Klipsch VF-36 Floorstanding Loudspeaker Reviewed
In 2008, Klipsch launched their Icon V series, an affordable loudspeaker line designed in collaboration with Best Buy, available only through Best Buy. Its models provide a slim, contemporary look intended for use in today’s modern home theaters. The line consists of two floorstanding models (VF-35, VF-36/reviewed here), one bookshelf model (VB-15), one center channel (VC-25) and one surround model (VS-14).
The VF-36 looks exactly like its little brother, all-black with a slim build and modern profile. The VF-36 features a yawning horn with a silver tweeter in its center, and no grill. The enclosure is black vinyl overwrap but the top plate is of a wood veneer. Weighing in at a very heavy 55 pounds and measuring 45 inches high by 8.5 inches wide by 15.75 inches deep, the VF-36’s slim build keeps the big speaker pretty low profile.
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The design features a 1-inch Aluminum dome tweeter mounted in a 6-inch square 90 degree by 90 degree XT Tractrix horn, coupled to three 6.5-inch fiber-composite woofers, crossed over at 1.78kHz. Klipsch attempts to compensate for the typical directivity and lack of dispersion of a horn design by altering the surface geometry of the tweeter to equalize the speed of sound waves from the horn and smooth the dispersion pattern. The horn’s four-cornered, “flower” look with the sparkling tweeter in the center looks even better on a bigger speaker than on the smaller VF-35. As with four of the five models in the series, a non-removable grill covers the woofers on the VF-36. While the company claims it did this to protect the woofers, it seems a bit peculiar given the propensity of many users to remove the grills to improve the sound and, sometimes, appearance. The VF-36 employs a flared front port, and a single pair of five-way binding posts. Overall, the VF-36 provides a good level of fit and finish.
The VF-36 presents a nominal 8 ohm load with a 96dB efficiency. They achieved optimal sound quality even when driven by average receivers and power sources, and only improved marginally when the power quality rose a notch.
The VF-36s threw a moderately deep and wide soundstage, and had average imaging properties. As with other horn-based loudspeakers, the soundstaging and imaging suffered as the speakers pointed further away from the listening position. The sound quality for those away from the sweet spot will definitely lag behind. The sound had a very edgy quality that lacked warmth and balance. The highs offered some detail, but with a hard delivery that prevented full immersion into the presentation. The screechy highs also jumped out a little too much because the midrange lacked substance, richness, and speed. Piano and vocals took on a honky quality that failed to exit the speaker and bloom, sounding a bit too canned and synthetic. Even if the highs had more speed, smoothness and detail, the upper and middle midrange lacked enough substance that it still would have brought the entire presentation down. It just had a generally hollow, recessed, fuzzy quality that rarely grabbed the music and ran. It sounded like a speaker almost all of the time. The lower mids offered a bit more balance and warmth than did the higher part of the spectrum, and blended well with the bass. The bass provided some nice punch and extended well on large scale classical tracks as well as rock and electronic music. It provided an interesting bookend with the searing highs, but also exposed the weak midrange. The bass could have offered a tighter approach on some rock tracks, but its good extension with minimal port noise made up for that most of the time.
Read about the high points and the low points of the VF-36 on Page 2.
In general, the VF-36 definitely preferred rock and electronic material even though they also tended to expose the shortcomings more than classical, vocal, and jazz tracks. Music just seemed a bit livelier and in time with that material. Acoustic music sounded more balanced tonally but lacked transparency and visceral impact. At high volumes, the VF-36s performed very well, and rocked pretty well even when powered with entry-level recievers and power sources. Closer to a wall, the sound barely changed, with just a slight increase in the lower midrange and upper bass that didn’t change the overall sonic character at all.
• The VF-36 provides a satisfactory level of performance, especially with rock and electronic tracks, and represents an upgrade over entry-level speakers.
• The VF-36 plays loudly with little breakup, and performs optimally even with average receivers and power sources.
• The VF-36 looks good, with its flower-shaped horn tweeter providing a nice touch.
• The VF-36 offers an extreme tonal balance, with edgy highs, thumping bass, and a shallow, ill-defined midrange.
• The VF-36’s non-removable woofer grill may dissuade those wanting to improve performance or appearance, despite its protective purpose.
• The VF-36 only comes in Black.
The VF-36 successfully executes the likely intent of the Icon V series. If you want something a lot better than the true entry-level of the loudspeaker category, you should definitely consider the Icon V series. The VF-36 provides an excellent match for budget electronics, plays loud, and has an appealing, modern look. It will not raise the bar from a fidelity perspective, but also will rarely have to impress an audiophile. It’s just not that kind of product and evaluating it in that regard, while necessary to evaluate its absolute performance, borders on the unfair. For budget consumers, the Klipsch VF-36 might fit the bill and deserves a listen.