Klipsch are purebred Americans and they firmly believe in horn tweeters and monumental loudspeakers. It is not entirely coincidental that this is precisely the recipe for the powerful Reference Premiere line, which has been a fixture at the American brand for years. These speakers focus on spectacle and dynamics, and that makes Klipsch something special in the market. But you have to have the place.
Klipsch Reference Premiere
The Reference Premiere has an expensive sounding name, but the speakers from this extended family are not that expensive. Price tags start at 349 euros per speaker and go up to 649 euros for the largest floorstander in one of the two to three standard veneers (cherry, walnut or ebony). If you opt for the special piano lacquer version, then something else is added. Whatever you choose, you can be sure that you get a lot of speaker for your money.
The Reference Premiere family is larger than it appears. If you take into account the different finishes and the floor stands with built-in Dolby speakers, you will arrive at a dozen models and thirty versions. And then we don't even include the Reference Premiere wireless versions (also something special, because one of the few wireless surround sets that is for sale) and the Reference Premiere built-in line that can easily be combined with the separate Klipsch speakers from the RP family to become. And to make it even more complex: the speakers that we are viewing here are part of the 2015 Reference Premiere generation. But just before the end of the year, a 2018 generation was proposed. Both of these RP generations are still freely available in the market. When you start Googling, you will encounter an incredible number of Klipsch RP models.
- Klipsch RP-280F: 499 euros
- Klipsch SPL-120: 649 euros
- Klipsch RP-404SC: 439 euros
- Klipsch RP -500M: 439 euros
Beware of the back
The set-up we received from Klipsch importer Havoned contains the top models from the wired Reference Premiere line. That means many things, but primarily: lugging! The RP-280F floorstanders are extraordinarily large loudspeakers, certainly to the home cinema standards of the Low countries, and quite heavy. You can easily move 28 kg of speaker anyway, and that counts. Watch out for the back, people! The contrast with the graceful Sonus faber Sonetto's that were previously in the test room could not be greater. But the Klipsch speakers also have very different roots than the Italians. In the U.S. there is another philosophy when it comes to home cinemas. It can all be a bit more powerful, more expansive and also a bit woolier. A matter of taste, but which ensure that there is not only a great contrast in appearance between the fine Sonetto's and the giants from Hope, Arkansas.
The Klipsch floor stands have a large footprint and need space. The RP-280F is very deep for example: 41 cm. There are technical advantages that we will discuss later in this article. But first the placement. Without a doubt, the large size is something to keep in mind when you think about purchasing these speakers. They are floorstands to place in a large room, not in a small living room of an apartment. They have a large bass port on the back and you should also place them at a greater distance from the wall. In terms of design, the RP-280Fs and the other RP speakers are purebred American speakers: black wood veneer, very solidly built and primarily made to stand in a home theater.
What goes for the RP-280F goes double for the subwoofer that we received. The SPL-120 is a big, heavy thing, which is not surprising when you know it was equipped with a giant 300 mm driver. Here too, this 300-Watt RMS device is so large that it is difficult to place it in a smaller living room. Placement is easier than expected. The bass reflex port is at the bottom at the front, so that you can place it close to a wall without too many adverse consequences. Also handy is that you can make the SPL-120 wireless. Klipsch naturally has smaller floor stands and subwoofers in the Reference Premiere line, for those who do not live in factory halls or have a living room where you can park four cars.
The center speaker is almost out of tune. We had expected a high, spacious speaker, but the Klipsch RP-404C is relatively narrow and wide. This is ideal if you have little space between your TV furniture and the bottom edge of your television. The center is therefore not small, but large in a practical way. The many drivers, centrally placed horn and depth of 30 cm promise a broad appearance and sufficient layer reproduction to fully display even the deepest voices.
For the rear channels we have a set of RP-500M bookshelf speakers. These monitors are also relatively large, although it is not so bad with these RP models. They fit seamlessly on our Dali E-600 stands. There is a recess for a screw at the back of the RP-500M so that you can easily hang it on the wall. This is of course possible, but the large bass port on the back is still there and is conceived for wall mounting. The bookshelf speakers suddenly start to sound very different. Our advice: give it a try before hanging it up.
With the speaker grille installed, the Reference Premiere speakers are fairly anonymous. Very nice, neat, but no attention grabbers – except that the RP-280Fs are big boys, of course. Remove the schedules … and everything changes. What you see is absolutely Klipsch: large copper-colored Cerametallic drivers, surrounded by a copper-colored ring, and a tweeter that is sunk deep into the cabinet in a horn. It is something very special: the center of the horn is a round tweeter, but the rubber exterior is a square. According to Klipsch, this would give a good appearance of the higher frequencies, while the horn itself would not cause extra unwanted reflections. Due to the depth, the horn construction takes up relatively much space, though. It is one of the reasons why the RP-280F is so deep. But the sunken tweeter placement at the Klipsch speakers does create a very wide sound field, something that you will notice very well if you move around the RP-280F up close. But the Klipsch speakers are certainly not suitable for nearfield listening. The listening distance really needs to be a bit bigger, especially with the largest RP speakers. If we come too close, the higher notes from the horn dominate and it becomes more nasal. Selecting the right Reference Premiere models tailored to your room therefore seems crucial to us.
The finish of the Reference Premiere speakers impresses us. It looks indeed classic American – certainly in ebony – but everything is well put together and seems to have little trouble with case vibrations. There are small details that indicate that these Klipsch come from the middle class, such as the solid but not premium finished speaker terminals and the hard, plastic base. But that is not all that striking or disturbing. We are also told that the (much) more expensive piano lacquer version of the Reference Premiere has been finished even more beautifully, with an extra lacquer layer that shows completely seamlessly. We have never seen this version with our own eyes at a show or at a dealer, so we cannot comment on that. Even more about those copper-colored drivers: with the SPL-120 the cone is even larger and deeper, which makes this subwoofer a real eye-catcher.
A big plus of the Klipsch speaker is the enormous sensitivity, which is again due to the horn technology used. has to do. The RP-280F has an extremely high sensitivity of 98 dB (at 2.83V / 1m), which makes it the easiest to control speakers we've ever tested. With a middle-class receiver you may be in the mood. Our Denon AVR-X6300H, for example, is more than enough for the RP setup that we received – and we are convinced that a lower receiver could handle it. Even the RP-500M speakers come out with a sensitivity of 93 dB, which is really a lot for a smaller speaker. Most of the speakers of this size that we have tested are around 87-88 dB. That may seem like a small difference, but it is nevertheless significant in a surround setup where one receiver must amplify so many channels.
A journey into space
You notice it immediately when you get the first set up a major Hollywood blockbuster. The Klipsch speakers excel in a powerful, dynamic reproduction that is very direct and moving. The bombastic theme music of an average Marvel film, with many horns and heavy percussion, they seem to be made for that. This is due to the horn construction, which transmits higher frequencies very broadly into the room with much force. The character of the Reference Premiere fits perfectly with the amazing scene from '2001: Space Odessey' where the Pan Am spaceship moors at a large round space station, and that on the beautiful tones of the 'An der schönen blauen Donau' waltz by Strauss. The lush Klipsch sound is just what you need to make the orchestra powerful and immensely large. Wonderfully bombastic, but also sufficiently fast and detailed in the high, so that the strings are catchy. We quickly jump back in the film to the well-known excerpt in which the Sonnenaufgang from “Also Sprach Zarathustra” by (the other) Strauss pops through the speakers. The threatening tone at the beginning of the piece vibrates through the room and the swelling horn in particular seems very realistic. Every stroke of the kettledrums pops through our test room, not only with immense impact but also with the unexpected detail and the longer sustain that goes with a puking.
Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece was recently completely reconstructed from the original analogue film and released in 4K on Ultra HD Blu-ray, whereby the audio was again addressed. The film is now exactly fifty years old, so a cleaning and transfer to high resolution digital was really allowed. Kubrick did everything very thoughtfully, he made a decision about every detail himself. He chose the Strauss waltz, among other things, because it fits well with the vastness of the space and with the slow, fluid movements in the weightless space – just like a Waltz, actually. It was brilliant for the music-loving British director to notice that spaceships and astronauts move in space like dancing aristocrats in a Viennese ballroom. The enormous peace and slowness that this SF film radiates in scenes such as this makes him an atypical genre classic – and at the same time a film that others describe as deadly boring. You have to be in the mood for it, perhaps.
The enormous spatiality of the club scene in 'Ready Player One' (Ultra HD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos ) is dominated by Cerametallic woofers and especially the horn tweeter very well recreated. In this part of the film you must get the feeling that you are in a big club, with a thumping disco around you, but also with the music away from you, so that you can follow the hesitant conversation between Art3mis and Parzival as if you were there . The separation between an enveloping music layer and close-up details succeeds the Klipsch speakers very well, and you really focus entirely on the dialogue. In our opinion Audyssey did not adjust the center perfectly; women's voices in particular are a bit too sharp. If you experience that too, we think it is worth experimenting with the equalizer for the center channel. Back to Ready Player One: a moment later when the 6'ers invade the club and open fire, hell breaks loose – at that moment the RP speakers prove that they can seamlessly switch from tranquility to a total sound explosion. That is a very nice feature, which is also ideal for the (early) James Bond-like soundtrack of “The Incredibles 2”. Pixar is masterfully good at sound design, and you notice that with this film. It may be child-friendly animation, the Incredibles 2 is simply a very fun, successful action film with a great soundtrack. When Elastigirl follows a loose monorail on its motorcycle, you get to hear a very good sound mix that is put down on the Klipsch speakers. Sound effects are precisely situated in the space, and sound spectacular in the rear channels. The fight between Jack-Jack and the raccoon is also great to hear on this Klipsch set. The RP speakers have no trouble at all putting down playful jazz tunes and placing the sound effects separately, no matter how bombastic it gets.
The Reference Premiere speakers sound very fast and light-hearted, something that proves to be a plus if at a later moment we play a music playlist with a lot of rock music. It is a genre that quite a few speakers do not deliver as well, but Klipsch clearly likes guitars. The guitar wall at “First it Giveth” by Queens of the Stone Age or the guitar playing by Gary Clark Jr. on “This Land” there is really strong. If you listen to music in stereo mode without a subwoofer, you will also discover that the RP-280F is a fully-fledged full-range floor stand that can dive very deep itself. Without proceeding woolly or without detail, we work with the deep bass of 'Manitoumani' by French electropioner M. Therefore, after calibration by your receiver, we would still try – if your AV receiver allows – to test how it works. sounds like the RP-280Fs are actually offered the full frequency range. Feel free to let these speakers handle part of the layer in your soundtracks.
You cannot deny that Klipsch, due to his horn tweeter, has a distinct sound character. You cannot say that they are fierce or really play the high details, such as the Bowers & Wilkins 700 Series that we received a while back. But they do have a different balance than the European speakers – think Dali or Monitor Audio – so that at times they sound a little more nasal than we are used to. However, we do not see this as an error or defect; it's a matter of taste. It is also because of this that the Reference Premiere are so good in those large orchestral soundtracks and films where dozens of sound effects come to you at the same time.
Provided that you have the space, with Klipsch's Reference Premiere line you will find excellent speakers that will be highly appreciated by fans of a powerful, sensational sound. The SPL-120 also provides very good support. It is a subwoofer that should also sound good in setups from other brands. The Reference Premiere speakers can also be refined, if you have to, but the RP speakers feel best when there is a lot of dynamics to be displayed. The more a soundtrack pops, the more that the Klipschen excel. They are real rockers.