At $159.95, the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 is the least expensive speaker in this survey. A popular choice at Circuit City and Best Buy, it is also something of a standard-bearer for mass-market offerings. The Klipsch looks and operates exactly as one would expect of a purpose-built, fully integrated product. The box includes all necessary cables (with color-coded connections), and though the signal path is a bit circuitous, the ProMedia easily qualifies as plug-and-play. Once connected, the two compact satellites can be positioned flanking the monitor, while the sub hides under the desk. All three modules are finished in a matte plastic that manages not to look cheap.
The ProMedia incorporates several useful features, foremost among them being master and subwoofer volume controls conveniently placed on the front of the right satellite speaker. That speaker also has a headphone jack, as well as an auxiliary input suitable for a portable MP3 player. At the same time, the Klipsch clearly wasn’t designed with audiophile principles in mind. The enclosures all emit hollow “pongs” rather than solid thuds when rapped, and the satellites stand on springy legs guaranteed to exacerbate extraneous vibration.
Nevertheless, in several ways the ProMedia acquits itself quite well. Extension is admirable at the upper end of the spectrum, so the system never sounds closed-in. At the other end, bass is bountiful, though the Mary Gauthier track revealed its squishiness. Nor is the sound tethered to the speakers, as it is with the HKs; instead, there is a decent 2-D soundstage, within which vocals are clearly centered and musical details abound.
Sadly, though, the ProMedia suffers from an enormous Achilles Heel—a sub-par subwoofer whose bass is so boomy I could only ameliorate it by either drastically cutting its level or moving the sub out from under the desk. That’s some choice: no bass, or a subwoofer in the middle of the floor! Even in the latter scenario, though, definition remains soft. And that low-frequency flab undoubtedly also accounts for the Klipsch’s underwhelming reproduction of rhythm.
The ProMedia also suffers from flat dynamics and a fairly high noise level. When nothing is playing, turning up the volume yields a tapestry of hiss and spit. With music, vocals can get edgy. And when the going gets complex, as in the middle of the Richard Thompson track, the Klipsch gets congested. These issues, coupled with the bass’ incessant boom, make for a fatiguing listening experience that cannot be overcome by the ProMedia’s few strengths.