We think the Klipsch G-17 Air sounds spectacular, especially given its size. That Klipsch was able to achieve such robust sound from a speaker that is just a fraction of the size of B&W’s Zeppelin Air is a testament to the company’s engineering skills. That it doesn’t look like a blimp is another seriously big feather in its cap.
To be fair, the Zeppelin, until now, has been the only truly high-quality AirPlay speaker we’ve tested that we thought was worth considering laying down six “Benjamins” for. To this day, it still stands as one of the best sounding AirPlay speakers available. With that said, it is worth noting that we think Klipsch just did a better job in general.
Bass response from the G-17 Air was robust and punchy, but never overwhelming. For example, the bass violin bowing in the orchestral intro on Seal’s rendition of “Stand by Me” carries a lot of weight, but the heft is often lost on less-than-capable systems. The G-17 Air was able to deliver the beautifully orchestrated bass with sophistication and precision timing.
The speaker was also able to handle the more muscular side of the bass spectrum with plenty of authority. Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” starts with a descending bass guitar line that hangs out on a low B before kicking in with a four-on-the-floor kick drum groove that’s so funky it even managed to help make Napoleon Dynamite look good. The G-17 Air pulled off the bass drum’s punch with far more power than anyone is likely to expect from such a compact speaker. Expect your friends to go looking for the subwoofer that just isn’t there.
Treble response was equally enjoyable. Once again, Klipsch has proven that its days producing excessively bright audio products are well in its past. The G-17 Air is a testament to the company’s reformed approach to sound which seems to favor tight, punchy bass and silkier highs that sparkle when necessary. Even our most brutally bright test tracks were tolerable. Sure, the G-17 Air let us know the source material was anything but balanced, but it didn’t drive a 3-foot-long needle into our eardrum in the process.
If we have to be critical (and we do…it’s in the job description) we’d say that the only perceivable weak point of the G-17 Air’s audio production (and a minute one, at that) is its midrange. A larger driver may have enabled a larger midrange presence without sacrificing the stellar bass response that Klipsch was going for, but that would have required a larger cabinet and then some of the design appeal would fly out the window. The game of compromise is inescapable when it comes to speaker design and, in the G-17 Air’s case, it was midrange performance and stereo separation that took a subtle hit. Those who like “in your face” vocals and guitars, or a 6-foot-wide soundstage may find themselves wanting a little more presence out of the speaker, but we like the trade-off and can’t really dock Klipsch points here.
Sadly, not all is perfect with the G-17 Air. It’s frustrating too, because the blame, as we understand it, doesn’t lay with Klipsch; it actually goes to an issue of hardware compatibility for which Apple is responsible.
When we used an iPhone 4S, iPhone 3Gs or iTunes on a PC or Mac, the G-17 Air processed the incoming audio stream and played it back flawlessly for hours at a time. When we tried an iPhone 4S, however, it was game over. We were lucky to get just a couple of seconds of sound before audio would cut out. From there, audio would either return briefly, or the G-17 Air would be sent into a tailspin, disconnecting from our Wi-Fi router and spending sometimes a couple of minutes re-establishing the link.
The good news is that the problem only exists with the iPhone 4S, and Klipsch assures us this issue will be resolved with the next iOS update. In fact, Klipsch has verified this, as it has access to the beta version of Apple’s planned iOS revision which is meant to be available “soon.”
The bad news is that this is a major problem. If I purchased a $550 AirPlay speaker but wasn’t able to use AirPlay with my iPhone 4S for a few months, I would be really upset.
Speaking for myself, I would certainly wait for the problem to be resolved by Apple. The speaker sounds that good. I’m not so sure about others, though. We live in a time when instant gratification often takes priority to long-term satisfaction, and that could mean a lot of returns.
[Update 3-16-12: We’ve been able to re-test the G-17 Air since Apple released iOS 5.1 and can confirm that the update has resolved all AirPlay streaming issues]
The idea of a speaker that blends slim, wall-mountable design with excellent audio performance and the convenience of wireless audio streaming is an understandably popular one. It’s a really tough proposition, but Klipsch has nailed it with the G-17 Air. We loved the full, meaty sound and high-class detail the G-17 pulled off, especially considering its compact size.
The G-17 Air is the best-sounding AirPlay speaker dock we’ve tested so far and, therefore, wins our Editor’s Choice award.
- Excellent, room-filling sound
- Slim, attractive form factor
- Light and easy to wall mount
- Easy setup with plenty of support
- Beautiful finish is also a dust and fingerprint magnet