There’s a growing sense of anticipation as you unbox the new Klipsch KMC-1 music center. It’s not from the packaging, which is unremarkable. It’s not from the user manual, which is little more than a scrap of paper. It’s the smell. The KMC-1 has the kind of aroma that you only get from brand new, premium quality electronics. It’s gorgeous. Klipsch should bottle it and sell it as an air freshener. It would make millions.
So, it’s clear from the outset that the KMC-1 isn’t your average Bluetooth speaker. However, it’s the baby of the KMC range, occupying a niche somewhere between a travel speaker and a full-blown hi-fi. At a chunky 1.5kg, it’s a little too bulky for total portability, but it’s a perfect size for moving from room to room whenever you need it. It’s also capable of big, space-filling sound, so it’s equally at home as a party speaker or as an everyday sonic workhorse.
Bluetooth speakers aren’t renowned for their looks, but the KMC-1 is as sexy as a cuboid can be. The build quality is excellent, with soft-feel paint, robust metal mesh and a choice of eight colourways. Primary connectivity is provided via an aptX-capable Bluetooth link, although the rear of the unit also features a standard 3.5mm jack for wired input. The KMC’s inbuilt lithium-ion battery lasts for around 8 hours, and it’s also possible to run it on mains power using the worldwide adapter found in the box. Rounding off the package are a USB jack for charging your music device, and the by-now-standard ability to use the speaker for phone calls when required.
The user interface is a little quirky. There’s a physical on/off switch on the rear, which is useful if you’re travelling, but the main controls sit on a touch-sensitive bar on the top of the speaker. These provide an additional power switch, phone controls, a volume display and a battery meter. There’s also the ability to mute the speaker or to toggle between Bluetooth and wired input, though these features aren’t obvious and require multiple keys to be pressed. Another small drawback arises from the way that the device works when it’s running on battery power. A rather aggressive power-saving mode causes the KMC-1 to drop the connection after a few minutes of inactivity, and my test devices – an iPhone 5S and an Android tablet– had to be reconnected in order to resume playback. The Klipsch remembers the details of up to eight input devices, so this isn’t as laborious as it sounds, but it’s an unwelcome distraction if you tend to pause your music a lot.
The KMC-1 combines dual 2.5” full-range speakers with a pair of 3” passive radiators to produce a full 40 Watts of peak system power. At its best, this system sounds great. It’s particularly good at choral and acoustic works, and the Skyrim soundtrack gave me some genuine shiver-down-the-spine moments. Distortion creeps in when the system is pushed to ear-splitting volumes but, in general, the unit offers a well-rounded soundscape with balanced bass, warm midtones and clear treble. It’s also excellent as an impromptu soundbar for a flat-screen TV and, since it retains its sound balance at low volumes, it’s the ideal provider of background music whilst socialising with friends.
Sadly, there’s one exception to the KMC-1’s otherwise satisfying performance. While most genres fare well, rock music is sometimes disappointing. Full-on, wall-of-sound tracks like Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ push the speaker to its limits, and the result can be a mix which lacks clarity and has some harshness in the upper-mid frequencies. This doesn’t happen with every track, but it’s something to be wary of if you’re a fan of metal or classic rock.
In the end, it’s the KMC-1’s practicality that impresses the most. It’s a very easy speaker to live with and, while the sound doesn’t always match the premium price tag, it’s a good choice for day-to-day listening. In addition, it’s impressively constructed and it bears all the hallmarks of that legendary Klipsch quality. It also smells nice. I thought I should mention that.
– Rob P.