An update to Klipsch's ProMedia 5.1, the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 incorporates several design refinements: a larger, retuned subwoofer; slicker satellites; a restyled command module; and updated crossovers. The Ultra 5.1 certainly delivers excellent performance, but we expect that from a system listed at $399.
The Ultra 5.1's wired command module is a cut above that of competing systems, featuring a highly readable numeric display and a large dial that allows you to set levels with precision. Unfortunately, since it lacks digital-audio inputs, onboard Dolby Digital decoding, and a wireless remote, this Klipsch isn't well suited for use with game consoles or home-theater installations.
To the Ultra 5.1's credit, its satellites and center speaker are two-way designs. Each features a 3-inch midbass driver and a 0.75-inch metal-polymer dome tweeter mounted in a Klipsch horn. The sub uses dual side-firing 8-inch drivers and houses amps for the entire system. The center and the sats each receive a very respectable 60 watts, while an even more impressive 170 watts goes to the subwoofer.
Connected to our PC's Creative Labs Audigy 2 Platinum EX sound card, the Ultra 5.1 proved its sonic proficiency. When we fired up Alice DeeJay's "Better Off Alone," the powerful sub drove home the thumping electronic kick drum with impressive force and tight precision, even at very loud volumes. Explosive battles in the Soldier of Fortune II PC game further established the sub's moxie, while the satellites' smooth, even quality staved off ear fatigue during long gaming sessions.
The "Fury" chapter of the Requiem for a Dream DVD demonstrated the Ultra 5.1's excellent imaging. A telephone's busy signal precisely circled the front and rear speakers. Dynamic transitions between sonic intensity levels were smooth, but a slightly brighter center speaker would have made the dialogue a little clearer.
Overall, the Ultra 5.1 has the best sub of any multimedia speaker system we've tested. That said, we prefer the airier-sounding sats, the deeper sound field, and the Dolby Digital command module of Logitech's comparably priced Z-680.