Klipsch Flexus Core 100 review: Great sound from a single bar

Date:

Pros

  • Great sound from one shot

  • Surprisingly vigorous and dynamic

  • There is no real competition

Shortcoming

  • Peripherals are bad

  • No Atmos effect

  • Minimal Features

  • May block the TV’s IR port

In 2020, Klipsch made a major change to its soundbar range. It ditched its range of plastic soundbars and went for an old-school design made from wood. The results were like night and day: the Klipsch Cinema range established the company as a maker of great soundbars on a budget. And now, the new Flexus Core 100? The best soundbar ever. And it even includes Dolby Atmos. Anecdotal.

Look at this: Klipsch Flexus Soundbars: Which One Is Right for You?

Priced at $350, the Flexus Core 100 has carved out a clever niche Sonos Ray and Beam. This is a great single-bar system with plenty of bass and exceptional dynamics. If you want powerful sound in a single bar for under $400, the Core 100 is the place to be.

By the way, if you want an even better price, the Klipsch Cinema 400 is on sale in stock. At $100 less than the Flexus 100, it’s a great deal. However, you’ll have to hide the sub.

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 knowledge 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 (optical or HDMI) and the option to expand later with a rear or subwoofer.

The 100’s cabinet is beautifully constructed with a wooden MDF casing, finished with a wood grain finish, woolen grille and metal accents. The cabinet measures 44 inches wide, 5 inches deep and 3 inches tall. Its height may mean that you have to hold your TV remote higher for the TV to respond as the speaker may obscure your TV’s IR receiver for the remote.

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Klipsch ‘sticker’ made of metal

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Klipsch tab on the front may look like a sticker, but it’s actually made of metal. It could be argued that something like a badge would have looked classier than a sticker, even if it was metal. Under that grille, which is attached to the metal tab, are dual 2.3-inch aluminum drivers in 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 has a display that’s one of the best I’ve seen on any soundbar. Letters are an inch high and very easy to read, even from across the room. Samsung should take note and reconsider its incomprehensible readout.

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Inputs include HDMI ARC and optical digital.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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

Although unboxing is a tried and true YouTube genre, I don’t usually comment on the process of unpacking devices on CNET. However, it’s worth mentioning the Flexus Core 100. My experience opening the box was great: as soon as I lifted the first flap, I was shown a thoughtful QR code pointing me to the company’s setup app. The office vacuum cleaner also appreciated the use of cardboard packing instead of thin, crumbly polystyrene.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The app has a lot of information about the soundbar, but it’s not needed, even though it does make setting the EQ easier. Meanwhile, the cute button-like remote replicates the controls on the app, and I found it quite comfortable to hold. The clicker also has a subtle backlight, which is only visible in the dark.

Display

I compared the Flexus Core 100 to the Sonos Ray, Sonos Beam, and the step-up Flexus Core 200. Sound-wise, 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 had plenty of bass slam and was loud enough for small to medium-sized 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 — without any discernible surround or height effects — though it’s a very good stereo soundbar.

My testing began with the Omaha Beach scene from Saving Private Ryan, which, along with the violence, includes a number of difficult sounds: zooming bullets, explosions, muffled dialogue. This is a tried and true test, and the Core 100 was able to play those explosions to their full potential, without the need for a subwoofer. The bullets didn’t whiz around the soundstage, but the bar was consistent and loud enough to make this scene sound “cinema-like.” It sounded much bigger than the Sonos Ray, a soundbar I really like, but it’s not a great home cinema replacement like the Core 100. However, the Sonos Beam provides the “around the room” ambience that the other two don’t have for this scene. A ricochet came off the wall, and the explosions were also more explosive.

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Flexus Core 100 with optional subs and satellites.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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

Yet what impressed me most about this little Core 100 was its music playback. Kamasi Washington’s Fists of Fury, for example, had plenty of bass and an expressive midrange. The 100 also had the effect of rendering tracks like Dead Can Dance’s Yulunga (Spirit Dance) with a fair amount of drama. Keep in mind, if you choose the add-on Flex Satellites with this system, they will play all the music (a sort of all-speaker stereo), even if it’s set to Music mode, which stereo purists won’t like.

Finally, the system has only been available for a few weeks as of this review, and there are still some glitches with the peripherals. For example, although the subwoofer connected properly, I was unable to turn the subwoofer down enough to integrate it well; it was still too loud. Also, one of the rear surrounds kept disconnecting during playback.

Should you buy it?

The Core 100 and 200 are really fun speakers — so much so that they’ve made me excited about home cinema on a budget again. You can forget the peripherals for now and buy either of these and never have to worry about them again — just set it and forget it. The last system I remember that was like this was the iconic Pioneer SB-SP23W. The Flexus range is a really iconic company.

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

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