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Klipsch BAR 48 Soundbar Review

Horn-loaded sonics but limited features

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Klipsch BAR 48 Soundbar Review
SRP: £565.00

What is the Klipsch BAR 48?

The Klipsch BAR 48 represents the speaker manufacturer's latest foray into the soundbar market, with a 3.1-channel design that eschews features in favour of performance. Klipsch has been making soundbars since 2011, but the BAR 40 and BAR 48 are the first to incorporate aspects of the company's Reference range of speakers (such as the recently reviewed Klipsch Reference Premiere 5.1 system).

The new models represent a total refresh and reimagining of Klipsch's soundbar line-up, so they're more like active speakers with built-in amplification, wood cabinets, grilles, and exposed horn-loaded tweeters. The BAR 40 uses a 2.1-channel layout, while the BAR 48 has 3.1-channels. Both include a wireless subwoofer, but the BAR 48 is larger and capable of more power.

Klipsch has been pioneering the use of horn-loaded tweeters for over 70 years, constantly refining them so they can deliver improved sensitivity. As a result, the BAR 48 reviewed here should produce a superior sonic performance compared to similar soundbars, especially when those distinctive horn-loaded tweeters are combined with powerful amplification and an 8-inch subwoofer.

The BAR 48 really needs to perform acoustically, because its feature-set is fairly limited. Klipsch includes a backlit remote, but there's only one HDMI-ARC connection, and no support for object-based or even lossless audio. It's also not cheap and retails for £565 as at the time of writing (September 2019). At that price, the BAR 48 will face some stiff competition, so it had better sound good. Let's find out...

Design

Klipsch BAR 48
The Klipsch BAR 48 uses a fairly basic design, with a black rectangular box that measures 1211mm wide, making it ideal for TVs with screen sizes of 55-inches and upwards. Klipsch offers the choice of stand or wall mounting, but you'll need a fairly wide TV stand for the former, and at 73mm in height the BAR 48 might block the screen too. However, thanks to a pair of brackets at the rear, wall mounting couldn't be easier.

While the overall design is fairly simple, the front is dominated by a pair of exposed Tractrix horn-loaded tweeters. These are mounted inside a square horn assembly recessed into the front of the soundbar, and are designed to correct the difference in air pressure between the tweeter and the air in front of it, resulting in improved sensitivity and better dispersion.
Klipsch BAR 48
Horn-loaded tweeters are effective, but they're also something of an acquired taste when it comes to looks. If you like them that's great, but if not there's no grille to hide them with (or protect them for that matter). The tweeter's dark silver finish does at least add a touch of elegance amongst the minimalism, while a wrap around black fabric grille covers all the mid-range drivers (and a third Tractrix horn tweeter).

The soundbar is at least made of wood, which makes a nice change from plastic, and Klipsch includes interchangeable end caps to better match a room's decor. There’s no real display (aside from some LED indicator lights), but on the right of the soundbar in the brushed metal area above the tweeter, you'll find some basic controls for power, volume up/down, and source.
The minimalist design is dominated by a pair of Tractrix horn-loaded tweeters

Connections & Control

Klipsch BAR 48
The Klipsch BAR 48 has a very basic set of connections, located in a recessed area at the rear of the soundbar. There's a single HDMI-ARC (audio return channel) port, an optical digital audio input, and a 3.5mm analogue input. There's no support for eARC (enhanced ARC), but given the BAR 48 doesn't support lossless audio that's largely moot.

There’s also a USB port for firmware updates, a connector for an IR extender, and a subwoofer output. The latter allows you to upgrade the wireless sub with a wired one if you feel the need, or even run dual subs. There's limited space in the recess, especially when you also have to fit the two-pin power cable in there as well, so those using thick cables might struggle. The only wireless connection is Bluetooth.
Klipsch BAR 48
Aside from the basic controls on the BAR 48 itself, the main method of operation is the included full-size remote. Here at least Klipsch hasn't felt the need to be basic, and the remote includes a backlight. It offers all the buttons you’ll need to effectively control the soundbar – such as power, volume, and the various inputs, along with mute and a button for turning off the LED indicator lights. You can also adjust the subwoofer level, and select the Dialogue, Surround, and Night modes.
The remote control is well-designed and effective, but the connections are very basic

Klipsch BAR 48 Features & Specs

Klipsch BAR 48
The Klipsch BAR 48 uses a 3.1-channel speaker configuration, with the three front-firing speakers composed of three 1-inch soft dome tweeters mated to a Tractrix horn, and four 3-inch oval fibre composite cone woofers. The soundbar has a dedicated centre speaker, which should ensure dialogue remains clear and focused on the screen.

The BAR 48 comes with a separate wireless subwoofer that has been designed to handle the lower frequencies thanks to an 8-inch downward-firing driver and a bass port. It's also made of wood, sits on four feet, measures 302 x 410 x 410mm (WxHxD), and has a build quality that essentially matches the main unit, combined with a simple matte black finish.
Klipsch BAR 48
The system as a whole has a combined 440W of amplification that drives all the speakers and the subwoofer. Klipsch has included three sound modes: Dialogue for increased vocal clarity; Night for reduced dynamic range when you need to keep things quiet; and Surround to virtually create the effect of rear speakers. The company also plans to add DTS Virtual:X via a USB firmware update.

The BAR 48 can decode lossy Dolby Digital and DTS formats up to 5.1 channels. However, if you want to create a genuine 5.1-channel system, you need to buy the optional SURROUND 3 rear speakers for £265 (these connect using a dedicated USB wireless transmitter). There's no lossless Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MA decoding, nor is there any object-based audio support.
The feature-set is limited, with the emphasis very much on sound quality

Setup & Operation

Klipsch BAR 48
The Klipsch BAR 48 is designed as a ‘plug and play’ solution that quickly and simply upgrades the built-in audio of your TV. All you need to do is simply pop the soundbar down in front of your TV, attach the provided HDMI cable to the HDMI-ARC input on your TV, and then plug-in the soundbar and the subwoofer using the provided power cables.

The sub should wirelessly connect to the soundbar automatically and, once connected, a blue LED glows at the back of the sub (it's quite bright, so I'd recommend covering it with a piece of electrical tape). The soundbar comes with dark grey end caps fitted, but if it suits your room better you can switch them for included dark wood ones instead. There's a pair of brackets at the rear for those wishing to wall mount.
Klipsch BAR 48
If your TV doesn't support HDMI-ARC, then you can connect the BAR 48 using optical digital instead. The only wireless connection is via Bluetooth, but if you want to stream music all you need to do is pair the soundbar with your Bluetooth device. The soundbar has LED indicators for ARC, Dolby, Surround, Dialogue, and Night; along with vertical LED indicators for volume. All these indicators can be dimmed or turned off completely.

For testing, I connected the following devices to my TV: Panasonic DM-UB820 UHD Blu-ray player, an Apple TV 4K and a Humax FVP-5000T set top box. I then connected my LG 65C9 to the BAR 48 using HDMI-ARC (Audio Return Channel), allowing me to send audio from the three connected sources, along with audio from the TV's built-in tuner and video streaming apps to the soundbar. I paired an iPhone X via Bluetooth, allowing me to stream music from Spotify.
Klipsch has designed the BAR 48 to be 'plug-and-play', making it simple to set-up and use

Performance

Klipsch BAR 48
The Klipsch BAR 48 is designed to deliver a wide front soundstage, with the emphasis on detail, depth, and power. It certainly succeeds in this ambition, with a well-defined acoustic quality that clearly benefits from the use of horn-loaded tweeters. The three front channels are perfectly balanced, while the effective subwoofer is nicely integrated into the system as a whole, resulting in a performance that boasts a natural sound, a solid mid-range, and plenty of power.

Klipsch knows how to make speakers, and has leveraged its knowledge to create a soundbar that often sounds more like a high quality pair of speakers. The width allows for plenty of stereo separation, and the well-designed woofers and Tractrix tweeters ensure that the mid-range and higher frequencies are expertly delivered. The sub delivers a solid bass foundation, and the wooden cabinet provides a depth and richness that results in a system with excellent stereo imaging and tonal balance.

However, the BAR 48's ace up its sleeve is the third channel, because the addition of a dedicated centre speaker ensures that dialogue always remains clear and focused on the screen. As a result, while the BAR 48 might lack rear speakers (unless you buy the optional wireless package), it is able to make full use of the front three channels and LFE channel to produce a detailed and spacious front soundstage. The Tractrix horns retrieve all the high frequency definition and the three channels add width to the audio.

Watching an episode of Poldark on BBC One allows the BAR 48 to fully reveal the sweeping Cornish landscapes, creating a sense of windswept grandeur. The music is beautifully rendered, and effects are placed across the front of the room with precision. That centre speaker also plays its part, ensuring that dialogue retains clarity despite some fairly thick West Country accents. There's no denying that the Klipsch is ideal for watching broadcast TV, delivering a full-bodied experience.
Klipsch BAR 48
When it comes to more demanding soundtracks, this excellent soundbar and subwoofer combination continues to reveal its strengths. A show like Mindhunter on Netflix has a complex 5.1 mix that the BAR 48 handles with skill. There are some nice atmospheric effects that help sell the claustrophobic prison scenes, and that all-important dialogue remains perfectly intelligible (even if Charlie Manson doesn't). The sense of surround is obviously lost, and activating the virtual Surround mode doesn't really help.

The other two modes are more useful, particularly Dialogue which focuses on the centre to ensure dialogue, voice-overs, newsreaders and commentators remain clear – which is great for those that struggle to understand what someone is saying in the era of mumbled dialogue and complex sound design. The Night mode can also be helpful for those wishing to watch TV late at night without disturbing the rest of the family, by levelling the audio and reducing the amount of bass.

In fact, the BAR 48 actually sounds very balanced at low volumes and is able to deliver plenty of presence without cranking up the volume. That makes it ideal for those who want to enjoy TV shows and movies at a sensible volume, but have no desire to reduce the back wall of the lounge to rubble. You can push the volume on the Klipsch, but it will start to display certain limitations. While the audio doesn't sound strained or brittle, the sub will begin to feel less balanced and a little boomy.

Of course, Klipsch can only do so much at this price point, and there is the option of upgrading the subwoofer with something that's more high-end. However, when it comes to a big modern blockbuster like Avengers: Endgame, the BAR 48 starts to show it's 3.1-channel limitations. The front soundstage remains spacious and detailed, dialogue is clear, and the bass gives the action scenes plenty of low-end kick, but there's no sense of envelopment, and the epic nature of the film feels somewhat diminished.
The sound is balanced and natural, with deep bass and a big front soundstage

Verdict

Pros

  • Excellent 3.1-channel performance
  • Effectively integrated subwoofer
  • Simple to set-up and operate
  • Optional surrounds

Cons

  • Design not for everyone
  • No object-based audio
  • No HDMI inputs
  • No eARC

Klipsch BAR 48 Soundbar Review

Klipsch BAR 48 Verdict

The Klipsch BAR 48 is a simple soundbar and subwoofer combination that's designed to improve the sound quality of your ultra-slim TV. In that sense it's a total success, delivering a superior sonic performance from a well-made package that's a piece of cake to set-up. The looks might not be to everyone's taste, but thanks to three forward-firing channels and a hard-hitting subwoofer, this system is sure to please.

Ultimately Klipsch has taken the decision to concentrate on the sound quality, and the BAR 48 is truly designed like a speaker: focusing on premium materials, genuinely transferable audio technology and wooden cabinetry. It's intended to replicate the acoustical signature of bigger speakers as near as possible while remaining convenient to set-up and operate.

Unfortunately, for the BAR 48 to hit a certain price point, Klipsch has dispensed with many of the latest, cutting edge features. How important that is will come down to personal preference, but you can certainly buy feature-packed systems with more power and channels for the same money. However, if you're looking for a great-sounding and easy-to-use audio solution, the Klipsch BAR 48 is definitely up to the job.

What are my alternatives?

There are a number of alternatives at this price point, but the obvious choice is the Sony HT-ZF9, which costs about the same price as the Klipsch BAR 48. It also uses a 3.1-channel layout, but applies psychoacoustic processing that allows it to support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It also has two HDMI inputs, Wi-Fi, Chromecast and the ability to work with smart assistants – making it exceptional value for money.

The Samsung HW-Q70R is another great soundbar and subwoofer combination that also costs about the same. However, this time you get a 3.1.2-channel system that supports Atmos and DTS:X, thanks to upward-firing drivers. It only has one HDMI input, but does pass both Dolby Vision and HDR10+. It also has Wi-Fi, works with Amazon Alexa, and supports multi-room functionality.

MORE: Read All Soundbar Reviews

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
.
6

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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