Klipsch The Nines Powered Bluetooth Speakers Review

Posted on 15th March, 2023
Klipsch The Nines Powered Bluetooth Speakers Review

Mark Gusew is impressed by this large active standmounting loudspeaker package from one of the oldest names in the industry…

Klipsch

The Nines

USD $1,499 /pair

In 2016 Klipsch wanted to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of its company's history with the debut of Heritage self-powered speakers. They would all fit in the traditional Klipsch retro styling mould and be capable of large outputs for their given size. Starting with The One, and growing in overall size and sonic capabilities, Klipsch continued with The Three, The Fives, The Sevens and The Nines – which are the focus of this review. Selling for $1,499 /pair in North America, this is a two-way ported speaker package with a 25mm titanium tweeter in a Tractix horn and a 203mm high excursion fibre composite cone woofer. They are active or self-powered speakers that have amplification onboard and simply require a source to operate.

It would be remiss to talk about Klipsch without discussing the four sound principles informing its distinctive designs – namely, high efficiency/low distortion, controlled directivity, wide dynamic range and controlled frequency response. These were set back in the company's early days by the founder Paul W Klipsch. So all of the models from The Fives and up have solid cabinets finished with real wood veneers, with top-mounted rotary control dials, a large horn tweeter and a long-throw woofer. This allows them to be very efficient for their size, have a wide spread of sound, great dynamics and a tailored frequency response via internal amplification and digital signal processing. 

Peter Shamoon, Director of Sales for Premium Audio Company, which manages Klipsch in Australia, told me: “By using a DSP-based built-in amplifier, we are able to squeeze every ounce of performance out of each component within the speaker. Each is bi-amplified, which allows for breathing room as well as no need for a lossy, passive crossover network. DSP allows us to integrate compressors, limiters, and equalisation to far outperform any passive speaker in output, and with enhanced reliability.”

UP CLOSE

The Nines have a claimed 100W per channel for the woofer and 20W for the tweeter, with a claimed 240W total or 480W peak power. Just one of the two speakers contains the amplification module, with the other joined with a nice long 4m speaker cable, along with a 2m extension cable. A switch at the back allows the primary to be set for either the right or left sided speaker for your room. 

There are two digital inputs, optical and USB, an HDMI-ARC input and two analogue inputs, a 3.5mm and a switchable single pair of RCAs for either line in or MM phono in, but not at the same time. Also included is a subwoofer output along with a 'pair' button for Bluetooth 5.0 wireless connectivity, which includes aptX, aptX HD and AAC support. Sadly there is no built-in network streaming, but you could easily add a Bluesound Node or Chromecast Audio. I imagine that Klipsch believes users will be predominantly streaming from a smartphone or device over Bluetooth. The internal DAC is capable of 192kHz/24-bit decoding.

The Nines aren't exactly small speakers; I would instead categorise them as a large bookshelf design. According to the spec sheet, they are 485mm high by 241mm wide and 340mm deep and weigh either 12.8kg for the primary or 12.25kg for the secondary speaker. In reality, they feel heavier and bulkier than I anticipated. The stated frequency response is 34 to 25kHz, +/- 3dB. 

Quality of fit and finish is very good, with immaculate woodwork and large cork pads underneath to avoid scuffs to your furniture. The controls are unique and gorgeous, with knurled metal dials controlling the source and volume, with white LED lights to indicate the setting. Smooth and well-weighted, the dials are a joy to use. A small but easy-to-use remote control is also included. Even the speaker and power cables are cloth covered, which is a nice touch. The speakers are available in both ebony and walnut wood finishes, with retro-styled grill cloths supplied.

Set-up requires installing the Klipsch Connect app to your device, which connects via Bluetooth. The app acts as a virtual remote, allowing firmware updates, source and volume selection, EQ presets and a comprehensive help section, with a quick start guide, product manual, how-to videos and FAQs. If you need help, you can access Klipsch product support via Live Chat, text, phone call or web ticket. The app includes speaker location settings of 6dB bass reduction for corner placement, 3dB reduction for mid-wall placement and 0dB when they are not near any hard surfaces. You can toggle between preset or custom EQ settings, Dynamic Bass EQ, subwoofer and more.

For this review, I used both the analogue output and the digital optical output of a Bluesound Node as a source. I found that digital audio sounded nicer and more musical going directly into the internal DAC. The better the source, the better it sounded…

THE LISTENING

The Nines don't disappoint sonically. They have the ability to perform musical fireworks in your listening space, with a vibrant and colourful presentation. Typical of the Klipsch brand is a bias towards producing prestigious amounts of deep powerful bass. If you have come from a background of listening to earbuds and a soundbar, you are in for a treat with The Nines, getting a taste of what real loudspeakers are capable of, despite fairly modest dimensions!

Well-recorded rock, dance or pop music sounds particularly impressive. Take, for instance, Don't Start Now by Dua Lipa, which through The Nines had a deep, well-extended and detailed bass that thumped hard but effortlessly. The bottom end tended to dominate even with the EQ settings flat. There is a gentle smiley curve EQ voicing from the factory, which is how the majority of listeners like it anyway. The bass dominates, the mids are slightly recessed, and the highs are bright and well-lit.

Treble has a stark sense of speed, with superb transient attack which adds to the excitement, theatre and spectacle of the performance. This is especially the case with modern music that younger listeners appreciate. For instance, it added detail to the pace of Gimme Chocolate by Baby Metal by clearly defining the insanely fast drum and guitar work. For other genres, it can be hit and miss depending on your tastes. It was easy to hear the differences in sound quality between Spotify and lossless Tidal or Qobuz, with hi-res tracks sounding quite spectacular. 

I liked the way that Numb by Portishead sounded immaculately clean and well-defined. When playing via Bluetooth 5.0 on my Android device, the soundstage shrank compared to the direct digital in from the Bluesound, and bass depth was diminished, albeit only by a little. This is good news for listeners who stream from their devices. Treble did not become brittle or harsh, and that's a good thing.

I've heard Spitfire by Infected Mushroom being played at the StereoNET Hi-Fi Show as a torture test for speakers at high volume levels. It's a “call your mates over to experience this” moment, when you hear how The Nines can fill a large room with clean, effortless chest-thumping bass. This seemed never to run out of puff, even with the dynamic bass turned on and extra bass in the EQ. 

The soundstage that The Nines throw is large and encompassing. Things are forward and upfront, but with a decent amount of front-to-back depth perspective and decent image location – especially for this price point. Overall, I got best results via the USB input fed from my laptop; listening this way, the soundstage expanded further still, and there was a greater sense of musical ease. Listening to the 7 Rings by Ariana Grande made The Nines disappear as the recorded acoustic enveloped my space. 

I connected the Klipsch system to a 65” TV through the HDMI ARC port, and with CEC enabled in the television settings, it switched on and off at the same time as the TV, and its remote control adjusted the volume to the speakers seamlessly. Using a single remote for the majority of the time is a huge plus, to my mind. 

Watching movies with The Nines is a lot of fun. With a scary amount of deep usable bass at your command, I certainly didn't miss having a subwoofer, although one is available. Explosions, crashes, and earthquakes were handled without distortion or stress, making most soundbars sound anaemic by comparison. This system's ability to handle dynamic peaks was a real highlight. At the same time, dialogue and detail were clear and easily heard. Male voices, in particular, retained all of their texture and energy. 

In a bedroom, I connected The Nines to a smaller TV for late-night viewing and was impressed with the amount of detail and musical intricacy of well-known programmes that I had previously been missing out on. The soundstage was so much larger and well-defined. This was at low volume settings, as I never felt it needed to be turned louder to hear clearer. 

THE VERDICT

Depending on the size of your listening room and how loud and dynamic you like your music, Klipsch has a model in its range to satisfy your needs. The Nines are at the top of the tree and have incredible levels of performance at the price, within a reasonably compact package. Despite the lack of inbuilt network-capable streaming, this system should suit most users' needs and complement modern living, especially when connected to a TV. As Klipsch says: “Simply plug, play, and enjoy.”

For more information visit Klipsch

Mark Gusew's avatar

Mark Gusew

Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.

Posted in:Applause Awards 2023 Loudspeakers Active Bookshelf / Standmount Hi-Fi
Tags: klipsch 

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