Component Review, Part 1 of 4
Published on March 1, 2004
42 Alpha Drive
Highland Heights, OH 44143
One of the highlights of this year’s CES show was the introduction of a fresh series of loudspeakers from a well-established U.S.-based manufacturer. Designed with a horn tweeter system, this new speaker line is named “Acoustech” and is a division of BIC America. I placed a request to audition these Acoustech speakers and was fortunate enough to be the first reviewer to receive a complete system to evaluate.
Upon receiving the Acoustech line, consisting of two main channel towers (Model HT-75), one center channel (Model HT-65), two surrounds (Model HT-63), and a powered subwoofer (Model H100), I thought it would be appropriate to perform a direct comparison between them and selected speakers from the Klipsch line. I tried to select those Klipsch speakers that I thought would match up most closely to the Acoustechs either in price or size. As such, I acquired the following Klipsch speakers to use in this comparison review: Reference RF-3II main channel towers, Reference RC-35 center channel, Synergy SF-1 main channel towers, and a Synergy KSW-10 powered subwoofer. As a point of reference, the Klipsch Reference line is its high-end line and is carried by specialty audio dealers. The Klipsch Synergy line is its entry-level line and is carried by large national electronics’ chains.
A. Acoustech. Individual pricing for the Acoustech speaker series is as follows: HT-75 main channel towers ($499.00/pair), HT-65 center channel speaker ($179.95), HT-63 rear channel/bookshelf speakers ($269.95.00/pair), and H100 subwoofer ($349.00). Package pricing for the entire six-speaker system is $1,199.00.
B. Klipsch Reference Series. Typical pricing for the Klipsch Reference speaker series is as follows: RF-3II main channel towers ($849.95/pair), RC-35 center channel speaker ($399.00), RS-35 rear channel/bookshelf speakers ($599.98/pair), and RW-10 subwoofer ($500.00).
C. Klipsch Synergy Series. Pricing at Best Buy’s on-line site for the Klipsch Synergy speaker series is as follows: SF-1 main channel towers ($499.98/pair), SC-1 center channel speaker ($279.99), SS-1 rear channel/bookshelf speakers ($399.98/pair), and KSW-10 subwoofer ($399.99).
II. Selected Technical Specs
A. Main Channel Towers
i. Acoustech HT-75. The HT-75’s dimensions are approximately 40”H x 9”W x 8”D with a weight of 26 pounds. The single front-ported cabinet houses two 6.5” graphite-injected cone woofers along with a 6.5” horn tweeter system. The power handling is 10-150 watts per channel. The frequency response is 35Hz to 20kHz with 96dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance.
ii. Klipsch RF-3II. The RF-3II’s dimensions are approximately 38.5”H x 9”W x 16.2”D with a weight of 56 pounds. The single rear-ported cabinet houses two 8” aluminum cone woofers along with a 6” horn tweeter system. The power handling is 10-150 watts per channel. The frequency response is 37Hz to 20kHz with 98dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance.
iii. Klipsch Synergy SF-1. The SF-1’s dimensions are approximately 33”H x 8”W x 13.75”D with a weight of 33 pounds. The single rear-ported cabinet houses one 6.5” graphite-injected cone woofer along with a 5” horn tweeter system. The power handling is 10-100 watts per channel. The frequency response is 40Hz to 20kHz with 94dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance.
B. Center Channels
i. Acoustech HT-65. The HT-65’s dimensions are approximately 8”H x 22”W x 6”D with a weight of 18 pounds. The sealed cabinet houses two 6.5” graphite-injected cone woofers along with a 6.5” horn tweeter system. The power handling is 10-150 watts per channel. The frequency response is 55Hz to 20kHz with 96dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance.
ii. Klipsch Reference RC-35. The RC-35’s dimensions are approximately 7.9”H x 23.5”W x 10.9”D with a weight of 26 pounds. The dual front ported cabinet houses two 6.5” aluminum cone woofers along with a 6” horn tweeter system. The power handling is 10-125 watts per channel. The frequency response is 56Hz to 20kHz with 96dB sensitivity and 8 ohm impedance.
C. Powered Subwoofers
i. Acoustech H100. The H100’s dimensions are approximately 17”H x 15”W x 18.25”D with a weight of 42 pounds. The single rear vented cabinet houses a front firing, graphite injected, 12” cone woofer. The H100’s internal amplifier provides 150 watts RMS (500 watts dynamic peak) of power output. The frequency response is 24Hz to 200Hz.
ii. Klipsch Synergy KSW-10. The KSW-10’s dimensions are approximately 15.5”H x 13.5”W x 13.5”D with a weight of 29 pounds. The single rear vented cabinet houses a down firing, fiber-composite, 10” cone woofer. The KSW-10’s internal amplifier provides 55 watts RMS (225 watts dynamic peak) of power output. The frequency response is 29Hz to 120Hz.
A. Acoustech. The entire Acoustech line, including the H100 subwoofer, is visually stunning. The main channel towers are streamlined (a space-friendly, 8” cabinet depth) and elegant. Adding to the contemporary look, copper-colored cone woofers are used in all of the Acoustech model speakers. While the sides of all of the speaker models are composed of black ash vinyl veneer, the tops and bottoms are a different story. Without a doubt, the mots dramatic cosmetic quality of the Acoustech line is their high-gloss, black finish tops and bottoms. The finish, done with five coats of hand-rubbed lacquer, is similar to that on a piano and typically only found on high-end loudspeakers.
B. Klipsch. The Klipsch Synergy line of speakers is average in appearance. The cabinets (tops, bottoms, and sides) are all finished in black ash vinyl veneer and the woofers are black in color. The Synergy main channel towers might be a little taxing (13.75” cabinet depth) for those with limited room space. The Klipsch Reference line is more attractive than the Synergy line. The copper-colored aluminum woofers, used in all of the Reference series speakers, give them a nice contemporary look. There is not any high-gloss finish on the Reference series cabinets; vinyl veneer is used top to bottom. The Klipsch RF-3II cabinets are rather bulky with a considerable 16.2” cabinet depth.
I had asked one of the Acoustech engineers why they designed their new line of speakers to include horn tweeters rather than dome tweeters. In response to my question, I was told that horn tweeter systems have a greater dynamic range than dome tweeter systems. For this very reason, speakers with horn systems are often used in movie theaters to achieve the maximum sonic experience for audiences. With the ever-increasing popularity of DVDs and home theater, it is easy to see why Klipsch speakers, regarded by many A/V professionals to possess exceptional dynamic range, have rapidly grown in sales. Let’s now jump into my performance comparison of the Acoustech and Klipsch speakers.
A. Acoustech. Overall, the Acoustechs are great sounding speakers and excellent all-around performers. This series of speakers seamlessly matches its horn tweeters with its cone woofers, thereby alleviating any holes in frequency response. Reproduction of high frequencies were pronounced, open, and thankfully, not excessively bright. Midrange reproduction was crisp and clean while bass was tight and punchy. The Acoustechs are also very efficient speakers. Rated at a 96dB sensitivity level, I was amazed at how little power was actually required to effortlessly fill the room with sound. I have a pair of Infinity Reference 2000.5 towers that literally played half as loud as the Acoustech HT-75s despite both being played at the identical volume level on the receiver. There must be at least a 3dB difference there! Lastly, the Acoustech speakers have superb dynamic range, faithfully reproducing everything from whisper soft vocals in a jazz song to the loudest explosions in an action movie.
With regard to its subwoofer, the Acoustech H100 is hands-down awesome. Its bass is cavernously deep and very smooth. When watching a movie, the H100 produces bass that you can feel in your chest but without any distracting boom or other distortion. The H100 perfectly blends with the Acoustech speakers, and for best performance, the manufacturer recommends incorporating the subwoofer into the system. (While the Acoustech system sounds best using the H100, those on a limited budget may find that the HT-75 towers supply ample bass without the subwoofer for many small to medium sized rooms).
B. Klipsch Reference series. Overall, the Reference series models I auditioned were good, solid speakers. Rated at 98dB, they also effortlessly filled the room with sound and might even be more efficient than the Acoustech line. The high frequencies reproduced by the Klipsch Reference series were bright and soaring although they tended to be somewhat directional. Midrange reproduction was accurate and crisp, but bass was severely lacking, which is surprising given the Reference series’ significant cabinet depth. Perhaps its horn tweeter system is so strong that the woofers are simply overpowered. Whatever the cause, there is a noticeable hole in their frequency response and a powered subwoofer is a definite necessity with the Klipsch Reference speakers I reviewed. The lack of bass problem notwithstanding, the Reference series speakers have exceptional dynamic range.
C. Klipsch Synergy series. Overall, the Synergy series models I auditioned were sturdy and pleasant sounding speakers. Rated at 94dB, they also can fill a room with sound but not as effortlessly as the Reference series or Acoustech line. The high frequencies reproduced by the Klipsch Synergy series were clean and bright although they tended to be directional. Bass was unexpectedly deep but came across as boomy and muddy. This boominess masked some of the midrange reproduction thereby making the speaker sound more muffled than the others. Despite its overemphasized bass, the Synergy line of speakers demonstrated very good dynamic range.
With regard to its subwoofer, the Klipsch Synergy KSW-10 is actually impressive for its price and size. Its bass is punchy, tight and did not distort at relatively high volume levels. It was not able to extend as deep into the lower frequencies as the H-100 could, the result being that more bass was heard than felt with the KSW-10. However, for smaller room sizes, the KSW-10 is a more than capable performer.
This was my first audition of speakers with horn tweeter systems and I have to say that I was generally impressed with the Klipsch line. The Synergy series was a little boomy with its bass handling and the Reference series lacked some bass, but to their credit, both lines were very efficient and had great dynamic range. Either Klipsch series would make for a solid home theater speaker system.
The Acoustech speaker line knocked my socks off. Since the Acoustech system is significantly less expensive than both the comparable Klipsch Synergy and Klipsch Reference systems, it would have been commendable for the Acoustechs just to be competitive in sonic quality. The remarkable thing is that the Acoustech system, at $1,199.00, surpasses the performance of the two Klipsch systems which cost $600.00 and $1,200.00 more. The Acoustechs have a more balanced sound, a greater dynamic range, and superior cosmetics than the Klipschs, plus the Acoustechs are also efficient. In terms of value and performance, I give the Acoustech speaker line my highest recommendation.
- Calvin Harding, Jr.