The Fives ($799) are Klipsch's newest pair of powered bookshelf speakers and they come with a superpower: the first powered speakers to have an HDMI-ARC connection, they can be connected directly to your TV without the need of an AV receiver, and just like a soundbar. Yes, The Fives are a complete plug-and-play system.
They are, of course, also bookshelf speakers. They have an integrated phono pre-amp so you can pair them with most turntables. They support optical, aux (via mini-jack), USB and RCA connections. They have built-in Bluetooth so you use them to stream music wirelessly if you choose. And they have output jack for a subwoofer in case you want to add one.
I've been using The Fives for the last two weeks, having swapped out the Sonos Arc which, notably, connects in the exact same way. Here's what you need to know.
They sound superb.
There are some innate differences between a soundbar and a pair of bookshelf speakers. A soundbar, being one speaker with a single plug, is generally the cheaper and less complicated option. Speaker pairs, which can be placed in different places, give better surround sound for obvious reasons, but typically require an AV receiver to control them. The Fives are the best of both worlds, and naturally sound great as a result.
However you hook them up, The Fives sound superb, especially playing high-resolution audio files (up to 24/192kHz). But they really shine as TV speakers, which is what I primarily used them as. I streamed movies and shows and played video game on Xbox, and let me tell you, these things get loud. They have great bass, and even sound great for dialo which is where soundbars, with a dedicated clear channel, typically shine. They sound immersive and clean, with midrange and dialogue that's impressively clear.
The downside is that unlike a typical home theater setup with bookshelf speakers, which are very flexible and can be integrated in a larger home theater system with a center channel and rear surrounds, The Fives are pretty non-versatile. You can add a compatible subwoofer (thanks to the subwoofer output), but that's it. You can't pair it with any other speakers, which might be a little frustrating if you decide you want a true surround system down the road.
No Dolby Atmos, but you'll hardly notice.
One thing that's missing from The Fives that is support for Dolby Atmos, meaning if your looking to create the ultimate movie theater experience, with the latest and great surround technology, at home -- The Fives are going to fall short of certain soundbar competition, like the Sonos Arc. But the fact that they are two speakers that can be placed on either side of the room does a lot to overcome that limitation. And compared to Atmos, which requires a suitable TV and can be kind of a compatibility nightmare, moving two speakers around is incredibly simple.
The looks, build quality and knobs are spectacular.
The build quality of The Fives is exceptional. Their cabinets are made out of top-notch wood, which you can get in a walnut or matte black finish, and they come with removable magnetic grilles. (Big fan of the matte black, myself.) And they have a little bit of that vintage flair that's in some of the company's super prestigious heritage speakers.
The Fives come with a remote but, I'll be honest, I didn't use it. Located on top of the master speaker, there are two rather large metal dials located right on top of master speaker. It's definitely one of The Fives's most striking features and most polarizing features. Some people might dislike the "knob feel," but I'm guessing most people will think they're a great analog alternative to buttons. Yes, you have to get off the couch to use them, but you're going to want to.