Klipsch VB-15 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Reviewed

Klipsch VB-15 Bookshelf Loudspeaker Reviewed

Available exclusively from Best Buy, these bookshelf speakers employ Klipsch's famous XT Tractrix horn to house its 1 inch dome tweeter. Only 13.75 inches high, the VB-15 will fit into spaces that few Klipsch speakers have gone in before. They also like to rock.

Launched in 2008 and designed in collaboration with Best Buy (and also only available through Best Buy), Klipsch's Icon V series of loudspeakers offers a slim, conservative, but contemporary cosmetic look combined with many of Klipsch's high performance features. The line consists of two floorstanding models (VF-35 and VF-36), one bookshelf (VB-15, reviewed here), one center channel (VC-25) and one surround model (VS-14).

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Sitting next to the bookshelf models within Klipsch's Reference Series, the $300.00 per pair (MSRP) VB-15 looks a lot different. Featuring slim cabinets, a wood veneer top plate, a yawning horn tweeter, and a woofer covered with a non-removable grill, the Icon V tries to blend in with today's modern decors while still remaining distinctive and reflective of the Klipsch lineage. Weighing in at a hefty 10.75 pounds and with dimensions of 13.75 inches high by seven inches wide by 10.75 inches deep, the VB-15 offers a small but solid footprint. The magnetically-shielded VB-15 utilizes a 1-inch Aluminum dome tweeter mounted in a 4.5-inch square 90 degree by 90 degree XT Tractrix horn, coupled to a 5.25-inch fiber-composite woofer. Klipsch claims that "altering the surface geometry of the tweeter equalizes the speed of sound waves from the horn and smoothes the dispersion pattern." In plain English, that means that they changed the shape of the tweeter to compensate for the typical directivity and lack of dispersion of a horn design. The horn also has a nice, four-cornered, "flower" look with the tweeter sparkling silver in the center. Klipsch apparently thought the woofer's looks might cause too much business so they made a separate, non-removable grill for it. Seriously, their marketing explains this as a protective feature, preventing stray shoes and uppity pets from denting the driver, but the feature just seems a bit peculiar. All of Klipsch's small speakers have that same vulnerability, yet offer removable grills. Many listeners like the option of removing the grills to improve the sound and, sometimes, appearance. Why would Klipsch feel that protection concerns outweighed those benefits? Anyway, moving on, the VB-15 features a flared rear port, a pair of five-way binding posts, and no on-board mounting capability. Overall, the VB-15 provides a good level of fit and finish. The wood top cap lends a nice touch, the speaker feels hefty enough, and the tweeter looks cool enough. Nothing about it screamed 'Wow', but it brings enough design elements to pass a "kick the tires" test.

Sound
The VB-15 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 92.5dB efficiency. They sounded good even when driven by average receivers and power sources, and only improved marginally when the power quality rose a notch.

The VB-15s threw a moderately deep and wide soundstage, and had average imaging properties. The soundstaging and imaging also suffered as the speakers pointed further away from the listening position. This directive quality made it difficult to widen the soundstage without sacrificing imaging. Their forward tonal balance also tended to lower its imaging qualities as the speaker lacked the warmth required to flesh things out properly. The highs had some screechiness, in general, and lack of top-end air but stayed just warm and clear enough to remain listenable. Into the midrange, the VB-15 turned a bit hollow on some classical and vocal tracks, especially the upper mids, and lacked warmth and palpability even on some rock and electronic material. But the mids overall remained coherent with the highs, and retained an overall level of pace and musicality. The VB-15's bass came across kind of the opposite of the higher frequencies, with good extension but a bit of flabbiness and lack of crispness. The VB-15 seemed to prefer rock and electronic music, which was interesting considering its individual tonal properties. The design just seemed faster and more coherent with that material, even with the aforementioned shortcomings. The VB-15's lack of crisp imaging and warmth in the upper mids made classical, jazz, and piano a bit thin and uninvolving, whereas rock and electronic music seemed to have a better foundation and jumped to life. Overall, the VB-15 brings a decent level of sonics, with minor flaws across all three major frequency bands but just enough speed and coherence to hold everything together and offer some good value. The VB-15 did play loudly when asked with only moderate breakup. The speaker performed well in this area. Moving towards a wall, the VB-15 gained some thump on the bottom but little of it trickled upward to provide some bloom to the midrange. Overall, on-wall performance moved things sideways - a little better in a couple areas, but mostly neutral.

Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2

High Points
• The VB-15 provides a good level of performance, especially with rock and electronic tracks, and represents a solid upgrade for those who have owned entry-level speakers in the past.
• The VB-15 plays loudly with little breakup, and performs optimally even with average receivers and power sources.
• The VB-15 looks good, with its flower-shaped horn tweeter providing a nice touch.

Low Points
• The VB-15 lacks overall refinement across the frequency spectrum, with no one area performing beyond expectations.
• The VB-15's non-removable woofer grill may dissuade those wanting to improve performance or appearance, despite its protective purpose.
• The VB-15 only comes in Black, and offers no on-board mounting capability.

Conclusion
As part of its Icon V series, the VB-15 satisfies what seems to be the series' clear objective - to offer a higher quality alternative to those who have owned entry-level speakers in the past.  The VB-15 performs optimally with average quality power, provides a dynamic sound quality that engages well on some levels, and only shows its flaws when listened to critically on an absolute basis. It has the forward "Klipsch" sound, but keeps it together through the midrange and has some thump in the bass. While not particularly fast, transparent, or incisive, the VB-15 should represent a good value to a lot of people.

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