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6 Reasons to Avoid a Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos System at All Costs

When it comes to immersive home theater sound, it‘s hard to beat the enveloping 3D audio experience of Dolby Atmos. Many renowned speaker brands have embraced this cutting-edge surround format in their premium offerings. One such product is the Klipsch Reference Cinema 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system. Acclaimed for its dynamic, powerful sound, this flagship offering from the legendary American audio company seems to check all the boxes for discerning movie lovers and audiophiles on paper.

However, as impressive as the Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos system is, it‘s not necessarily the right fit for everyone. Depending on your specific needs, preferences, space and budget, you may actually want to avoid this pricey home theater package. As a digital technology expert and audio enthusiast, I‘ve evaluated the specs, features and user experiences to identify 6 key reasons why this Klipsch system might not be your best bet. I‘ll also recommend some stellar alternatives for different scenarios.

But first, let‘s take a closer look at what you get with the Reference Cinema 5.1.4 system to better understand its capabilities and limitations:

Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 System Specs

  • 1x 10" wireless subwoofer (32Hz – 120Hz +/- 3dB)
  • 1x center channel speaker (90Hz – 20kHz +/- 3dB)
  • 4x satellite speakers (90Hz – 20kHz +/- 3dB)
  • 4x Dolby Atmos upward-firing elevation speakers
  • Continuous power: 75W (satellites); 75W (center); 150W (subwoofer); 40W (elevation)
  • Peak power: 300W (satellites); 300W (center); 600W (subwoofer); 160W (elevation)
  • Sensitivity: 92dB (satellites); 91dB (center); 112dB (subwoofer)
  • Impedance: 8 ohms (compatible)
  • Gold-plated binding posts for bare wire connections

On the surface, this 5.1.4 configuration with a 10-inch wireless subwoofer, four compact satellite speakers, a dedicated center channel, and four elevation speakers for height effects is well-equipped to deliver room-filling, three-dimensional sound. The specs are undeniably impressive for a system at this price point.

However, there are some crucial caveats to consider before splurging on the Klipsch Reference Cinema system. Allow me to elaborate on the potential deal-breakers:

6 Reasons to Steer Clear of the Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos System

1. Premium Price Tag

With a manufacturer‘s suggested retail price of $1,349, the Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos system is undoubtedly an expensive proposition. While you do get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of sheer audio performance, this price point may exceed the budget of many home theater enthusiasts.

It‘s important to remember that you still need to factor in the cost of a capable AV receiver to power the setup, plus speaker wire, cables, and potentially stands or mounts. For many, spending upwards of $1500 on a 5.1.4 speaker package alone is simply not feasible nor sensible. There are several highly-rated Dolby Atmos systems and even soundbars that cost less than the Klipsch while providing comparable or sufficient sound quality for smaller setups.

2. Not Suited for Smaller Rooms

With great power comes great responsibility, and the brawny Klipsch Cinema system demands a lot of space to work its magic. The muscular 10-inch subwoofer, in particular, is complete overkill for an apartment or small living room. Without sufficient leeway to accommodate the beastly bass output, you‘ll likely encounter boomy, overpowering low frequencies that overwhelm the rest of the mix.

Furthermore, the sheer output of the satellite and center speakers is better suited for medium to large rooms, ideally at least 250 square feet or more. In a confined area, the aggressive Klipsch sound signature can quickly become fatiguing and unpleasant at higher volumes. Those crisp horns are likely to trigger complaints from nearby neighbors too.

Essentially, the Reference Cinema system is not engineered for intimacy or subtlety. It‘s a brash, dynamic speaker setup that needs ample breathing room to sound its best while maintaining a credible surround effect. For smaller spaces, you‘re better off with a less domineering system or going the soundbar route.

3. Lackluster Documentation

For a complex home theater setup consisting of nine separate speakers and a subwoofer, you‘d expect Klipsch to provide clear, comprehensive, and detailed documentation. Unfortunately, users have reported that the supplied user manual and setup guides fall short in this regard.

The instructions are vague and lacking in specificity, particularly when it comes to optimal speaker positioning for different room sizes and layouts. There are no helpful visual aids or diagrams to guide novice users through the process. Some of the technical terminology used is not adequately explained either.

While you can certainly find more useful setup tips on enthusiast forums and YouTube tutorials, it‘s frustrating that Klipsch doesn‘t provide this information out of the box. The lack of clear guidance can lead to haphazard installation and subpar audio performance as new users resort to trial and error.

Given the premium price of admission, it‘s reasonable to expect more hand-holding and after-sales support from an esteemed brand like Klipsch. If you‘re not comfortable with a DIY approach or lack prior experience setting up surround sound speakers, the Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos system may prove daunting to configure optimally.

4. Tedious Wiring Process

Another potential headache for novice users is the cumbersome wiring procedure involved in hooking up the Klipsch Cinema system. Instead of using convenient twist-on binding posts, spring clips or RCA connectors, you‘re left with bare speaker wire and tiny terminal holes.

This old-school method requires a lot of precision, patience, and manual dexterity. Those with shaky hands, poor eyesight, or limited flexibility may struggle to insert the bare wires securely without fiddling and possibly damaging the delicate posts over time.

The posts themselves are quite basic for the price. There are no fancy gold-plated terminations or other visual markers to differentiate between positive and negative. With nine speakers to connect, there‘s a higher risk of wires popping out or making unstable, noisy contacts.

Seasoned audiophiles may not mind getting their hands dirty and spending hours perfecting the wiring. But for regular folks with busy lives, this process can quickly become frustrating and laborious. It‘s puzzling that Klipsch didn‘t equip such a premium speaker package with more intuitive, user-friendly cable connections.

5. No Auto Signal Sensing on Subwoofer

A minor grievance in the grand scheme of things, but irksome nonetheless for a system at this price point. The muscular 10-inch subwoofer included in the Reference Cinema bundle lacks an automatic signal sensing or standby mode.

What this means is that the sub will remain powered on even when there is no audio signal from the receiver. To conserve electricity, you have to physically turn it off via the rear-mounted switch every time you‘re done using the system.

While not a huge inconvenience, it‘s a small quality of life feature that is pretty much standard fare on most powered subwoofers today, even budget models. The absence of smart power management betrays cost-cutting and feels decidedly old-fashioned in an era of voice-controlled devices and energy-saving appliances.

6. Separate Amp Required – Not an All-in-One Solution

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Klipsch Reference Cinema system is that it doesn‘t come with everything you need to enjoy immersive Dolby Atmos surround sound right out of the box. The glaring omission is an AV receiver to power the 5.1.4 speakers.

Unlike many entry-level home theater speakers or even premium soundbars that come with a built-in amplifier or wireless sub, the Klipsch Cinema speakers are passive and require a dedicated multi-channel receiver to function. For the uninitiated, this means an additional expense on top of the already substantial $1,349 sale price.

A high-quality 9.1-channel receiver from brands like Denon, Marantz or Yamaha will easily run you another $1,000 or more. Unless you have an existing unit that you can reuse, the true cost of ownership for the Klipsch Atmos setup balloons rather quickly.

The lack of a turnkey receiver bundle feels like a missed opportunity. Many first-time buyers interested in the Klipsch brand would appreciate a curated, preconfigured package designed to work seamlessly together at a discounted rate. Choosing a compatible amp with sufficient clean power output and the right processing chops can be overwhelming.

Of course, serious home theater buffs will appreciate the flexibility of being able to mix and match components. But for the plug-and-play crowd, the Reference Cinema system presents a higher barrier to entry. It‘s up to you to ensure that your receiver has enough channels, power and codec support to get the most out of the 5.1.4 array.

Alternative Speaker Systems to Consider

So while there are some good reasons to avoid the Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos system depending on your needs, it‘s still an impressive and capable performer for dedicated home theaters. If you have your heart set on a premium Dolby Atmos experience, here are some other 5.1.4 options at different price points:

1. SVS Prime Elevation 5.1.4 Speaker System ($1,599)

Another high-performance speaker package designed for medium to large rooms, the SVS Prime Elevation trades some of the Klipsch‘s unbridled dynamism for a more refined, balanced presentation. The slender satellite speakers are wall-mountable for flexible placement. Highly recommended for music lovers who want pristine, uncolored Dolby Atmos playback.

2. Focal Sib Evo Dolby Atmos 5.1.2 ($1,299)

Focal, a storied French speaker brand, delivers detailed, transparent sound in an attractive lifestyle-oriented design with compact satellite speakers and a small form factor subwoofer. The Sib Evo system is perfect for a chic living room or apartment setup that‘s tight on space but big on aesthetics and sound quality. Note that this is a 5.1.2 system with only two height channels.

3. Sony HT-A7000 7.1.2-Channel Soundbar ($1,299)

If the thought of wiring up nine separate speakers makes your head spin, consider this premium all-in-one soundbar that supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. With built-in amplification, a wireless subwoofer plus optional wireless surrounds, and 7.1.2 channel processing, it‘s astoundingly close to the real deal. Ideal for apartments or as a no-fuss bedroom or gaming setup.


There‘s no question that the Klipsch Reference Cinema Dolby Atmos 5.1.4 system is a powerful, dynamic, and stylish performer. For discerning listeners with large dedicated home theaters, it delivers a thrilling immersive audio experience with all the bells and whistles.

However, as we‘ve explored, it‘s not the most practical or cost-effective solution for everyone. The steep price, large footprint, lack of supplied amplification, cumbersome wiring, and inadequate documentation are all potential red flags for the average consumer.

As with any premium audio purchase, it‘s crucial to carefully evaluate your budget, space constraints, future expandability, and ease of use before deciding on the Klipsch Reference Dolby Atmos system. Don‘t forget to audition the speakers in-person, if possible, to gauge how well they suit your listening preferences and room acoustics.

At the end of the day, the most satisfying speaker system is the one that puts a huge smile on your face when your favorite movie or music is playing. If the Klipsch Cinema checks all your boxes and fits within your budget, then by all means go for it! But if you have reservations about any of the limitations we‘ve discussed, know that there are plenty of superb alternatives waiting in the wings.