on January 5, 2012
Disclaimer!! Audio "quality" is ultimately a subjective notion that depends greatly on personal taste, room characteristics and recording quality, among other things. While this review represents my own experience with the G17, prospective buyers would be wise to test this system in person, with their own music, before drawing any definite conclusions.
I purchased this unit as soon as it became available. I'd been looking for a complete, compact audio solution for my NYC apartment and, being a satisfied owner of other Klipsch audio products, I decided to try it out. The room I wanted to use it in is small, maybe 10' x 12', so I though the G17 may be the right size for what I needed. Basically, I had three criteria: sound quality, physical size, and input/connectivity options. While the size of the unit is certainly compact, it was the sound and lack of input options that ultimately led me to return the product for something different altogether.
First off, the presentation of the G17 was good. The included cotton gloves were a nice touch that prevented me from smearing finger prints all over the very glossy unit. It's very nice looking and the magnetic grille cover is clever and works well. The build quality is excellent. The unit fairly hefty and very stable...no vibrations, etc. The size of the G17 is perfect for small spaces and being able to wall-mount is an option I would have taken advantage of had I kept it. It was very, very easy to set up and I was streaming music from various Mac's and my iPhone (4, not 4S) in 15 minutes or so.
Here is where I was torn on the G17. The sound is good overall...very crisp and clear sounding with ample amounts of bass (mid-bass, anyways.) Instrumental recordings were dynamic and lively and vocals sounded crisp. However, the midrange was weak. Because much of the "oomph" in the music I enjoy lives in the midrange frequencies, I was left feeling unsatisfied with the lack of power and "weight" in the sound. Due of the airy top-end and weak mids everything sounded rather "light" and somewhat small, regardless of what music I played. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's not what I was looking for. The G17 is not an ideal audio solution if you like to "feel" the weight of, say, electric guitars in rock music. Guitars in particular live in the midrange, so I was left feeling uninspired. There was a genuinely surprising amount of bass coming from this thing which sounded quite good. But understand that this is achieved by increasing the amount of "mid-bass", or, the highest end of the bass frequencies. It is physically impossible for such a small enclosure with small woofers to pump out true low-end bass frequency so if you're expecting anything along the lines of what a sub-woofer provides, prepare to be disappointed. Low-end rumble and thumping kick drums are not happening here. That said, there is a good amount of tight low-end that will satisfy many listeners. Now, because this is a single sound bar, don't expect anything in the way of stereo separation. Again, it's just impossible to recreate stereo imaging and/or the wide sound stage achieved through two speakers set apart from each other. Basically, the G17 has a rather one-dimensional sound when compared to just about any pair of stereo speakers that have at least 6 feet of separation between them. But I suppose that's to be expected so I can't knock it there.
The other gripe I had was lack of input options. Yes, I know, this is an Airplay device and it works well as such, but for $550 I would have liked some kind of physical input option other than the 1/8" analog input. Because I had the G17 situated below my HDTV, I wanted to use the Klipsch to run audio from the TV. My TV has a headphone jack which I connected to the G17, but the sound was weak and thin...really not a marked improvement over the built-in TV speakers, which surprised me. I know it wasn't made for this purpose, but I wasn't looking for much... just a decent improvement over the stock TV speakers, really. While TV audio was better with the G17, it was not nearly good enough to justify the price.
I realize now that I expected too much from the G17. Partly because of the premium price, I was hoping for audio characteristics that the laws of physics would never allow. To sum it up, the G17 sounds good and will work well for someone looking for a compact, simple airplay solution, but those looking for a big, powerful sound to replace a stereo system need not apply. I ended up going with the Audioengine A5+ speakers w/ S8 subwoofer and an external DAC (highly recommended for digital music, really improves sound quality) paired to the optical connection on my Apple TV2 for airplay streaming. Granted, this is a more expensive and larger system, but there is simply no comparison. The Audioengine setup sounds truly phenomenal and completely blows away the G17 (and everything else priced comparably) in every conceivable way. It also sounds wonderful running audio from my TV via RCA inputs. With this, my set-up for digital audio is now complete and I am very satisfied with the results.
In conclusion, the G17 is a nice-sounding, easy to use airplay solution that may be perfect for some, but it simply cannot achieve the level of sound quality, stereo imaging and power that a pair of good quality bookshelf speakers and a sub woofer will provide (Which, through the process of evaluating the G17, I realized is what I was really looking for.) Because my decision ultimately came down to my own tastes, and because this is an airplay system and not a full audio system, I went with 4 stars instead of 3.