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Klipsch The Three Review (Powered Speaker)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Klipsch The Three "lifestyle" stereo speaker and USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me months ago and I am just now getting to review it. :p It costs US $399 including Prime shipping on Amazon but I see it cheaper elsewhere.

The front pictures of The Three look nice and and bring that retro look:

Klipsch The Three Review Stereo Speaker DAC.jpg


But look on top and touch the controls and you immediately realize what a cheap and poor implementation this speaker is. The toggle switch is something you found in Radio Shack catalog and not any proper high-fi in 1970s. The volume control is rotary encoder with no indicator of volume that I could find. If you want to do retro, this should have been an analog volume control. The next knob is another rotary control to select inputs which works horribly with LEDs that are part lit and such indicating what input. To select RCA input, I had to select "phono" and then move a switch on the back to select line in:

Klipsch The Three Review Stereo Speaker USB DAC Phono.jpg


Back to the front, there are actually three speakers there. A woofer in the middle and a tweeter on each side of it. So the lower frequencies are played in mono while the higher are in stereo. This is not a bad compromise and is common in the industry. What was weird though was that the drivers are covered with wood and only have holes for sound to come through. Normally there is only the grill mesh to protect the drivers. Here you have both the holes and the grill for the sound to get through. Odd and certainly not what was common in 1970s except in plastic portable radios.

At some point while I was messing with the wifi switch in the back and such, some very loud static came out of the thing. So clearly there are design issues here.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I performed over 700 measurement which resulted in error rate of less than 1% below about 7 kHz. Above that the error shot way up due to me setting the reference axis to the woofer center, not the tweeter. This severely disadvantaged the NFS system in computing the sound field as the tweeter took over more of the duty. I picked the woofer because I incorrectly assumed this was a mono speaker and dual tweeters were used for some kind of spatial effect. I realized this was not the case after the fact but didn't want to put more wear and tear on the NFS system to measure it again.

Temperature was 68 degrees F.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Klipsch The Three Measurements
I usually lead my measurement section with the spin graph. This time, I am going to change and show the distortion graph as it gives you the in-room frequency response as well:

Klipsch The Three distortion versus Frequency Response Measurements Speaker DAC.png


Distortion is quite high but that we could have probably guessed. Pay attention tot he peaking near 20 kHz in top right of the frequency response. Now let's look at the spin graph:

Klipsch The Three Frequency Response Measurements Speaker DAC.png


That same peak is now heavily attenuated. This is due to the incorrect reference axis that I explained. So in your mind, add good few dBs of energy to anything above 8 kHz in this graph.

Clearly we do not have anything resembling proper tonality here. Company, predictably, has decided to boost the bass and highs with the mids heavily recessed. You would expect this from Klipsch but is this the competition in "smart" speaker category? I hope to find out soon by testing some of those.

Early window and predicted in-room response are horrid of course:
Klipsch The Three Early Window Frequency Response Measurements Speaker DAC.png



Klipsch The Three Predicted In-room Frequency Response Measurements Speaker DAC.png


Do we depress ourselves by looking at directivity and beam width plots? I guess we have no choic:

Klipsch The Three horizontal beamwidth Measurements Speaker DAC.png


Klipsch The Three horizontal directivity Measurements Speaker DAC.png


Klipsch The Three Vertical directivity Measurements Speaker DAC.png


Klipsch The Three Listening Tests
I did my listening tests in my near-field setup with the unit just 3 or so feet/1 meter from me. Without thinking I drove it in stereo as opposed to mono that I usually do. I must say, somehow your brain recalibrates and says, "this is a boombox so how does it sound compared to one" and the answer is that not so bad! It produces decent bass and with both channels playing in stereo compared to typical mono, there is a pleasant spatial effect.

I developed an EQ to see if the measurements were lying to me or not:
Klipsch The Three Roon Player Equalization EQ.png


Measurements were correct. The broad boost did wonders for clarity especially with female vocals. The somewhat shrillness of the highs improved a bit with that dip as well. These were quick and dirty EQ to test the hypothesis but shows conclusively how important it is to build a neutral speaker.

Story didn't end there though. I would often hear a buzzing sound that would come and go. At first I thought it was the EQ casing mild clipping but Roon player never complained and I caught it with EQ turned off. I put my ear closer and realized that the buzzing was from one side or the other. So disconnected one channel which showed the tonality issues more but more importantly brought out a serious design problem: when one channel is playing certain frequencies, a much more distorted version bleeds into the other channel! Think of cabinet buzzing except that I am 99% sure it is the driver actually playing this distorted crosstalk signal. It takes sufficient channel differential to hear the effect as the other speaker needs to be silent/low level for the buzz to be easily audible.

I switched the channel that was being driven to the other and the noise moved to the alternate driver showing this is electrical problem, not cabinet.

Conclusions
Other than getting the fabric covering right, there is not a thing I can say about the Klipsch The Three that would be a positive. It has a clearly faulty electronic design fault. And super awful objective tonal results. I don't care for the controls either. For casual listening in near-field if the static doesn't come through, it doesn't sound too bad. So I can see some appeal to it if you have low standards of a boombox.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend the Klipsch The Three unless you are just buying it for decoration.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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MZKM

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Note: Incorrect reference axis used (upper treble not as recessed)

Preference Rating
SCORE: 3.0
SCORE w/ sub: 4.7

Frequency response: +/- 23.3dB 80Hz-20kHz

I’m on a houseboat on Lake Powell right now, so internet is spotty; will update with graphs when I can.
 
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abdo123

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Speaking of ‘smart’ speakers, have you received any soundbars?

there isn’t even one soundbar review out of the 150 speaker reviews and some high end LCR passive soundbars are claiming incredible performance.
 
OP
amirm

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OP
amirm

amirm

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Speaking of ‘smart’ speakers, have you received any soundbars?
I have not. We keep talking about them but I have not zoomed in on what to buy and test.
 

AudioSceptic

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Klipsch The Three "lifestyle" stereo speaker and USB DAC. It was kindly sent to me months ago and I am just now getting to review it. :p It costs US $399 including Prime shipping on Amazon but I see it cheaper elsewhere.

The front pictures of The Three look nice and and bring that retro look:

View attachment 132970

But look on top and touch the controls and you immediately realize what a cheap and poor implementation this speaker is. The toggle switch is something you found in Radio Shack catalog and not any proper high-fi in 1970s. The volume control is rotary encoder with no indicator of volume that I could find. If you want to do retro, this should have been an analog volume control. The next knob is another rotary control to select inputs which works horribly with LEDs that are part lit and such indicating what input. To select RCA input, I had to select "phono" and then move a switch on the back to select line in:

View attachment 132974

Back to the front, there are actually three speakers there. A woofer in the middle and a tweeter on each side of it. So the lower frequencies are played in mono while the higher are in stereo. This is not a bad compromise and is common in the industry. What was weird though was that the drivers are covered with wood and only have holes for sound to come through. Normally there is only the grill mesh to protect the drivers. Here you have both the holes and the grill for the sound to get through. Odd and certainly not what was common in 1970s except in plastic portable radios.

At some point while I was messing with the wifi switch in the back and such, some very loud static came out of the thing. So clearly there are design issues here.

Measurements that you are about to see were performed using the Klippel Near-field Scanner (NFS). This is a robotic measurement system that analyzes the speaker all around and is able (using advanced mathematics and dual scan) to subtract room reflections (so where I measure it doesn't matter). It also measures the speaker at close distance ("near-field") which sharply reduces the impact of room noise. Both of these factors enable testing in ordinary rooms yet results that can be more accurate than an anechoic chamber. In a nutshell, the measurements show the actual sound coming out of the speaker independent of the room.

I performed over 700 measurement which resulted in error rate of less than 1% below about 7 kHz. Above that the error shot way up due to me setting the reference axis to the woofer center, not the tweeter. This severely disadvantaged the NFS system in computing the sound field as the tweeter took over more of the duty. I picked the woofer because I incorrectly assumed this was a mono speaker and dual tweeters were used for some kind of spatial effect. I realized this was not the case after the fact but didn't want to put more wear and tear on the NFS system to measure it again.

Temperature was 68 degrees F.

Measurements are compliant with latest speaker research into what can predict the speaker preference and is standardized in CEA/CTA-2034 ANSI specifications. Likewise listening tests are performed per research that shows mono listening is much more revealing of differences between speakers than stereo or multichannel.

Klipsch The Three Measurements
I usually lead my measurement section with the spin graph. This time, I am going to change and show the distortion graph as it gives you the in-room frequency response as well:

View attachment 132977

Distortion is quite high but that we could have probably guessed. Pay attention tot he peaking near 20 kHz in top right of the frequency response. Now let's look at the spin graph:

View attachment 132979

That same peak is now heavily attenuated. This is due to the incorrect reference axis that I explained. So in your mind, add good few dBs of energy to anything above 8 kHz in this graph.

Clearly we do not have anything resembling proper tonality here. Company, predictably, has decided to boost the bass and highs with the mids heavily recessed. You would expect this from Klipsch but is this the competition in "smart" speaker category? I hope to find out soon by testing some of those.

Early window and predicted in-room response are horrid of course:
View attachment 132980


View attachment 132982

Do we depress ourselves by looking at directivity and beam width plots? I guess we have no choic:

View attachment 132983

View attachment 132984

View attachment 132985

Klipsch The Three Listening Tests
I did my listening tests in my near-field setup with the unit just 3 or so feet/1 meter from me. Without thinking I drove it in stereo as opposed to mono that I usually do. I must say, somehow your brain recalibrates and says, "this is a boombox so how does it sound compared to one" and the answer is that not so bad! It produces decent bass and with both channels playing in stereo compared to typical mono, there is a pleasant spatial effect.

I developed an EQ to see if the measurements were lying to me or not:
View attachment 132986

Measurements were correct. The broad boost did wonders for clarity especially with female vocals. The somewhat shrillness of the highs improved a bit with that dip as well. These were quick and dirty EQ to test the hypothesis but shows conclusively how important it is to build a neutral speaker.

Story didn't end there though. I would often hear a buzzing sound that would come and go. At first I thought it was the EQ casing mild clipping but Roon player never complained and I caught it with EQ turned off. I put my ear closer and realized that the buzzing was from one side or the other. So disconnected one channel which showed the tonality issues more but more importantly brought out a serious design problem: when one channel is playing certain frequencies, a much more distorted version bleeds into the other channel! Think of cabinet buzzing except that I am 99% sure it is the driver actually playing this distorted crosstalk signal. It takes sufficient channel differential to hear the effect as the other speaker needs to be silent/low level for the buzz to be easily audible.

I switched the channel that was being driven to the other and the noise moved to the alternate driver showing this is electrical problem, not cabinet.

Conclusions
Other than getting the fabric covering right, there is not a thing I can say about the Klipsch The Three that would be a positive. It has a clearly faulty electronic design fault. And super awful objective tonal results. I don't care for the controls either. For casual listening in near-field if the static doesn't come through, it doesn't sound too bad. So I can see some appeal to it if you have low standards of a boombox.

Needless to say, I cannot recommend the Klipsch The Three unless you are just buying it for decoration.

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
Are we expecting too much for an all-in-one at this price? <https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/klipsch-the-three-review/>
 

Billy Budapest

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I have not. We keep talking about them but I have not zoomed in on what to buy and test.
B&O has a nice range. Sonos is probably the standard bearer right now. The Homepod was until Apple discontinued it and Info not think the Homepod Mini is an acceptable substitute.
 

taisho

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I have not. We keep talking about them but I have not zoomed in on what to buy and test.
rtings.com tested a lot of soundbars, so filtered by the price it should give some idea of bargain quality ones.
 

abdo123

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I have not. We keep talking about them but I have not zoomed in on what to buy and test.

https://www.wisdomaudio.com claims that deviations across the frequency range are ± 2dB relative to the target curve on almost all of their soundbars.

they 'seem' competently designed, somewhere in between audiophoolery and engineering based designs. perhaps you can give it a look and consider testing some?

Sorry if this is too off-topic for this review, but the Speaker doesn't seem to have too much Thunder to steal.
 

dfuller

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index.php


I don't know why but the "beamwidth = ???" made me laugh.

This is impressively awful, though.
 
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amirm

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martijn86

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The naming makes it seem as if it is part of the 'The Fives', 'The Sixes' line but they didn't seem to be as bad as this (great even with EQ). This might as well be a $20,- Bluetooth speaker, repackaged with retro Klipsch styling.
 

AudioSceptic

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Speaking of ‘smart’ speakers, have you received any soundbars?

there isn’t even one soundbar review out of the 150 speaker reviews and some high end LCR passive soundbars are claiming incredible performance.
I seem to remember that Yamaha kicked off the soundbar thing over here. Are they still the ones to beat?
 

beagleman

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The naming makes it seem as if it is part of the 'The Fives', 'The Sixes' line but they didn't seem to be as bad as this (great even with EQ). This might as well be a $20,- Bluetooth speaker, repackaged with retro Klipsch styling.


I just listened to literally about a dozen bluetooth speakers, and $20.00 gets you VERY bad sound. This is more comparable to about a $149.99-$200.00 bluetooth speaker.
 

q3cpma

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Fun thing to test. A few seconds after reading it, I realised that the price was for one only, and that really hurt. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir, but it's the ultimate irony that the people who bought quite expensive HiFi decades ago are now intentionally regressing to mono.
 

martijn86

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I just listened to literally about a dozen bluetooth speakers, and $20.00 gets you VERY bad sound.

Oof sorry man. I was thinking about price to build because the backside looks like there are just a few generic audio boards inside. See AliExpress on 2.1 amplifier boards for <$10,- and Bluetooth receiver boards for under $2,-.
 

hardisj

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Above that the error shot way up due to me setting the reference axis to the woofer center, not the tweeter. This severely disadvantaged the NFS system in computing the sound field as the tweeter took over more of the duty. I picked the woofer because I incorrectly assumed this was a mono speaker and dual tweeters were used for some kind of spatial effect. I realized this was not the case after the fact but didn't want to put more wear and tear on the NFS system to measure it again.
This is due to the incorrect reference axis that I explained. So in your mind, add good few dBs of energy to anything above 8 kHz in this graph.

I hesitated posted this but, man, it just seems like a bad look to your repertoire to have a set of data where you (knowingly) improperly tested a speaker and then still provided data on it. I'm not looking for a debate, just expressing my concern.

That said, this is easy to fix: you can adjust the reference axis and reference point in post and re-run the field identification and CEA-2034 modules to provide the data based on the tweeter axis. Which means you won't have to re-run the measurements. Just click the checkbox for "Edit Parameters" and then adjust as needed. I've had to do this a couple times so I'm speaking from unfortunate experience. :)


1622492844935.png
 
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