In a world awash with mediocre "lifestyle audio" products, it's nice to see a performance-first powered-speaker system such as Klipsch's R-15PM powered monitors. These compact 2-way bookshelf-style loudspeakers offer flexible connectivity options that—when combined with the included remote—allow them to serve as a standalone stereo system. You won't need a receiver to take full advantage of the R-15PMs—even if you listen to vinyl records.
I had a chance to preview these speakers during a visit to Klipsch's design facilities in Indianapolis, Indiana. As a result, I already knew they have the potential to sound great. However, nothing beats hands-on time auditioning gear in your own listening room, so I requested a pair for review. In this video, you'll see how the R-15PMs performed in my studio:
Sporting five inputs—USB, Bluetooth, optical digital, RCA analog stereo (with phono), and 3.5mm analog stereo—Klipsch's monitors interface with almost any source out there. You can use them with a TV, a phone, a Chromecast Audio, a laptop, and a turntable—all hooked up concurrently and selectable with either the included remote or a rear-mounted rotary volume/source selection control.
The speakers feature a 2-way design with a 5.25" woofer and a 1" aluminum compression-driver horn-loaded tweeter. These are powered speakers, but they use a passive crossover at 1800 Hz. Frequency response is specified from 62 Hz to 24 kHz (+/-3 dB), and each speaker gets 50 watts of amplification to work with. A subwoofer output with adjustable gain makes it easy to extend the system's bass response by adding a sub. One thing these speakers do not feature is EQ or any sort of tone control.
An included credit card-sized IR remote offers complete control of the system, from source selection to volume adjustment to tweaking the subwoofer level.
I treated the R-15PM system like any pair of quality bookshelf speakers, placing them on stands six feet apart, and four feet ahead of the front wall in my 2-channel listening room. The main difference was I did not have to connect these speakers to an AVR or separates-based system.
Setup was super simple; all I had to do was connect the passive (left) speaker to the active (right) one using a provided cable. It literally took seconds to plug in the system, turn it on, connect a source, and play music.
The R-15PM system offers the option to add a subwoofer, but there's no bass management. Therefore, you have to use a sub's built-in lowpass control to integrate it. I used a Klipsch R-115SW
and an ELAC Debut S12EQ
in my listening; both are great subs. Since the R-15PMs don't offer any sort of EQ, I appreciated the way the S12EQ blended in thanks to its highly effective Auto-EQ function. However, I also enjoyed the depths the Klipsch sub plumbed—it can dig down to 16 Hz. What's important is that when you add a sub, it transforms the R-15PM rig into truly powerful full-range system.
Regardless of whether I used the R-15PMs to listen to my music collection, catch a movie, play video games, or simply to watch a TV show, they delivered clear, dynamic, and completely non-fatiguing sound.
When it came to the speakers' performance, I was particularly impressed with the robustness of the drivers and amplification. It was essentially impossible to get the speakers to misbehave, aside from driving the woofer to its physical limits. One of the benefits of active (versus passive) speakers is that they offer designers an opportunity to create a holistic system where every part is optimized for its task, and Klipsch succeeded beautifully with the R-15PM.
A common concern about horn-loaded tweeters is that they are harsher than open domes and ribbons. As accurate as the R-15PMs are, that clarity did not come at the cost of listenability. Klipschophobia–the fear of fatiguing tweeters–is unjustified. You can listen to these speakers non-stop without tiring of the sweet sounds they make.
Ultimately, what you get from Klipsch for $500 are high-quality compact monitors that do not try to break the laws of physics when it comes to deep bass reproduction. Instead, they offer rock-solid performance within their specified frequency range, and they make a fantastic foundation for a simple sub/satellite rig. If you buy a decent subwoofer to go with the R-15PMs, you'll be rewarded with truly high-fidelity audio reproduction that's hard to beat for the price.
The performance and value offered by the R-15PM powered monitors make them easy to recommend to anyone who seeks high fidelity and ease of use in a compact standalone stereo speaker system.
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