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.
• Read review of top performing bookshelf loudspeakers from Klipsch, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Revel, Paradigm and more.
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.
Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2
• The Klipsch B-3 bookshelf loudspeakers offer an excellent fit and finish, with some unique cosmetic accents that you will not find on more
traditional or bland loudspeakers in the B-3's price range.
• The Klipsch B-3's are very easy to drive, with a dynamic sound quality that is well suited for today's HD audio tracks found on Blu-ray, including Dolby True HD and DTS Master Audio. They are also great for videogames, which increasingly have better and better audio soundtracks.
• Because the Klipsch B-3s are easy to drive, you don't have to blow the budget on a big-baller HDMI AV receiver.
• To my ears, the Klipsch B-3s aren't really neutral in their overall flavor. They have very good bass for their price range, but can be a little forward in the highs, compared to more audiophile-oriented speakers. Klipsch customers don't come to Klipsch for delicate audiophile speakers. They come to Klipsch to rock. They come for dynamics and the B-3s deliver in spades, as they are true to the Klipsch legacy.
• I found the Klipsch B-3s to be ever so slightly fatiguing for long-term music listening. The Klipsch B-3s are perfectly suitable for movies and gaming.
• The cosmetics of the Klipsch B-3s might be a bit much for conservative buyers. An easy work-around is to leave the grilles on.
The Klipsch Synergy B-3 Bookshelf Speakers build on Klipsch's proven value proposition: easy to drive, dynamic designs with high levels of craftsmanship best suited to home theater and gaming applications and shorter-term, high-volume electronic music listening. Their small size and low cost make them perfect for flat HDTV installations, as well as other locations around the home. While I always recommend a subwoofer to match with a small pair of speakers, the Klipsch B-3s have the power to rock your world for today's most relevant sources, ranging from Apple TV and iPod Touch to HD sports, Playstation 3 and the most resolute HD audio and video from Blu-ray.