Klipsch The Fives Powered Speaker System Review Page 2

Regardless of what track was playing, my attention was always drawn to the bass, which was rich and powerful for speakers only a foot tall. These puppies are voiced to accentuate the lows, which is good and maybe not-so-good. Good because, hey, who doesn’t love to feel the music — McCartney’s iconic bass line on “Come Together” from the super deluxe anniversary edition of Abbey Road (in this case, a 96/24 download) sounded just right — shockingly so. Not-so-good because The Fives have no tone controls if you want to dial it back. The system is, however, equipped with dynamic bass equalization, which works like a loudness control, boosting the bass when the volume is low. I found the effect to be subtle but, either way, you can turn it off if you want to.

The bass could be a bit overpowering on some tracks so I was curious to see how the speakers would perform in a larger space that allowed them more room to breathe. It was a fruitful decision. The bass was still powerful — impressively so — but not at the expense of the midrange, which I felt was getting stepped on in the smaller space.

I pulled up the Tidal app on my phone and played Somewhere Down the Crazy River from Robbie Robertson’s 1987 self-titled solo album in HiFi (CD) quality. It's a fantastic recording. The Fives projected a cavernous soundstage — the perfect backdrop for Robertson’s deep, mysterious voice, Tony Levin’s melodic bass lines, and those sparse drums thwacks. Everything was clear, distinct…and appropriately eerie.

Moving on to Tidal’s Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) playlist “Rock: Best of 2020 So Far,” I focused on new tracks from a host of artists, many released during the COVID lockdown. Among them was the raucous title track from The Pretenders’ Hate for Sale featuring an in-your-face Chrissie Hynde sounding as good as she ever did, the Rolling Stones at their classic best performing “Living In A Ghost Town,” and Pearl Jam’s guitar-driven “Superblood Wolfmoon” from the new album Gigaton. I was not disappointed. Streaming quality was excellent, even though my Samsung Galaxy S10+ doesn’t decode MQA.

Johnny Depp’s expressive vocals on John Lennon’s "Isolation," backed by Jeff Beck’s haunting slide guitar, was a standout on Tidal (who knew Jack Sparrow could sing like that). The Fives were particularly adept at revealing the gentle vibrato of Depp’s voice, while conveying the gritty yet fluid character of Beck’s guitar.

To gauge The Five’s ability to convey the subtleties of a live acoustic performance, I cued up the 192/24 FLAC download of “Jeep’s Blues” from 1977’s Jazz at the Pawnshop, an audiophile favorite and one of my go-to test tracks. As I closed my eyes, it was easy to imagine sitting in a small club close to the stage. The ambience was lifelike and the instruments sounded real, especially the reedy saxophone and mellow vibes. I also cued up a 96/24 download of Linda Ronstadt’s Greatest Hits, featuring remastered versions of her most popular songs, and was quickly spellbound by her effortless singing — sweet on “Blue Bayou,” raw on “You’re No Good." I also reveled in Waddy Wachtel’s searing solo on Warren Zevon’s “Poor Poor Pitiful Me.” His guitar sounded appropriately dry, trebly, and distorted — a perfect counterpoint to Ronstadt’s soaring vocals.

For the most part, I liked what I heard. And while volume was never an issue — The Fives can play plenty loud — harshness crept into the top end as the dial moved beyond 75% or so.

Vinyl Escapades
I don’t dig into my long-dormant record collection all that often so I eager to break out the vinyl so I could check out The Fives’ phono preamp, which Klipsch says is new and improved. I played a half dozen or so albums but paid particular attention to Sheffield Lab’s extraordinary 1980 direct-disc recording Growing Up in Hollywood Town, featuring singer/songwriter Amanda McBroom and pianist/composer Lincoln Mayorga. My old turntable is missing in action so I borrowed an inexpensive Sony table. The Old West style harmonica and tympani strikes on “Amanda” were realistic (and thrilling in the case of the tympani), though McBroom’s vocals sounded slightly veiled. I switched to an outboard phono preamp (the $129 Mani from Schiit Audio) and the sound brightened up a bit but the difference was pretty subtle. The inclusion of a phono preamp is a nice addition that makes it easy to spin LPs without having to worry about hooking up an outboard preamp.

Conclusion
If you’re looking for a versatile speaker system that’s compact and reasonably priced, the Fives deserve a serious look. They're impeccably built, look great, and will deliver pleasing sound with rich, powerful bass in almost any audio setup.

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COMMENTS
hk2000's picture

I always found he highs on horn loaded speakers from the like of Klipsch and JBL very hash and grating, but I haven't heard any in a very log time. Is there any reason to think things have changed?

Bob Ankosko's picture
Thanks for your comment. You really have to judge the sound for yourself so I encourage you to give them a listen if you can. In my judgement The Fives did not sound harsh or grating. Klipsch offers a 30-day return policy but you have to pay for shipping and handling if you don't like them. Best Buy carries Klipsch speakers but I don't know if this particular model is available in stores (it is online). Might be worth a call if there's a Best Buy (or other audio retailer) in your area.
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