Klipsch R-41M Speaker System Review

Build Quality
Build Quality
PRICE $996 (as tested)

Dynamic and lively sound
Good stereo and surround sound imaging
Requires careful setup for best performance
Basic black finish only

Klipsch’s R-41M speaker system amply demonstrates how a 5.1 surround package can outperform a same-priced soundbar. Enthusiastically recommended for both movies and music.

Putting together a home theater system on a limited budget can be a daunting task. That's why so many people instead take the easy route and buy a soundbar to handle audio. Sure, a one- or two-box (with subwoofer) solution is simple to shop for and a snap to hook up, but what about the sound quality? With soundbars, the amplifiers, speakers, and signal processing are all designed to work together in an integrated unit, so it's often possible to squeeze surprisingly big and powerful sound out of the bar's tiny drivers. But even though soundbars have improved significantly over the years, you can't escape the fact that most are attempting to deliver an enveloping experience from a single point in the room. Processing and various acoustic tricks are often used to steer the sound, and it's that trickery that imposes limitations on basic sound quality. So, while soundbars win hands- down when it comes to convenience, it's been my experience that a more conventional multi- speaker system based around an A/V receiver will always provide superior performance.

To prove this claim, I decided to seek out one the most affordable full 5.1 surround speaker packages I could find—this one from Klipsch. Klipsch's more than 70 years of dedication to horn-loaded driver technology makes its speakers a perfect choice for the type of system


I had in mind. The R-41M bookshelf speakers ($199/pair) that I selected for the front left/ right and surround channels are pretty tiny, but the Tractrix horn tweeter they use makes them relatively efficient and an easy load for an amplifier—an important consideration given the modest surround receivers that the speakers are likely to be paired with in an entry-level system.

Small speakers can be voiced to deliver decent bass, although doing so requires tuning the crossover in a way that makes them less sensitive and thus harder to drive. Designing a mini-monitor that's both efficient and offers good bass seems to break the rules, but Klipsch has pulled it off with the R-41M. A ported design with a rated 90-dB sensitivity and 8-ohm impedance, the R-41M can play plenty loud without requiring much power, and its specified 68-Hz bass extension means you can just about get away without using a subwoofer. The key to the R-41M's sensitivity appears to be its horn-loaded tweeter.


Klipsch's R-52C center speaker ($249) also uses the same tweeter, but it was designed to a slightly different design brief, with maximum efficiency as the goal. The result is that, despite having two larger woofers and a much bigger sealed box, the R-52C has notably more limited bass extension and a full 5-dB higher sensitivity than the R-41M. At 95 dB, its sensitivity is super-high for any speaker—especially one so small—meaning that the R-52C is able to play seriously loud with just a minimal amount of power.

When you think about it, Klipsch's design choices all make good sense. A mini-monitor like the R-41M can be deployed in different ways: as a stereo pair, but also in a home theater rig, as I used it. To work in the former role, it needs to be able to hit low notes. But a center speaker like the R-52C will be part of a surround sound package, where there inevitably will be a subwoofer to pick up the bottom end. In a typical surround audio mix, the center channel carries the bulk of the dialogue and action, so tuning the center speaker for maximum efficiency allows the entire system to play louder, with less distortion and greater dynamics.


To deliver maximum bang for the buck, Klipsch pared down the features and connections of its R-100SW subwoofer ($349) to a bare minimum and put the focus on performance. To that end, there's no wireless connection, speaker-level inputs, remote control, or low-voltage trigger. What it does have is a line-level input, a simple low-pass filter (that can be bypassed by turning its control dial up to the maximum setting), and a phase switch. It also features a forward-firing 10-inch version of Klipsch's distinctive spun-copper woofer powered by a 300-watt (peak) class-D amplifier, all housed in a stout MDF cabinet.

As you might expect given the R-41M system's price point, there aren't any fancy wood finish options. Each cabinet is a square- edged box wrapped in black wood- grain vinyl, with a medium gray vinyl used for the front and back surfaces. The speaker's included grille covers attach magnetically and have an open-weave black fabric and a copper-colored Klipsch badge that provides a bit of a retro look. Each speaker has a single pair of decent-quality five-way binding posts for a cable connection.