Need a pair of value for money powered speakers? Paul Rigby reviews the R-41PM speakers from Klipsch
At the moment, the hi-fi industry is in an all-in-one everything frenzy. If there’s a chance to combine two or more products in a single chassis, then manufacturers are doing it. The industry believes that value sells and that people are also concerned with minimising footprint.
There’s the convenience issue too, of course. There’s fewer boxes to mess around with, less set-up issues and cable numbers are reduced along with the attendant clutter. Budget is another factor. You can lower the price when you bundle items together.
It’s arguable that, for all of the bundling going on in the market, the powered speaker design is the most popular. They’re a big favourite with second systems, budget vinyl systems, student hi-fi users and more.
This relatively low cost powered option from Klipsch features a built-in amplifier and featured Bluetooth, so wireless connections with phones and tablets are possible. There’s also optical, aux, analogue RCA and USB inputs to offer further connectivity options. Vinyl fans will be happy to know that the speakers also include a built-in phono amplifier for MM cartridges.
The R-41PMs also, “…dynamically match the ear’s ability to hear lower frequencies. Typically, only available with audio/video receivers, dynamic volume is a first for Klipsch powered monitors,” said the company. What you effectively get is enhanced bass when the listening volume is low. A remote is also part of the package.
A figure-of-eight-terminated power cable brings the whole thing to life. Spanning 24.8 x 14.9 x 19.1cm, the speakers weigh in at 8.5kg.
I started by plugging my Red Wine-modded Astell&Kern AK120 into the rear of the speakers, via the optical port and listened to the 24bit/88kHz version of Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing.
Glancing at the price tag, I was prepared for fairly serious compromises. After all, the price is not just for the speakers but all of the other gear inside too. Hence the speakers themselves, if you think about the project budget as a whole, are actually only a part of the overall price.
What I heard though was surprisingly balanced. In fact, I was very surprised at just how evenly, in relative terms, the sound was delivered. I have heard powered speakers at twice the price produce a coloured sound in comparison. Although the R-41PM speakers could verge on the strident at high volumes, in general terms they produced an open and airy midrange which allowed the lead vocal the freedom to roam around the stereo image, giving it a grand and significant presence. It also helped the backing vocal from Sting, giving the lead and backing voices a distance and a sense of the 3D.
The open nature of the mids also aided the keyboards, adding to their grandeur and giving them an important part to play in the mix.
Bass was satisfyingly tight, the small mid-bass units offering a welcome wallop for their size while the attack from the percussion was not as plastic as I thought it might be. The admirably neutral aspect of the drums softened and helped the lower end to infuse a touch of naturalism into the bass.
This particular rendition is a little strident in the mastering and the R-41PM speakers didn’t veil that part of the delivery. The treble was a touch pinched and the upper mids a little edgy but I wanted to the truth from this track and that’s what I was given.
I then swopped the AK120 and the optical cable it was attached to, moving it to the phono connections and upgrading the cable to a high quality example form Chord. Playing the same song, I was very happy to hear that the speakers could translate the sounds from the better cable. That is, the cable’s superiority was fully represented in the sonic output.
Via the phono sockets, the music was mature, rounded and better structured. Drums had a more organic output, the midrange produced a less pronounced edge during crescendos while the treble was bearable, this time around.
Turning to a slice of low key piano from Erik Satie and Gymnopedie (16bit/44.1kHz), the relatively neutral stance of the speakers – except for some slight tightening in the upper mids during high volume sequences – allowed the piano’s detail to be satisfyingly conveyed. Of course, the resolution of the file and the quality of the speakers themselves will only allow the fine quality of this performance to be taken so far but, putting those factors into consideration, the R-41PM speakers did remarkably well. The piano is arguably the most difficult of all instruments to track properly by any hi-fi component, it is a chaotic production of conflicting tones and resonances. The Klipsch, although struggling a touch as any hi-fi in this price bracket will, offered an admirable translation.
I ended with my MacBook as a USB source, playing through Audirvana Plus, and Sonny Rollins’ Jazz track, St. Thomas at 24bit/96kHz.
The R-41PM speakers performed well here taking note, not just of the fine music output, but also the silences that were as much of a part of the track. Yes, the piano was slightly rolled off but, on the whole, the midrange was splendidly insightful bestowing a naturalistic tone on the Rollins sax while tracking the delicate cymbal work with ease. Bass also performed well, proving to be a sure foundation for the entire track.
Throughout the test I never felt short changed by the Klipsch R-41PM speakers. You have to keep in mind how much you’re asking these speakers to do for the money and, as such, they offer a lot for the price. Coupled with the wide array of connectivity options (more than some expensive models I could mention), the comparatively neutral sound output and the admirable clarity over the entire soundstage, the R-41PM speakers offer tremendous value for money. If you’re looking for a pair of powered speakers, keep the Klipsch R-41PMs at the top of your demo list.
KLIPSCH R-41PM ACTIVE SPEAKERS
Tel: 01235 511166
GOOD: connectivity, open midrange, punchy bass, clarity
BAD: slight stridency at high volumes
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