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Klipsch RSB-8 review

While Klipsch has been producing sound bars for many years now, its talents were always seemingly elsewhere: traditional loudspeakers. Its sound bars have typically been solid performers but leaned toward home theater use rather than music — and this may seem odd coming from the major sponsor of the Rock Roll Hall of Fame.

The Klipsch RSB-8 looks as masculine as any sound bar, although it, too, kicked more butt with home theater than with music. It augments its toughness with cutting-edge features and functionality. With the addition of 4K HDMI connectivity and multiroom music, the Klipsch is ready for the future in a way that the company’s sound bars haven’t been before.

If you’re looking for something that makes your TV viewing more pleasurable and also plays some music on the side, the Klipsch RSB-8 is an excellent place to start. That said, there is a lot of competition at this price, from the excellent-sounding LG SH7B to the surround-sound-toting Vizio SB4551, both of which also offer multiroom music and potentially better value for money.

The Klipsch RSB-8 is available now for $499, while Australian and UK pricing and availability are yet to be announced.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Klipsch is never one to shy away from the macho aesthetic. The RSB-8’s lines allude to car stereos, Marshall stacks and everything rock and roll. It’s black because, of course, it is.

The black grille protects two 2.5-inch mid woofers and dual three-quarter-inch fabric tweeters. The length of the bar is 40 inches and its height is 3.75 inches. If your TV sits low, be aware that there’s no IR flasher on the rear of the sound bar, so it could block your TV remote control signals.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

If you want a readable display on your sound bar, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The Klipsch does sport a small legend denoting the active input, but it’s not as useful as models with large, alphanumeric readouts like the LG SH7B or Zvox SB500.

The subwoofer that ships with the ‘bar is small and tidy at 10.5 inches high, 7.4 inches wide and 13.5 inches deep. It features a 6.5 inch paper cone driver and is ported at the back.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

If your dog runs off with your remote, you can still control the sound bar using the buttons on the front of the unit, which include power, volume and input selection. Failing that, you can use the dinky credit card remote, but all of its buttons are pretty close together, and it’s hard to use in the dark. Program in your TV remote or use a universal remote instead.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Features

While the RSB-8 bears an uncanny resemblance to the earlier RSB-4, there are some unmistakable changes going on behind the curtain. One of our main criticisms of the 2015 model was that it lacked HDMI support, but the RSB-8 finally offers HDMI pass-through of the latest video standards including HDR and 4K streams. The bar has one HDMI input and one HDMI out/ARC. There’s also a minijack analog input, digital optical, Bluetooth and USB.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The biggest difference between the RSB-8 and the RSB-6 (which costs $100 less) is the inclusion of Wi-Fi music and DTS’ proprietary Play-Fi multiroom standard. Last year Klipsch announced it was partnering with DTS to incorporate Play-Fi into its products, and the RSB-8 is the company’s cheapest sound bar to include it. As one of the few true universal multiroom systems, Play-Fi enjoys wide support — from high-end brands like McIntosh to mainstream ones such as Polk.

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Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Klipsch calls its take on Play-fi “Klipsch Stream” but it’s essentially a re-skin of the generic Play-Fi app. With this app you can stream from Pandora, Sirius Xm, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio and Tidal in addition Spotify Connect. The system will also let you add a pair of speakers as surrounds (which, depending on which Play-Fi product you choose, will cost you $300 and up).

If you’re watching Blu-rays, DVDs or some TV programming, the sound bar will support Dolby Digital. Like many sound bars, the Klipsch doesn’t support DTS decoding though, even though you might presume having Play-Fi would make DTS a given.

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