They’re Klipsch. They must be good, right?
Sometimes, you just have to ask, “What were they thinking?” As in “What was HP thinking when it acquired Compaq?” As in “What was Bill Clinton thinking when he invited Monica Lewinsky to share his cigar?” And as in “What was Klipsch thinking when it decided to offer $99 speakers?”
Klipsch has a well-earned reputation for making excellent speakers. Its products have never been inexpensive, but for people who really care about audio, cost is not usually top of mind. And so when we heard that Klipsch was offering a two-channel system that would retail for just $99.99, we were intrigued. Had Klipsch discovered some magically new, incredibly inexpensive material from which to fabricate great-sounding speakers?
Our skepticism dissipated when we unpacked the ProMedia Ultra 2.0s. The plastic enclosures are both attractive and substantial, with each housing two 2.5-inch fiber-composite cones, a one-inch polymer tweeter, and a MicroTractix horn behind removable cloth grills. An amplifier in the left enclosure delivers 15 watts (RMS) per channel, which should be plenty of power for speakers this size. Bass and power/volume controls are also on the left cabinet, along with a headphone output and an auxiliary input.
Our first impression, listening to the Blue Man Group’s The Complex DVD-Audio disc was, “Wow! These sound pretty damn good.” We heard a surprising amount of bass, and the dulcimer-like instruments from “Above” positively shimmered. But that first impression vaporized as soon as we put on Paul Thorn’s “Fabio & Liberace” (from Ain’t Love Strange) and cranked the volume past one-quarter. That tune’s thumping bass line instantly turned flatulent, and something inside the enclosures themselves began rattling in protest at what the amp was asking the speakers to deliver. Turning down the bass control didn’t help matters a whit.
We had a similar experience with games. Half-Life 2’s audio events sounded fine at low volume, with satisfying explosions and crackling machine-gun fire. But as soon as we cranked things up, everything went to hell. We tried isolating the amp by plugging in a set of headphones, but that only proved the amp was as much of a problem as the speakers themselves.
Whatever Klipsch was thinking when it designed the ProMedia Ultra 2.0s, we hope the sentiment doesn’t migrate to the rest of the product line. --Michael Brown
+ Rodeo Drive: You can put the Klipsch name on your desk for 100 bucks.
- Rodeo Clowns: You’ll want a pair of somebody else’s speakers to actually listen to.