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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Full bass response
Sleek, impressive look
Reasonable price point
Lacks detail at low volumes
Small speaker drivers
Requires subwoofer for full experience
The Klipsch R-14M speaker brings a lot to the table, but there are some caveats to keep in mind when it comes to audio quality.
The R-14M reference bookshelf speakers from Klipsch are about as textbook as it gets for references speakers. As a brand, Klipsch as known for a classic take on professional and home audio. While in recent years, they haven’t quite kept up with luxury brands like B&O or even the consumer brands like Bose, they have managed to hold their own in quality.
The R-14Ms give you a nice example of what that means. We spent about a week with them in an apartment using them as part of our main TV and movie sound system, and they didn’t disappoint. That said, they didn’t offer much in the way of I/O (pretty standard for passive speakers), and there were some shortcomings when it came to sound quality. But overall, these are a solid choice if you have a good amp.
If there’s one thing a legacy audio brand knows how to do, it’s building speakers and enclosures with good design language. The R-14Ms, at face value, are very basic. They are just under 10 inches tall, and just under 6 inches wide, putting them in the same ballpark as pretty much every speaker of the class. They offer a fairly substantial depth at about 7.5 inches—a factor that plays into the sound quality.
The enclosure is finished in what Klipsch is calling a “brushed black polymer veneer”, which gives it a sleek, stealthy look, but also offers some wood grain character. The mesh grille on the front is fully black, meaning the only contrasting color on the whole unit is Klipsch’s classic rose-gold logo. This is a nice touch, as it cuts the all-black aesthetic with a bit of sparkle.
But if you take these out of the box, pop them on yourself, and leave them as is, then you’re missing out on what we think is the best look for these speakers. Most speakers don’t give you much to look at without the grille, so you might as well keep it on for dust and bump protection. Klipsch has fashioned the inside with the same brushed veneer finish, but they’ve chosen to build the woofer cone out of a metallic copper. This glitzy pop of color sets these speakers apart, and while the material choice affects sound (we’ll get to that in the sound quality section), we can’t help but admire what Klipsch has done with the look of these speakers.
As already stated, the look of these speakers is perfectly sleek. They look and feel right at home in a premium living room setup. That holds true for the build quality too. The entire enclosure is built from MDF, which stands for Medium Density Fiberboard. This is a material comprised of wooden fibers with resin to seal it together. It’s a material chosen for its ability to stand rigid against life’s stresses, but also to flex a bit with sound. On paper, that sounds great, but in our tests, we think this contributed to a bit of muddiness at low volumes. It allowed a little too many of the low and mid-low frequencies to project.
In our tests, we think [the material] contributed to a bit of muddiness at low volumes.
The Linear Travel Suspension tweeter is built of strong aluminum, and we can attest it feels much more substantial than most silk tweeters. The main woofer is built of spun copper and injection-molded graphite, allowing for a rigid, powerful response throughout the lower end of the spectrum. Again, this holds true for what we heard, because at lower volumes the copper woofer sings. Finally, Klipsch has rounded out the build with a rear-facing bass port, and a premium-feeling mesh grille on the front.
Mid-level speakers can usually only do one of two things well: they’re either full and powerful, or crisp and detailed. The R-14M from Klipsch tend to lean more on the powerful side, and depending on what you’re using them for, that can be okay. Each speaker locks in at about 50W of continuous handling, with a peak of 200W. This is fairly loud considering these are only 4-inch woofer cones.
With about 90 decibels of power and 8 ohms of resistance, we were pleased with the power of these speakers when we hooked them into our home theater setup. They worked well alongside a subwoofer for watching movies and listening to music. They do seem to cover a good amount of frequency spectrum, putting sound out between 64Hz and 24kHz, so as long as you have a subwoofer covering the 20Hz–63Hz, you’ll get good performance.
With about 90 decibels of power and 8 ohms of resistance, we were pleased with the power of these speakers when we hooked them into our home theater setup.
However, if you’re planning on using these speakers to watch talk shows or listen to music that requires a great deal of detail (a high dynamic range or something with quiet dialogue and loud accompanying sound effects), you might find it gets lost in the mix a bit. We aren’t too sure why this is the case, because the 1-inch aluminum Tractrix Horn acts as a polished tweeter. To be clear, when we turned the volume up, the highs of the human speaking voice came out clear and well rounded.
That said, when watching shows at an average volume, we found it was a little tough to discern this part of the spectrum from within a larger, fuller mix, even when we adjusted our receivers EQ pretty substantially. This isn’t a huge issue, as the overall sound is powerful, and full—great for movie nights when you’re going to keep the headroom high on your sound system. But just be aware that listening at low volumes loses some detail.
We were on the fence on the price for the R-14M—the $200 list price on Amazon is just too high for the lack of detail in the sound. But, because they stood up so well at high volumes, and provided an amazingly powerful sound quality at such a small footprint, we think that the standard sale price (usually around $100) is near perfect for the value. Because they’re passive speakers and don’t cover a ton of frequency response at the low end of the spectrum, you’ll need to pair these with a powered receiver. You also need to remember they don’t come with their own speaker wire. Their value is best seen when put alongside a subwoofer. But for the brand and the cinematic performance, these do occupy a great value in the normal speaker range.
Klipsch R-15M: If you want something a bit louder, with better response and detail at low volume, go for the slightly more expensive R-15M.
Yamaha NS-6490: Yamaha has a lot of options, but the three-way NS-6490 would get our recommendation over the R-14M provided you have a bit more dough and don’t mind the more futuristic look.
Polk T15: The R-14M are much better than the T15 in build and high-volume performance, but at low volume the T15 do better in detail. Plus, they’re usually about $30 cheaper.
A reputed brand with solid performance for the price.
If you’re in the market for a pair of passive bookshelf speakers, and want a brand that’s befitting of classic audio performance, then look no further than the Klipsch R-14M. The audio response was full, and very substantial for 4-inch drivers, especially when you push them at high volumes. We did find some detail lacking at low volumes, so if you need to keep your loudness modest most of the time, keep that in mind. But all in all, these are great speakers for a surprisingly affordable price.