Name: HD Theater 500 (Klipsch)
Type: 5.1 speaker set
Specs: Click here for full specs
Price: £499.99 from Klipsch
No matter what the brand or size, buyers of a flatscreen TV have to be ready for pretty woeful audio quality from nearly every set. This isn't necessarily a problem however, as ever-more-affordable home cinema speaker packages hit the market, making 5.1 surround sound far more accessible than it ever was. Klipsch's HD Theater 500 package sits at the top end of mid-priced speaker packages. As veterans of the silver screen cinema speaker scene, can Klipsch bring the Hollywood magic into living rooms too?
Comprised of four satellite speakers, a centre speaker and an active subwoofer, you've got nearly all you need to get a home cinema system set up straight out of the box, barring an AV receiver of course. For the most part, build quality on Klipsch's HD Theater 500 is very good; aimed at smaller rooms, the speakers are sensibly discrete. The surround satellites measure up at 6" x 3.6" x 3.85". the centre channel 3.6" x 9" x 3.85" and the subwoofer 13.9" x 12.5" x 12.5", each finished with a gloss matte finish and with removable grilles on the satellites that reveal the woofers and tweeters. Each had a solid weight to them, with smooth, well-finished casing. However, we were disappointed to find spring-clip wiring connections on the speakers, usually the reserve of cheaper all-in-one box 5.1 systems. They're fiddily and not as reliable as binding posts.
Wall-mounting the speakers shouldn't pose much of a problem, helped along by a collection of brackets in the box. In a nice touch, the speakers can be angled within a 40-degree cone, allowing you to fine tune the arc of the sound image.
On the rear of the 100-watt subwoofer you'll find a range of dials to tweak volume and crossover settings. Crossover range can be put between 80 and 160Hz, with something around the top end of that range best suited to the included satellites. A 150Hz subwoofer-to-satellite crossover seemed to be optimal during our testing. Line inputs, and switches to control flipping the phase 180 degrees are also housed on the back of the subwoofer.
Moving onto the satellites, each house a horn-loaded 0.75-inch aluminium tweeter and a 2.5-inch woofer, with the larger centre speaker using two 2.5-inch woofers either side of the tweeter.
We popped on the Star Trek Blu-ray to try out the Klispch HD Theater 500's movie performance in the film's particularly-testing opening scene, and came away very impressed. As explosions and alarms fire off all over the show, the speakers managed natural separation, with little notable join between the audio sources. Shattering glass and booming explosions felt measured and appropriate, with particular praise going to the subwoofer. While the satellites distorted slightly with the highest frequencies at louder volumes, the subwoofer massaged bass tones to a warm and satisfying degree, giving full-bodied sound that remained clear rather than grumbling. Also worht noting is the centre channel, which admirably pushed dialogue to the fore.
Playing back a range of CDs of many musical styles, covering everything from Lady Gaga to Metallica through to classical works by Verdi, all showed the Klipsch kit performing well, though we often again found the satellites making higher frequencies sound a little harsh.
They're not the cheapest speaker option, but you could do a lot worse than the Klipsch HD Theater 500 set. They'll easily provide smaller rooms with a significant cinematic audio upgrade over flatscreen TVs, pushing blockbuster sounds to your sofa. The spring clips may seem a little cheap, and there's the odd minor niggle with the satellites, but that subwoofer is a joy to listen to, with literally earth-shaking performance without compromising clarity.