The delightful intersection of old and new.
I will not get into vinyl. I will not get into vinyl. I will not get into vinyl.
I’ve been repeating that phrase to myself for years now, but try as I might, the siren song of a resurgent vinyl industry has been hard to ignore. My defenses broke down late this fall when the folks at Klipsch sent me one of the most compelling vinyl setups on the market to check out. Should their R-15PM turntable pack earn a space on your shelf?
What Does It Claim to Do?
The Klipsch R-15PM Turntable Pack pairs some of Klipsch’s well-regarded reference monitors with a delightfully minimal turntable unit from Pro-Ject. It claims to offer top-notch sound through a variety of old and new audio sources.
- Speakers feature a 90×90 Linear Travel Suspension (LTS) Tractrix horn, rigid Injection Molded Graphite (IMG) woofer, and tuned rear-firing bass port.
- Special Edition Pro-Ject Primary Turntable
- RCA/Phono input
- USB input
- Optical input
- Aux input
- Bluetooth audio
Look and Feel
I don’t know if they established the look, or just stumbled upon it, but something about Klipsch’s speakers just look classic. That black and gold finish looks handsome in just about any decor, and unlike some products, I kind of like that these speakers call attention to themselves; they’re beautiful.
The Pro-Ject Primary turntable is a minimalist marvel that looks best without its cover. I’m a guy that’s used to seeing some gears, wires, and buttons scattered across my gadgets, so I found this little turntable to be gloriously analog. It’s as if they reduced the turntable to its purest form.
Performance and User Experience
Looks only go so far for a speaker, and if you’re buying a Klipsch product, you’re probably expecting its sound to live up to a pretty high standard. How do the R-15PMs fare?
Setting the speakers up is just like any traditional speaker. Connect the speakers together by twisting some wire, connect your devices (the turntable, in this instance), and turn them on.
I decided to try one of the most common use-cases first, which is listening to music via Bluetooth from a phone and laptop. Unsurprisingly, this process is virtually identical to the Klipsch Bluetooth Headphones: turn on Bluetooth pairing, connect to them via your iPhone’s Bluetooth menu, and you’re done. (As a side note, remember having to hunt for an aux cable to play music at your friends house? Aren’t you glad that we’re past all of that as a society?)
Klipsch claims reference sound with many of their speakers, and that’s exactly what I found here. Coming from blasting tunes on my beloved Sonos PLAY:5, I found the Klipsch’s sound over Bluetooth to feel kind of flat at first, but I think that’s intentional. I always test with The Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin album (which is all over the dynamic range), and although the Klipsch R-15PMs sounded fantastic, I think the Sonos system is adding some subtle boosts behind the scenes that somehow made the tone feel warmer. Don’t get me wrong, the Bluetooth sound is really, really great, but if you’re a music snob like me, the edge here goes to Sonos’ (real or perceived) fidelity over WiFi.
The vinyl experience is a completely different story. Man-oh-man does vinyl soar on this set up.
I’ll add some caveats here; this is my first experience with vinyl as an adult, and the seductively analog experience of the whole thing is an absolute blast. That being said, I’ll try to keep my observations as objective as possible.
I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan, so I decided to kick my testing off with a pristine LP of Thriller that I found in my parents’ shelves. I’m familiar with just about every thud and yelp on that album, but listening to that old record on these fantastic speakers is transcendent. It’s really hard to express in words, but listening to vinyl on these is an entirely different experience than Bluetooth (If you’re an audiophile reading this review, you can quit yelling “CAPTAIN OBVIOUS” at your screen. I hear you.) There’s a warmth and immediacy to the sound that just isn’t present in digital formats, even in comparison to the PLAY:5 I mentioned above. It’s no contest.
The sound is so good, in fact, that my technologically-indifferent wife has demanded that we purchase vinyl versions of our favorite albums and basically commandeered this speaker system for audio ambiance all throughout the holidays.
I could rattle on and on about the sound, but there are a few other things that I want to mention here. The R-15PM comes with a smallish remote that is required for all of the basic functions, and with two young kids in the house, it tends to grow legs and go missing for days at a time. There are redundant controls on the back of the right speaker (for volume, power, and source switching at least), but they’re a pain to reach, so you’ll want to keep that remote somewhere you don’t lose it.
Also, although the R-15PMs work great with Bluetooth, they’re not really wireless speakers. You’ll have a few wires other than a power cord to hide on your desk, so keep that in mind when you’re thinking about placement.
Those two nitpicks aside, these are some great speakers and a revelatory vinyl experience.
A huge selling point of a speaker set like this is that they work with pretty much everything. Bluetooth? Check. Optical? Check. USB? Check. RCA cables? Check. If it outputs audio, you can probably connect it to these speakers. They’re incredibly flexible.
Build Quality and Reliability
From the second you open them up, it’s obvious that these speakers are just rock solid; their craftsmanship definitely lives up to the Klipsch name.
They also perform reliability and without a hitch, even over Bluetooth, which is a notoriously flakey protocol.
On their own, you can find a pair of R-15PMs for anywhere between $500 and $350(!) if you find the right sale. I’ve seen the turntable pack for as low as $599, which is a great deal that gives you everything you need to have a top quality speaker system, and amazing vinyl experience.
After living in a wireless world for the last few years, going back to a more traditional speaker experience was a little bit of an adjustment. The Klipsch R-15PMs make for a great set of bookshelf speakers on their own, but they really come alive once you throw vinyl into the mix.
If you’re looking to jump into an analog lifestyle, the R-15PM Turntable Kit is exactly what you’re looking for.