I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a pair of Klipsch The Sixes active bookshelf loudspeakers and found myself quite blown away on pretty much all fronts – especially given the price, this is one mightily impressive pair of speakers!
But to just call The Sixes a pair of speakers is to sell them short. They are, in fact, a kind of all-in-one stereo system, with built-in high fidelity amplifiers, analog, and digital circuitry, and represent what surely will be, more and more, the future of audio in many people’s homes.
Just add music – from a computer, a phone, a digital music streamer, or even a turntable or other analog source – and you’re good to go!
So in this Klipsch the Sixes review let’s get into a fairly detailed look at these great speakers, including their design and functionality, and their sound, with this 2023 buyer’s guide and review of the Klipsch The Sixes active powered speakers!
Klipsch: A True Audio Legend
For something like seventy years, Klipsch has been designing and selling speakers that are different than pretty much anything else out there.
The cornerstone of Klipsch’s history, and their product range, and the key in all that has come since, is the legendary Klipschorn, which was first released in 1946 – before the stereo era, even – and has been in continuous production in the United States ever since.
The Klipschorn’s loaded horn design was absolutely revolutionary at the time, offering new levels of detail, clarity, low distortion, and accuracy and – especially striking to so many people – an amazing and undeniably exciting sense of musical energy and dynamics
In fact, the Klipsch horn design was, and is, so successful in so many ways that it has touched upon and influenced literally every single Klipsch product since, and has been quite probably the most imitated and influential speaker design ever.
The Sixes: The New Revolution
So now we fast-forward more than 75 years, and we find that same loaded horn design in the brilliant new The Sixes bookshelf loudspeakers. And while the Klipschorn itself may currently cost around 16,000 dollars a pair, The Sixes are a bit less… Well, more than a bit – around 15,400 dollars less!
And while the Klipsch loaded horn design makes these circa-six hundred dollar speakers sound so good or is at least one of the factors, it has to be said that The Sixes are revolutionary in their own way, with totally up to date technology and design that represents the current state of the art in high fidelity audio.
The Klipsch Sixes are a powered speaker, with a rated continuous power output of 100 watts a channel, and short-term power of twice that amount. This allows these speakers to put out up to an impressive 106 decibels of volume.
They are two-way ported speakers, each with 6.5-inch long-throw woofers and horn-loaded 1-inch titanium tweeters employing Traxtrix horn technology. While they are not particularly large (about 8.5 inches wide, 17 inches tall, and a foot deep), they have an appealingly big and substantial look and feel, and the pair weighs almost 35 pounds.
Klipsch the Sixes are available in beautiful black ebony and walnut real wood veneers. They have a 1-year factory warranty on all electronic and electrical components, and 3 years on everything else.
Inputs and Functionality
More than a basic active speaker, the Klipsch The Sixes are designed to be essentially a complete entertainment solution just awaiting a source. They accept all kinds of audio inputs, both digital and analog, including:
- USB Digital Audio Input
- Optical Digital Audio Input
- Bluetooth Audio with aptX Codec
- RCA Stereo Line Level Analog Input
- Auxiliary Line Level Input
- RCA Phono Level Analog Input
This wide range of audio inputs means that if you have a computer, a phone, a digital music steamer, these speakers are all you need to play music.
And the inclusion of a high-quality phono stage means the same if you have a turntable. You don’t even need a separate phono preamplifier – just plug and play, using the ultra-simple remote control for volume and all other functionality, and enjoy that warm, musical analog sound.
You can plug in other audio sources as well, like a cassette or open reel tape deck, audio from a television, or pretty much anything else, and there is also an output for an optional subwoofer.
The built-in DAC (digital to audio converter) is an extremely advanced high-resolution unit, with 24 bit / 96 kHz processing, and the Bluetooth receiver employs a wide range of audio codecs, including aptX for full lossless audio files.
Clearly, with The Sixes Klipsch is going for the audiophile market, but seems especially targeted to those audiophiles and music lovers who don’t want stacks of equipment, big industrial-looking racks, wires everywhere, and tons of space devoted to just their hi-fi geat.
Again, really this is the way it will be more and more – a wireless connection from a computer, streamer, or other device and a pair of active loudspeakers, and that’s pretty much it. Lots of photos from the Klipsch website show the speakers sitting with a turntable, but still, that’s pretty minimal – really, you should see the tangled tower that is my main stereo system!
And while lots of active speaker systems and soundbars in this price range are doing the same, Klipsch The Sixes really stand out for the exceptionally high-quality audiophile digital technology and the inclusion of an analog phono input and onboard phono preamplifier – but for such a low price, how good can they really sound?
As it turns out, just fantastic!
I spent a few weeks with The Sixes, so I really got to hear them, with a wide range of music, at different times and in different setups and situations.
And as I made notes while listening I kept thinking that I needed to qualify my assessments, opinions, and comments based on the fact that these are not 17,000 dollar Klipschorns or even high-end loudspeakers at two or three grand, but a complete active loudspeaker system with amplifiers, digital and analog source processing, and all for well under a thousand dollars – really affordable, and right in the sweet spot of that enormously popular premium mid-fi range.
But these are Klipsch speakers, after all, so I didn’t really stick to that plan so well. I kept using audiophile standards and noticing things like the subtle dynamic expressivity of these speakers, the amount of detail and micro-detail, the phase coherency and timing, and their sheer musicality.
And that was pretty much my whole experience with The Sixes – I was constantly surprised and delighted by how good they sound, how accurate they are, and how engaging the listening experience was.
Instead of thinking they sound pretty good for the money – a pretty standard reaction when I’m reviewing affordable audio – and then guiltily shirking my work responsibility to sneak off and listen to my “real” stereo system, I just kept listening to The Sixes, and to the music itself, while my big class A amplifiers sat in the other room, cold and sulky.
A big surprise with The Sixes is the smooth, warm sound of the treble and upper midrange. While horn-loaded speakers are incredibly efficient, detailed, and have low distortion, sometimes even the highest of high-end horns can sound a tiny bit bright and fatiguing. But not so with The Sixes – in fact, not even a tiny little bit!
Female vocals had a warmth and silky smoothness, and liquid quality, which made them sound human and alive, and all high-frequency musical information – metal percussion, flutes, and high reeds, electric and synthesized sounds, and the overtones of pianos and pretty much any other instrument – had tons of shimmer and detail, and great coherence in the larger musical picture, but with an ease and naturalness that made listening so easy.
And none of it sounded harsh or shrill, or in any way artificial, detached or unmusical, just detailed, dynamic, and lovely. Really a great accomplishment for a horn design – the benefits of musical energy, dynamics, and detail, and that indescribably life-like quality of horns, that thrillingly engaging sound, but at the same time so sweet and musical.
The mids are well integrated with both the high and low frequencies, in terms of levels, tonal quality, and spatial presentation. Male vocals, and the majority of musical information, are slightly dark, warm, and rich, and at the same time with great clarity and openness and, again, just loads of detail and information. I kept thinking of how things sounded not just good, but correct and realistic.
While there is certainly a bit of a mid-bass boost, the mids never felt overwhelmed by the bass energy, and definitely had their own presence and dynamic life. Transitions from bass into this all-important range, and from the midrange into the high frequencies were not just smooth, but totally unnoticeable – not a given at this price range, by any means, and a nice part of the whole smooth, listenable and realistic overall effect.
Before I began really listening to The Sixes, I reminded myself that this is a small, 6.5-inch woofer and that I shouldn’t expect too much.
But then, with extended listening to all kinds of music, I kept having to remind myself that this is a small, 6.5-inch woofer – but for the opposite reason!
Any bookshelf speaker these days seems to offer a pronounced mid-bass hump, to compensate for the lack of real deep bass response and give music a pleasing, even exciting, foundation.
Often this bump is too much, though – maybe even with the majority of mid-priced smaller speakers – and not only can it drown out the crucial midrange musical information, it can also just sound wrong – thick, muddy, slow, and unnatural.
But with The Sixes the mid-bass boost is very sensitively done, with a pronounced but still somehow subtle rise that still allows for midrange clarity, and overall bass reproduction that is fast, detailed, and highly energized – and amazingly extended for a bookshelf speaker.
Even without the optional Klipsch R-12SW subwoofer (which is also awesome, btw!), The Sixes have real slam when listening to good full orchestral recordings, and solo cello, organ music, and the far left side of the piano keyboard sound absolutely solid, fast and resonant, and with awesome impact.
Same with movies, with well-produced rock and pop recordings, electronica and dance music, and even with rap and hip hop – although it must be said that the Klipsch The Sixes are not going to give that over-hyped, frankly often overwhelming bass thump that rap seems to want. But, that said, there is an amazing amount of deep bass, and a nicely satisfying sub-bass rumble, especially for their size and price.
No, the bass is not as full, deep, or tight as an audiophile floor-standing speaker, but again those mega-expensive products are not what I should be comparing these beautiful little Klipsches to anyway. Compared to anything in their price range, though, they are clear winners.
I also did have that matching Klipsch subwoofer on hand and went back and forth between The Sixes by themselves and with it, and I do have to say that the sub does offer a lot, and brought me even closer to that elusive audiophile experience. But then I do love deep, deep bass, and if it’s on the recording, I want to hear it!
But still, even without the sub The Sixes were pretty awesome in terms of bass extension and will be more than satisfying by themselves.
The Sixes have a really wide open, large, natural soundstage, that scales appropriately with all kinds of music.
That is, when you’re listening to intimate recordings, like acoustic singer-songwriter stuff, there is a small, but clear and accurate, portrayal of the performer and their instrument in space and time. And with a full orchestra, the sonic picture is huge, with convincing depth and width, and even height, and a wonderful sense of room acoustics, delay, and decay. Combined with that surprisingly substantial bass slam, large ensembles in large spaces sound very powerful and impressive!
In fact, no matter what size of the ensemble I listened to, the soundstage seemed just right, and with electronica, all of the effects of space, size, movement, and interaction were precisely portrayed, while at the same time allowing each musical “voice” to have its own space and identity.
I will say that The Sixes are a little “sweet-spotty.” That is when you sit at exactly the correct sweet spot, and with the speakers set up perfectly, everything opens up and sounds absurdly spacious and accurate, with excellent phase correctness and a convincing and engaging sense of time and space.
Move out of the zone, however, and while you’ll still experience an above-average sense of stereo separation and imaging, the spatial magic will somewhat disappear. Still, though, The Sixes always seem to fill a room with full, clear, and detailed music, and really do sound great wherever you are.
Setting Up The Sixes
This brings up an interesting question and an important point – the physical setup of The Sixes, and how to get the best sound possible from them.
The Sixes will sound better on good, solid speaker stands, and will benefit as well from the flexibility in placement such stands allow – of course, that’s true of any bookshelf speaker.
I particularly like and used for this review, the Monolith 24 inch speaker stands (not the prettiest, or the cheapest, but very stable and effective), but I’ve also had good luck with the less expensive Perlegear stands.
Still, they also sound great on tabletops or counters, with a couple of provisos.
First, despite all of the pictures on Klipsch’s own website portraying happy hipsters enjoying their vinyl, do not put The Sixes on the same surface as a turntable, or you will experience a muddying and coloration of the sound that will almost completely wreck the nice analog experience.
Second, make sure the surface you put the speakers on is open and free of obstructions, is solid and stable, lets you put the speakers’ tweeters on or near your ear level and equidistant from your listening position, gives you space to toe them in a bit (that is, turn them toward the listening spot, instead of facing straight out) and allows you to set The Sixes at least a foot or so from the back wall.
Other than that, all of the setups are an absolute breeze. The back panel of the right speaker, where you connect analog and digital source cables, is very clearly marked and understandable, and the inputs are widely spaced and easy to access.
And pretty much all of the cables you could possibly want or need are included.
Really, from the box to happy listening couldn’t be quicker or easier!
Before I close, I wanted to spend a minute talking about the phono stage, mainly because a couple of other reviews of The Sixes on the web kind of dis the built-in phono stage, talking about how it lacks detail, energy, and openness.
And yeah, when using separate outboard phono preamplifiers – which can easily cost more than The Sixes themselves – you will see an increase in detail, dynamics, and space.
I ran The Sixes with a beautiful, price appropriate Fluance RT82 turntable, with the just lovely Ortofon OM10 cartridge – and I also used a more expensive (and even more impressive) Pro-Ject Debut Carbon EVO table, with the fairly superb included Sumiko Rainier phono cartridge, and I did it two ways.
With a separate outboard phono preamplifier, the Cambridge Audio Alva Solo (one of the great values in affordable audiophile gear), there was a marked increase in detail, ease, and dynamic energy, and space opened up fairly significantly – this seemed about equally true with both turntables.
But even without a separate phono preamplifier, The Sixes did a really great job with records, and with both turntables, with that lovely, warm analog sound coming through beautifully, lots of space, still impressive levels of detail, micro-detail, and phase coherence, and engaging musical energy that was, in my mind, on par with The Sixes’ superb digital performance.
And that note – the digital performance of The Sixes – might be the best place to close this review.
With high resolution digital to analog conversion circuitry, and aptX lossless Bluetooth, the amount of detail, speed, ease and dynamic musical energy you get from any digital source is astonishing.
I have never heard of any speaker with a built-in amplifier and digital converters that come close to these Klipsch speakers in this regard – or at least nothing at, or quite a bit above, this price range.
But most importantly, not only is the music from digital sources clear, detailed, wide open, and incredibly dynamic, but it is also sweet, warm, musical, and wonderful to listen to. It takes a really special speaker to combine such accuracy and such musicality, and often audiophiles chase just that dragon their whole lives – and drop thousands and thousands of dollars along the way.
Don’t get me wrong – the Klipsch The Sixes are no real competition for fully optimized high-end audiophile systems – with digital cables alone that can cost much more than these speakers! – but they are kindred, and incredibly musical speakers with any and all digital sources (or, again, analog sources).
In fact, I can’t remember the last time a mid-priced, nominally mid-fi speaker system left me, a dyed-in-the-wool audiophile, not just satisfied, but so very excited and engaged listening to music.
Final Word: The Super Sixes – An Ultimate Hi-Fi Bargain?
Well, yeah, I kind of think so.
I mean, I spent some really wonderful time with The Sixes, running them through their paces with every kind of music, and with some brilliantly produced and engineered audiophile recordings – both analog and digital.
For the money, there’s no doubt in my mind that the Klipsch The Sixes are superior to pretty much anything else on the market today, and probably are the most advanced and useful as well.
But what amazed me is what I already intimated earlier in this review, and that is how seldom I broke away from listening to The Sixes and went to my big, expensive audiophile stereo system.
Because not only are the Klipsch The Sixes warm, musical and dynamic, and a wonderfully engaging speaker system, they are also absurdly accurate for their price range, and repeatedly took me to that elusive zone of the suspension of disbelief, where it is no longer about low distortion, wide frequency response, imaging, detail or dynamics, and all that’s left is me, the musicians and their music.
So, bottom line, The Sixes are strongly and warmly recommended to any music lover who wants a truly musical speaker system at a remarkably low price – superbly built and brilliantly designed, and with all you need in one premium package.
And equally strongly recommended for even the true audiophiles amongst us (you know who you are) as a second system, or even a first system – they really are that good, and with a little care in setup, and well recorded musical sources, they approach greatness.