REVIEW: KLIPSCH THE THREE WITH GOOGLE ASSISTANT SMART SPEAKER
Sporting a striking retro-futurist design and stripped-back controls, this Klipsch mid-range wireless speaker is remarkably easy to live with.
The Three with Google Assistant
Wireless Smart Speaker
Klipsch is one of the grand old names in American home audio, having been founded back in 1946 and being best known for its loudspeakers. Even traditionalists need to move with the times, however, hence the release of The Three with Google Assistant, a wireless tabletop smart speaker with voice controls and (yep, you guessed it) Google Assistant baked in.
Part of Klipsch’s Heritage Range, It’s a beautiful looking product, very much in the mid-century modern school of design. Our review sample sported a smart matte black finish, but we think the other option, walnut with a black and grey-flecked grille, is even better looking.
Whichever finish you prefer, both models are weighty (4.7kg), pleasingly well-constructed and will sit stably on a kitchen counter, shelf or sideboard. Even the few physical controls on offer – a volume dial that doubles as a pause/play control, plus buttons for Google Assistant, Bluetooth and microphone muting – exude a premium feel – perhaps to be expected given the premium price tag.
While looking outwardly nigh-on identical to the regular The Three, this version does away with the older model’s USB and line inputs, stripping back to pure wireless streaming functionality over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi (the latter via Google’s Chromecast technology). If you are an Amazon household or want phono and USB inputs The (Non-Google) Three is still available at £450.
setup and voice control
The speaker is a cinch to set up. For starters, there’s a single power cable to plug in, and no remote control to worry about. The Google Home mobile app makes the rest of the process as painless as possible: if you can follow a few clearly-written steps and know your home Wi-Fi password, you’ll have The Three up and running in a jiffy.
If you want to listen to music – and let’s face it, that’s why you spent all that money on this speaker – you should probably be subscribing to a Chromecast-compatible streaming service like Spotify or Tidal. That way, you can say, “Hey Google, play my Kick-ass Doom Metal playlist” or intone, “OK Google, play some Kendrick Lamar” and have your wish immediately granted. If you’re relying solely on direct Bluetooth streaming to play files stored on a computer, smartphone or another device, then you’re not really using The Three as intended.
We found the voice commands to be understood the vast majority of the time, whether we were requesting a particular track or enquiring about tomorrow’s weather forecast. Occasionally it would slip up on a tricky artist name or song title, but never to a degree where it became annoying.
Thanks to Google Assistant, the speaker also works as a controller for a wide variety of compatible smart home gear including lights, thermostats and TVs – again, saying “Hey Google” or “OK Google” before barking a spoken command should do the trick. Do make sure that whatever smart home product you’re trying to control is (a) Google Assistant compatible and (b) connected to your Google Home setup.
The Three gets its name from its active speaker array: two 57mm full-range drivers and a 133mm subwoofer, driven by a 60W amp. These are supplemented by a couple of 133mm passive radiators, to provide further low-end grunt.
The result is a speaker that’s unashamedly bass-heavy. We had it placed on the kitchen counter, in a corner, and while that may have further enhanced the low-frequency rumble, we found that even songs that wouldn’t strike you as particularly bass-centric hit our ears with a pleasing weight and discernible texture. There’s plenty of heft at the treble end of the spectrum, too, but we found the mid-range a little less evident in general – leaving the system sounding a bit off-balance at times.
With no digital EQ or similar, there’s nothing the user can really do to alter the audio performance, so we’d advise potential buyers to be aware of that – The Three has a “take it or leave it” approach to audio that suggests its engineers were confident that most buyers would choose the former option. On balance, we’d be inclined to agree. This is a wireless speaker, not a piece of ultra-refined high-end gear – and we like how it sounds when we’re pottering about in the kitchen.
It’s worth noting that there’s support for digital high-resolution audio input at 24-bit/192kHz quality, but the speaker will apparently downsample it to 24-bit/96kHz, which is Chromecast’s maximum output quality.
The very thought of voice-controlled wireless speakers with no physical audio inputs might give hi-fi traditionalists a case of the vapours, but in 2019 they’re a massive part of the audio market – and in the case of the Klipsch The Three with Google Assistant at least, they’re impressively close to offering a best-of-both-worlds halfway house between performance and convenience.
While it’s true that audio purists can’t do a thing to shape the speaker’s performance (beyond, perhaps, changing its placement in their homes), that performance is lively and engaging out of the box. The user experience, meanwhile – provided you have a reasonably clear voice and a subscription to at least one major music streaming service – is so friction-free that you’ll scarcely worry about the lack of a line input for your old iPod.
All things considered; The Three with Google Assistant is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a reasonably compact smart speaker with a bit of sonic muscle.
For more information visit Klipsch.
Having been covering consumer tech since phones were dumb and TVs weren’t flat, few things in the gadget world still have the power to surprise Sam – which is why he loves writing about those few things that do. A Londoner transplanted to New York, and now returned to the English coast, he’s a photographer and loving what drones have brought to the hobby.
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