Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 - Review

Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 - Review

Klipsch is a company that most of you have heard of but how can its flagship PC speakers perform in today's demanding games? Can a set of 5.1 speakers deliver in gaming, movies and music?

MegaGames is dedicated to the finer things in gaming and our latest review examines one of the companies that has associated its name with acoustic excellence; Klipsch. But can a company that has been around since 1946 offer gamers a product that is relevant in 21st century gaming?

Gamers seem to believe that sound in games begins and ends with their soundcard. Although owning a top of the line, high-end soundcard can never harm you, except financially, the real facts suggest that most gamers change sound cards without ever having experienced everything their previous board had to offer. The real test for any sound card comes from the use of high quality speakers. A well made set of speakers will quickly let you know if your sound card cuts the mustard or whether you need to urgently replace it.

Quality speakers can also help you get the most out of today's gaming experience. Game developers work hard on all audio aspects of a game and rely heavily on it in order to achieve maximum player immersion and with the 5.1 surround feature becoming all the more common in games, a set of quality surround speakers is fast becoming a necessity for gaming.

Klipsch/ is a brand name which has become familiar to U.S. audiophiles through the creation of, the now classic, Klipschorn product. Although discussing the finer points of the debate on the use of horn-loaded speakers is not part of this review we have to mention that Klipsch is an advocate of the use of horns for higher efficiency and reduced total harmonic distortion.

Klipsch already had a top product with their ProMedia 5.1 speakers and users and critics had already expressed their views on them so the decision to improve on what was a highly praised product was risky. Read on to find out how the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers aim to improve your audio experience.

Klipsch has made it clear that it is a company focused on sound in its finest forms and the improvements featured by the Ultra's stress that point. The no nonsense approach to the design of the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers is clearly evident in the hardware.

The first and most impressive feature of the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers is the subwoofer. Weighing in at about 35 pounds the sub is monstrous and any neighbor seeing that beast make its way through your door would be rightfully concerned. Klipsch increased the sub casing by 20% in the Ultras and added a slotted port, to reduce distortion, suggesting that it was designed to make the windows of passing cars rattle for a change. The bass-reflex sub comes with dual 8-inch side-firing woofers and convex driver dust caps which make the package all that much more attractive.

The two-way Ultra 5.1 satellite speakers and mid-bass drivers feature a refined floating grille and under cone termination, which hides the speaker leads for a cleaner cone appearance. The satellites also feature an updated crossover network that enhances the higher frequencies and delivers richer tones. Klipsch has enjoyed the efficiency of its MicroTractrix Horn tweeters and the Ultra 5.1 satellites and the magnetically shielded center channel are no exception. The satellites and center also feature a three-inch fiber-composite cone woofer.

Magnetically shielded and ready for action

Klipsch has also greatly improved on the control module which now includes separate main, center, rear and subwoofer controls as well as a digital LED volume level display and an on/off or headphone listening mode switch. It also has two stereo miniplug jacks, one for headphone output and one for the connection of portable audio devices and any other alternative source that uses a stereo miniplug output.

All functions have been moved to the front of the control module

Well we now know what the speakers can do on paper but what about their performance? Read on to see how they perform during gameplay…

It is usually hard to assess the performance of speakers across all games but the job is made easier when a set of hardware claims to be the best in the business. For all our tests we used a Creative SB Audigy 2 ZS Platinum card.

F.E.A.R.

Our first game had to be F.E.A.R. simply because we wanted to assess the impact, if any, of the speakers on gameplay. What was immediately obvious was that using these speakers at high volume settings had to be a collective MG HQ decision as no one could do any work when the setting was over 30 dB. The second observation was that the sub is just as powerful as its size suggests and hearing it brings an instant, if inexplicable, smile to your lips.
The sub made F.E.A.R. shine, it delivered a menacing low bass hum that further enhanced the in-game tension while the change of pace during firefights and explosions sounded perfectly clear giving the game an almost symphonic quality.

Half-Life 2

We dug up our copy of H-L 2 simply because we anted to experience the game using the Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers and we were not disappointed. The 5.1 aspect of the speakers really shone through this time and made us notice sounds and noises created by Valve which we had failed to hear before. We could clearly hear every empty shell casing hit the ground after every shot fired while vehicle engines sounded deep and tickled our chest as if a Harley had just revved by; explosions and all forms of mayhem were simply astonishing.
Knowing that the console versions of top titles often have superior sound we also connected the speakers to an XBox 360, more on that later, and tried a couple of games on that setup.

A glimpse of the hardware

Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter

Every aspect of the sound in GRAW is stunning; the unique sounds that accompany each firearm are brought to eerie life by the speakers while the impact of every bullet is boosted appropriately by the powerful sub, you get all the zing and whiz that a battlefield deserves and the effect is one of total immersion.
MotoGP 06
Our next game had to be something different so that we can see how well the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 system can reproduce sounds we may be more familiar with such as those produced by motorbikes.
As with almost every game we tried the speakers once again added to the experience. Each engine sounded crisp and powerful, just as it should, while the unique combination of power and gentleness offered by the Ultra's enhanced the racing experience.

Even a hardcore gamer knows that PC's can also be used for watching movies and listening to music and it therefore helps if your speakers can also help you do that in the same style you do your gaming.
We tried a couple of DVDs with the ProMedia Ultra 5.1s just so that we may get a taste of their performance in a home theatre setting.

King Kong

We first tried watching the monstrous King Kong using the Ultra's and quickly realized that the movie experience would be just as good as the gaming one was. The "stampede" scene exemplified the quality of the speakers. Each powerful step was done justice by the sub while if you push the volume up beyond the 40 dB level and pump up your base you will also get to experience the same shock wave running through your living room; we had objects on desks making noises and windows rattling.

Stealth

Even though the movie is one of our... let's say least favorites, the sound effects are pretty demanding and we decided to give it a go with the Ultra's. Yet again the quality of the sound made the movie seem bearable while the scenes that included flying became breathtaking simply due to the performance of the speakers and sub.

Closing in on the satellite

Music

Possibly the second favorite activity of the hardcore gamer is that of music appreciation there is nothing like having the velvety sounds of Cradle of Filth gentle caress your ears from a state of the art sound system.

We decided to use music that would stretch the speakers across all music genres and we decided to do it in style starting with some Pendulum and John Digweed. The drum and bass sound was our way of challenging the Klipsch sub but within under a minute we were all becoming way too involved with the music. The speakers picked up the sounds perfectly and although the volume levels were increasing the quality was there to stay. This was one example of how the ProMedia Ultra's 5.1 can become a lot more than a simple multimedia sound system if fed the right material.

We then moved on to some atmospheric sounds and decided to test our recent copy of My Elixir; my poison the album by the U.K. band; Meanwhile Back in Communist Russia. Half-way into our session with the CD we came upon a track called Heliotrope which made us jump. The low bass produced by it was exactly the type of sound that would bring any other sound system to its knees; but not the ProMedia Ultra. With every powerful low thump everything on our desks rattled while the clanking noises increased but the Ultra's played on, apparently unaffected by the racket. Increasing the volume did nothing to the quality of the sound although you sometimes felt as if your heart might tune in to the song instead of your own body's rhythm.

Having enjoyed that experience we decided to move to harder sounds and tried a demo CD of the new album by another U.K. band, Louie. Their raw, powerful rock sound, we thought, might prove more demanding on the higher end and may challenge the Ultra's. How little did we know, the speakers once again handled every musical or vocal outburst by the band while the response was as smooth and sweet as you would expect from a product of this quality.

We decided to end our trial of the ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers by listening to some good ole U.S. music and Gnarls Barkley was the CD closest to the PC connected to the speakers. Once again the speakers performed admirably, the sub made its presence felt when it had to and the end result was another excellent session.

There is little doubt in our minds that the Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 are the best multimedia speakers currently available. In fact, the term multimedia does not do these speakers any justice as they perform way beyond the restrictions imposed by the term. Although the speakers have been available for some three year now, there is still no substitute for their elegant combination of fidelity and power and they are the right choice for anyone who wishes to get most of their gaming, movie and music audio experience.
At the heart of the system and the true source of its appeal lies the market-leading subwoofer which will caress your ears with the same effortless ease as it will blow the drums out of your ears. The sub will drive performance in games, movies and music adding that extra layer of depth necessary for acoustic excellence.
The major drawback of the speakers is the lack of extra functionality, Klipsch decided to focus on the audio experience to the detriment of high-end features. This means that if you wish to connect your speakers to an XBox 360 console you will also need a standalone digital decoder in order to access the digital output of Microsoft's console. The decoder you choose will need to have three analogue outputs to supply the Ultra's Front, Rear and Center-sub inputs.

The gang in full force

Simply put the Klipsch ProMedia Ultra 5.1 speakers represent the current pinnacle of multimedia sound and now that the speakers have been around for a few years their price is much more reasonable. Klipsch itself is selling them for a, reduced, USD 349.99 while a web search is likely to produce some interesting offers.