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Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 Soundbar Review

Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 Soundbar

Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 Soundbar


  • Product Name: HD Theater SB 3 Soundbar
  • Manufacturer: Klipsch
  • Review Date: December 14, 2012 18:00
  • MSRP: $799.99
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • DIMENSIONS - SOUNDBAR: 4.6"(11.7cm)H x 44"(111.7cm)W x 3.1"(7.9cm) D
  • DIMENSIONS - SUBWOOFER: 14.5"(36.8cm)H x 13"(33cm)W x 13.5"(34.3cm) D
  • FINISH: Soundbar: Satin Black Subwoofer: Matte Black Vinyl
  • FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 28Hz to 20KHz +/-3dB
  • INCLUDED: One pair of soundbar cradles, one wall-mounting template, one credit card style remote, one 5.9ft (1.8m) digital optical cable, one 4.9ft (1.5m) dual RCA cable
  • INPUTS: One Optical input, One dual RCA input, One 3.5mm input
  • MAX LOAD WEIGHT: Soundbar: 12.5 lbs/5.7 kg Subwoofer: 25 lbs/11.3 kg
  • MIDRANGE: Four 3.5(8.9cm) long-throw IMG drivers
  • MOUNTING OPTIONS: Two built-in keyhole mounts for wall-mounting
  • POWER HANDLING: 300 watts peak
  • sb-3: sb-3
  • SUBWOOFER: One 10"(25.4cm) down-firing fiber composite cone/ported
  • SYSTEM TYPE: 2-way soundbar with 10" wireless subwoofer
  • TWEETER: Two .78" (20mm) Aluminum compression drivers mated to dual 90° x 90° Tractrix® Horns

Every speaker has its place, whether large or small.  Free-standing speaker advocates are free to cast their derision, but for folks looking to improve on the anemic sound baked into modern flat-screens, without giving up that near-zero footprint, soundbars are an intelligent choice. In the HD Theater SB 3, Klipsch has taken their trademark horn design, coupled it with a wireless subwoofer, and cooked up an easy way to improve sound with minimal impact on aesthetics.

In the Box

The box was larger than I expected, mostly to accommodate the 10" subwoofer enclosure.  The subwoofer and sound bar were each clad in styrofoam and a poly-bag for secure shipping. Included are power cords for both the subwoofer and sound bar, mounting feet and template, a 5 foot RCA cable, and a 5 foot optical TOSlink cable. Integrated keyhole mounts on the SB 3 can be used to mount the speaker on the wall. They also serve as anchor points with which to slide the included feet snugly into place for table top applications.

The sound bar measures 44" wide x 4.6" high x 3.1" deep, with the feet adding less than an inch to the height and depth. It weighs just 12.5 lbs., however. The semi-gloss black finish, married with removable, inset, cloth grills, looks great and seems well-constructed. Two sets of drivers were arranged on either end of the sound bar, each consisting of a single horn tweeter flanked by a pair of 3.5” midranges. My first impressions were that this was a solidly built, quality product.

The width matched my 50" plasma almost perfectly. The control panel consists of a multi-color status LED for 3D mode and remote programming, buttons for source, mute, volume up and down, and a 2nd multicolor LED for identifying the selected source.  There is no power button; the soundbar sleeps automatically after approximately 10 minutes without a signal.  On the back, there were connections for power, RCA and Optical inputs, and a power switch.  On the right end of the soundbar is a third input, a 3.5mm jack for easy connection of a phone or music player.


The down-firing subwoofer is 13 inches wide x 13.5 inches deep x 14.5 inches tall and weighs 25lbs. It's finished in a near-seamless matte black vinyl with rounded corners. The only controls on the subwoofer are a power switch and gain control as the subwoofer connects wirelessly with the soundbar.  A rear LED shines blue when powered on and wirelessly connected, and red when in power save mode.



Setup was foolproof: You simply connect your input(s) and power cables, power on both the subwoofer and the soundbar. They link wirelessly within a few seconds.  The Quick Start guide didn't list which LED colors corresponded to which source, so there was a little trial and error with the source button to find the optical input.  There is no auto-setup routine for level matching the subwoofer to the soundbar, so the Type A's will need to break out an SPL meter and some test tones, while the Type B's will just adjust to taste.

The Quick Start guide does provide a step by step on remote programing.  The Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 has the useful feature of learning your TV remote's signals so that you can use a non-learning remote that was included with your television. Basically, you push a combination of buttons on the soundbar, press the corresponding button on your remote a few times, and, voila, your existing remote now controls your new Klipsch Sound Bar.

front buttons

Of course, you could use the included "credit card" style remote.  However, limited ergonomics, button batteries, and a form factor that encourages consumption by your couch cushions makes this an unappetizing proposition.  The included remote does add 2 additional buttons, a power/standby and a 3D mode.  This is the only way to engage/disengage the 3D mode if you don't have a learning remote as there is no 3D button on the soundbar itself.  This seems like an unwarranted exclusion, in my opinion.  I would have liked to have seen a hard button for the 3D mode in case the diminutive remote is broken or lost.

 remote control

The 3D effect seems to modulate the phase between the 2 driver arrays to give a more dispersed soundfield.  This effect also created a more hollow timbre. I found the tonal tradeoffs to outweigh the benefit of a wider image, so I'd recommend leaving this setting off.

Listening Tests

For movies, I wanted to focus on how well the SB 3 addressed the major concessions of built in sound: dialogue intelligibility, natural tonality, and low-end extension. I started with a recent episode of Sons of Anarchy.  With lots of on-location-scenes full of atmospherics, heavily accented dialogue from actors such as Tommy Flanagan, and the throaty roar of straight-pipe motorcycle exhausts, this series is a perfect opportunity to examine all three focus areas.  Throughout the episode, dialogue intelligibility was good, tone was natural, and low-end response was much better than I had anticipated.

With the "everyday" content test assuredly passed, I decided to move onto something more tortuous.  I decided to test max low-end extension and check for high-output distortion by playing the final fight scene scene from Pixar's latest, Brave, at max-volume. Keeping in mind that my listening room is a larger, open room, the SB3 remained full and distortion free, though I wanted for more output.  In smaller, sealed rooms (like my guest bedroom) the perceived output of the SB 3 was closer to theater levels.

Most impressive was the performance of the subwoofer.  While the extension and impact of the SB 3 subwoofer won't stand toe-to-toe with larger subwoofers like my SVS, it's much smaller and much less expensive.  Considering its own merits, the performance is realistic and belies its relatively small stature.

Once again, while the 3D mode did give lend increased spaciousness to the sound, the tradeoff in tonality was too much for my tastes.  I found the normal mode had a less hollow midrange, less brittle top-end, and still produced a wide enough soundfield at 9 feet away to give some sense of envelopment.

For music, I played a contingent of recordings including the near-requisite The Girl in the Other Room by Diana Krall.  Once again, I was seeking clear, natural, and full sound, and the SB 3 delivered with a sufficiently wide sound stage at 9 feet.  Scooting closer to 7 feet away produced more envelopment, so I’ll call 7 feet the sweet spot in this regard.


Power consumption for the sub plus soundbar was under 20 watts while in use, and about 1 watt in standby according to my Killawatt power meter so regular use won’t break the bank.  A measurement from the listening position with a Galaxy CM -140 meter showed in-room response down to the high 20Hz range, inline with the Klipsch specs.

 room response

At it’s highest volume setting, from my listening position, the soundbar was able to produce 82dB using broadband pink noise.  In real world use in my room, I found max volume to be sufficient for casual to moderate listening, but I would have personally wished for a little more headroom for more dynamic content in large rooms, even at the expense of some irregular frequency response.


For minimal footprint, there's no substitute for the sound bar form-factor.  The Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 would be a perfect compliment to a 50" or larger flat panel whether wall mounted or sitting on a stand.  At an MSRP of around $800, the SB 3 is squarely in the premium sound bar market for those with both a discerning aesthetic and acoustic taste.  The fit and finish communicates quality and the sound is competitive with similarly priced component systems.

Among soundbars, the SB 3 is one of the best I've heard with a clear, natural tonality and strong low-end.  Improvements in a more tonally balanced 3D mode and a little more output would make this close to perfect.

For anyone looking for a performance soundbar, without a strong priority on pseudo-surround modes, the Klipsch HD Theater SB 3 should be a consideration.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Marshall is an Educator by trade, and currently lives in Oregon. He was lucky enough to grow up in a musical household, and though the AV equipment wasn't the greatest, it was always on. His dad introduced him to Queen, Paul Simon, and Sgt. Pepper's, and his mom played Lionel Richie and Disney Soundtracks. When Marshall was 14, his uncle passed down a pair of JBL towers and Marshall finally had his own system. Having enjoyed podcasting and video production over the past 10 years, Marshall is happy to be contributing at Audioholics.

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