Klipsch The Sixes Speaker Review. Mid-Fi at its finest.
The last time I reviewed an audio HiFi product was a few months back when I wrote about my love for the Devialet Phantom Gold system I purchased. That system is amazing, and rocks the house down. It can do so with grace, ease or all out grunt and force and remain composed while doing so. Many nights…yes, many nights I had a concert in my home thanks to those Gold Phantoms. Incredible. For many though, those are overkill and too expensive. What about if you just want a nice set of stereo speakers that do not break the bank yet offer you great sound and style/looks while allowing you to use almost any source? Speakers that are self powered to boot (NO AMP needed here)..and have no need for a dac, amp, or speaker cables?
Well, here you go. The Klipsch Sixes are one potential solution.
I recently saw this pair of Klipsch speakers that had a built in amp, and digital and analog inputs, just like the $6k Phantoms, but coming in at only $799, they were around $5500 less than the Phantom Golds with Dialog! No way these could sound good, right? Well, they LOOKED the part and in images that I saw online they appeared like classic Klipsch designs. They looked a bit mid century modern meets 1970’s. Wood, copper accents and inputs that range from USB to Optical to Analog RCA to mini jack and phono. These even have a phono stage built in (that is TRULY awful, add an external if you buy these for TT use) and are ready to rock and roll about 5 minutes after taking them out of the box.
Yep, $799 and you get a pair of powered active monitors that look classic and gorgeous, and can take almost any input you throw at it. Curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to see how a $799 pair of old school looking Klipsch could do against my mega wireless system, the Phantom Golds. I knew, I mean, I KNEW in my heart I would be disappointed (I have high end tastes for audio, and have been spoiled over the years with some amazing systems) but hey, I live for this stuff. So away I went and bought a pair of these SIXES from B&H Photo (LINK IS HERE) as they were the only shop that had them in stock when I wanted to take the plunge. (AMAZON ALSO SELLS THEM VIA PRIME HERE).
The speakers arrived and I took them out of the box. They looked GORGEOUS. WELL, They ARE gorgeous if you like the old school 70’s look (I do). I thought I went into a time machine and landed in 1976..smelling the new fresh scent of these speakers, seeing the classic grilles and design. It felt good. These were far from the modern day space age phantoms, and I thought “if they sound 1/4 as good as they look, I will keep them for my back room”.
So I took them out, and placed them where my Phantoms usually reside which is in my office/listening room. One issue right off the bat is that they can not sit on my stands due to the built in wooden stands on the speakers that are very wide and long and lean the speakers back a tad. So I set them on my table where my turntable resides about 4-5 feet apart though I did rig them for a bit on my stands and positioned them and the sound was much better, but they were not stable on the stands, so they went back to the table. They seem to like to be placed nice and wide apart, at least 7-8 feet.
1st Impressions after plugging in my nice $1500 Marantz TT15 with Virtuosos Cart into the built in phono input? AWFUL. They sounded flat, muffled, closed in and like $200 speakers hidden in a $800 fancy shell. I was sad. I wished for the best but next to my Phantoms these were just “Ick”. I mean, at this point I thought that if you are used to $200 speakers these would thrill you (that was my thought at the time) but I let them play for a bit, going through a few albums trying not to judge just yet. They were fresh out of the box after all, and I had ideas on how to make them sound MUCH better…
By the 4th album I was tapping my feet and rocking out without even realizing it. I said “Hey, these sound OK..for the money”
It’s a fact, our ears will get used to whatever sound we subject ourselves to with audio. So after a couple hours I was liking them more, but still not fully. They had a hollow muffled cardboard sound when using my turntable plugged directly in using the Klipsch built in phono pre amp. They must have thrown in a $2 pre amp in these figuring most would never realize what they were missing. Believe me, if you use these with vinyl you MUST use an external pre amp if you want MUCH better sound from your records.
I decided to use my $499 external tube based Vincent phono stage, and my Sonos system with my high end Audioquest Diamond optical cable. Instead of using the built in phono stage and bluetooth from my Mac, I hooked up the same setup I used for my Phantoms.
THIS CHANGED IT ALL.
Night and day, huge. When streaming from my Sonos using a cable that costs 2X more than the Sonos system itself, and $200 more than the speakers themselves, the speakers came alive. It WAS LIVE. The room was excited with energy. Gone was the muffled flat cardboard sound and instead a lively, high energy WOW sound came out. All of the sudden I had a teeny bit of soundstage, and the midrange went from garbage to so much better (a little throaty) than I could have expected. I say here in disbelief for a few moments. I then put on an album, and instead of going into the speaker’s built in stage I use my external phono stage and BAM, again, night and day. The treble opened up, the bass tightened and the mids were fleshed out and clean and the sound expanded a bit beyond the speakers. It all sounded great, and these speakers are some that rockers or even Jazz aficionados would love. They can rock out but at the expense of finesse. These are not delicate speakers when it comes to sound, as in you will not hear “things you never heard before”. For me, they took away some of the things I heard with my higher end systems and yes their looks matched the sound (1970’s). But they were good..direct, loud and with some nice thick thump as well as being a tad bit “in your face”. With electronic music, rock and roll or even metal they sounded good even though a tad bit of that hollow sound still existed. I kept having to tell myself “stop being picky, these were $800 not $6000”!!!
Wether jamming with some ZZ Top, Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails or BB King, they were sounding very pleasant and nothing was bothering me, as in, no harshness or brightness or muffled sound anymore.
So with that in mind, I enjoyed them more and more the longer I left them on. I did notice the bass was decent but not subwoofer deep, and as far as control, the bass was a little “loose”. But for this money, these sound much better than they have a right to sound. $800 is not cheap, but in the world of GOOD audio, HIGH end audio, $800 is nothing. Just look at my single digital optical cable I am using here (which took these to a NEW level)…that cost me $1000 and I used it with my more pricey systems. So $799 for these speakers is actually, quite cheap for what you get.
Now, do not get me wrong…these are not like the Phantom golds in any way, shape or form for sound quality or technological incredibleness but to be 100% honest here? Listening for 2 more hours with everything hooked up the right way? I could live with these for a while…easily. In fact, due to the cost of only $799 for an all in one nice setup, one would never have buyers remorse as so many do when spending $5 or $10k on HiFi. Keeping these I would never say ‘Oh man, I spent too much” and feel guilty. Instead I would be like “Wow, these were a great buy”. They even sound great outside of my listening room. Going into my living room while they play in my listening room they even fill that space as well, and sound full doing so. So for background listening they also sound great. Low volume can usually be a challenge on some lesser speakers. Many sound flat and tinny when the volume gets low but these sound full even at low volume. Never have I heard them sound thin or lacking in mid bass or bass. Sure, they will not plummet the depths of your albums and music but for what they cost and offer, they punch above their price point.
The sound is smooth yet full. The bass is plentiful yet while it does not go uber deep like the phantoms it has a nice mid bass that never muddles up the sound. There is no “chest kick” here and you do not feel the bass like with some systems, but they are decent and mostly provide the lower frequencies via a mid bass thump that gives the illusion of plentiful bass. Even so, these remind me of my high school days in the 1980’s and speakers I had back then. Though these are better than what I had back in my High School days. So overall, these rock out and sound great for the money and then some.
Many may think these would be bright – Klipsch has a way of bringing out the harshness in some of their speakers..USUALLY (It’s he HORNS that do that). Not here. These are on the warm side of neutral and pump out a powerful fat sound though there is something missing that I am used to hearing and I think it is the soundstage (not much of it) and imaging (no real imaging here) and air (no real air). They sound GOOD but not magical good and that is 100% how I had hoped they would be. I never expected anything audiophile here but I want to judge these for the cost they come in at, instead of comparing to others that cost much more. So….
While there is no ‘Magic” here with a huge soundstage or bringing in the artist to your room, or precise imaging, these speakers are a true bargain for what they cost. After listening for two days I would say that the max I would pay for these would be around $1299. Yet they are $799. They are gorgeous to look at and sound FANTASTIC for the cost as long as you do not use the built in phono stage for Vinyl. If you do expect muffled sound. If you use bluetooth instead of an optical or digital connection, you can also expect some lifeless sounding music and boomy bass. But hook up using a decent phono stage or a digital connection, even with a simple sonos setup and Spotify premium and you are golden.
These are staying in the Huff Household. In fact, they will be staying in my dedicated room for some time. I am digging the sound, the looks and the versatility and it offers up a change of pace from my usual. I may eventually move them to living room duty as they match my mid century modern cabinet and would be nice for occasional TT use out there. Classic. These sound CLASSIC but not fully 1970’s. They have some modern day sounds as well and overall, if you are NOT an audiophile you may think these are the best speakers you have ever heard or owned. A win in my book as you can not get ANYTHING close to what these sound like for $799. As per usual, these Klipsch can play LOUD and bring near concert type of sound levels to your room. The louder these go, they can tend to get brighter so they sound best at lower to mid volume.
BOTTOM LINE? If you want a pair of GOOD speakers under $1000 with an amp, and digital connections that you can use with wireless apps like Spotify, or even with Vinyl then look no further. BLUETOOTH IS HERE AS WELL! These are the ticket and is probably the coolest thing Klipsch has put out in many years. RUN To buy these, you will not be disappointed. These will be leagues above those $200 Klipsch best buy deals as the amp here is built in and matched to the drivers for best integration and sound. No mess, no globs of wires, no confusion. This is Mid-Fi at its finest. They can bring you back to the old days when you rocked out in your bedroom or they can bring newcomers who are attracted to vintage style. Either way, for the money these cost ($799) and the fact they take 5 minutes to set up, and come with a 20 FT long cable to attack them together (meaning you could separate these very wide if you needed) and everything you need is right there in the box (besides your music) these are a deal.
Back when I was 14-16 I listened to a ton of vinyl and loved the band KISS. I used to spin Alive II all day long sometimes, and would jam out at full volume with my then 100WPC system. For kicks I threw on my remastered Alive II vinyl and jammed these to a crazy loud volume. It took me back to those old days and from memory they sounded close to what I got back then. So yea, these sound a tad vintage but at the same time they sound a little but modern as well. They can rock out, they can do jazz, they can do soft or loud and they even make some poorly recorded 80’s music sound decent. They are a tad colored but so what, they are fun and meant to be. One can enjoy music with these and that is the most important thing.
These surprised me so much I am now curious as to what the Heresy III sounds like with a nice low wattage 300B amp…hmmmmm.
THE SIXES PROS AND CONS
- All in one, you get speakers, built in amps, dac and analog inputs.
- Gorgeous design and looks, mid century meets the 70s
- Price of $799 is great, and I would have paid a little more
- Comes with remote
- Can play LOUD to part level without distortion
- Overall enjoyable sound signature
- Good bass for size
- Noce magnetic grilles with Heritage logo
- Convenience is AWESOME. No speaker cables, amp, or anything fancy needed
- Out of the box to using them, FIVE minutes.
- Makes a great bedroom or office system
- Sound is a little hollow, warmer side of neutral
- When played very loud they can get shrill and thin
- Built in Phono Amp is AWFUL, use an external if possible for vinyl
- No soundstage, air or imaging…more direct sound
- On/Off switch/toggle may break after a while, it feels cheap.
- Metallic treble with some music
A Note: One other thing, these guys can play LOUD without any distortion. They rock my listening room to a level I can’t stand, and they never sound overly shrill or nasty though they do get a bit brighter when the volume goes high. They do not distort. They sound HUGE when cranked, so these would make AMAZING party speakers as well. The amps inside of these speakers seem very well matched. No cab rattle yet, nothing cheap feeling or sounding with these. FANTASTIC.
PS – Next up on the Audio Review block for me will be the KEF LS50 ACTIVE speakers. I used to own the LS50’s and they were phenomenal, and an audiophile speaker. Now in their powered form the bass goes much lower and the sound is supposedly even better than ever. So they will be coming in for review next. Stay tuned.