The Synergy B-3 Bookshelf Loudspeaker by Klipsch offers an interesting blend of sonic and technical features for an MSRP of $330 per pair. The design employs the company's signature square five-inch Tractrix Horn, coupled to a one-inch aluminum dome compression driver, and a single 6.5-inch IMG woofer. For additional bass extension, the B-3 employs a rear-firing port, executed nicely with an elegantly sloped plastic insert fitting and four visible screws.
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The B-3 provides a frequency response of 55Hz - 23kHz +/-3dB, and a (typical for Klipsch) high sensitivity of 93.5dB at 2.83 volts per one meter. Coupled with a nominal impedance of eight ohms, the B-3 should present a relatively easy load for any decent amplifier or receiver to drive. At 15 inches high, 7.8 inches wide, 9.75 deep and weighing 16 pounds, the B-3 should also fit into most typical bookshelf or small room environments. The B-3's black finish with titanium accents provides a modern look, which ramps up a bit with the grilles off - this is certainly not an understated monitor offering. The yawning gray horn, extending over the speaker cabinet, and bright silver woofer cone make an aggressive visual statement.
The B-3 provides a single set of binding posts that should accommodate thicker speaker cables, even those over 12-gauge. As always, however, use connectors (preferably spades) whenever possible to prevent oxidation and maximize surface contact. Setting up Klipsch B-3s is about as easy as it comes. Un-box them and place them on a stand, a shelf or wherever they are destined to go. The more room you can give them to breathe, the better the imaging and depth will be. Bass performance can be marginally affected by the B-3s' proximity to the back wall, but a subwoofer will make a much larger difference.
The B-3 offers many classic Klipsch traits: easy to drive, forward and aggressive top end, tight bass with moderate extension, and a good but not particularly wide soundstage with some placement issues. The B-3s' midrange does not exude warmth and sometimes runs toward the muffled side. The horn will play crisply and loud on the top end, but doesn't allow for much placement flexibility due to its narrow projection. Move them even a little bit off of an almost direct cant to widen the soundstage and you'll risk losing the image. Overall, especially on music tracks, I was able to hear the loudspeakers a bit too much, indicating a lack of ultimate neutrality. This, along with the crispy top end, might make longer listening sessions a bit difficult.
The B-3's cabinet doesn't help to alleviate these problems. The knuckle rap test did not reveal a particularly dead quality, which might explain the "honky" sound on some source material. Horns lose many of their supposed advantages when coupled to an overall colored design. You don't have to push the amp as hard, which might lower distortion, but if the loudspeaker as a whole doesn't offer enough neutrality or sense of realism, it doesn't much matter. The horn debate rages on. For professional applications, such as in studios, when placing speakers behind perforated video screens, you can't beat horn speakers. For those who want to rock at concert levels or reproduce in-the-cinema sound levels, horn speakers will also get you there. Audiophile purists love horns for the advantages they can get from SET (single-ended tube) amps.
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