Situated in the middle of Klipsch’s affordable HD Theater line, the HDT500 offers a healthy serving of bang-for-your-buck performance. With impressive midrange, well-balanced highs and a capable sub in a tight little package for under $600, this system earns a merit badge for outstanding value.
Features and Design
Each satellite in this system houses a 2.5-inch IMG (Injection Molded Graphite) woofer and a 0.75-inch Aluminum Dome “MicroTractrix” horn-loaded tweeter within a high-gloss-black plastic enclosure. The horn design, a historical hallmark of Klipsch products, serves to increase tweeter efficiency and dispersion. Impressively, the horn has been molded as part of the plastic enclosure rather than tacked on as an additional piece. While these plastic enclosures won’t be doing much to buck unwanted resonance, the 2.5-inch woofers won’t be doing so much work that we expect a problem. Though the plastic is clearly lightweight, the satellites have an unexpected heft to them, indicating quality components within. Unfortunately, the satellite’s terminals leave a lot to be desired. Cheap spring clip terminals like this are usually used on only the cheapest of products, so they tend to detract from the otherwise thoughtful design of the speakers. In addition, they present a challenge to the user as wire security will quickly become a problem. We recommend, at maximum, a 14 AWG wire. Anything larger just doesn’t fit well.
The included mounting hardware allows the satellites to be mounted to the wall with minimal hassle. (Note: You’ll need to provide your own dry-wall anchors and screws) Once swiveled to the desired angle, the speaker’s position can be locked in to ensure it stays in place when mounted.
The Sub 8 subwoofer enclosure is wrapped in matte black vinyl, and sports rounded edges, which we feel help to soften its appearance in the room. On the rear of the sub, you’ll find both the amplifier and a rather large 3-inch port. Underneath the sub hides a fiber composite woofer with butyl rubber surround.
After a thorough search on the Klipsch web site, we determined that the wattage rating for the sub’s amplifier is 100 watts. The amp offers standard low-level RCA inputs, as well as speaker-level inputs for those with older amplifiers. Unfortunately, no speaker-level outputs are to be found. Volume, crossover, phase and auto/on/off switches rounded out the usual suspects of sub controls.
Aside from the aforementioned wire challenges, setup was a snap. We ran five lengths of 14 AWG wire terminated with pin connections from our Onkyo TX-SR606 receiver to each of the speakers. A single subwoofer cable ran from receiver to sub.
Since the satellites in the HDT500 stop producing mid-bass at around 120Hz, we set our receiver’s crossover setting accordingly. For the subwoofer’s crossover, we chose to experiment and found that it seemed to perform best set at about 140Hz, even though our receiver’s bass management supposedly sent only 120Hz down. We suspect that the satellites were thinning out a little before 120Hz, so the sub’s input offered a welcomed rounding out of the sound.
The front three speakers were placed approximately 12 feet away from the listening position at a height of 41 inches. The surround speakers were each about 4 feet away at a height of 48 inches. The sub was placed about a third of the way into the room from the right wall, and about 1.5 feet from the back wall. Prior to evaluation, we played the speakers constantly for 48 hours to break them in.
Systems of this sort rarely get played in two-channel mode because they are designed as a multichannel system, and usually sound best that way. Still, a stereo assessment seemed like a smart call, so we queued up the two-channel SACD version of “Green Flower Street from Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly. The first thing we noticed here was a lack of any bass or mid-bass. After falsely accusing the subwoofer of being non-functional, we discovered that our SACD player was set up for large front speakers. After a quick remedy, the bass came forward. We learned from this brief debacle was that the HDT500 satellites rely heavily on the subwoofer to complete the sonic picture. Without the sub, the system had little authority and lacked even the faintest bit of mid-bass. With sub employed, it was an entirely different story. The image snapped into focus, instrumentation sounded full and life-like and some of the high-end details popping about the room in a way that almost fooled us into believing the surround speakers had engaged. This effect is likely due to Klipsch’s horn design, which seemed to offer a spritely, yet focused high end that supported a surprisingly big soundstage.
What really grabbed us about this small system was the midrange prowess that it asserted. Throughout the album, Fagen’s voice was accurately portrayed, as was the horn section, a difficult feat for such a small speaker. During the intro of Green Flower Street, we had to remind ourselves that we were only listening to two of the satellites. The sound of Fagen’s Fender Rhodes’ natural reverb filled the room in an eerie decay.
After fun with Fagen in stereo, we switched to the multi-channel version with instruments, background vocals and studio effects steered toward the surround and center speakers, to create a more enveloping experience. The HDT500 satellites had a seamless cohesion that we’ve heard missing from much more expensive sets.
While a feast for the ears, The Nightfly is by no means a bass factory, nor is it a particularly dynamic album. So, to push the HDT500 a little harder and shove some more work the subwoofer’s way, we broke out Dire Strait’s Love Over Gold CD. Fans of this recording know that there are more than a few passages that will tax any speaker or sub. One of these is Telegraph Road. During playback, the HDT500 satellites once again impressed us with their capability to expose lots of fine detail without ever becoming harsh. The transient string sounds from Knopfler’s acoustic guitar were a real treat, as were the staged sound effects of someone walking across the room to snuff out a cigarette. Later, the bass guitar and bass drum begin to pulse with growing intensity. Here, the HDT500’s limits began to show. While great at filling out the overall system sound, the subwoofer lacked the chest thumping authority of a bigger, brawnier design. Still, the sliding lines of the bass came across clear and well defined. The sub remained tight and accurate, even at high volumes. This is an admirable attribute, and possibly the benefit of a design trade-off that left us wanting a little more of the extremely low bass.
The music was fun to listen to, but we are talking about a home theater system here. So, off to the movies we went with Michael Bay’s Transformers. What this movie lacks in acting talent it makes up for in special effects, particularly the sound track. The opening is a fantastic test of a center channel’s capabilities. Here, the HDT500’s center channel yielded very clear, balanced dialogue but, unfortunately, off-axis listening suffered a bit. We found that moving to the far left or right of the room left us out of the sweet-spot for the center channel, and in need of more output – more proof that the system will work best in small- to medium-sized rooms. The subwoofer continued to struggle with the extreme low end. Admirably, the bass that it did provide sounded taught and poignant. At no time did we experience the sort of boxed-in boom or overhang that is often associated with budget subwoofers. In a smaller room, or for less demanding listeners, we suspect this sub will fit the bill just fine, but if you desire serious, house-shaking bass, a second, larger sub could be called for.
To achieve such outstanding sound reproduction from such a small package is an impressive feat. Here, Klipsch stays true to its legacy of exceeding listener expectations by offering us a package that delivers engaging home theater and a satisfying music experience. Audiophiles on a budget or with serious space constraints need to add this package onto their short lists. They won’t be disappointed.
- Compact Design
- Handsome gloss black finish on satellites
- Clear, open sound
- Included Mounting Hardware
- Poor binding posts
- Sub lacks in extreme low end performance
- Narrow center channel dispersion