightly larger than The Fives, so they're not ideal for a desktop, but both options are still good bookshelf speakers with great sound.
The Fives by Klipsch is the most versatile powered bookshelf speaker you can buy in its price range. It stands up to systems twice the price. The HDMI ARC adds convenient TV connectivity, and the DSP maintains the sound quality at low and max volumes. The Fives is for you if you're looking to replace a conventional soundbar because you're disappointed with its stereo sound.
If you're interested in The Fives by Klipsch and want to support both Joe N Tell and Home Theater Review, you can purchase the speakers via Audio Advice, and we may receive a small commission.