UNBOXED: Reviewing the Klipsch Stream Wireless Speaker System
Multi-room wireless audio systems are definitely a hot trend in the speaker industry right now. Sure, Sonos brought it to the mass market with their product, but who’s to say that they’re the best option out there? They certainly are no longer the only option in this space.
Klipsch recently joined the wireless speaker party with the introduction of their Stream system, which it introduced this fall at IFA and CEDIA. The line includes six new products, including two soundbars, a satellite speaker, a classically-designed speaker, a digital amp, and a wireless adapter.
Before diving into the products, let’s talk about the Stream experience. Simply put, it’s awesome. The ability to connect multiple speakers together throughout the house is cool as hell. Klipsch developed a new app for the Stream experience that, in all honesty, feels like a first-attempt at app building. The set up process for adding speakers to the app is simple, but a little clunky, and the app is a little glitchy at times. But, to be fair, app building is not a simple process, and these things are a work in progress. When it does work though, it’s a truly enjoyable experience.
Stream allows the user to connect to a whole host of streaming media platforms—Tidal, Spotify (Premium), Amazon Music, Napster (that’s still a thing?), your own Google Music or iTunes accounts, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and more. Or, for traditionalists, most of the speakers in the lineup allow you to connect to legacy devices—turntables, auxiliary sources, etc.—and the soundbars, of course, can plug directly into your TV.
As for the different components, let’s run through them.
A simple, straightforward wireless speaker, the RW-1 is the easiest way for the consumer to grow their Klipsch Stream ecosystem. It has a sleek al-black finish with a few copper accents around the base of the product. I found one RW-1 enough to fill an entire room with excellent sound. The speaker can be cranked up incredibly loud and still sounded crisp. Design-wise, the speaker is compact enough to fit on a bookshelf or lampstand and not look out of place. There is an aux plug in the back of the speaker to connect an audio source that way, but this speaker is really designed to work best through the Stream app. Each RW-1 retails for $249.
Probably my favorite, as far as the design of it is concerned, The Three is a classically-inspired speaker that brings old-school radio into the 21st Century. The attention to detail on this $399 piece is what makes it stand out—the brushed metal nobs, the rugged woven cloth that wraps around the drivers, the classic Klipsch logo. It’s a beautifully designed piece that fits right into the Stream lineup. And the sound it produces matches the quality of the design. Users can connect to the speaker via Bluetooth, through the Stream app, via traditional red/white cables, and the phono pre-amp input.
RSB-8 and RSB-14 Soundbars
We didn’t get hands on with the RSB-8, but that’s only because Klipsch decided to send us the more-powerful RSB-14 to review. The soundbar is plugged directly into my TV and has become my favorite individual piece in this lineup. Connections into the soundbar include three HDMI inputs, and an aux input. But, like the other speakers in the lineup, the consumer can connect through the Stream app, as well as Bluetooth. The soundbar, which comes with a powerful wireless subwoofer, can also adapt to different audio presets including a nighttime mode, a dialogue-enhancing mode, a surround sound mode, and more. Klipsch integrated Dolby Audio to help enhance the listening experience as well. It’s mildly frustrating to have to add a second remote to your TV experience, but worth it, considering the improved audio experience. The RSB-8 retails for $499 while the 14 goes for $699.
The $179 Klipsch Gate is basically a wireless adapter for any legacy audio product you own. From CD players to turntables, the Gate allows you to connect those devices to the Stream listening experience. The Gate can also be plugged into other powered audio systems to stream that content to other speakers in the Stream setup.
Built around a 2 x100 watt class D amplifier, the Klipsch Powergate can be used to drive any type of speaker. The device has a whole range of connection options, including WiFi, through the Stream app, Bluetooth, USB audio, phono pre-amp/RCA, and optical. And outputs include a headphone jack, through the Stream system, a subwoofer output, and a line level pre-amp output. The Powergate retails for $499.