Klipsch HD Theater 300 Page 2

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MUSIC AND MOVIE PERFORMANCE

Despite what it says in Klipsch's literature, the HD 300 is really not a head-banging system. The claimed "110dB Maximum Acoustic Output" is a bit of a stretch. That would be really, really, loud -- approaching the kind of levels you might hear at a Metallica gig. So, to test the HD 300's head-banging abilities, I gave Metallica's self-titled Black Album a spin, and slowly cranked it up in five-speaker stereo mode. With my trusty SPL meter sitting no more than 10 feet from any one speaker, I found that at around 95 dB (it's a logarithmic scale), the HD 300 sounded about ready to explode, so I pushed the volume no further. Still, 95 dB is much louder than most normal people would ever want to hear, so unless you have an especially large room, I don't see this as a limitation.

While it might now be the heaviest hitter, the HD 300 offers some genuine advantages over most other low-cost audio solutions. Most important, because it's a true 5.1 system with separate satellites, it can create the kind of "real theater" sound field that no soundbar or virtual surround setup can even hint at.

During a high-def Mets baseball broadcast from Citi Field in Dolby Digital 5.1, the HD 300's five essentially identical, sonically matched satellites delivered a fabulous sense of stadium ambience. Speed Racer on Blu-ray Disc provided another good demonstration of the system's capabilities, with sound effects shifting around the room without any jarring changes in timbre. The sub was able to deliver a pretty convincing rumble or thump when needed, although when it came to the deep musical-bass notes, it tended to emphasize some more than others. Dialogue always remained clear and easy to understand even if it lacked just a bit of the subtle detail and warmth I'm used to from my (20 times more expensive) reference speaker system.

To examine the HD 300's music-reproducing abilities, I listened to Little Feat's The Last Record Album. On "One Love Stand," conveying the simple yet deep and powerful bass line was easy work for the Sub 6, with the low end coming off as less muddy than when I watched Speed Racer. The drum sound was also clear and tight, although it lacked some of the snap and dynamic kick that I know this track can deliver.

BOTTOM LINE

A good thing about Klipsch's HD Theater 300 system is that as long as you don't push the subwoofer too hard, its faults tend to be mostly sins of omission rather than some glaring flaw that could become fatiguing over time. While not the biggest, baddest system around, it does its job competently. We've been complaining at Sound & Vision for some time that the built-in sound of many flat-panel TVs is truly awful. But, if you were to pair the HD 300 with an equally affordable receiver, you'd have an audio setup that's miles ahead of any TV or similarly priced soundbar. And its tiny size will have your friends asking where you hid the horns.

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