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The devil and his details: Klipsch’s ‘The Sixes’ loudspeaker

  • Klipsch are one of the USA’s longest standing loudspeaker manufacturers. In their newly announced The Sixes loudspeaker set, a six and half inch mid/bass driver occupies pride of place in a 22cm x 43cm x 28cm, rear-ported enclosure. Handling treble augmentation is the company’s Taktrix horn-loaded one inch aluminium tweeter.

    The twist? The Sixes invite us to wave goodbye to outboard amplification and any corresponding loudspeaker wire. Volume goes up and down from the right’s loudspeakers front-baffle rotary. The amplification for both loudspeakers has been fitted inside the right-hand cabinet.

    Turn said right speaker 180° to see connectivity that underscore the Sixes’ inclusive spirit: phono/line-level analogue and TOSLINK/USB digital. Yes – a 24bit/192kHz-capable DAC and MM phono stage have also been included. A subwoofer output presents for those with a stronger addiction to bass.

    According to Klipsch’s promo material, The Sixes’ wood veneer has been specified in order to connote a mid-century modern aesthetic. What we have here then is a two-box hifi system for the modern, clutter-conscious apartment dweller. Price? US$799/pair.

    Klipsch may share Dynaudio’s hipster-aimed marketing visuals – a minimalist warehouse aesthetic and tattoos – but their loudspeakers differ in topology. The Danes describe theirs as ‘active’ but Klipsch say their master-slave configured speakers are ‘powered’. What’s the difference?

    A traditional passive loudspeaker houses a crossover network comprising resistors, inductors and capacitors. Its divvies up the signal between the loudspeaker’s drivers and it does so post-amplifierIn other words, the outboard amplifier drives the loudspeaker’s passive crossover network.

    Going active means putting cart before horse: the crossover before the amplification. This can be executed in one of two ways: either a) at the line-level with op-amps (a la Genelec) or b) in the digital domain using DSP (a la KEF LS50 Wireless or Dynaudio Focus XD).

    The upshot of an active crossover is that the amplifier/s – one per driver – are wired directly to the driver’s voice coil and their output can be tailored to the its input impedance swings. Ask any loudspeaker engineer: active crossovers are generally more effective in smoothing frequency response and correcting phase errors.

    A powered loudspeaker is less sophisticated in its amplifier-driver optimisation: the amplifier, although internal, still talks to each loudspeaker’s own passive crossover network. In the Klipsch Sixes, an umbilical carries the already-amplified signal from the mains-powered right box to the passive left.

    Alternatives from Audioengine and Vanatoo work in a similar manner. As per each manufacturer’s verbiage, theirs are powered loudspeakers, not active.

    All active loudspeakers are powered* but not all powered loudspeakers are active.

    And although falling into the latter category, we should remain mindful that powered loudspeakers like Klipsch’s The Sixes offer a substantial step up from your average Bluetooth handheld: a fuller sound with far greater dynamics (Klipsch’s stock in trade) and proper stereo separation. They look terrific to boot.

    If only we could convince marketing men not to promote the placing of loudspeakers and turntable on the same surface. If. Only. 😉

    Further information: Klipsch

    *Loudspeakers with external crossovers excepted.

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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