Klipsch R41 PM Powered Speakers Review
Time to get (horn) loaded
What is the R41 PM?The Klipsch R41 PM is a two-way powered speaker of a type that has become increasingly popular in recent years. As the shape of our systems changes in response to different items being classed as source equipment, the powered speaker has enjoyed a rise to prominence. The simplified cousin of a true active speaker, the powered speaker is usually based on an existing passive model - as is the case here.
We’ve seen some strong products in this field over the years and there has been a commensurate rise in true active models as well but Klipsch ought to have a small advantage in this field. For starters, they’re not exactly inexperienced in the business of making speakers with over sixty years of product behind them (and some of their models have been in production pretty much the entire time). They also have enough experience with the electronics side of the equation to suggest that they should be OK there too.
No less important in a crowded market is that the company also employs some distinctive and characterful design technology in their products that ensure that they don’t come across as a 'me-too' undertaking. When you combine that with a specification list that is - as we shall come to see - impressively extensive, the omens are good for the R41 PM - is the reality just as satisfying?
Specification and DesignAs the slightly convoluted name suggests, the R41 PM is an evolution of an existing passive speaker. If you like the sound of the driver technology and the appearance, you can have a pair of passive R41s for a very reasonable £220. Both models use the same cabinets and driver technology and this is extremely distinctive. The mid-bass unit is a 4-inch unit (this measurement covers the diaphragm only and other brands would happily describe this unit as a 4.5-inch design) made from a material that Klipsch calls IMG - short for injection moulded graphite. This is a slightly different take on the business of making drivers light and stiff and is relatively uncommon in the industry. Klipsch is clearly a big fan of them though as they now crop up in almost every range the company makes.
The tweeter is more unusual still though and a real company hallmark. The driver itself is normal enough - a 1-inch aluminium dome of a basic design seen in plenty of rivals. The manner in which Klipsch employs it is rather different though. The tweeter is set well back inside a square ‘Tractix’ horn that has been part of the Klipsch design philosophy for decades. This turns the tweeter into a compression driver that makes use of the horn aperture to correct the difference in air pressure loading between the driver and the air in front of it. In the early days of ‘Hi-Fi’ as a concept, this was more than an abstract novelty. It greatly increased the efficiency of the speaker which was a boon when the low output of the amplifier of the period was taken into account.
In the R 41 PM, of course, this sensitivity is less vital as Klipsch has ensured that you have enough amp at your disposal to get the headroom you want out of them. In this case, the amp is a 35-watt unit that compares favourably with similarly priced rivals (the other figure of 140w is some form of largely meaningless PMPO figure). As the Klipsch is a powered rather than an active speaker, this amp acts on a crossover rather than directly on the drivers. As is the case with many speakers of this configuration, the amp is a stereo unit mounted in one of the cabinets which powers a completely passive second speaker via a run of speaker cable.
What is particularly notable about the Klispsch though is the inputs available. When I’ve reviewed products of this nature before, I’ve often wound up going “it would be useful to have connection x or y.” The good news in this instance is that Klipsch seems to have taken this as a challenge. The R41 PM has a USB-B connection, an optical input, Apt-x Bluetooth, 3,5mm stereo and a line input. This line input can, in turn, be switched into a moving magnet phono stage. There is additionally a mono pre-out for a subwoofer. Effectively, the Klipsch can support a fairly significant selection of inputs in its own right and strengthens its case for being used as an alternative for an affordable stereo amp and speakers.
Aesthetically, the Klipsch is, well, unmistakeably Klipsch. The company has two design ‘languages’ and neither of them changes especially quickly. The Heritage speakers are - as the name suggests - little altered from their debut in the fifties and sixties. The R 41 belongs to the more modern line of product but even here, the impression is a very retro one. Rounded cabinets, soft-touch materials and sheen finishes might have their advocates elsewhere but none of them has been able to make an impression on Klipsch. This is a very traditional looking speaker.
This being said, I really like it. The R 41 PM exudes a pleasing combination of no-nonsense performance and a sense of being a little different. The horn assembly for the tweeter gives them an aesthetic that is different to their rivals (and it is helped by the fact that it is entirely functional than a spurious decoration) and the bronze finish on the IMG driver helps to liven up the aesthetic considerably. It’s also well made for the asking price. There’s a sense of robustness to the way it hangs together that is vaguely pro audio but with sufficient niceties to work in a domestic setting.
No less useful for anyone starting out is that as well as a mains lead, Klipsch supplies a USB cable, a run of speaker cable and some rubber feet which will give you a little isolation if not using the stands. There is also a remote control for driving them as a system. It’s hard to argue that this is a lot of equipment for your £400.
Aesthetically, the Klipsch is, well, unmistakeably Klipsch
How was the R 41 PM tested?The Klipsch’s were placed on a pair of Soundstyle Z60 stands and connected to one another by a run of Audioquest CV6 speaker cable. Source equipment included a Melco N1A and Lenovo T560 ThinkPad into the USB connection, an LG 55B7 OLED into the optical input and a Yamaha WX-AD10 into the 3.5mm connection. Bluetooth was tested via a Sony Xperia XA2 and an Essential PH-1. The phono stage was tested via a Gert Pedersen modified Michell Gyrodec with SME M2-9 arm and Goldring 2500 moving iron cartridge. Material used has included lossless and high res FLAC and AIFF, Tidal and Deezer, broadcast TV and Netflix and some vinyl.
Sound QualityInitial testing on the Klipsch ran into a bit of a snag when the USB input refused to play nice with the driverless USB 3.0 connection on the Melco. It was impossible to get sustained playback from it. This wasn’t an issue with the ThinkPad though and the Klipsch is likely to find itself connected to rather more laptops than it is audiophile NAS drives.
With this out of the way, the most interesting and noticeable aspect of the performance is the bass. Technically, there isn’t very much of it. Klipsch quotes a lower roll off of 76Hz which would barely qualify as ‘bass’ but the reality of listening to the R 41 PM for any length of time is that this relatively diminutive speaker generates a genuine sense of bass even if this isn’t the sort of thing you reach for to rearrange your internal organs. Some of this is down to the use of what Klipsch describes as ‘Dynamic Bass EQ’ and then provides precious little further information on. The idea seems to be that the output of the lower frequencies is ‘shaped’ (for which almost certainly read ‘augmented’) to better match what your ear is expecting to hear. While it’s possible to take an absolutist view about this sort of thing, it does seem to work.
The performance of the upper registers is free of any sense of manipulation but are no less distinctive for it. The horn loaded tweeter does a lot of work in the R 41 PM - it crosses over at an exactingly specific 1.76kHz - and it does so with an undoubted character. There is an effortlessness to the way that the Klipsch deals with voices, strings and piano keys that is something that becomes appealing quickly. It is a fairly forward sounding unit - I suspect that it is probably possible to make its passive relative sound rather bright with the wrong amplification choices but here the result is well balanced and lively.
It’s also fun. The Klipsch powers through the joyous People Give In by the Manic Street Preachers with a feeling of boundless energy and rhythmic assurance. It isn’t the last word in fine detail and tonal richness- although playing the same material via the Yamaha WX-AD10 into the analogue input suggest that at least some of this can be laid at the door of the digital decoding rather than any limitation of the speaker section of the Klipsch. This is a speaker that wants to engage you and get the head nodding over and above the need to tell you what colour underpants the lead vocalist happened to wearing that day.
Where this seems to have its greatest success is via the phono stage. I’m not completely sure what I was expecting from a circuit buried in the cabinet of a speaker but combining it with a speaker as fundamentally ebullient as the Klipsch makes for an entertaining listen. Jon Allen’s Get What’s Mine is a groovy track at the best of times but here there is an audible swagger to it. Can you get a more ‘Hi-Fi’ experience from £400 of carefully chosen amp and speakers? Undoubtedly. Will the resulting performance be hand on heart more entertaining than this one? Unlikely.
Not everything is quite so accomplished. The Bluetooth is Apt-X enabled but can sound a little on the soft side even with suitably equipped partnering devices and the stability of the transmission - isn’t absolutely rock solid (which it was when the Yamaha AD10 placed on top of the speaker was tried instead). Something else which is slightly unusual is that the Bluetooth volume that appears on the device is not an actual volume control, but does instead alter the level of the Bluetooth input on its own - which can catch you unawares when you change inputs. If Bluetooth is likely to be your main point of connection, this could be an issue, but for people who want to make use of it from time to time, it is certainly good enough.
As a means of augmenting a TV, however, the Klipsch is a rather stronger proposition. Like all products of this nature, it has a natural advantage over the majority of soundbars and plinths in that it generates stereo width as a side effect of the design. This makes for a more naturally immersive listening experience and one that partners well with the fundamentally upbeat nature of the presentation. Voices are always easy to follow and the Klipsch deals with the upbeat insanity of Cowboy Bebop extremely well. As a means of boosting the output from your average flatscreen, the Klipsch will do a more than reasonable job.
Can you get a more ‘Hi-Fi’ experience from £400 of carefully chosen amp and speakers? Undoubtedly. Will the resulting performance be hand on heart more entertaining than this one? Unlikely.
- Big, confident and entertaining sound
- Excellent connectivity
- Extremely good value
- Some test issues with the USB input
Klipsch R41 PM Powered Speakers ReviewThe Klipsch R 41 PM is not an objectively perfect speaker but I’m pretty sure that even a fully paid up Klipsch employee might accept that. It isn’t always the most refined or detailed performer going and it has a few operational quirks. This has to be balanced against the ultra-competitive price you can buy it for, the impressive range of functions it can fulfil and the levels of joy it can generate while it does it. The Klipsch is a piece of equipment that is primarily concerned with you enjoying yourself. That it succeeds as admirably as it does in this aim is enough to ensure that this distinctive but very likeable powered speaker earns our recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £400.00
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
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