Like a lot of other overtly vague language used in speaker reviews, “big sound” can be a slippery descriptor. Some reviewers use it as a nod toward a speaker’s ample bass output. For others, it’s about tonal range and ability to convey a sense of space. We take a more literal approach: Big sound is simply the ability to play loud without distortion.
Klipsch’s KMC 3 wireless speaker definitely meets those basic requirements. But to describe the sound it produces as “big” would be a vast understatement. This thing is downright thunderous. After testing a dozen wireless speakers over the past several months, we’ve yet to encounter a model that can play as loud (up to a maximum of 105dB). Throw in the fact that the KMC 3 comes with some tremendous low end capabilities and you have yourself a wireless speaker that performs like something twice its size.
This is truly bone-crunching, window-rattling, carpet-curling, scare-the-neighborhood-children bass response, all made possible with the help of a dedicated 35-Watt, 5.25-inch sub and a couple of 15-Watt 2-inch, full-range drivers. The bi-amped KMC 3 will effortlessly fill a large room with full, rich sound and is ideal for larger outdoor settings too. Even better, cranking the volume is a mostly distortion-free experience.
At 7.8-pounds, the KMC 3 isn’t exactly light. It is, however, a bag-friendly 17-inches long and 5.5-inch deep — about the same size as the Denon Cocoon Portable ($400). Even after loading it with eight D-cell batteries, the speaker is portable enough to drag to the beach (careful, it’s not water-resistant), a BBQ, or anywhere else tunes need playing.
On average, you’ll get about 26 hours of battery life at medium volume. If you really want to crank the KMC 3 to earth-shaking levels, expect about eight hours.
Like many other Bluetooth speakers, setup is speedy and straightforward. You hold down a button and sync your phone or tablet. Done. The KMC 3 will remember the last Bluetooth device connected to it and automatically pair when it’s within range. While the unit itself has touch sensitive volume buttons and an on/off switch, you can also control volume, song progression, mute, and power with an included remote. You’ll probably just want to use your phone or laptop though.
The KMC 3 uses the aptX codec, which claims to boost Bluetooth audio quality to near CD levels. The catch, of course, is that not every device supports the codec. We used a Samsung Galaxy S4 (which does support aptX) and the audio streamed perfectly and sounded great. Devices like the iPad and iPhone, however, do not support aptX.
If you want to avoid Bluetooth altogether, you can use the speaker’s 3.5mm input to connect any non-wireless audio source. There’s also a USB port capable of charging your phone or tablet.
To test the KMC 3, we fed the speaker a wide variety of music. As you might expect, it excelled at reproducing any music living in the 40Hz range. On songs like Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” there was a plush, warm quality to the sound thanks to the speaker’s deep and enveloping low end.
Unfortunately, in tests involving more subtle music, it’s a different story. The song “Iodine” by When Saints Go Machine starts with an industrial spin cycle. On a wireless speaker like the Sony BTX500, you can hear all the finer details — it’s like a ticking rattle. On the KMC 3, the effect is more muddled. The band Houses, which makes thinly orchestrated techno music, sounded crisp on the BTX500. On the KMC 3, the bass overwhelmed the song, even after adjusting EQ on my phone.
Don’t get us wrong: If you’re into into rap, metal, hip-hop, or any other bass-friendly style of music that demands to be played at 11, then this is the portable speaker you want — especially if you’re in need of an outdoor speaker. If on the other hand, you appreciate subtleties and nuances in your recordings, you may want to stick with the BTX500.