After a thorough workout with a few Blu-ray movies, the HD Theater 500 proves to be a very competent performer, delivering surprisingly large-scale sound for such small-scale speakers. There are a couple of tell-tale signs of the system’s value approach, but on the whole the quality is consistently pleasing.
As per usual we headed for Hellboy II and the astounding scene where our titular hero takes on a ten-storey-tall plant in the middle of a city. Right off the bat the Klipsch gives a tenacious, gutsy performance, compensating for its size by blasting out the chaotic action like a system possessed. A case of ‘little speaker syndrome’ perhaps?
Smashed-up cars, crashing windows and massive stomping footsteps are conveyed with thrilling energy and attack, while the snippets of dialogue come across loud and clear through the impressive centre speaker. There’s a lot of detail in the mix, and the rears project effects far and wide, creating an immersive soundstage.
Exciting it may be, but there are times when all this physical exertion gets a bit much for the sats to take. High-pitched noises and particularly loud effects, such as the Elemental’s deafening cries, cause the sats to distort slightly, and high-frequencies sound a touch harsh, which, if listened to for any great length of time, can be a little fatiguing. It’s nowhere near as bad as some of the budget 5.1 and 2.1 systems we’ve tested of late, but it might make you want to invest a bit more cash if you fancy a touch of extra top-end refinement.
But in all other respects the HD Theater 500 does a fantastic job, particularly the sub, which is tight and punchy and blends beautifully with the satellites. Listening to it do its thing during Hellboy’s battle with the Golden Army is a real joy – it has real floor-shaking presence but it’s so responsive and well integrated that you almost forget it’s there, and we mean that in a good way.
With music the Klipsch system provides a very enjoyable listen, but keep an eye on that volume level as the same top-end distortion can occur with certain material – one or two jazz solos and brass sections sounded a little bright. Luckily, lower-level listening is clear and dynamic.
Although its sound isn’t as smooth or refined as the KEF KHT2005.3 or Monitor Audio Vector, the HD Theater 500 is much better than we expected for the money, which makes it a bit of a bargain in our book. That said, it’s a shame Klipsch couldn’t stretch to binding posts – springclips are a disappointing thing to find on an otherwise beautifully built and stylish set of speakers.