Klipsch just keeps on keeping on. To go along with its ever-widening assortment of speaker products touching on all sorts of market niches, in 2008 Klipsch announced its Icon X series. Intended to bring high-quality sound and elegant styling to today's burgeoning flat-panel display market, the Icon X series packs a variety of Klipsch's high-end technologies into some pretty cool packages. The series features six models: the XF-48 floorstanding speaker, the XL-23 and XL-12 LCR speakers, the XB-10 bookshelf speaker (reviewed here), and the XW-500d and XW-300d subwoofers.
The XB-10 ($499 per pair, MSRP) employs a 0.75-inch titanium diaphragm compression driver mated to an 80 degree by 80 degree XT Tractrix Horn, which features patent-pending technology. A staple of Klipsch's designs since the beginning, horns increase sensitivity while lower the demands on the amplifier, thereby lowering distortion. Analogous to the cheerleader's bullhorn effect, horns make things loud and direct, although Klipsch has designed its horns to mitigate the latter effect, striving for a more refined approach with higher dispersion, less honkiness, and more coherence with the woofer elements. Klipsch couples the tweeter to a 4-inch fiberglass cone woofer, and employs an oval-shaped front-firing port below the woofer. The XB-10 provides on-board mounting capability, optional stands (model XFS), and a pair of 5-way binding posts mounted very crisply into the back of the cabinet within a flush-mounted, rectangular fitting. A small nit, but the placement of the binding posts doesn't lend itself to spade connections with thick wire; bananas are ideal. Measuring 10.8 inches high by 5.75 inches wide by 6 inches deep and weighing in at 6.5 pounds, the XB-10 offers a very compact footprint and some real heft for its small size. Quite simply, the cosmetics and fit and finish of the XB-10 must be seen to be believed. They look and feel like speakers costing much more, with the rock-solid front-to-back tapered cabinet extruded out of aluminum and featuring a brushed finish and gloss black accents that mimic the tapering outline. The grills blend seamlessly into the accent on the top, and the drivers and baffle look fantastic without them. Looking at the XB-10 across a crowded room, I immediately started leafing through my best pickup lines.
The XB-10 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with an 92dB efficiency. Despite its specs, though, the speaker needed good quality power to sound its best. It did sound very good, though, when powered by average power sources. It ahould be noted that despite the primary target market application for the Icon X series - flat panel displays within home theeater systems - this review consists of music-only evaluations as they offer the most neutral way of determining a speaker's true acoustic character (flame away).
The XB-10 threw a very deep, wide soundstage with good imaging properties. The horn tweeter had some typical zippiness and, despite its higher dispersion aspirations, some directionality. The speaker definitely offered a slightly smaller sweet spot than expected. The high end sounded very good on classical, acoustic, and jazz material, with a nice combination of smoothness and detail. On rock and electronic material, while still good overall, the blend went a little too far towards the edgy side. Moving downward, the midrange had a compressed quality that ran a bit out of step with the highs. The midrange didn't lack detail as much overall presence within the entire mix. The lower mids and upper bass picked up the slack, though, with a nice snappy punch that provided a nice fullness to a variety of music, especially rock and electronic music and even some classical tracks. The low bass offered good extension and some punch, with the porting providing very little mechanical noise. The bass held together very well overall, offering a nice complement to the hot top end and adding some great kick to rock and metal tracks. Overall, the XB-10 sounded good, but more as a sum of its parts than as a whole. The detailed but zippy highs and recessed midrange never quite jelled, and the very good bass performance just couldn't bring it all together. The XB-10's flaws don't stick out to the point of bringing the whole thing down, but, on the other hand, it lacks the last bit of coherence that would push it into some real musicality, transparency and an overall higher rating.
Read more about the performance of the XB-10 on Page 2.