|Klipsch Synergy SA-3 All–Weather Loudspeakers|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Bryan Southard|
|Friday, 01 June 2001|
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I had originally heard the Klipsch SA-3 at CEDIA 2000 in a huge convention environment and was impressed with its ability to project in such a large open room. After mounting and connection, I started my testing with Bad Company’s 1974 self-titled debut (Swan Song). I was immediately impressed with the effortless high frequency in such classics as "Seagull" and the title track "Bad Company." The higher frequencies are the first thing to disappear in a outdoor setting, especially in off-access listening. Aided by the 90 by 60 degree horn dispersion pattern, music sounded very good from all over the yard, certainly better in the focused point between the speakers, but nevertheless substantial and not washed out. The midrange was very detailed and dynamic. I was caught completely by surprise when I positioned myself in the sweet spot and heard an incredibly detailed soundstage that far exceeded my expectations. For a short instant, I traveled down the path towards audiophile geekdom with thoughts of placing the SA-3s on dedicated posts at a visually obtrusive ear-level position in order to be able to sit and feel one with the soundstage. After my wife quickly slapped me upside my head, I returned to my senses. During other audio/video delusions, I have dreamed of adding three more speakers and an inexpensive DLP projector to recreate the drive-in movie experience, right in my backyard.
Like every child, or perhaps every aging child in this case, I thought it best to test the limits of my neighbors. Let’s face it, we learn very young that boundaries were made to be pushed. With that said, I reached for the enduring classic, The Who - Live at Leeds (MCA) and played it at moderately high volumes. The SA-3 performed with great energy. The bass was solid and very quick. I had visions of being at an outdoor concert. In the song "Young Man Blues," Pete Townshend’s guitar had a very open and realistic crunch. It not only had great detail but considerable dynamic range as well. Klipsch speakers are an exceedingly good choices for use at an outdoor venue because, with a compression driver horn system, they are capable of very wide dispersion patterns. Even more importantly, Klipsch speakers can play loudly enough to created impressive sound pressure outside where there aren’t always physical boundaries, like walls, to reflect sound.
To test how musical the SA-3s were, I reached for Pete Seeger and Friends (BMG Entertainment). Although these are outdoor speakers, which typically are designed to project in large areas and not for overall musical sweetness, they performed remarkably well when the listener is in a focused position between the two loudspeakers. Seeger’s voice had midrange richness that was very unexpected from an outdoor speaker. When I walked about in my yard, although the low frequency tailed off and the music became somewhat attenuated, the high frequency and midrange information remained abundant and very natural for an outdoor venue. When played at higher volumes, the music consistently reminded me of the experience of being present at an outdoor concert.
The SA-3 is not inexpensive for an outdoor speaker. With this in mind, you must consider placement security, as the SA-3s could be a theft risk in many locations. As with anything left outdoors, this is a hazard that must be considered.
Although the SA-3 is an outdoor all-weather speaker, as mentioned earlier, it should not be exposed unprotected to direct rain for extended periods of time. This means that, in many cases, the speakers should be brought inside for winter storage. This is very easy for me to do, but something that should be considered in light of the complexity of the speakers’ installation in your specific location.
The mounting brackets for the SA-3 are easy for mounting and installation, yet I felt they were a bit simple for a $700 outdoor speaker system. This is a speaker that with proper positioning is capable of better than expected focus and imaging as well as tremendous musical balance, yet the mounting bracket gives you two holes and no rotational adjustment. You cannot mount the bracket with the speaker attached and, once the bracket is mounted, there is no possible adjustment for sonic improvement. I would like to see a somewhat more complex mounting bracket with some rotational adjustment once the speaker is positioned. Perhaps this isn’t necessary with lower-priced speakers in the line, but it would certainly benefit a speaker with this level of sonic performance.
Music has become an essential ingredient for my backyard outings. The Klipsch SA-3s have brought excitement to evenings on the patio. For many years, I considered poorly reproduced music from portable players and cheap speaker systems to be adequate for yard parties and entertainment. The Klipsch SA-3s have taught me that you can achieve a very high level of outdoor musical performance for a moderate price. The SA-3s provide dynamics, energy, resolution and a terrific sense of an outdoor live performance. For these benefits, I will purchase the review models and start enjoying my music from a new perspective – one with fresh air, birds chirping, and from under the trees.