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Article updated on June 5, 2024 at 3:00 AM PDT

Klipsch Flexus Core 200 Soundbar Review: Sounds Big, Is Big

The soundbar has impressive dynamics for a setup without a subwoofer, and it's great with music too. But its dearth of features for its price is a letdown.

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Ty Pendlebury
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Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
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8.0/ 10
SCORE

Klipsch Flexus Core 200

Pros

  • Excellent sound straight out of the box
  • Impressive dynamics
  • True Dolby Atmos playback

Cons

  • Lack of features for the money
  • Add-on surrounds and sub are flaky

The Klipsch Cinema 400 is dead, long live the Klipsch Cinema 400. This year, Klipsch announced the Cinema series' replacement in the new Flexus Sound System. A collaboration with Onkyo, the Flexus range offers all-in-one soundbar convenience with the ability to upgrade later. 

The Flexus Core 200 is the big brother to the excellent Core 100, and it boasts a larger size and full Dolby Atmos capability. It sounds great, especially with immersive soundtracks, and yet the soundbar is outshone by the competitive Sonos Beam in terms of both sound and features.

Even still, if you're looking for an effective and no-fuss upgrade to any TV, then the Core 200 illustrates how well Klipsch can still re-create "the movies" in your home. Just skip the add-ons for now.

What is a Flexus?

Klipsch speaker system against a purple backdrop with soundwaves

The Flexus range incorporates two soundbars, a pair of satellites and a sub.

Carly Marsh/CNET

The $349 Flexus Core 100 and $499 Flexus Core 200 are a collaboration with Klipsch's sister brand Onkyo -- a combination of that company's AV acumen with Klipsch's formidable speaker chops. The Klipsch Flexus Core 200 is a 3.1.2-channel soundbar that offers Dolby Atmos compatibility and Bluetooth streaming. The soundbar includes a one-cable connection to your TV (either optical or HDMI) and includes the option to expand later with the Flexus Surround 100 ($249) or the Sub 100 ($299) (though there are reasons why you shouldn't).

Klipsch Flexus CORE sound bar speaker against a purple backdrop with soundwaves

Flexus Core 200.

Carly Marsh/CNET

The 200's MDF cabinet is finished with a smart-looking wood-grain wrap, a woolen grill and metal accents. The speaker measures 44 inches wide by 5 inches deep by 3 inches tall, which, if you sit it below your TV, may mean you have to hold your remote high to get your TV to respond.

Watch this: Klipsch Flexus Soundbars: Which One is Right for You?

The cabinet expands on the dual 2.25-inch stereo configuration of the Core 100 by adding another two 2.25-inch aluminum drivers as a center, plus two more as dedicated heights. Two 4-inch "subwoofers" complete the top of the cabinet.

In addition to Dolby Atmos playback, the soundbar has a bunch of different sound modes -- including Night, Voice, Movies and Music -- and an adjustable EQ.

flexus-display
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The front-mounted display is, like the 100's, one of the best I've seen. The LED characters are an inch high and very easy to read, even from across the room. They're not distracting though, and their pale blue light will turn off after a few seconds.

The Core 200's connections include HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, USB-C and a digital optical, plus an RCA subwoofer out. Compared with the Sonos Beam or Bose Smart Soundbar 600, the lack of advanced Wi-Fi connectivity is conspicuous, as is the absence of a voice assistant. However, the soundbar can be controlled with the Klipsch Connect Plus, which helps you sort out configuration and add extras.

flexus-remote
Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The soundbar ships with a remote that replicates the controls on the app, and I found it quite comfortable to hold. The clicker even has a subtle backlight that's only visible in the dark.

How's it sound?

Having had an enjoyable experience testing the Flexus 100, even though it's resolutely stereo-sounding and not Atmos, I eagerly unboxed the 200 and connected it to a Hisense Google TV. The moment I fired up Mad Max: Fury Road, I was immediately impressed. I hadn't done anything more than put the speaker on the AV rack, but the sound that came out of it was full of dimension and presence. The speaker's Atmos heights were doing a good deal of work, and the tricksy opening dialogue of the film soared over the top of the TV and back again. Voices were crisp, and Tom Hardy's own was full and lacking in the bronchial quality that some bassy soundbars can produce. All this with no setup routine required! 

Next, I pushed the Beam into the breach and found that its Atmos playback was just as convincing as the Klipsch. It also added a little more sparkle and detail to the sound effects that peppered the apocalyptic scene. Given the choice of the two for the same price, I would personally opt for the Beam. More on that shortly.

During the subsequent movie and music listening tests, I found that the Klipsch soundbar's ability to produce dynamics set it apart from almost any other soundbar, including the Beam. The only other bar that comes close is the Zvox SB500, but I found it would clamp down hard on dynamic material, sapping its impact.

Music was also heartily enjoyable, and this came into focus when I compared the Klipsch to Samsung's new HW-S800D. Though the Samsung is capable of sound that belies its lipstick-thin speaker, it was still surpassed by the Klipsch. In honor of Steve Albini's recent passing, I listened to his band Shellac's "Dog and Pony Show" on the 800D first, and while it did sound entertaining, it was bested by the all-in-one Flexus 200, which had more attack and better dynamics.

flexus-with-sub-and-satellites

Flexus Core 100 with optional sub and satellites.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

As with the Flexus 100, though, I didn't have any success with adding the accessories to the Flexus 200. The subwoofer lacks an independent volume but sorely needs one, and again, I found I was unable to turn it down enough to get a good balance. Though it was equal in price to the Beam and Sonos Sub Mini, the Klipsch Core 200 and Sub 100 were thoroughly outperformed by the Sonos combo. The older system blended better and I didn't have to do much within the app to get the Sonos' balance right.

On a lesser note, the left channel of the Surround 100 kept cutting out during tests of Mad Max, and I found there's no way to deactivate the surrounds during music mode. These problems can and most likely will be fixed, as this is still a relatively new system, but I can't recommend adding the accessories until these issues are rectified.

Should you buy it?

The Klipsch Cinema 400 was an impressive soundbar, and the Flexus Core 200 is an excellent model in its own right, if not quite at the same level. The Core 200 balances crisp dialogue with heightened dynamics -- and will certainly enhance any TV you connect it to. Yet, the minor issues I found with the 100 are amplified here: Namely, there's a lack of any real advanced features for the money, and the accessories are not (yet) working at the level I'd expect. 

Head-to-head against the Sonos Beam, the Klipsch performs well, but it's pipped at the post by the Sonos speaker. The Sonos also has the advantage of a decades-old ecosystem which has been honed in a way that you can't expect of the Flexus system just yet. While the Flexus 100 is a great system for $350, the Sonos Beam is a better option if you can stretch your budget to around the $500 mark.