Summary: Klipsch follows up their Promedia 4.1 with a 5.1 THX certified system. Is the 5.1 just the same thing with an added center channel or did Klipsch come through with necessary improvements? Read our review and find out more!
I just got back from cryo
Unless you have been out of the computer scene for the last few years, are recently returning from an alien abduction, or were cryogenically frozen, you’ve heard about the Klipsch THX certified multimedia speakers. The original Promedia v2.400 was replaced by the ProMedia 4.1 with the ProMedia 2.1 as its baby brother. Things that then changed include an improved pre-amp with less gain, and thus lower noise levels, and a slight tweak of the satellite crossovers. Now we have the new ProMedia 5.1, which adds more power with a 500 watt BASH amplifier, and a larger sub with dual 8 inch drivers. There has been recent controversy about the power ratings for the ProMedias and whether or not the numbers are representative of true RMS power. Klipsch has recently been adding the words peak music power to these values. I will say that the power supplies of the Klipsch systems suggest that they would be capable of these numbers. The 5.1 can draw 5 amps from the wall; that’s 600 watts on our American mains.
What you get
The Klipsch Promedia 5.1 includes 4 matched satellites for your front and rear, a center channel that is designed to be used on its side, a tethered volume control module, and a large sub that houses all the amplification.
In addition, you get all the necessary cables to connect the speakers to the sub and the sub to your 5.1 source.
SIDEBAR: The founder of Klipsch, Paul W Klipsch passed away this year, at age 98.
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 25Hz-20kHz (range)
MAXIMUM BURST POWER OUTPUT: 500W Note: Simultaneously all amplifier channels driven
MAXIMUM ACOUSTIC OUTPUT: 113dB maximum at listening position
COVERAGE ANGLE: Near field design
DISPERSION ANGLE: 90° x 40° MicroTractrix™ Horn
OVERLOAD PROTECTION: Limiter circuit
ENCLOSURE TYPE: Satellites and center—sealed; Subwoofer—6th order bass reflex
AMPLIFIER: BASH®, dual supply
LOW PASS CROSSOVER: To satellites @ 120Hz
INPUTS: Six analog discrete channels (three stereo miniplugs)
OUTPUTS: Five speaker level outputs (spring clips)
TRANSDUCERS: 0.75 " metalized polymer tweeter and 3" fiber-composite midbass in satellites and center channel; dual 8" fiber-composite subwoofers
HIGH FREQUENCY HORN: MicroTractrix™ Horn
HIGH FREQUENCY CROSSOVER: 3000Hz
INPUT CONNECTIONS: DIN cable to control tower
SUBWOOFER: Dual 8" side-firing drivers
WIRE GAUGE ACCOMODATED: 18 gauge supplied; will accept 14 gauge
WEIGHT: System: 43.5 lbs. (19.73 kg) Satellites (each): 2.4 lbs. (1.09 kg) Center: 2.0 lbs. (.91 kg) Control Tower 1.0 lbs. (.454 kg)Sub woofer: 25.5 lbs. (11.57 kg)
DIMENSIONS: Satellite: 8.5" H x 4.2" W x 5.67" D Center: 8.5" H x 4.0" W x 4.75” D Subwoofer: 11.25” H x 11.875” W x 15” D
FINISHES: Gunmetal grey on satellites, matte black on subwoofer
ACCESSORIES: Rubber Feet attached to satellites and center
VOLTAGE: 120 Volt
MOUNTING: Wall Brackets (WB-1) available at Klipsch web store
FEATURES: Center channel has rear post angle adjustment for optimum positioning on top of various computer monitors
Any isolated set of numbers can be impressive, but with the Klipsch 5.1 all the numbers that the manufacturer gives is quite impressive. The 500 watts of BASH amplification, which they call “RMS equivalent” is class leading. BASH amplification technology is not just a gimmick and it is used in Klispch’s high-end Reference series subwoofers as well as in SV subwoofer’s PCi series. Basically, BASH is a type of digital amplifier that offers very high efficiency as well as very high output, in a compact form factor. The fidelity might not be as good as an old fashioned Class A or AB amp, but for use in subwoofers, the power is what matters.
Like the previous ProMedia’s the 5.1 continues to be THX certified. Klipsch sites these following criteria for reasons for their certification.
These criteria are not that unique to Klipsch, but they are consistent with a design that prioritizes performance. I should note that these speakers meet the THX certification for multimedia speakers, which is separate from the THX certification in theaters, THX Ultra 1/2 for home, or THX Select for home. The principles of THX are similar, but the requirements different.
SIDEBAR: Heavier speakers are often better speakers
The drivers in the new satellites also look different from the original ones. The dust caps are now inverted, and the tweeter is now a metallized polymer instead of just a polymer. That just means that there is a thin metal coating on the tweeters. So the new tweeters are shiny and silver in color instead of the black plastic from the old ones. This in theory could change the sound of the tweeter, but I could not attribute the differences I heard to these new drivers.
Klipsch stayed with the heavy duty metal stands that we loved, but changed the angle and shape just a bit. They also added some rubber bump-ons to the bottom of the stand by default. The new 5.1’s also sit a little lower than the 4.1’s and they also changed the plastic enclosure molds just a bit as well.
Do any of these satellite changes improve the sound? In theory. The metallized tweeters may be a little stiffer than the old ones, and may have less distortion when driven hard. The inverted dust cap could make the mid-bass a little stiffer as well, lowering distortion, and it doesn’t give your little cousins a target to poke their fingers into.
The rated power handling for the satellites are the same, but the new 5.1 has the upgraded crossovers from the original v2.400. The 2.1 and 4.1 also share this crossover upgrade.
SIDEBAR: There is a lot of money to be made in audio cables
In contrast to the previous generation ProMedia’s, the preamp inputs are now on the sub. Instead of first running your signal to the preamp and then to the sub, you now run your wires directly to the sub. Running the cables directly into the sub, where the amp is located reduces cable lengths and makes for better organization I think. Rather than having a large number of wires make their way into the control module and back down the the sub, you can more effectively hide the wires going directly into the sub. This is done using 3 stereo mini jack connections, one for the fronts, rears, with the sub and center sharing an input. More flexibility might have been gained with standard RCA plugs, but mini-jack to RCA stereo adapters are readily available. The mini-din jack on the back is for the new volume control module.
The new volume control module is much better than the old one. Instead of a tiny volume knob that looks like the balance and sub knobs, the new knob is bigger, with a nice tactile feel, and it is digital. A digital flywheel knob is one that you can keep turning. It is not directly coupled to a potentiometer like with the old design. Digital volume controls tend to avoid any static when turning, but at times you will here an audible click as the volume “steps” to the higher level instead of steadily increasing as with analog controls. The knob is designed to measure not just how much you turn the knob, but also how fast you turn it. When turning the knob faster, it will adjust the volume faster, a great feature when you have it turned up a little too much. The remote also includes a headphone jack that will automatically mute the system when it detects attachment of a headphone and an auxiliary input.
All new to the ProMedia 5.1, obviously is the center channel. Instead of just giving you a new grill to put on another satellite, Klipsch actually designed a new speaker. The center channel is designed to be put on its side, thanks to a 90 degree rotation of the micro-tactrix horn. Since the horn is what controls the dispersion of the tweeter, the center will more closely match the satellites. Klipsch also added a nifty angle adjustment for the center channel that allows you to angle the speaker to the listening area, helping to compensate for setups where the center channel would be above the monitor to some where it would sit below the monitor. Still, the drivers are matched and crossover are matched to the satellites, so you shouldn’t get a tonality shift as the sound pans around you.
SIDEBAR: THX is working on a 10.2 speaker setup that includes an height channel
With the volume up to neighbor-annoying levels, the volume of air coming out of the single subwoofer port was quite comical. Small pieces of paper beside the port could be sent flying and the air currents would travel a few feet to your sitting area as well. The bass was powerful and deep, bringing Pearl Harbor’s action sequences to life. You can really feel the bass. The sub could not be heard bottoming out at any point during the test. I did hear some “chuffing” or air turbulence noises at high volumes. The flaring of the port helps to reduce this turbulence, but the only real solution would be to make the port bigger and to add another one. The sub enclosure was very inert, with little vibration even at high volumes.
The 500 watts of power is advertised as maximum burst power and not RMS, despite the current draw from the wall. To be honest though, power ratings can be quite deceptive. Reservations about the Klipsch’s power reserves were definitively answered as the system kept playing louder and louder. The new Klipsch pre-amps are not as aggressive as the first gen systems as a major complaint then was excess noise, yet you could maintain volumes that would send OSHA to your home.
With musical sources, the Klipsch’s again did not disappoint, providing a clear soundstage and good detail for an all-in-one system. I think it beats many of the budget home-theater-in-a-box systems you find in major chain stores. The two-way design offers clearer highs then can be achieved with a full range driver.
The Klipsch 5.1 does not ship with a Dolby Digital or DTS decoder in the box. It is primarily a digital ready system with 5.1 inputs. Klipsch does offer a stand alone decoder that looks better than the other multimedia standalone decoders given its bass management (support for small vs large speakers.). This option shows that the decoder can be used with systems other than the 5.1, which does its own bass management internally. The decoder supports DTS, Dolby Digital, and Dolby Pro-Logic. This decoder would be needed to hook the Klipsch 5.1 to your PS2 or Xbox, or if your computer did not have a built in digital decoder.
SIDEBAR: Real heavy duty power amps often need a dedicated household line
During this time the competition has also increased with the very popular and affordable Logitech THX certified speakers making a strong showing. Yet, the Klipsch still remains fairly unique with its 5.1 system as the Logitech is currently only available in 4.1 form. Is the extra center channel worth all that money? Or would you be better off with other speaker sets from another company? The decision is up to you. Speakers for the computer are getting the point where you will really have to listen and see which sound you prefer. This is how home audio is, where the diversity of choices matches our own diversity of preferences.
Another option for the serious audio enthusiasts is to build a system around a budget receiver with some budget speakers. Can you do all that for the $400? Not really, but this would be a good option for someone looking for a single system for their home and a few more options.
If you were only interested in listening to music, and didn’t need a 5.1 system, the Klipsch isn’t targeted towards you. The Klipsch 5.1 is designed for the user who uses the computer for many audio functions, such as gaming, DVDs, or online music.
SIDEBAR: My first Klipsch v2.400 review was published September 26, 1999. The Dow closed at 10303.4 on September 27, 1999, the Nasdaq at 2761.75.
Bass - Great subwoofer. This sub is bigger than many subs you’ll find at your electronics store. The dual 8 inch drivers hit hard and low.
Price – this would be the biggest thing going against the Klipsch. It makes you may a premium for a premium product. At least is isn’t in the super audiophile class where a power cord can pay a quarter’s tuition in medical school.