What is the R41 PM?
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 Design
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.
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.
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.
How was the R 41 PM tested?
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.
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.
- Big, confident and entertaining sound
- Excellent connectivity
- Extremely good value
- Some test issues with the USB input
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