For years, Klipsch focused on building highly efficient, horn-loaded speakers. They’re quality products known to be a little overpriced, but worth it if you love the sound and styling. When given the opportunity to check out the brand’s latest smart speaker, I immediately jumped at it.
I have some experience with smart speakers and screens from both Google and Amazon at this point. To really have some fun with the review, I placed this Google Assistant-powered speaker underneath a Lenovo Smart Display to compare the functionality and quality of both. It was an interesting experiment in smart-home technology that revealed to me how much of an ivory tower I may unknowingly live in.
This speaker is gorgeous with a real-wood veneer, tactile metal switches, and a classic look that lives up to the Heritage line it’s a part of.
But before we get to the technical aspects of The Three, let’s pull back to what turned out to be my cat’s favorite part – the cardboard box it was shipped in.
Now that our pallet is cleansed, let’s take a loot at The Three with Google Assistant, a $500 smart speaker for 2019 available in either walnut or matte black.
Under the Hood
I’m reviewing the walnut version, which was sent to me free of charge by Klispch for purposes of this review. It’s one of about a dozen products showcased at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.
The inclusion of Google Voice Assistant means this desktop speaker functions just like a Google Home smart speaker. It just looks a lot more like the throwback home audio systems of the vinyl era, giving it a classic look with modern functionality. This is the type of speaker you show off in your living room, putting it in a different class than a regular Google Home or Amazon Echo device.
It’s not just Google Assistant, Chromecast is built in too, so it’s easy to stream music and more from devices using either WiFi or Bluetooth. This gives The Three a lot of connectivity options, although I do wish there were also a few traditional audio inputs. In fact, The Three has no physical input or outputs. It’s a purely wireless speaker (besides the power cable, obviously).
This meant I was able to test it with a variety of music, from hip-hop and EDM to rock, bluegrass, and even opera. The acoustics were great as the sound filled my room. I was able to hear smooth, rattle-free bass and scratchless tenor. It handled movies like Black Panther and TV shows like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel easily. The voice levels were a little unbalanced versus the sound effects, but that’s been true with most speakers I test.
As for the hardware inside the sealed enclosure, there are two 57.15mm full-range drivers, two 133.4mm dual opposed passive radiators, and a 133.4mm long-throw woofer, for a total of 60 watts continuous (80 peak) power.
The Three supports high-resolution audio through its 92kHz/24-bit decoding, so you’ll hear the difference between Tidal’s high fidelity versus Spotify’s three tiers (CD-quality lossless is rumored to be coming someday). If you’re paying for higher quality music streaming (even buying CD’s), you’ll probably love this speaker.
Of course, if you want to play a record, CD, tape, or anything else from your existing home audio collection on The Three, you’ll need to find a way to transmit it via WiFi (Bluetooth compresses audio and may degrade sound quality).
That’s easier said than done and involves purchasing extra equipment, along with some creativity with installation. It would’ve been nice if Klipsch added at least an optical, 3.5mm, or HDMI input, but it’s not meant to replace something like a soundbar or home audio system, merely add to it. That’s a hefty ask for a $500 speaker.
Installation and Smart Home Features
When you plug in The Three, it immediately activates Google’s Voice Assistant, which reminds you in a friendly female voice to install the speaker through the Google Home app. Since I already had the Lenovo Smart Screen, I started fiddling with the assistant’s smart home and streaming capabilities.
Setting each devices as a default for audio and video, respectively, in Google Home is easy enough, and you can also set default audio and video streaming services, enable apps, etc. For example, if you connect your Netflix account to The Three, you can ask Google Assistant to play the latest season of Arrested Development, and it’ll stream to your default screen.
I actually have my Lenovo Smart Screen set as the default screen, but I also have a Chromecast. So when playing a video, you can specify which screen, for example, saying “Hey Google, play Phil DeFranco,” opens YouTube and plays Philly D’s latest video on Lenovo, while “Hey Google, Play Phil DeFranco on Chromecast” opens it on my TV.
From there, it was easy enough to connect to all the other smarthome devices on my network. Check out everything you need to know about smart homes to learn more about automation and hubs.
One thing I didn’t like was my inability to play a video on the Lenovo Smart Display (or the Chromecast-enabled TV) with the audio playing on The Three. It was a one-or-the-other kinda thing, which, as mentioned above, means you’ll still need a soundbar or sound system for your TV.
I could inevitably connect the TV to The Three via Bluetooth, but I prefer hardwiring the TV speakers. This felt like a lost opportunity for such an expensive speaker.
The Google Home integration means The Three is compatible with services like SmartThings, Hue, Pandora, Uber, iHeartRadio, Nest, NPR, Honeywell, Dominos, and more. Klipsch’s microphone heard me around the living room just like Lenovo’s, but at louder volumes (starting at around 25%), it became glaringly obvious how much better the Klipsch speaker is than Lenovo’s.
Not only is this because The Three obviously has much more audio power, but the assistant herself was a different voice on each device. She sounded more mechanical on Lenovo’s smart screen and more personal, almost human on Klipsch’s smart speaker.
Klipsch makes amazing speakers with high-quality materials and a uniquely American look, sound, and feel. The Three brings the Mid-Century modern design of the brand’s Heritage series to the 21st century, with Google Voice Assistant built in. It’s one of the most stylish (and best sounding) smart speakers to hit the market so far and a great visual piece for any living room.
Multi-room support makes it comparable to Sonos and other smart speaker systems. It has a rich sound and the incorporated smart features were easy to use either hands free or with the dedicated button on top. High fidelity support is the icing on the cake, and while there may be speakers that outperform it, the clean look makes it more of a showpiece.
That said, it’s not perfect. The Three is fully wireless, with no option to play physical media or hard-wire to a TV or computer. If you can’t connect a device to WiFi or Bluetooth, it’s not playing on The Three. It also handles music well, but struggles when it comes to equalizing TV and movies. For the price, I want this speaker to handle everything, including rubbing one out and singing me a lullaby at night.
Still, it’s hands-down the best smart speaker I’ve come across so far. It would be nice if it were a little less expensive and offered more connectivity options, but maybe that’s something we can expect from the company’s 2020 lineup.