The ongoing flat-screen TV boom is creating a strong demand for slender on-wall speakers, and now Klipsch has joined the fray with its new Synergy Series SLX speaker. We find it interesting that while most of competition is cranking out multichannel systems, Klipsch is taking a different approach. The company's market research has shown that the most plasma and LCD TVs aren't wall-mounted; they're placed on furniture or a table stand, and most flat-panel buyers don't bother with surround systems. As a result, Klipsch believes that most SLXs will be configured as two-channel arrays with a Klipsch subwoofer. However, if you're willing to shell out for five or more--the speakers retail for $350 each--you could combine them to make a stylish 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 surround package with plenty of home-theater moxie. Clothed in its unobtrusive gray cloth grille, the Klipsch Synergy SLX looks like any number of other flat-screen-TV-friendly speakers. Pop off the grille, and the SLX's curved silver hued baffle, flared ports, and dark grey metallic drivers produce a more dramatic appearance. The SLX can be mounted vertically or horizontally; the trim speaker is 25 inches tall, 5.5 wide, and 5 deep.
The SLX's rounded backside looks cool, but lacking a flat bottom, the speaker can't stand on its own. In other words, you can't just place it next to your table-mounted flat-screen TV. You can use Klipsch's cleverly designed swivel wall-mount bracket (included) or buy floor stands. If you're interested in the second option, we'd go for Sanus's beautiful extruded aluminum and tempered glass FF1 stands, which go for $160 per pair.
A pair of Synergy SLXs retails for $700, and once you've added the matching $400 , the price will reach $1,100, or $2,150 for the complete 5.1 setup.
We'd avoid mating the SLX with a bright-sounding receiver and recommend going with one of Rotel or Harman Kardon's richly balanced models. If you're going to use the SLXs in a 2.1-channel configuration, you can avoid the complexities associated with A/V receivers and buy a stereo receiver instead. The Klipsch Synergy SLX features dual 4.5-inch molded graphite woofers and a 1-inch aluminum dome tweeter coupled to a round horn, which increases the tweeter's dynamic impact and minimizes floor and ceiling reflections that smear the sound. The front baffle's sculpted ports enhance the woofer's low-frequency extension. Another nice touch: Rather than use plastic pins to hold the grilles in place, the SLX's grilles are magnetically attached.
The SLX's burly binding posts accept bare wire ends or cables terminated with metal pins. Due to minimal clearance between the back of the speaker and the supplied wall bracket or Sanus floor stand, banana plugs aren't a practical option.
Klipsch's wall bracket deserves special mention; it fits into the speakers' slots and automatically locks into place. The Klipsch Synergy SLX speakers don't produce much bass on their own, so we used to provide the system's low-end foundation. We started our evaluations with the U-571 DVD World War II submarine drama. The scene early in the film when a group of American sailors board a German ship demonstrated the SLX's home-theater moxie. The sounds of machine-gun fire tearing through the ship's interior and bullets ricocheting off the metal surfaces were incredibly vivid. The claustrophobic interior was well captured by the SLX to the point we forgot that we were only listening to a pair of satellites instead of a full-blown 5-channel surround array. That's not to say that the DVD wouldn't have sounded even better in surround, but we didn't miss the more enveloping sound. The ferocious underwater depth-charge explosions that occur later in the film were noticeably scaled back compared to the sound we heard over full-size speakers we've recently tested (namely, the Wharfedale Diamond 9.5), but that's hardly a fair contest. Big speakers will always have the advantage on that front.
CDs are another matter. Lucinda Williams's white-hot new CD, Live @ the Fillmore, erupted over the SLX/Sub-10 set. The sound was vivid and three-dimensional; the wide-open soundstage of the two SLX speakers was remarkably spacious. Williams's gut-wrenching vocals were fully evoked.
The Sub-10 was in its glory punching out the Motown Remixed CD's low-down funky beats, through we felt the SLX/Sub-10 tonal balance was slightly lean. The SLXs were the main culprit: they're bass challenged on their own, and we never quite found the perfect crossover point that seamlessly blended the SLXs with the Sub-10. We're duty bound to report that this sort of midbass dip will vary from room to room. Some CDs and DVDs' vocals sounded a bit thin, for instance.
Bottom line: We were impressed with the SLX's razor-sharp imaging and its ability to play loud without strain, but we are less enthusiastic about its synergy with the Sub-10.