Product Review - Klipsch Synergy SF-1 Tower Speakers - July, 2000
Klipsch Synergy SF-1 Tower Speakers
One 1" Aluminum Dome Tweeter, One 6 1/2" Woofer
MFR: 40 Hz - 20 kHz ± 3 dB
Sensitivity: 94 dB/w/m
Impedance: 8 Ohms Nominal
Size: 33" H x 8" W x 13 1/2" D
Weight: 33 Pounds Each
Finish: Black Ash Vinyl
Klipsch L.L.C., Web http://www.klipsch.com
I'm going to start out by saying that I was very skeptical of the new Klipsch SF-1 speaker. Why? Simple, the KSF 10.5 and KSF 8.5s, part of the Klipsch Synergy series, were two of the most successful speakers in recent years. The 10.5s and 8.5s used two 8" drivers, and one 8" driver, respectively. The KSF 8.5 (which is indirectly replaced by the SF-1) weighed more at 49 lbs than any of the Synergies and had a slightly larger cabinet size, which made it a little more noticeable, not to mention the MSRP of $150 higher. However, upon listening to the new line of Klipsch Synergy speakers, I have found they may not only have matched the KSF 10.5s and 8.5s, but perhaps have even improved on them.
The first thing that I noticed about the SF-1 speaker was that it is not imposing in the very least. However, don’t' let that fool you into thinking that they are not a well put together piece of equipment. These gems weigh in at 33 lbs each, are constructed of medium density fiberboard (MDF), and are covered in a black ash vinyl veneer for a nice finish. The removable cloth grille is about 3/4" from the drivers on the front side of the speaker and is molded in the slightest semi-circle. This allows for the "floating" grille, designed to minimize diffraction. Overall, I think this speaker has a nice, sleek design. Gold-plated five-way binding posts allow for your choice of bare wire, banana plugs, or spade connections. (One small issue that may arise is that lack of adjustable feet to the bottom to compensate for floors that are not level.)
The driver compliment consists of a two-way system utilizing a 1" aluminum dome compression driver (say that five times fast!) and a 6.5" woofer with polymer housing and IMG cone. The 1" dome driver reveals itself via a 90°x 60° Tractrix Horn, the staple of a Klipsch speaker. For those unfamiliar with the Klipsch horn designs, the 90°x 60° means that you get 90° horizontal coverage and 60° vertical coverage in the listening area. The Tractrix horn allows for the expansion of sound waves to a focused radiation pattern. The result is a speaker that recreates realistic spatial imaging with a very high efficiency. Other additions to the new Klipsch Synergy line include aluminum diaphragms, injected graphite cones, Santoprene surrounds, high definition crossovers (in this case at 2 kHz), and phase-aligned drivers.
I'm going to comment on the musical capabilities of these speakers first for a reason that I will get to later. I used the JVC XU-301 BK CD player and a host of different receivers to feed the SF-1s. To test the musical capabilities of the SF-1s, I decided to take advantage of my own musical tastes. This would consist mainly of groups like Korn and Limp Biscuit. Whatever you like to call them - rock, rap, or whatever - one thing's for sure, their music is very demanding on any speaker system. Right away I noticed the clarity of the SF-1s. The highs and mids were reproduced well with a just a hint of brightness that is unique to the any Klipsch speaker. The Tractrix Horn, with its 90°x60° coverage, filled the room with music nicely, with a definite sweet spot to be found. While sitting in this sweet spot you'll swear that there is a center channel speaker. The bass may be ample for a casual listener in a small to perhaps a medium size room if these speakers were to be used stand-alone. Just as I had suspected, however, the SF-1s by themselves couldn't quite reproduce with the low-end guts that so many audio enthusiasts have come to demand, especially in a large room. I've always been a little suspect of smaller drivers, in this case 6.5" on tower speakers and their ability to reproduce low frequencies. These speakers are given a frequency response rating down to 40 Hz, but more realistically that is quite generous for the SF-1s. To add those guts, the subwoofer of my choosing was also of Klipsch lineage, the KSW 10 (10" driver, 55 watts rms, MSRP-$399). After the proper blend of bass was achieved (around 11 o'clock on the KSW 10 volume control for the room I was in), the SF-1s really shined. Anyone looking for a budget 2-channel system should give this affordable combination a serious test run.
Now that it has been well documented that a subwoofer is highly recommended for the SF-1s (actually for just about any system), it goes without saying that a home theater package would necessitate a powered sub (that's why the music test came first). It was time to really let this system flex its muscles. To test the home theater capabilities, I used the Panasonic A120 DVD player with the same receivers that I had for the music tests. The DVD movie of choice was "Star Trek: First Contact". During this film, there are numerous intergalactic battle sequences where the action is nothing short of intense. The overall sound rivaled the trailer for "Mission to Mars" I had just seen in my local theater (on the same scale, considering room size that is). If you're looking for a Klipsch home theater setup, the SF-1s are sonically matched to the Klipsch SC-1 center speaker and SS-1 surrounds. Once again, a Klipsch KSW series (10,12,15) subwoofer is highly recommended to add that extra thump when using the SF-1 speakers as the main speakers. Also available are the Klipsch SF-2s (the indirect replacement of the KSF 10.5) that add a second 6 1/2" driver for modest bass extension, which cost a few dollars more with an MSRP of $650 (but that's another review down the line).
Although the SF-1s are very sensitive, and as such, will perform well with mass market receivers, as with any speaker, if you feed them garbage that's exactly what you'll get out of them, garbage, so don't expect great sound with $79 receivers. The less expensive (JVC, Technics) of the receivers could play loud (and I mean loud!), but the more expensive units (Sony, Denon, Yamaha) played loud and clean. Top performers that I found when testing the speakers were the Sony DB models (830 and 930) receivers when price and performance were considered. Read the review of the Sony DB 830 by my colleague and you'll be convinced as I was (in fact, money willing, the 830 or 930 will be my next receiver). In any case, 50 - 75 watts rms per channel will be sufficient for these speakers.
Some will prefer the slightly colored and forward sound that the Klipsch horn has to offer. Others will think it is too imposing. And . . . a friendly warning to those with clean, high-end receivers. The sound may be so clean that you can hear every recorded flaw and minor defect of the source material. This may be especially true when watching VHS tapes or recorded television broadcasts.
At $500/pair MSRP, the SF-1 speakers are the least expensive of the Klipsch tower speakers and a great price for an entry-level 2-channel or home theater system. If you want your living room to still look like a living room, but sound like a theater, and still keep a few digits in your bank account, then Klipsch SF-1s could be your speakers.
- Jared Baldwin
© Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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