I purchased the R-34C center channel speaker along with a pair of R-51M to use as surrounds and a pair of R-26F speakers as the mains. The center and surrounds are brand new from Klipsch, so I actually bought them without hearing them in person first. Knowing Klipsch quality, I didn’t have any doubt that the new series would perform just as well as the older lines.
I didn’t receive the mains until about a week after receiving the other three. The R-26F, being last year’s model, are being phased out and were hard to find. I ran a 3.1 system for a week, and got to evaluate each element based on their individual merits. They were attached to a Denon AVR-S920W, outputting 90 watts per channel with 7.1 or Dolby Atmos capability.
Starting with the R-51M’s, I can say that there bookshelves are highly capable speakers. The Tractrix horn produces the most clear and distinct upper register that I’ve heard. Some say that Klipsch has a history of being harsh on the upper end, but I’d argue that the clarity and sharpness of the tweeter makes you feel as though you’re getting the full range of the source. The woofer gives a solid mid-range performance, but might be slightly undersized to compete with the amazing horn. You don’t expect a lot of lower end from a small bookshelf speaker, so crossing over to a subwoofer at 90Hz made up for any deficiencies on that end.
The crossovers in these speakers make it very clear which frequencies are getting sent to each driver, as when you’re standing right in front of the speaker, the directionality and separation of each makes a huge difference in the overall sound picture. Backing up 5-10 feet, the speaker sounds like one single full-range image.
Next up, the R-26F main speakers. These things are tremendous. Attaching them to the left and right leads, these floors performed right out of the box. My first stop was a test of the upper and mid range, Alison Krauss’ “Paper Airplane” via Apple Music and Airplay to the receiver. I’ve had surround systems for years, mostly with satellites and ceiling mounted speakers, but this is the first time I’ve truly been “wow’d” with the clarity of the reproduction.
I don’t care if you are a fan of that style of music or not, do yourself a favor and pull up anything from Alison Krauss and Union Station with your HT rig. It’s the most honest music I’ve ever heard, and her production of the music features the musicianship of the members over the effects of the studio. “Dimming of the Day,” “Maybe,” “Goodbye is All We Have,” “Stay,” “Ghost In This House.” Solo, her “River in the Rain” or “I Never Cared for You.” Her voice is haunting and true, powerful and gentle simultaneously.
I found that I needed more power to drive the R-26Fs to the same volume than I had with the R-51Ms in the mail role, but still had a lot of headroom. I played it as loud as I could stand and still had about 20db before I maxed out the receiver. Even at that volume, the floors never wavered or chuffed, almost as if they were asking for more juice. In fact, they don’t really shine until you really push them, the lower end tends to fall off at moderate listening levels.
I put the receiver in “pure direct” mode, then verified that nothing was coming out of the center or sub. With an acoustic performance like she and Union Station provide, I literally had to feel the sub to make sure it wasn’t in play. What I was getting from the floors was just as if the band was standing in front of me. Unadulterated, I could hear the picking of each Steele string as it was plucked and fell off. An acoustic bass is well represented here and doesn’t overpower.
Moving on to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” the range between the highs of crash symbols and guitars were very well reproduced. However, the low end needed some serious reinforcement. I kicked the receiver into “music” mode, activating the LPF crossover and subwoofer. Adding that into the mix completed the picture. I still couldn’t tolerate maxing out the speakers, as they would have given more than my head could absorb. Bottom line, mid and high ranges are amazing with these mains, but don’t expect them to hit under about 90-100Hz without missing something. Those 6.5 inch woofers are good at the lower mid-range, but can’t sound like an amplified subwoofer. Imaging between the two speakers was very good, and stereo effects transitioned beautifully from one side to the other. I didn’t try a phantom center, because I’ve got a gem in that role.
The R-34C is nothing short of a gift. Four 3.5 inch woofers and the trademark Klipsch Tractrix horn are an absolute pleasure to listen to. If the center channel is the heart of a surround sound system, this speaker beats strong. Mid and upper range is so well done, that the only word that I can find to describe the sound is “rich.” It makes no mistakes.
I couldn’t possibly glow about this speaker any more. For dialogue and vocals, the representation is full and clear. Pronunciations and echo effects that you might have heard in a set of quality headphones are apparent on a big stage, front and center. The moderation of male and female voices alike is pits the voice against the rest of the system. I had to turn the levels on the center down about 4db to let the rest of this overall exceptional system keep up. The bite of “s” and the “c” sounds are true, making you take note, but isn’t distracting. Hearing the personality of the voice come through was a new experience for me; to hear how the vocalist moves the sound from throat to nose and back brings real personality to the music, and you can hear the vocalist moving closer and further from the microphone based on the timbre of their voice.
So how to they all work together in a home theater?
The first film I put on was “Ready Player One,” which I’d seen in an Atmos theatre, in 4K BD from an Xbox One S. Once again, the center was a little over-powering and the dialog dominated the opening. scene. Once I dialed the center back about 4db, the whole system was balanced and each speaker complimented and played off of one another. Van Halen’s “Jump” got the heart rate pumping, but Foley effects in the film didn’t let you forget where the action was.
Cut to the first race scene, all I can say is that this system performed amazingly. Once again, I pushed the volume as high as I could tolerate and there was still plenty of headroom. I imagine that the ~97db sensitivity of this set makes a huge difference with regard to how much power is needed to drive these speakers to satisfaction, because I can’t imaging pushing them harder. My daughter actually complained that her ear was bothering her after walking in front of one of the mains. (Whoops).
There was no distortion, no chuff, no struggle, no rumble, and no distraction. My son, whose seen the movie twice, was wrapped in by the audio. The experience of seeing the movie coupled with the enthralling sound track and effects brought the movie to life for him, and for me too. These Klipsch speakers are a home theater dream, even in my large room with open “walls” on two sides.
My bottom line is that I’m glad to have spent the money to get a quality system. Perhaps I could have done better by matching the R-34C to the upper level of Klipsch Reference speakers, but I don’t think it’s wrong that the center shines so beautifully. The sound is still well matched, enveloping, and engaging.
After calibrating the system with Audyssey Bronze, and coupled with my Samsung UN65M9000 display and Xbox One S serving up UHD Atmos content, I finally have a theater quality experience in my living room.