Klipsch SB 120 review: Natural sound, boxy looks

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.4
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 6.0
  • Sound quality: 8.0
  • Value: 7.0
Review Date:

The Good The Klipsch SB 120 offers a solidly constructed speaker base that sounds good with music and also offers detailed dialogue. It will decode Dolby Digital soundtracks and comfortably support TVs that weigh up to 100 pounds. It also supports streaming from Bluetooth devices.

The Bad The speaker lacks a display and it's almost impossible to know what the volume and bass levels are set to; the internal "subwoofer" doesn't offer much in the way of deep bass; "3D mode" offers no real soundstage improvement; lackluster styling, dinky credit-card remote.

The Bottom Line If you favor performance over convenience and good looks, the natural and musical Klipsch SB 120 speaker stand is a decent buy.

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Got a big-screen (55-inch or thereabouts) TV, but looking to juice up its uninspiring speakers? You could go for a sound bar like the excellent Pioneer SP-SB23W. But if you're not wall mounting, that traditional sort of design doesn't suit all TVs or media furniture: it can block the IR port and sit awkwardly on your TV's base.

Instead, you might want to seek out a pedestal-style sound bar, like the Klipsch SB 120 reviewed here. Instead of sitting in front of your TV, it sits underneath it. It's designed to house up to 55-inch models with ease. It's a little boxy and lacking in true style or convenience, but it makes up for this with a solid performance in both music and movies. If you want something that just "works" -- and you have the compatible optical output on your TV -- then the Klipsch is definitely one to consider.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

While speaker manufacturers have gotten a handle on how to make Bluetooth speakers and docks consumer-friendly, the "speaker stand" is still a new enough design that most companies haven't worked out how to make them look cool yet. While LG pretty much cracked this nut with its svelte SoundPlate designs, the Klipsch SB 120 is stuck in "boxy Zvox clone" mode.

klipsch-sb120-product-photos14.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

While there are some concessions to styling, along the lines of a Sony Xplod-style "X" in the middle of the fascia, this is largely a Klipsch tower speaker on its side -- minus the fancy metal drivers. Sadly, this large box also lacks any sort of display -- apart from a blinking LED -- and one downside of this is that guessing the volume is a tricky process.

klipsch-sb120-product-photos05.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

A decided trend among speaker manufacturers is that of providing dinky, credit-card style remotes with their sound bars. It comes with separate controls for volume and sub, for all it's worth. Thankfully, you can always opt for a universal remote (like the Harmony family) instead.

Features

There are two different approaches when it comes to making a sound bar: make it tiny and fill it with gizmos, or make it huge and fill it with drivers. While the Sonys and LGs of this world have opted for the former approach, Klipsch has gone about making a big (ugly) box with speakers in it -- hang the pretense.

The Klipsch features a stereo setup with two aluminum tweeters, two 3-inch midrange drivers and two ported 5-inch woofers mounted in the front of the enclosure. Despite missing a subwoofer -- either onboard or externally -- the company claims the speaker can get down to 55Hz. Sadly, there is no option to add a sub, either.

klipsch-sb120-product-photos09.jpg
Sarah Tew/CNET

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color brushed black
  • Amplification Type active
  • Crossover Channel Qty 3-way
  • Connectivity Technology wired