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Speakers

Kali Audio LP-6, a knockout speaker with a surprisingly affordable price

Kali Audio may be just one year old, but its very first speaker is a winner!

Kali Audio LP-6 speakers

Kali Audio

Kali Audio is the new kid in town, it's just one year old, but the company has already received rave after rave review for its LP-6 monitor speaker. I'm falling in line with another rave -- the LP-6 is a slam-dunk winner. The company is based in California, and the speakers are made in China.

(Disclosure: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of the products featured on this page.)  

Kali's professional studio monitors were designed for engineers and DJs, but I don't see any reason why the LP-6 won't be right at home with consumers. Or should I say, consumers that think that midsize, all-black speakers with exposed drivers look cool. I absolutely do. The LP-6 sells for $149 each.

It's a two-way design with a 6.5-inch woofer and a 1-inch soft dome tweeter. The LP-6 is a powered, bi-amplified speaker with built-in 40-watt Class D amps, one for the tweeter and one for the woofer. Build quality is very decent for the price, and connectivity is above average with RCA, XLR, and TRS inputs. The rear panel has a volume control. The LP-6 is not small, it measures 14.1 by 8.75 by 10.25 inches and it weighs 15.5 pounds.

You can hook up the LP-6 to any stereo preamp or a CD player, DVD player Blu-ray player with variable analog outputs with standard RCA interconnect cables. Or any device with a headphone jack, like a phone, tablet or computer. For those you'll need a 3.5mm stereo plug to stereo RCA adapter cable like this one.

The rear of the speaker is more interesting than the front, as the back panel hosts seven Boundary EQ settings. With these settings you can optimize the sound for speaker placement close to or a few feet away from a wall, or on a shelf, wall bracket or what have you. Or use the EQ settings to create the sound balance you prefer. I auditioned the LP-6s up against a wall on my desktop, and on stands placed well out into the room, far away from walls.

Kali Audio LP-6 speakers back panel

Kali Audio

Streaming tunes on my desktop from Tidal and Qobuz I was very close, 30 inches away from the speakers. Bass was deep and nicely defined. The LP-6 is a very powerful speaker.

Jeff Tweedy's new solo album, Warm, sounded sweet. The sound on my desktop was indeed warm and rich, without lacking one iota of resolution. Vocals were well played, natural, and upfront. Stereo imaging was wide, but soundstage depth was shallow. I found the LP-6 treble a little bright; I prefer sweeter, more laid back treble. I heard faint amplifier-generated hiss/noise coming from the tweeter. Moving back to 60 inches away I no longer heard the hiss, and the treble detail smoothed out a bit.

I next pulled the LP-6s out into the room, placing them on 28-inch tall Pangea Audio LS300 floor stands, and the sound much improved. Bass was bigger and bolder -- if you like lots of bass you'll love these speakers! Compared to the desktop placement, bass definition firmed up, the LP-6 is rock-solid down there. Considering the speakers' modest size, they play high-energy music with remarkable ease. The White Stripes' live Under Great White Northern Lights album turned up nice and loud was a ball, the LP-6 likes to party. Meg White's mighty kick drum punched me in the gut from across the room!

As I played more music, I felt the bass was a bit too much, I tweaked the rear panel adjustments and brought the low end down and moved the sound closer to my preferred balance. It's easy enough to experiment and tune the LP-6's sound to one's taste.

I'm bowled over by what the Kali Audio LP-6 gets right for the money. This level of brawn usually comes in larger, more expensive speakers. Then again, I'd rather invest a little more and buy ELAC Debut 6.2 or Emotiva Airmotiv B1 bookshelf speakers -- they each go for $300 a pair -- and run them with the $140 Onkyo TX-8020 stereo receiver. 

So either of those speakers plus the receiver together are a bit pricier than the LP-6, but they'd make for a more transparent and versatile system. The LP-6 sound is ever so slightly grittier and harsher than those two models. That said, the ELAC- or Emotiva-Onkyo system is no match for the LP-6's power and glory. If you want to feel your music, get the LP-6. If you're looking for better all-around sound, the ELAC or Emotiva speakers would be better choices.  

First published Jan. 26, 2019 at 7 a.m. PT.
Update Jan. 27 at 8:11 a.m. PT: Adds more information about connectivity.