So we have to pose the question: Has Klipsch engineered a sound that’s capable of bridging the gap between the fans and the haters?
Read on if you want to find out, but we can definitely say that things are looking good for the R-15M.
|Frequency response||62 Hz -24000 Hz|
|Weight||7.13 pounds each (3.234 kg each)|
|Size||8.2 x 7 x 12.5 inches|
|Speakers||90×90 Tractrix Horn with 1” LTS Tweeters;|
5-1/4” copper IMG Woofer
The first thing we have to note is that these speakers just look absolutely stunning. In the world of audiophile speakers, $250 is by no means a lot, but the R-15M still has a very premium feel to it, with the black vinyl finish being as gorgeous as the MDF underneath it is practical. What’s more, ever since the new R-51M came out at the exact same MSRP, the R-15M has been easier to find on substantial discounts.
Fair warning: the new R-51M is in every way an improvement on this speaker, so definitely get that if the R-15M isn’t on a discount and you’re okay with leaving your wallet a full $250 lighter. But we digress, so back the actual design:
We do have to concede the fact that, while very appealing in and of itself, the contrast of black and copper works much better in a vacuum than it will in most setups. Still, this is nothing that can’t be fixed with the included grilles. Just pop them into place and voila! you’ve got a pair of black boxes that will blend seamlessly into any background. This can also easily solve all your problems in case you love everything else about these speakers but aren’t particularly keen on the retro vibe they evoke.
Also, if you cast a glance at the specifications table you’ll notice that these speakers are relatively small. This holds some implications with regards to the sound which we’ll get into soon, but for now, we just want to point out that this opens up a world of possibilities when it comes to placement. You can slot them into separate compartments in the shelf or just place them wherever you see fit as they won’t take up a lot of space.
The only thing that you can’t do is, unfortunately, mount them on a wall. Still, even with the lack of wall mounts, these speakers abound in versatility; so much so that it warrants a subsection of its own!
The R-15M owes its incredible versatility to two things:
- Its compact size, and
- The fact that it’s a passive speaker
This means that you can use these speakers however you see fit. They work wonders as front speakers, but they’ll fit the side and surround positions just as well if you’re building a surround system, and they’ll enable you to install such a system even in a smaller room. Plus they make for fine home cinema setups. And being that they’re passive speakers, you can pair them up with whichever amp you like best, or attach a subwoofer to them for a more powerful bass.
They’re also turntable-ready, so you can listen to vinyl tracks regardless of whether your turntable has a preamp or not. And lastly, they even make for great desktop speakers thanks to their size, so if you’re a gamer you can now enjoy playing the latest AAA titles in high-end audio. Last but certainly not least, the R-15M is Bluetooth enabled, so you can easily pair it up with your phone from the comfort of your couch.
But we’re guessing you’re more interested in what’s on the inside, and again, there are two things we’d like to highlight here, these being the horn and the woofer.
Now the horn is actually the 90×90 Tractrix Horn, and in case you didn’t know, this is a proprietary horn that Klipsch has developed and used in some more advanced speakers, which makes its inclusion in an affordable product like the R-15M absolutely remarkable. Being both bigger and better, the new 90×90 improved upon the old horn significantly. The result is a horn that has a great response and sounds very natural, with no distortion even at higher volumes.
And the new copper IMG woofer gets a similar treatment as well. It’s a direct improvement upon the old silver IMG Woofer, and in addition to the many little tweaks and improvements, it handles louder volumes extremely well.
And now we get to the most important part of the review – the sound.
So, how cohesively do all of these features come together?
Honestly, pretty well.
What we particularly like is how this speaker manages to do all frequencies justice. Granted, the mids are a bit thin in comparison to the rest, but this potential issue can easily be rectified with most amps. As for the highs, they are simply mesmerizing. And while the bass won’t impress any certified bass head, it still performs quite remarkably, as it’s clean, precise, and punchy. If you need a bass that’ll rock your world you’ll find the R-15M lacking, but then again it’s hard to name any speaker without a subwoofer that you won’t find lacking in this regard.
It’s also one of the most efficient speakers we’ve seen, thanks in no small part to the horn. What this means is that the R-15M will sound good regardless of which amp you pair it up with. Additionally, it handles loud volumes like a champ, without any distortion. More importantly, it’s not just the top-end of the frequency range that gets this distortion-free treatment, but the bottom as well.
We mentioned at the beginning that Klipsch has a very distinct sound, so let’s elaborate a bit more on that for those of you who are new to the market. First of all, these speakers sound incredibly lifelike; listening to live performances on them is an experience that even many more expensive speakers can’t live up to. If you want to get immersed in the energy of a live performance, with all the soundstage expansiveness and audience swaying, there is no single affordable speaker that we can recommend more than the R-15M, save for the slightly more expensive R-51M. And this is largely thanks to the horn.
Now we’d like to zoom in on the horn here because horn speakers are somewhat of a contentious point in the audiophile world. When asked why they dislike horn speakers, people will often point out that they sound ‘shrill and honky’. But the current situation right now is such that, more than anything else, horn speakers are cool to hate, with many people dismissing them at a glance before even trying the speakers out.
Why is it important to try them out?
Why, because not all horn speakers are the same, of course; just like not all box speakers and panel speakers are the same. Granted, horn speakers do have some recognizable features, but the horn on the R-15M, in particular, is such that it retains many the good properties of the horn (watch this video if you want to hear a pro-horn argument) while minimizing the negatives.
Still, this is by no means a flawless speaker, and the thing that particularly stood out as less than optimal was the driver integration. Being able to hear the sound switch between the horn and the woofer can be very jarring, and the R-15M does suffer from this a bit. It’s by no means unbearable, and you may not even pick up on it unless you’re an audiophile, but it is present so we have to mention it. Again, the new R-51M does away with this completely, so if you don’t want to risk it, maybe just get the newer version.
The bottom line is, if you want an analytical sound then you’d best avoid the R-15M, but if you want to invigorate your music with a sense of life and energy for a very affordable price, you can’t go wrong with these speakers.
In conclusion, we have to give the Klipsch R-15M speakers an A for Awesome, as it just does so many things right. Overall, the sound is very rich and exciting, and it gives all frequencies a chance to shine. More importantly, most of the things that could be construed as negatives are things you won’t get in any other affordable speaker either. Want an organ shaking bass? Yeah, you’ll need a subwoofer for that. Want to fill an enormous room with music? No speaker this compact will do the job.
But what impresses us the most about the Klipsch R-15M is that we feel it shows the potential to bridge the gap between Klipsch fans and hater that the later R-51M delivers on. Now we’d like to clarify that the horn does have some characteristics that no amount of tinkering with will eliminate simply due to how it operates on a fundamental level. Definitely try these out first if you’re on the fence about horn speakers. But if you dismiss them without giving them a chance, you’re only doing yourself a disservice.
As of recently, they’re no longer the most cost-effective affordable speaker – the R-51M rightfully inherited that title and made it its own. But if you can find them on a discount, the R-15M speakers are the most budget-friendly speaker.
Klipsch R-15M Review
- Design - 8.5/108.5/10
- Versatility - 9.4/109.4/10
- Features - 8.7/108.7/10
- Sound - 9.2/109.2/10
The Klipsch R-15M is an excellent all-purpose bookshelf speaker that you can pair with a variety of device. It has an energetic and lifelike sound that, while undesirable for analytical listening, will make you fall in love with your favorite tracks all over again.
Jeremy Rocco has spent rigorous hours researching about audio technology and is now a part-time writer. He also ensures that every article is as helpful as possible for readers.