Introduced in June of 2008, the Klipsch Icon W series delivers the classic Klipsch sound in a more refined, sophisticated package, incorporating furniture-grade finishes and other high-end touches. Klipsch wanted to create a series of high performance, aesthetically pleasing speakers that pushed the Klipsch name into more areas of the house.
The smallest offering in the Icon W line offering two floorstanding models (WF-35, WF-34), a center channel (WC-24), and a surround speaker (WS-24), the $599/pair WB-14 features a 1-inch titanium tweeter loaded with a 3.75-inch XT Tractrix Horn, and a 4.5-inch high-output, fiberglass cone woofer with a ceramic motor structure, encased within a very solid bass-reflex enclosure finished in gorgeous Espresso or Cabernet finishes. The WB-14 also provides a threaded insert for easy wall-mounting. The line provides a welcome change from the aggressively styled, mostly black, gold and silver-finished models pervading the company's product line.
The WB-14's small footprint and 10 pound weight allows for easy placement on either a bookshelf or floor stand. The high quality binding posts accommodate bananas, spades, or bare wire. I also found the bass reflex port in the rear very elegant, and coupled beautifully to the connector panel within a one-piece black plastic fitting with matching flush-mounted screws. Combined with the superb finish (I particularly like the subtle Espresso), I found the overall cosmetics and fit and finish very impressive, with or without the magnetic grill.
Set up on speaker stands, the WB-14 did not provide the classic, in-your-face Klipsch sound - which some might say is a good thing. The 80-degree by 80-degree round horn sounded a bit tamer than that used in the Klipsch B-3, for instance. The small woofer provided surprising thump, presented a decent midrange and meshed nicely with the high frequencies. The WB-14 also threw a less directional presentation than the usual offered from horn designs, with good soundstage width and depth, and crisply presented images.
Klipsch's typical sonic signature doesn't change here - the zippy balance still simmered under the surface - but the inert cabinet structure, tapered horn and stiff woofer allowed it a slightly more even balance than the company's models with lesser parts that tend to flip out and only exacerbate the hyperactivity. I would guess that many would welcome this "Klipsch in a smoking jacket". I still don't completely prefer the hotter balance - horns will always be horns - but the WB-14 veers much closer towards the type of sonic balance that I listen for. With a particularly small woofer, Klipsch needed to reel things in a bit, and I think they've succeeded.
As with all compact speakers, the WB-14 certainly would benefit from a subwoofer. While Klipsch recommends its XW-500d or XW-300d, those from other brands would certainly excel, as well. I would suggest one with a smaller driver and cabinet, in order to remain in character with the tight WB-14. While I didn't hear it, I would look forward to hearing a complete Icon home theater setup in a small room. The delicately achieved sonic balance would likely stretch across most music genres as well as movies and games, and the sexy finishes across many decors - great for a cozy living room.
Continue reading about the performance of the WB-14 on Page 2.
• The WB-14 provides a superb level of fit and finish with convenient touches like easy mounting and high quality binding posts. This product will fit into many different decors and can impress the neighbors front-and-center in an audio or home theater system.
• The WB-14 offers an attractive sonic balance, offering many of the traditional advantages of horns but dialed back a notch, along with a full midrange and tight bass. The small size still throws a big soundstage above and beyond the speakers, providing big sound in tight spaces.
• The WB-14's sonic balance still veers towards the zippy side, and might not appeal to the classical, jazz, and even soft rock crowd. This is a must-audition speaker because of the likely higher expectations and crossover appeal into higher-end segments that might not ordinarily consider Klipsch for a small monitor application.
• Some buyers might not like the lack of a black finish. The Espresso finish is pretty dark, but would mandate a complete Klipsch Icon system for proper matching.
I liked the WB-14, more than I thought I would. Klipsch has succeeded in bringing a level of refinement to its typically aggressive designs and sonic palettes. The finish and construction are first rate, and the performance fits many different types of material, from music to movies to games. An audition is still a must, especially for music lovers and two-channel applications. While the WB-14 is not cheap, Klipsch has brought some game to this market, and created a very competitive product that will make you think twice before simply relegating your shopping to the foofy brands.