Klipsch Synergy SA-3 All–Weather Loudspeakers 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems
Written by Bryan Southard   
Friday, 01 June 2001

With summer approaching and the weather getting warmer, many music enthusiasts including myself are looking forward to barbecuing on the patio and some outdoor relaxation. Fine wine, gourmet food and great friends, and of course let’s not forget the ingredient that no party is complete without – fantastic tunes.

The SA-3 is the largest in Klipsch’s All-Weather speaker line, measuring 16 inches wide, 11 inches tall, 10 inches deep and weighing 15 pounds per speaker. The cost of ownership is $699 per pair in either black or white finish.

Having just re-landscaped my backyard, I’ve been looking for some serious outdoor speakers to provide the much- needed finishing touch. I looked at many speaker systems, including some that resembled rocks. The opportunity to review an outdoor speaker could not have come at a better time. When asked which model I wanted to review, I said, "Give me the biggest ones." Ask and you shall receive – when these Klipschs arrived and were unpacked, I was shocked at how big they really were for outdoor speakers. Although I would have preferred my yard to host speakers with more visual stealth, the added performance of the Klipsch SA-3s, with a rated response of 55Hz to 20 kHz, makes a pretty compelling argument for a less than optically transparent speaker.

The SA-3 comes as a two-way speaker system, comprised of a front-ported eight-inch woofer and a one-inch titanium dome compression driver, with a five-inch square Tractrix Horn. The cabinet is constructed of ABS plastic, which feels very solid. The SA-3 has a maximum continuous power handling capability of 100 watts, which at the 94 dB-rated sensitivity means you can play the speakers loud enough to generously include your neighbors, whether or not they prefer to hear your listening choices.

Mounting the SA-3s was quite simple with the included "C-shaped" bracket. The SA-3 is an outdoor speaker, but the description All-Weather could be a tad misleading. The SA-3 can clearly handle most weather, but Klipsch warns not to expose it to continuous and prolonged rain. I placed the speakers underneath my patio cover, which will provide some limited protection from the rain. In the event that the speaker needs to be removed from the elements during winter months, a large hand-screw on the mounting bracket makes for easy removal.

Once mounted, I ran the speaker cable near the ground, along the fence line to my house. I then ran it through the vents on the underside of my house and into a room containing a dedicated older Nakamichi receiver and CD player. For cable, I used some Belton industrial wire consisting of two stranded 16-gauge shielded copper runs. There is a large variety of very good-sounding wire available for use in this application. I chose this wire primarily because a friend donated it or, as Bob Barker would say, "The price was right."

Additionally, I am looking into a system in which I can control my electronics from my yard through either an IR to RF converter or an IR repeater. I feel it is important to have the flexibility to control volume and song selection for the yard, rather than having to run inside to make adjustments.

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 Downside
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.
Manufacturer Klipsch
Model Synergy SA-3 All–Weather Loudspeakers
Reviewer Bryan Southard

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