Klipsch R-15PM powered speakers review. Can they beat my benchmark JBL LSR305??

After last few budget speaker tests I decided to treat myself with something more premium, both in build quality and more importantly sound quality. My first choice, for occasion like this, for some time was KEF X300A, but after Klipsch recently released the R-15PM  I decided to give them a go first. R-15PM goes for the money I would like to spend on my new benchmark speakers, so if Klipsch show something special than I will keep them. The stakes are quite high this time so it should be an interesting experience. Im presenting You, Klipsch R-15PM review.




Before we check how Klipsch R-15PM sounds, let's check what it is hiding inside these sleek, wood veneer covered cabinets. R-15PM is a powered version of Klipsch R-15P bookshelf speakers. R-15PM has the same drivers, same passive crossovers and near identical cabinets as R-15P but adds 2x50W amplifier, digital optical/USB DAC, preamp, subwoofer output and Bluetooth connectivity, which is all nice ;) Mentioned amplifier delivers 2x50W of power. Signal from amplifiers is than sent through passive crossovers to two drivers, 1ich aluminum dome tweeter recessed in to horn for increased sensitivity of the driver and a 5.25 inch woofer made of IMG material (Injection Molded Graphite) painted in copper orange. To feed the signal to speakers we can use few solutions. We can send it analog to the speaker via phono or 3.5mm AUX in or digitally as the speakers have built in DAC that accepts signal delivered via USB input as well as optical input, DAC accepts signal up to 24bit and 96kHz and works with my computer without any drivers required. Also worth mentioning is the ability to control tracks (pause, choose next or previous) from the remote included when we us USB and Bluetooth input. It worked very well with Spotify, Foobar 2000 and most of other music apps for PC and Android. I also have to mention that multicolor status LED looks good and has nice subdued brightness level. If You still do not want to see any light that You can also turn the LED off completely using the remote. Convenient.

Klipsch was also so nice that they included the RCA sub out on the back of the speaker. What is even nicer is the ability to control the subwoofers level via remote buttons. This will be handy when we take a look at the bass response of the speaker later.

Very important part of this setup is the mentioned remote. It let's user control sub level, whole setup level, it allows for source change  and even allows for track change via USB and Bluetooth. It is very convenient when we use R-15PM in more midfield situations. Just too bad the remote is all plastic and feels cheap. Even Edifier Luna Eclipse has better remote and cost 1/3 of the Klipsch R15PM. There is a room for improvement here.


 



Putting technical specs aside, I have to admit that I really enjoy the way Klipsch R-15PM looks and the quality of it's build. In these respects it is miles ahead of any studio monitor I tested till this day. Rectangular, tall yet slim shape, with sharp edges and simple design, it is sleek and aesthetically pleasing and it will fit in most of modern decor rooms. Copper colored midbass driver composes works great with dark grey finish of rest of the speaker. Build quality is also good with only the front driver surroundings made from plastic that could be made better (aluminum maybe?), but it is a nitpicking considering the price of the whole setup.

 So, combination of well regarded passive bookshelf speakers powered by build in amplification and host of mentioned additional features makes for a sleek and minimal desktop audio setup. Does it deliver? Can it beat studio monitors in sound quality?? That is what we going find out next.

Sound Quality

Like always, the first thing before even the music starts to play is to check for any hiss or hum from internal electronics "on idle". Unfortunately, Klipsch is far from perfect in this regard, as it has quite a lot of self noise, a hiss to be exact. So much, actually that I will say they are useless for nearfield setups. Amount of the enegry coming from the tweeter when they are not playing music is considerable (not as bad as something like Tannoy 402 or M-Audio AV32.1 I tried before, but still...), it is disappointing at this price point and both JBL LSR305 and KRK RP5 G3 are quieter, especially the KRK is good in this regard. So if You want to listen in nearfield on low levels in quiet spaces than I would suggest to avoid R-15PM. Everything over 1.5 meters between listener and speakers is more recommended as the hiss is much less audible from that range.





We start to play music through them and what do we hear? Unlike the use of compression driver to deliver upper midrange and treble would suggest, the sound coming from the speakers is rather inoffensive and sweet as long as we use them on sane levels. Overall sound signature is neutral with no obvious boost in any area. They are really easy on the ear yet detailed, but some may whish for a bit more sparkle in the top end. When pushed hard, they start to sound a bit edgy and bright. Overall the vocals sound sweet and clear, they come nicely through so You will not strain Your ear while trying to hear the lyrics. Upper midrange and highs of this speaker is definitely good with nice detail, but feel a bit rolled off in highest ranges. This helps when we listen to low quality compressed tracks (poor quality mp3's, highly compressed on line radios, etc.) making them more bearable. Sound is nicely spacious and big, all the instruments have their specific place on the soundstage, my only wish here would be to have more depth to the soundstage, studio monitors can do that even better.

But does it play bass? Yes it does, but it does it in very restrained way. Bass is nicely flat without any boost in upper ranges, it is also fast with nice detail. What I am missing is a bit is punch and groove of other good 5inch monitors. KRK seems to be on similar level here with a hint of more depth and kick, while JBL takes bass to it's own class with good 10HZ of extension advantage and superior dynamics. Klipsch in my opinion is created for use with subwoofer and I tested it connected with my sealed sub from SVS, the 12inch SB-1000. Together they create full range system perfect for living room multimedia system for TV, music and movies. I actually liked them together so much that I decided to keep R-15PM as my livingroom system speakers. Together with SVS they have great deep bass for movies and music as well as clear sound excellent for movie speech and movie effects.




Both KRK and JBL are better choice for nearfield audio. They have less hiss and even better sound with more details and sparkle, more 3D soundstageing and groovier bass. They both are able to play at higher levels before they start to sound aggressive. The difference in sound quality is not very big but difference in price (even after adding USB DAC to equation) is in their favor for nearfield. Also both of them are better choice to play without the need for subwoofer. JBL is back on duty as my nearfield budget benchmark and Klipsch, together with SVS, takes over the living room.




Conclusion

As You can see Klipsch R-15PM is a bit o a mixed bag. They look perfect for my taste and are build very well according to price tag. They also have a lot of useful features, remote control and all kinds of input methods including good quality Bluetooth and are very easy to use. Sound quality is also good if only a bit lacking behind studio monitors like KRK RP5 G3 or JBL LSR305. The biggest letdown in Klipsch is the hiss from internal electronics that is audible and tiring in nearfield setups.

Can I recommend R-15PM for nearfield music listening? No, not really, mostly because of the hissing problem. Studio monitors are cheaper and have even better sound quality and less hiss. What about midfield? It is a different story here, cause when used from afar they start to show its strengths: versatility and ease of use and good sound quality, especially when aided by good subwoofer. I'm keeping them.

Verdict  8/10

Pros:
- Excellent looks and build quality (except for the plastic remote)
- Feature packed, easy to setup and use
- Clear, neutral sound across the board
- Good amount of details in sound
- Easy on the ear, enjoyable sound

Cons:
- Audible hiss coming from speakers "on idle"
- Lacks a bit of sparkle in the top end
- Lean on bass, seem to be voiced to work with subwoofer
- Remote is made of plastic and feels a bit cheap

Komentarze

  1. I own the R-15PM and agree with your assessment of them. I am curious though, if the JBL bests the Klipsch in nearfield does it also best the Klipsch in midfield too? I think even if it did I would still favor the Klipsch for their user-friendliness (i.e. remote, auto-sleep, bluetooth, etc.) for midfield. But everyone is always raving about how great the JBL is, I really would like to know how it fairs when not used as a nearfield field monitor but like a bookshelf speaker. Anyway, thanks for the review. I love when reviewers actually compare products to other products instead of just saying it's great because it the only speaker they've ever heard.

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    1. Hi Noah. Thanks for interesting question ;) If used at distance around, let's say 2m, JBL is still better sounding speaker, especially in the bass response and quality of upper ranges. But as the distance between the speakers and listener increses fruther, the way they project sound starts to help Klipsch to still sound clear and precise while JBL looses some of the qualities that make it so good in nearfierld. Klipsch has stronger upper midrange and narrower projection, while JBL projects wider and looses more energy in midrange before it reaches the listener (hence the weak midrange in JBL opinions around the internet). Overall, opinions on JBL are not just hype, it is fantastic speaker for very reasonable money, but it is basically a nearfield speaker that works best at distances up to 2-2.5m from listener. On the other hand Klipsch is designed to work best at distance bigger than 2m where it starts to catch up with JBL in terms of sound quality (sans the bass, Klipsch needs subwoofer IMO). When You add all the features that Klipsch has, than in my opinion, Klipsch starts to make more sense midfield than JBL. I hope that it makes sense to You ;)

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    2. Thanks for the response. It makes perfect sense. I guess I will stick with the R-15PM and R-12SW setup I have in my living room for now. But I might still have to grab a pair of LSR305 for my PC and nearfield down the road.

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  2. Awesome review! I am just now getting into vinyl and looking for a set of good speakers.

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  3. Hi, thank you for a very detailed review. Where did you find the following information ? I cant find this anywhere through official channels: "Bluetooth connectivity is done using Apt-X for solid sound quality."

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    1. Hi Kristian. Actually Klipsch does not support Apt-X, my mistake. Thanks for pointing that out to me! Cheers!

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