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The devil and his details: Klipsch’s ‘The Sixes’ loudspeaker

Klipsch are one of the USA’s longest standing loudspeaker manufacturers. In their newly announced The Sixes loudspeaker set, a six and half inch mid/bass driver occupies pride of place in a 22cm x 43cm x 28cm, rear-ported enclosure. Handling treble augmentation is the company’s Taktrix horn-loaded one inch aluminium tweeter.

The twist? The Sixes invite us to wave goodbye to outboard amplification and any corresponding loudspeaker wire. Volume goes up and down from the right’s loudspeakers front-baffle rotary. The amplification for both loudspeakers has been fitted inside the right-hand cabinet.

Turn said right speaker 180° to see connectivity that underscore the Sixes’ inclusive spirit: phono/line-level analogue and TOSLINK/USB digital. Yes – a 24bit/192kHz-capable DAC and MM phono stage have also been included. A subwoofer output presents for those with a stronger addiction to bass.

According to Klipsch’s promo material, The Sixes’ wood veneer has been specified in order to connote a mid-century modern aesthetic. What we have here then is a two-box hifi system for the modern, clutter-conscious apartment dweller. Price? US$799/pair.

Klipsch may share Dynaudio’s hipster-aimed marketing visuals – a minimalist warehouse aesthetic and tattoos – but their loudspeakers differ in topology. The Danes describe theirs as ‘active’ but Klipsch say their master-slave configured speakers are ‘powered’. What’s the difference?

A traditional passive loudspeaker houses a crossover network comprising resistors, inductors and capacitors. Its divvies up the signal between the loudspeaker’s drivers and it does so post-amplifierIn other words, the outboard amplifier drives the loudspeaker’s passive crossover network.

Going active means putting cart before horse: the crossover before the amplification. This can be executed in one of two ways: either a) at the line-level with op-amps (a la Genelec) or b) in the digital domain using DSP (a la KEF LS50 Wireless or Dynaudio Focus XD).

The upshot of an active crossover is that the amplifier/s – one per driver – are wired directly to the driver’s voice coil and their output can be tailored to the its input impedance swings. Ask any loudspeaker engineer: active crossovers are generally more effective in smoothing frequency response and correcting phase errors.

A powered loudspeaker is less sophisticated in its amplifier-driver optimisation: the amplifier, although internal, still talks to each loudspeaker’s own passive crossover network. In the Klipsch Sixes, an umbilical carries the already-amplified signal from the mains-powered right box to the passive left.

Alternatives from Audioengine and Vanatoo work in a similar manner. As per each manufacturer’s verbiage, theirs are powered loudspeakers, not active.

All active loudspeakers are powered* but not all powered loudspeakers are active.

And although falling into the latter category, we should remain mindful that powered loudspeakers like Klipsch’s The Sixes offer a substantial step up from your average Bluetooth handheld: a fuller sound with far greater dynamics (Klipsch’s stock in trade) and proper stereo separation. They look terrific to boot.

If only we could convince marketing men not to promote the placing of loudspeakers and turntable on the same surface. If. Only. 😉

Further information: Klipsch

*Loudspeakers with external crossovers excepted.

Written by John H. Darko

John H. Darko

John is the editor of DAR from which he derives an income from its ad revenues. John is also an occasional contributor to 6moons and AudioStream and currently resides in Berlin, Germany.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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19 Comments

  1. Pictures of Turntables and Speakers on the same surface – it seems as if everyone is doing it these days, and no matter how often I see it, the offending advert is immediately invalidated in my mind – that’s pretty, just don’t try using it. My brain screams, WTF, have these goons even used a turntable, ever?

    • At least the speakers are taking up a significant portion of the photos, unlike the header image for the prior Dynaudio article that looked like it was a furniture ad.

  2. John
    I am a bit confused. The previous article was praising active and powered speakers where everything is enclosed with the speaker driver. In this article you worry about a turntable next to speakers on the same table. Surely it is better to have all of the electronics far away from the drivers as well as a turntable. Please explain.

    • My praise for actives remains strong. Re. speaker and turntable placed on the same surface: do you see the winky face emoji at the end of the sentence?

      In my limited experience in running afoul with separating transducing source and loudspeakers, placing them on the same surface is far more problematic than putting amps in a speaker cabinet. Why? Because although sensitive to vibrations, electronics aren’t transducers.

  3. Hi John,
    Not strictly true – ‘All active loudspeakers are powered but not all powered loudspeakers are active’. Some active speakers have power amplifiers that still connect via speaker cables. They are still active as the crossover is performed before the power amp stage, but are not ‘powered’ as the amplifier is not within the speaker cabinet.

    Cheers, Peter.

    • Peter – are we not talking about different things when the crossover is externalised? I’m saying that with an active x-over + amps inside the speaker cabinet, power is required – they are ‘powered’ (by mains).

      • Hi John,
        Yes, if a speaker has active crossover and amps built in it will need to be powered. However, the definition of an active speaker is that it uses an active crossover as part of the signal path regardless of the physical location of that crossover. An example would be Wisdom Audio or an older Linn system whose amps and crossovers would be in the ‘rack’ and not the speaker. Thus it’s still an active speaker but the speaker itself does not need power, only speaker cables from the power amps.

        Cheers, Peter.

        • Yup – and that active crossover still needs to be powered. Per the Dynaudio and Klipsch context, I’m talking about all in one solutions where the crossover is housed inside the speaker cabinet. As the title says, the devil is in the details.

  4. I’m trying to work out what to purchase between the Klipsch sixes and/or just a decent valve amp with speakers. I’m really getting into listening to vinyls these days and appreciating their quality of sound, i want something affordable that won’t break my budget. It seems that the klipsch sixes is an easy setup but is the quality of sound on par with the valve amplifiers. What would your preference be?

  5. Hello,

    I put my speakers and turntable, cd player, amp, dac on the same lowboard and in real life this still happens quite a lot without huge problems. Not done? Maybe. But my sound is great and it also looks amazing on the same shelf. So i couldn’t care less about putting my monitors on stands and all that kind of stuff. Monitors on stands look awful. I don’t care how much they cost.

    Maybe the sound could be better but you can’t see one single cable this way and that’s important to me as everything is in our living space. I like it clean and minimal. My speakers are also very close to the back wall. Again no problem. They sound exactly the same one meter in front. I tested it. They are front ported. No problem.

    Real life. Real sound.

    Best regards

    Geoff

  6. Actually, a Klipsch spokesman says The Sixes are truly active, not simply powered, and there is DSP implemented in the amplification to tailor the sound to their desired voicing

    • …which makes it all the more unusual that they are referred to as “powered” in the marketing material.

      • Here’s the comment in the Klipsch Forum, from Steve Jain, who works for Klipsch, when asked if a passive version of The Sixes would be available:

        “It’s not currently in the plan. The SIXES do not use passive crossovers, they are fully active, so it would not be as simple as just removing power. Since they are active there is DSP and that helps the speaker sound as good as it does.”

        • Well, precisely why I said the devil lay in the details. Details that until now weren’t made obvious. Good to know that they are active!

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