Test Report: Klipsch Gallery G-28 Speaker System

Flat-TV friendly speakers from a company best known for its horns. If your speakers are fat, what good does a skinny TV do? Speaker manufacturers have begun addressing that problem in the last year.

Three years ago, when most TVs were 4 inches thick, it was hard for engineers to make good-sounding speakers slim enough to match. Now that so many TVs are just 1 or 2 inches thick, flattening speakers to the thickness of TVs has become even more difficult. And for manufacturers that are wedded to particular technologies, the job can be tougher still.

Klipsch has been building speakers with horn tweeters since the company’s founding in 1946. That’s for good reason. A horn increases a tweeter’s efficiency. If the woofer is similarly efficient, you can drive a horn speaker to high levels with just a few watts of power. Also, the horn controls the tweeter’s dispersion, so the designer can achieve a smoother transition between the woofer and tweeter.

The problem for Klipsch’s engineers, who sought to retain the company’s trademark horn tweeter while making a speaker as slim as today’s typical flat-panel TVs, is that horns are deep. The engineers solved this problem by molding a tweeter horn right into the plastic enclosure of the new Gallery G-28 speaker. By flanking the horn tweeter with two tiny woofers, then reinforcing the little woofers’ bass with 4 slim passive radiators, KIipsch hoped to create a 2.4-inch-thick on-wall speaker that could match (or at least approach) the performance of a typical bookshelf speaker — all while retaining the traditional  Klipsch look and sound.

The same basic concept carries through the company’s entire Gallery line, which includes two smaller speakers (the G-16 and G-12), a three-channel sound-bar (the G-42), and a stereo speaker with an amp and Internet streaming built in (the G-17 AirPlay-enabled speaker). The G-28 is the flagship. It can be mounted vertically or horizontally, on a stand or attached to a wall, so you can use it for any channel of a surround sound system. Klipsch sent me a full 5.1 system with three G-28s for left, center, and right channels; two G-16s for surround; and an SW-310 subwoofer.

The G-16 is similar to the G-28 but 8.5 inches shorter and with a single tiny port on the side replacing the four passive radiators. The SW-310 is a compact 13-inch cube with a single 10-inch driver reinforced by dual 10-inch passive radiators and powered by a beefy 400-watt switching-type BASH amplifier. (For an extra $550, you can get the SW-311, essentially the same sub with a built-in automatic room equalizer.)

Many sound-quality issues can come into play when you smush your speaker down to a 2.4-inch thickness. Slim, small woofers have low output and lack deep bass extension, and the problem is exacerbated when you reduce the size of the enclosure to make it fashionably thin. And slim enclosures require the use of thin enclosure walls, usually made from plastic or aluminum; these can vibrate and produce unwanted sounds of their own. So fitting the horn into the 2.4-inch-deep speaker actually might have been the easy part.