Klipsch The Nines loudspeakers review: Huge hi-fi sound, simple setup

Klipsch’s flagship powered bookshelf speakers are high-performance media multitaskers, seamlessly fusing nostalgic style with modern versatility—no receiver needed.
Klipsch The Nines powered speakers outside on a table in the sun
The Nines succeed because of how Klipsch thinks inside the box, figuring out how to back the timeless, breathing performance of horn-loaded drivers with contemporary connectivity. Sarah Jones

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The Nines are the latest in Klipsch’s wildly popular family of retro-modern, media-friendly powered speakers, which launched in 2020 with The Fives, compact powerhouses that claimed the first HDMI-ARC connection in a bookshelf speaker. Like The Fives and The Sevens before them, a pair of Klipsch The Nines speakers ($1,499) aims to deliver an expressive audio experience that seamlessly integrates with just about any entertainment setup, while exuding a heritage-inspired aesthetic that pays homage to mid-century elegance.

Klipsch The Nines

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Overview

  • The Nines are the top of three models in the Klipsch line of Heritage-inspired powered bookshelf (or standmount) speakers.
  • The brand’s signature horn-mounted driver delivers a fleshy, high-fidelity presence across an almost multidimensional soundstage.
  • These are a great pair of speakers if you have numerous sources but can’t find the space or budget for discrete components.

Pros

  • The sound—classic Klipsch concert-like sound
  • Plentiful inputs and robust internal amps mean you can skip the added expense of an AV receiver
  • HDMI-ARC makes integration in a home theater with a modern TV easy
  • Can decode most digital files up to 24-bit/192 kHz resolution
  • A built-in phono preamp means no external hardware is needed with moving magnet cartridge turntables
  • Dynamic Bass feature can provide enough low-end that a subwoofer is a bonus, not a requirement (a plus in apartments)

Cons

  • Price (though they’re a relative bargain compared to many connected stereo speakers)
  • Height, weight, and vibration produced mean you need an extremely sizable, sturdy bookshelf, so it’s just better to pay extra for stands
  • An external phono preamp can still outperform the build-in signal path

Verdict: Klipsch The Nines speakers exude retromodern style and hypermodern versatility, making them a, well, sound investment for audio-video audiophiles.

The build

The Nines’ warm-and-cozy retro exterior belies their high-tech innards. Vintage-inspired cabinets are finished with handcrafted wood veneers and top-mounted brushed-metal input-selection and volume dials. Speakers are available in walnut or ebony and feature removable magnetic grilles; I left mine off. (A collectible McLaren Edition, designed in partnership with McLaren Racing, is finished in the vibrant orange and white motif of the McLaren F1 dynasty.)

When you describe “the Klipsch sound,” anyone familiar with the brand will immediately think of the visually and audibly recognizable horns, with their clear, commanding presence. The Nines are two-way powered speakers featuring 1” titanium tweeters on Klipsch’s proprietary Tractrix horns. These 90° x 90°, silicone-composite horns stretch from edge to edge, a design optimized for the most efficient high-frequency transfer, for more detailed, accurate sound. (This proprietary technology also aims to minimize reverb from sound reflecting off walls.) Woofers are all-new 8” long-throw fiber composite cones, and cabinets feature rear-firing bass-reflex ports.

Minimalists, rejoice: Because The Nines are self-powered speakers, there’s no need to connect an external amp, receiver, or even a phono preamp. The Nines use a bi-amped design, featuring a built-in 240W RMS (480W peak) amplifier—100 watts to each woofer and 20 watts to each tweeter—optimized with a sophisticated DSP package integrating crossovers, limiters, and EQ.

When it comes to connecting all your favorite sound sources, from your TV to your turntable, these speakers are truly ready to rock (or jazz or hip-hop or house, etc.). Inputs include integrated HDMI-ARC, USB-B, optical, and analog 3.5mm; high-res aficionados will be happy to learn that digital-to-analog conversion is at 192 kHz/24-bit. (One caveat: The Nines do not accept files in the MQA or FLAC formats, so you’ll need to decode them to PCM at your source.) The Nines also have a built-in phono preamp, with a switchable phono/line RCA in and a ground connection, plus a subwoofer out (with a 60Hz crossover). Finally, the Nines offer Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, including aptX, aptX HD, and AAC support (the former two commonly found on Android devices and the latter the native Apple protocol). However, there is no built-in WiFi/AirPlay/Chromecast/Spotify Connect, etc.

Everything you need to connect your speakers is in the box, including a proprietary four-conductor cable that connects the powered speaker to the secondary speaker (either speaker can serve as left or right); an extension speaker cable; and HDMI, USB-B to USB-A, and AC power cables, plus a no-frills remote (AAA batteries included, though we always recommend rechargeables).

These are big, brawny boxes, measuring 19 x 9.5 x 13 inches, weighing around 28 pounds each, and approaching the size of commercial studio monitors. It’s advisable to place these musical monoliths on stands for optimal response and to avoid vibrations interfering with your turntable. (Klipsch stands feature hidden cable channels and threaded inserts for securing your speakers.) 

Setup is plug-and-play simple and takes just minutes. (A quick note, however, about connecting turntables: When running a phono signal directly from a turntable to your speakers, you might face longer cable paths than you would if you were connecting your turntable to a receiver; be aware that phono cable lengths longer than three feet can degrade sound quality, and plan accordingly.)

Once you’re physically up and running, pair the speakers with your smartdevice and use the Klipsch Connect App as a virtual remote and to access EQ controls and firmware updates. I found the app clumsy and sluggish to connect and update, but very easy to operate. Functions include a customizable three-band graphic EQ with presets, which can be useful if you need to boost mids to hear movie dialog better or crave extra-deep bass in your gaming soundtrack, for example, but listening to music, I left the EQ flat at all times. The app also offers processing compensating for wall or corner speaker placement, a Night Mode that adjusts dynamic range for quieter listening, and a Dynamic Bass function, which boosts low end at low volume levels.

When it comes to how simple it is to set up and enjoy The Nines, just think, “Plug, Play, Slay.”

The sound

Decades ago, Klipsch founder Paul Klipsch identified four design principles that he felt led to the most lifelike recreation of the live concert experience at home: high efficiency, low distortion, controlled directivity, and flat frequency response. Together, these principles provide the foundation for the signature “Power Detail Emotion” focus in premier Klipsch towers, and they are well-represented in The Nines.

I used The Nines in a music-only setup, streaming TIDAL over USB from my laptop and over Bluetooth on my iPhone 13 Pro. l connected an Audio-Technica AT-LP140XP direct-drive turntable, A/B-ing a direct phono in using The Nines’ built-in phono preamp and a path through an ART DJ Pre II phono preamp to The Nines as line-in. Spoiler alert: The external preamp won out, delivering slightly cleaner, slightly more dynamic sound, especially at higher volumes. But given the convenience factor, I doubt many Nines users will find their internal preamp (which only supports moving magnet cartridges, FYI) a deal-breaker. It’s just one of several signal paths you can take. These speakers could easily flank the plinth of a quality turntable (with or without a built-in preamp) to create a relatively compact, aesthetically and aurally pleasing listening station in a single connection; a quick flip of the Line/Phono switch and you’re in business.

Because the cabinet is a rear-ported design, for optimal bass response and imaging it’s best to set speakers at least 12 to 18 inches away from the wall, which I did; another selling point for stands. This two-way speaker package produces a wide frequency range of 34 Hz to 25 kHz. I found The Nines’ bass output so deeply extended and articulate that a subwoofer was unnecessary for my music-listening setup. Gamers, hip-hop fans, and action-movie junkies may seek a bigger boom. Still, given how much air these beefy 8” woofers can move, I recommend trying the speakers without a sub first, especially if you are in a shared-wall living situation.

In my large (15×20-foot) listening space, The Nines sounded balanced and natural out of the box. I never felt the need to tinker with the response, choosing instead to dive right in. (That said, if you’re hoping to tease out some nuances, the Connect App gives you access to a three-band graphic EQ with bands centered at 200 Hz, 1 kHz, and 4 kHz; you can save your preferences as custom settings.)

Feeling inspired by The Nines’ bass for days, I queued up Crystal Waters’ classic house banger, “100% Pure Love.” I was instantly transported to the clubs of my youth, triggering the muscle memory of clambering atop massive PA speakers in the days before I knew better. Everything—the bone-melting bass, the silky-smooth, snaking vocals, those knife-edged cowbell clanks—sounded incredibly clear and balanced, with deep, defined lows and ultra-clean, pinpoint-precise highs, even at blow-the-roof-off levels, which is what this track demands. Think of The Nines’ sound as effortless meets in-your-face.

The Nines showcased the modal intricacies of Miles Davis’ “Nardis,” as realized on Bill Evans’ landmark 1968 live recording Bill Evans–At the Montreux Jazz Festival, in astonishing clarity. Every textural detail was brought to life, from the sandpapery slide of bassist Eddie Gomez’ virtuosic fingers traveling down the neck of his instrument to the crisp counterpoint of Jack DeJohnette’s drums as they cascaded into a kaleidoscopic solo.

Because Klipsch speakers are highly efficient, their drivers don’t have to work very hard, which helps bring dynamic range to levels comparable to a live performance. And because they’re bi-amped, they offer great separation between high and low frequencies. To me, the overall effect was that of sitting in the front row, an expansive soundstage washing over me, each instrument presented with remarkable depth and distinct separation.

And although I generally listen at old-lady conservative levels, with The Nines, I never heard compression at high volumes or experienced fatigue over long listening sessions. I found I didn’t need the Dynamic Bass turned on to feel every articulate attack, but YMMV.

Listening to the lysergic pop of Fine Line—Harry Styles’ sophomore LP—the sweeping synths and golden-hour harmonies swelled in a lush, larger-than-life soundstage extending far beyond the speakers.

The conclusion

More and more, powered home speakers are morphing into entertainment hubs, dishing out everything from built-in streaming to sophisticated DSP to inputs that support every device you own (think the wireless network-enabled KEF LS50 Wireless II and JBL 4305P, among others). Although the all-in-one system is somewhat at odds with the audiophile “mix and match components until it’s perfect” ethos, as The Nines demonstrate, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy amazing sound in a convenient package without the expense and learning curve (and clutter!) of building a hi-fi system. The Nines even add the vinyl-friendly preamp that those other WiFi-connected speakers lack.

Considering their lineage and the success of their predecessors, it’s almost a given that The Nines sound amazing. Their sound signature can be characterized by its exceptional coherence, impressive imaging, and a sense of depth that draws you into the heart of the music. Bass is punchy and defined, and the midrange is rich and textured, for a warm and lifelike audio experience. Highs are crisp and detailed, a sparkling presence with no edgy harshness. The Nines’ comprehensive features and seamless connectivity make them standouts in their class.

Using these speakers feels a bit like enjoying the ease and convenience of a soundbar while experiencing the sonic separation, imaging, chest-thumping bass, and room-filling energy of component speakers. Add in their gorgeous vintage looks, and Klipsch The Nines speakers strike an ideal balance between versatility and charm and are sure to satisfy discerning listeners seeking to bring a new dimension of fun to gaming, movies, and, of course, music.