Klipsch Groove Bluetooth speaker review: Long battery life doesn't compensate for poor sound quality

It's tiny, and the micro USB charging port is cool, but the Groove's iffy sound quality falls short.

klipsch groove opener
Klipsch
At a Glance

Klipsch is well known for its fine home-audio and home-theater speakers, which have been designed and manufactured in the USA for more than 70 years. Of course, the speaker market has evolved over the decades, and Klipsch has evolved with it, adding new types of products to its impressive lineup.

The Klipsch Groove is a perfect case in point. Small though it is, this portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker packs in surprisingly big sound. Unfortunately, that sound was quite closed in and congested on virtually every track I listened to.

Features & user interface

Measuring only 4.56 x 5.51 x 2.65 inches (HxWxD) and weighing a mere 1.7 pounds, the Groove is so tiny you can literally hold it in one hand. Its 2200mAh lithium battery can power the speaker for up to eight hours on a single charge.

The included charger connects to a micro USB port on the back, which can also accommodate other USB power sources that provide 5V/1A, which most do. That’s a mighty handy feature I wish more portable-speaker makers would implement.

A single 3-inch, aluminum-cone, front-firing driver is joined by two side-firing, 3.25 x 1.5-inch passive radiators behind a perforated metal grille. Powered by a 10-watt amp with advanced DSP equalization, the frequency response is specified to extend from 65Hz to 22kHz (±3dB) with a maximum acoustic output of 97dB SPL at a distance of half a meter.

klipsch groove x ray Klipsch

The Groove's enclosure houses a 3-inch, front-firing driver and two side-firing passive radiators.

Of course, the primary input is Bluetooth—in this case, version 4.0. The Groove supports the A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, and HSP profiles and SBC and AAC codecs sent from just about any Bluetooth-enabled mobile device or computer. The only other input is a 3.5mm analog-audio input on the back.

The micro USB port and 3.5mm aux input are hidden behind a rubberized cover, helping the Groove achieve a splash-resistant IPX4 rating. As the product’s webpage says, “Don’t dump your beer on it, but don’t be afraid to splash and play around either.”

klipsch groove back Klipsch

The back panel features a micro USB charging port and 3.5mm audio input behind a rubberized cover.

In addition, the top-mounted controls are protected from splashes by a rubberized outer layer. The six buttons include power on/off, Bluetooth, aux, play/pause, volume up, and volume down. Lighted indicators appear above the power, Bluetooth, and aux buttons. Naturally, you can also control playback and volume from the source device.

When you power the unit on and/or select Bluetooth, it plays a wicked guitar lick, letting you know it’s time to rock and roll. (After a period of no activity, it automatically powers down with another guitar lick, which is a bit startling; I wish it simply powered off without any flourishes.)

klipsch groove controls Klipsch

The top-mounted controls include (L-R): power on/off, Bluetooth, aux input, play/pause, volume down, and volume up. The buttons are mounted under a rubberized protective layer, and the power, Bluetooth, and aux buttons have backlit indicators above them.

Performance

As I listened to a variety of tracks on the Groove, one thing became glaringly apparent: in every case, the sound of this speaker was quite closed in, like it was playing through a megaphone. On pop tunes such as “Aja” from Steely Dan’s album of the same name and “Volcano” from U2’s Songs of Innocence, the bass was weak, and the vocals were obscured by the supporting instruments.

Moving on to jazz, I listened to “For Charlie” from the album ¡Yo! by Jim Self and the Tricky Lix Latin Jazz Band. Jim’s tuba was very tubby—and not in a good way. As a bass torture test, I played “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo” from the album of the same name by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, which features Victor Wooten plumbing the extended depths of his bass. As expected by this point, everything sounded congested, especially the bass.

klipsch groove lifestyle1 Klipsch

The Groove is tiny, as you can see in comparison with a guitar case.

On classical tracks like Florent Schmitt’s Dionysiaques as performed by the Cincinnati Wind Symphony on the album Songs and Dances, the overall sound was wimpy and clogged. The same was true listening to the Canadian Brass play its arrangement of the first movement from Vivaldi’s Spring concerto from The Four Seasons. In this case, I thought the sound was fairly dull in addition to being closed in.

For some lighter fare, I played one of the dances from A Festival of Renaissance Dances by the Southern California Early Music Consort, on which I play bass recorder and bass sackbut (renaissance trombone). This dance is performed on recorders with tambourine, and interestingly, the Groove sounded somewhat better. It still sounded congested, but not as much as on other tracks, and the recorders were rendered fairly well.

I finished up with “Galapagos” from Jeff Rona’s score for the movie White Squall. This track includes strings, percussion, Irish flute, harp, hammer dulcimer, and various synthesizer sounds. Once again, the Groove sounded pretty congested, especially the harp and hammer dulcimer.

Comparison with JBL Xtreme 2 and Tronsmart Element Force

For comparison, I played all evaluation tracks on two other comparably priced portable Bluetooth speakers—the JBL Xtreme 2 ($199) and Tronsmart Element Force ($53.99), both of which I reviewed for TechHive. I found that both models perform exceedingly well, so they make great references for other such products in the under-$200 price category.

klipsch groove lifestyle3 Klipsch

The Groove will fit easily on the glove-compartment door in a car.

In each case, the Tronsmart Element Force sounded much more open, lighter, brighter, and airy than the Groove. As I related in my review, I was astonished at how wide the Tronsmart’s soundstage is, extending well beyond the confines of its tiny enclosure. The Groove’s soundstage was entirely limited to its cabinet. On the other hand, the Tronsmart’s bass was not quite as deep as the Groove’s—in fact, it was really struggling on the extreme low frequencies in “Flight of the Cosmic Hippo”—but I’ll trade that for clarity any day.

Speaking of bass, the JBL Xtreme 2 is the clear winner in that regard—which is not surprising, given its higher price and larger passive radiators. Overall, the JBL had a rich, full sound that was nevertheless much more open than the Groove. In addition, vocals sounded much clearer, and the balance of instruments was generally superior.

Bottom line

Sadly, the Klipsch Groove isn’t up to my standards of sound quality from a portable Bluetooth speaker. As demonstrated by the comparisons I performed for this review, there are other similar products that sound much better. Granted, the JBL Xtreme 2 costs twice as much as the Groove, and it’s larger, but it’s definitely worth the extra money. And the Tronsmart Element Force is just over half as much for a similarly tiny speaker, and it smokes the Groove as well.

If you’re looking for a small, portable Bluetooth speaker, I recommend that you consider other options.

At a Glance
  • Small though it is, this portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speaker packs in surprisingly big sound. Unfortunately, that sound was quite closed in and congested on virtually every track we listened to.

    Pros

    • Small and splash-proof
    • Micro USB charging port
    • 8-hour battery life

    Cons

    • Congested, closed-in sound quality
    • Wimpy bass
  
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