The Klipsch AW-650 Outdoor Speakers have been on the market for over 15 years – and deservedly so. They are still widely considered the loudest all-weather speakers in their price range. They are not a budget-friendly option, at around $600 a pair, but you will struggle to find an alternative outdoor speaker system that sounds this large and powerful for the price. For those who like to party on the patio, the Klipsch AW-650 is for you
95dB at 1W
11” x 9.5” x 15”
70 – 20kHz
- 90º x 90º Tractrix® Horn tweeter for clean, clear highs
- Paintable UV-resistant ABS enclosure with rustproof aluminum grille
- High sensitivity and power handling
- Supplied with a C-style mounting bracket and stainless steel hardware
- 3/8″-16 threaded insert for optional mounts
- Huge, yard-filling output level
- Klipsch brand sound quality
- 5-year warranty
As with most outdoor patio speakers, the Klipsch AW-650 are weather-proof rather than waterproof, meaning that they are designed to be mounted in a protected area such as under your eaves. The front grille is rustproof, and the enclosure is ABS plastic – one of the most hardwearing mouldable polymers available. As a result, the speaker box is UV resistant, remarkably rugged, and designed to last.
You won’t be replacing these speakers any time soon, assuming you follow the basic guidelines around maintaining your speakers, and they can be considered a long-term investment. The enclosure is also paintable, which is particularly useful if you want to change the default color scheme – which comes stock in either black or white – to something more compatible with your exterior décor.
Like most wired outdoor speakers, the AW-650s are passive, which means they need an external power amplifier to drive them. A spare pair of speaker outputs from a home theatre receiver would work perfectly for this task but place the receiver indoors away from the elements. Active speakers, such as those found in recording studios, contain the delicate amplifier electronics inside the cabinet, far from ideal for permanent outdoor installations.
The Klipsch Brand
Klipsch is a distinguished name in loudspeaker design, and its 70-year history is a testament to this. Today, they manufacture an enormous range of floor-standing, bookshelf, surround sound, portable, and, of course, outdoor speakers. They also manufacture soundbars, headphones, and earbuds. Their well-regarded hi-fi and home theatre systems are immediately recognizable because of the copper color of their speaker cones. The same audio quality that characterizes their indoor audiophile speaker range is a feature of their outdoor models.
The Klipsch AW Series
The AW-650s are the largest in the series, and their other all-weather speakers, such as the AW-525, the AW-500, and the AW-400, could be more appropriate for smaller yards or unaccommodating nearby neighbors. The numbers denote the diameter of the woofer or bass speaker so, while the AW-650s have a 6.5-inch woofer, those found on the AW-400s are only 4 inches.
In terms of their output power capabilities, the AW-650s can handle 85 watts RMS, the AW-500s operate at 65 watts, and the AW-400s are rated at 50 watts RMS. Although all models can accept short duration peaks at several times these values respectively, their RMS or average power rating is more valuable as it is more typical of everyday use. Be aware that many competing manufacturers only quote the peak power handling capabilities and that providing continuous power at those values could permanently damage them.
The AW-650s are the only ported or bass-reflex speakers in the series. A port is a hole in the enclosure which provides a higher volume and more bass energy than a similarly sized sealed or infinite baffle speaker design. This extra output level occurs because a ported speaker cabinet produces sound from the back of the speaker cone (exiting via the port) and the front.
By contrast, a sealed enclosure can only project acoustic energy from the front of the box. The vacuum behind the speaker cone in a sealed unit restricts its movement – with a corresponding reduction in output level. On the AW-650, the bass reflex ports are the rectangular slots on either side of the tweeter housing and are partly responsible for that huge sound.
In most cases, the larger the woofer diameter, the lower the extension of the bass frequencies from the speaker. The Klipsch AW-650s, with their 6.5-inch bass driver and dual-ported enclosure, output a frequency range from 70 Hz to 20 kHz. For neighborhood-shaking bass, you might want to add a subwoofer, but the low end will be more than adequate for most revelers. Outdoor or weather-proof subwoofers are extremely rare, and unless you are determined to annoy the neighbors, dancing or tapping your feet to a kick drum beat at 70 Hz will still be hugely enjoyable.
High frequencies tend to be quite directional, so anyone not standing directly in front of a set of speakers will experience a reduced treble response. Klipsch has largely negated this problem by housing the tweeter in a square waveguide which disperses high frequencies at 90-degree angles in four directions. They have named this technology the “Tractrix® Horn Tweeter”, spreading the highs over a larger area. This system creates a wonderfully wide “sweet spot”. Unless someone stands behind the speakers, all party-goers will experience the full available frequency range.
Outdoor speakers come in various shapes and sizes, and many of them require wiring, while others feature Wi-Fi or Bluetooth capabilities. Some look like granite or sandstone for camouflaging in a garden. The Klipsch AW-650 speakers are conventional-looking wired models, and this review will compare them to a few wired alternatives.
Suppose the intensity of the AW-650 speakers is a bit much for your everyday socializing needs. Or perhaps you prefer a more laidback listening experience. In that case, there are plenty of competing models from reputable brands that are smaller in physical size, easier to mount, and, in some cases, more affordable. Very few of these competitors will sound this loud.
The Polk Audio Atrium 6 Outdoor Speakers are significantly more affordable than the Klipsch AW-650, but the woofer diameter is only 5 ¼ inches instead of the 6.5 inches of the AW-650. Polk claims a 100-watt power rating for the Atrium 6, but this is almost certainly the peak value. The RMS number will be less than half the peak, which is much lower than the 85 watts RMS of the AW-650.
The Bose 251 Environmental Outdoor Speakers cost less than the AW-650s and are beautifully styled in typical Bose fashion. Their 100-watt power rating is similar to the Polk Atrium 6, but this is also a peak value which means that the 85 watts RMS of the AW-650 will be louder.
The Yamaha NS-AW992WH all-weather speakers are more expensive than the Klipsch AW-650 but feature an enormous 8-inch woofer. Despite this, they are only rated at 60 watts RMS which is once again lower than that of the AW-650s
The Klipsch AW-650s are unexpectedly large compared to most outdoor speakers, with a height of 15 inches, a width of 9.5 inches, and a depth of 11 inches. As a result, permanent placement outdoors may be a problem if you don’t have enough space under your roof eave to mount them. The adjustable C-brackets are sturdy and well-built and allow positioning at various angles. There is also a 3/8 inch mic stand thread for additional mounting options, but the stand must be reasonably robust to support the AW-650s weight, which at a hefty 9 lbs, is much heavier than a typical microphone.
I tested the speakers with a 100 watts per channel Yamaha receiver in direct stereo mode. This setting bypasses the surround speakers, the sub, and any processing on the stereo output. I listened to various reference materials from pop and RnB to rock and hip-hop. The high frequencies are crisp and clear, which helps the treble range travel over a vast distance for those massive parties. The midrange is also substantial, with a well-defined, present quality in the vocals and lead instruments. When switching from a 5.1 home theatre system to the AW 650, the lack of the lowest octave is immediately apparent because a subwoofer typically provides these ultra-low frequencies.
The Klipsch AW-650s sound excellent and are only lacking in the sub-bass department, which is normal and a characteristic of outdoor speakers without a subwoofer. Their physical size and enormous sound set them apart from their competitors, and if you can afford them and have the space to mount them, you will not regret the purchase.