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Klipsch Flexus Core 100 Review: Great Sound from Single Bar

 Klipsch Flexus Core 100 Review: Great Sound from Single Bar


8.3/ 10
SCORE

Klipsch Flexus Core 100

Pros

  • Great, great sound from a single bar
  • Surprisingly loud and dynamic
  • No real competition to speak of

Cons

  • Peripherals are buggy
  • No Atmos effects
  • Minimal features
  • Could block TV’s IR port

In 2020, Klipsch made a pretty drastic change to its soundbar range. It dumped its range of plastic soundbars in favor of an old-school design constructed from wood. The results were night and day: The Klipsch Cinema range quickly established the company as a manufacturer of great soundbars on a budget. And now, the new Flexus Core 100? One of the best yet. And it also includes Dolby Atmos. Kinda.

Watch this: Klipsch Flexus Soundbars: Which One is Right for You?

At $350, the Flexus Core 100 has settled into a clever niche between the Sonos Ray and Beam. It’s an excellent single-bar system with plenty of bass and extraordinary dynamics. If you want muscular sound in a single bar for under $400, the Core 100 is the place to get it.

That said, if you want an even better value, the Klipsch Cinema 400 is selling through stock as I write this. At $100 less than the Flexus 100, it is an absolute steal. You’ll have to hide the sub away, though.

What’s in the box

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The $349 Flexus Core 100 and $499 Flexus Core 200 are collaborations with Klipsch’s sister brand, Onkyo, and combine that company’s AV know-how with Klipsch’s speaker chops. The Klipsch Flexus Core 100 is a 2.1-channel soundbar that offers compatibility with Dolby Atmos (decoding, though not playback) and Bluetooth streaming. It includes a one-cable connection to your TV (either optical or HDMI) and the option to expand later with rears or a subwoofer.

The 100’s cabinet is finely built with a wooden MDF enclosure finished with a wood grain wrap, a woolen grill and metal accents. The cabinet measures 44 inches wide by 5 inches deep by 3 inches tall. Its height may mean you have to hold your TV remote high to get the TV to respond as the speaker might obscure your TV’s IR receiver for the remote. 

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The Klipsch ‘sticker’ is made of metal

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Klipsch tab on the front may look like a sticker, but it is actually metal. It’s arguable that something more akin to a badge would have looked classier than a sticker, even a metal one. Under that grill, which is connected to the metal tab, are dual 2.3-inch aluminum drivers in a stereo configuration, as well as two 4-inch “subwoofers” mounted on the top of the unit. 

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The speaker comes with a display that is one of the best I’ve seen on any soundbar. The characters are an inch high and very easy to read, even from across the room. Samsung should take note and rethink its incomprehensible readouts.

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Inputs include HDMI ARC and optical digital.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Core 100’s connections include HDMI eARC, Bluetooth, USB-C and a digital optical plus an RCA subwoofer out. The lack of advanced Wi-Fi connectivity may hurt the Flexus Core 200 compared to the identically priced Sonos Beam and Bose Smart Soundbar 600, but it’s not a problem for this cheaper 100. The soundbar has several different modes, including Night, Voice, Movies and Music, and it also has an adjustable EQ. 

Though unboxings are a tried-and-true YouTube genre, I don’t usually comment on the process of unpacking equipment at CNET. However, the Flexus Core 100 is worthy of mention. I had a great experience opening the box: As soon as I lifted the first flap, I was presented with a thoughtful QR code pointing me toward the company’s setup app. The office vacuum cleaner also appreciated the use of cardboard packing instead of flimsy, crumbly polystyrene.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The app has a lot of information about the soundbar, but it isn’t required even if it may make setting the EQ easier. Meanwhile, the cute-as-a-button remote replicates the controls on the app, and I found it to be quite comfortable to hold. The clicker even has a subtle backlight, which is only visible in the dark.

Performance

I compared the Flexus Core 100 to the Sonos Ray, the Sonos Beam and the step-up Flexus Core 200. Sonically, the Flexus Core 100 fits between the $249 Ray and the $499 Beam, which is exactly what you want for the money. The Flexus Core 100 offered plenty of bass slam and was loud enough for small to medium-size rooms.

Note that the Core 100 can only decode Dolby Atmos and not replay it. Everything I heard through the 100 sounded like a stereo ‘bar — with no discernible surround or height effects — albeit it is a very, very good stereo soundbar.

My testing started with the Omaha Beach scene from Saving Private Ryan, which, alongside the confronting violence, includes many tricky sonics: zooming bullets, explosions, mumbling dialogue. It’s a tried-and-true test, and the Core 100 was able to play those explosions with all of its mettle, with no subwoofer needed. Bullets didn’t zip around the soundstage, but the bar was cohesive enough and loud enough to render this scene “cinemalike.” It also sounded much bigger than the Sonos Ray, a soundbar that I really like, but it’s not a great home cinema replacement in the way the Core 100 is. However, the Sonos Beam offers the “around the room” ambiance the other two lack for this scene. A ricochet came from the wall, and explosions were also more explode-y.

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Flexus Core 100 with optional sub and satellites.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

As expected, the Sonos Beam was also better with Mad Max: Fury Road, though it traded blows with the step-up Flex Core 200 for this test. The 200 was able to fill the space in a convincing way and could be worth the extra $150 over the Core 100 for true cinephiles.

Yet what really sold me on this not-so-little Core 100 was its music playback. For instance, Kamasi Washington’s Fists of Fury had plenty of bass and an expressive midrange. The 100 also had the impact of rendering tracks like Dead Can Dance’s Yulunga (Spirit Dance) with the appropriate amount of drama. Keep in mind, if you opt for the add-on Flex satellites with this system, they will all play music (all-speaker stereo, in a way) even when set to its music mode, which won’t please stereo purists.

Lastly, the system has only been available for a few weeks as of this review, and there are still some glitchy issues with the peripherals. For instance, though the subwoofer connected fine, I wasn’t able to turn the subwoofer down enough to integrate it well; it was still too loud. In addition, one of the rear surrounds kept disconnecting during playback.

Should you buy it?

The Core 100 and 200 are really enjoyable speakers — so much so that they reenergized me about home cinema on a budget. You can forget the peripherals for now and buy either one of these while never having to worry about them again — just set it and forget it. The last system I recall like this was the venerable Pioneer SB-SP23W. The Flexus range is really in esteemed company.

The Flexus Core 100 is the better buy, as it has no known competitors, unlike the Core 200, and offers great performance for the money. It doesn’t really have any features to speak of, but if you want home cinema slam with a minimum of boxes, it’s the best thing available under $400. 



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