When it comes to wireless music streaming, AirPlay, for the time being at least, remains our preferred technology. For us, DLNA is insultingly slow and limited, and Bluetooth, on top of being historically unstable, is limited by its operable range and (with certain exceptions) sound quality. A lot of the Bluetooth devices we’ve tried sound more like FM radio than, say, CD.
While AirPlay is not without its own quirks (and expense), it allows you to move about your space more freely, sounds great and, best of all, puts control of your music right in the palm of your hand, or in front of you on your desktop. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to find an AirPlay speaker that we could really fall in love with. For that reason, we tend to get a little excited whenever a new AirPlay speaker option comes around.
Such was certainly the case when we first learned of the Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air. From afar, it appeared to have all the ingredients needed for a delicious audio experience and, given Klipsch’s excellent speaker-dock offerings in the past, was likely to deliver. Well, it’s been a long wait, but the G-17 Air is finally available. When our review sample landed on our desk a couple of weeks ago, we wasted no time getting to work on our evaluation. In this review, we’ll talk about our experience with Klipsch’s G-17 Air AirPlay speaker, discuss its sound quality and lend our opinion on whether this device earns its $550 asking price.
Out of the box
Klipsch seems to be steering a lot more attention to its products’ out-of-box experience. The Mode M4S0 headphones gave us our first glimpse at this move, and cracking open the G-17 Air further reinforced that luxury feel. Klipsch recognizes it needs to deliver a premium experience if it intends to charge a premium price.
The first thing you’ll see upon opening the G-17 Air’s box is a pair of white gloves. We’ve seen these before and, while it may not be an original idea, it is definitely a smart one. We cast the accessories aside in order to get right to the main event, removing the top portion of Styrofoam to reveal the G-17 Air snug in a white cloth sack. After donning the gloves, we pulled the G-17 Air from its cocoon. As expected, its gloss piano black finish almost seemed to suck dust in toward itself- as if it were a black hole for fingerprints, smudges and airborne particulate — an issue with which we’re all too familiar. Indeed, the white gloves are practical, not some sort of cheesy stunt.
Packed with the G-17 Air we found a tinted glass speaker stand and associated hardware, some wall-mount brackets, a brick-sized power supply, card-sized remote control, a rather interesting speaker grill and an owner’s manual.
Getting the stand attached to the speaker was easy enough, and the rubber piece Klipsch provides to conceal the screws popped right into place, giving the installation a pretty clean look. It was here that we first noticed that some of the G-17 Air’s connections were now a little more difficult to reach than we’d like — more on that later.
Getting the G-17 Air up and running through our office’s Wi-Fi network was a piece of cake. Klipsch provides a free iPhone and iPad app that takes you through each step of the process. If you don’t want to use your iOS device, setup can also be taken care of via PC or Mac. If you get stuck, Klipsch has very detailed instructional videos online. After renaming our G-17 Air something clever, we were ready to rock out.
Features and Design
Aside from its obvious role as an AirPlay speaker, the G-17 Air does offer both a USB and 1/8-inch input on the back of the unit. The only issue we have is that they are a little difficult to reach unless you remove the decorative rubber piece that conceals the screws. And should you decide to wall mount the speaker, they would be inaccessible unless the speaker was removed, then replaced on the wall.
On the right side of the unit, we found buttons for power, volume up and down, an input selector and Wi-Fi switch, which is used primarily during set up. The included remote doubles these functions and adds in play/pause and track advance/reverse.
On the front of the speaker we found the unit’s two .75-inch compression tweeters mounted behind Klipsch’s proprietary horns. Accompanying the tweeters are two 2.5-inch long-throw woofers, which take on the double duty of producing both bass and midrange frequencies. Klipsch says the tweeters kick in with the treble at about 3kHz, and that the system has a rated frequency response of 57Hz to 23kHz with useable bass down as low as 4S7Hz. There’s a bass port on the left side of the unit.
Slotted right between and just above the woofers is the speaker’s infrared eye, which is virtually invisible, even with the grill removed.
Speaking of the grill: We think it’s a pretty well-conceived piece. The grill wraps around the back of the speaker and secures with magnetic roll-bars. Of course, we think the speaker looks just fine with no grill at all. So, have it your way.
As we previously mentioned, the G-17 Air can be wall mounted using two keyhole slots on the back of the speaker. While we dig the look of the stand, we think wall mounting is pretty terrific idea for this speaker. Its slim design, light weight and gorgeous gloss-black finish make it a great candidate for wall mounting in the bedroom, living room, kitchen or study. Since up to four G-17 Air speakers can be connected to a single Wi-Fi network, multiple zones of a house can be served with ease.