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Klipsch Forte III review

In the same way that hearing you well-heeled friends rattle off lightning-fast 0-60 times while driving their sports cars in the center lane is hardly relatable, most audiophiles aren’t very fun to talk to about actual music. As cultured connoisseurs of tube watts and lossless digital audio files, high-end buyers often use music as a means of gear-tasting, rather than to relish in imbibing the songs themselves. As such, it’s easy to see why many models on the £4000/pair speaker segment feel designed for folks who pour themselves small amounts of expensive scotch and spend hours discussing impedance on internet forums.

That is what makes the Klipsch Forte III, a new US-made iteration of the company’s beloved Forte loudspeaker from 1985, so special to us: They’re meant for people who put music first. The new Forte III is a set of vintage throwbacks for those of us who want to blast The Rolling Stones while shredding air guitar and spilling cheap beer all over ourselves. They offer the kind of thick sound that will bathe you in the warm throaty tones of Stevie Wonder while you sip your morning coffee, or pump AC/DC into your bloodstream while you do push-ups on the floor.

Best of all, they won’t have you considering cable thickness or what amp you’re listening to them through, instead overpowering you with the sheer joy of the music itself. If these speakers were a car, they’d be one of those gold Corvettes the astronauts drove — and they’d be fresh off the assembly line.

Video review

Out of the Box

The first thing you’ll notice when you take delivery of the Forte III is that they pack some serious heft. You’ll need some help to move the cardboard box containing each 72-pound speaker near your listening area before removing various layers of protective coating, at which point you’ll catch your first glimpse of what will seem to be a very familiar sight for fans of vintage stereo speakers — especially those of us who have experienced the company’s previous Forte and Forte II models.

Features and Design

Fashioned as big wooden rectangles with off-white lambswool grill cloth, the new speakers look like they could have been sitting in your grandpa’s living room spinning Frank Sinatra records for decades.

That’s not to say they aren’t stunning to behold; each set of Forte III speakers comes with cabinets that were hand-made in Hope, Arkansas, and the workmanship is immediately evident. In fact, each pair is grain matched so that they look nearly identical to one another when sitting side-by-side. Our review set featured a gorgeous distressed oak veneer, but the Forte III can also be had in black ash, natural cherry, or American walnut finishes.

A couple of special-edition colors are also available for a little more cash. The speakers themselves are 36 inches tall, 16.5 inches wide and 13 inches deep, making them a formidable addition to any living room or listening space. They are also perfectly designed to place their tweeters at ear level for those relaxing on a couch or in an easy chair.

The warmth, depth, and intricacy is astonishing. The back of the Forte III reveals two sets of binding posts for optional bi-amping or bi-wiring, as well as a glimpse of one of the key upgrades Klipsch made to its best-selling model from the mid-80s: A massive 15″ passive woofer which replaces the smaller radiator found on the original model for punchier bass response. Under magnetically affixed grills you’ll find a black bafflie with three black drivers.

A single 12-inch bass driver is positioned towards the base of the cabinet, with two titanium-diaphragm horn drivers above it — one updated 1.75-inch unit for midrange, and a one-inch driver for treble. Those horn-loaded drivers are a key element of the classic Forte sound – and a hallmark of Klipsch speaker design, in general — and we welcome their return in this model. Though a somewhat polarizing technology in the audiophile universe, the “classic” Klipsch sound is often associated a zesty top end which avoids distortion, even at high volumes.

Performance

Our review team listened to the Forte III speakers over several months, playing virtually all formats and genres of music via Naim Uniti Atom, Yamaha R-N803, and Peachtree Nova 220SE amplifiers, and placing the speakers head-to-head against other high-end options like the Bowers and Wilkins 702 Series 2 and Paradigm Persona B.

To make a long story short: We’re in love. These speakers devour any genre with a smile. It’s very difficult to describe the perfect blend of faithful reproduction and spirited coloration that manifests inside speakers this good, but we can say that the simultaneous warmth, depth, and intricacy with which these updated classics handle sound is nothing short of astonishing.

It doesn’t matter what you are listening to or how you are listening to it, every song you put through these speakers becomes a deep, revel-inducing experience. The Forte III are earth-shatteringly good. It’s not just that you can practically reach out and touch the upright bass when listening to Lou Reed’s Take A Walk On The Wild Side — most other speakers in this price range can do that — it’s how the speakers slightly warm everything in the soundstage, making each element of the sound buttery, but not overwhelming any one instrument with too much coloration.

It’s not just that you’ll sob as classic ballads like The Eagles’ Desperado come through like the band was playing it on a stage 20 feet in front of you, it’s that the speakers somehow make each note more vibrant and passionate than you’ve ever heard them before.

When compared to other expensive floorstanders like B&W’s 702 Series 2, the Fortes offer a similarly scintillating treble response, but their punchy low end easily bests the B&Ws, thanks to that 15-inch radiator on the rear and its 12-inch active bass driver. That said, these are not overtly bass-heavy speakers. They are punchy and exacting.

Every note, every phrase, every subtle mixing technique, it’s all there in front of you, yet where the B&Ws offer a crisp, HD-feeling image, the Fortes somehow blend in just the right amount of 72mm film grain. Very few speakers feel as explicitly designed to purvey musical joy, and because of their nimble agility and warmth, the Forte III devour any genre with a smile. Feed them Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and you’ll bathe in near-perfect bass response and clean hi-hats ticks between passionate vocal bouts.

Feed them Ahmad Jamal’s classic jazz trio album Ahmad’s Blues, and you’ll bob along to every intricate brush stroke and piano tickle. Feed them Purple Rain and let Prince’s heart-wrenching vocals melt you into a multicolored puddle on the floor.

Klipsch Heritage Series Forte III Compared To

It’s tough to count the number of songs that I had never heard sound better on any other set of speakers. It’s embarrassing to admit, but over the several months we’ve had the review units sitting in the Digital Trends A/V room, I’ve wondered how soon we will have to send them back with the same heartache I once attached to summer camp girlfriends.

There is not a single set of speakers I want to personally own more; On a sheer smiles-to-songs ratio, the Forte III rank somewhere up there with placing a bouncy castle in your listening room.

Warranty information

Klipsch offers a five-year limited warranty for defective materials and workmanship on all of its passive speakers.

Our Take

The Klipsch Forte III offer a near-perfect blend of new-school finesse with old-school charm, easily ranking among the finest speakers that have ever graced our listening room. Is there a better alternative? While speakers like the Bowers and Wilkins 702 Series 2 compete in terms of price, Klipsch are the only major manufacturer we can think of that is offering reissued and tweaked versions faithful to its classic design aesthetic.

If you’re looking for the same vintage audiophile sound, you may want to spring for a vintage set of Klipsch Forte or Forte II, Dynaco A-29, Acoustic Research AR3a, or Large Advent speakers to get what you’re after. How long will it last? Given Klipsch’s long history of manufacturing excellent-quality loudspeakers, as well as this particular product line’s longevity, we expect that the Forte III will last for generations if treated properly and maintained every decade or so.

Should you buy it? Yes. The Klipsch Forte III are easily among the most fun-to-listen-to speakers we have ever tested, and they offer the kind of classic styling and tone that you can pass down for generations.

You may pay a pretty penny up front, but the existential question lingers brightly with these speakers in particular: Can you really put a price on musical happiness?

Cat S61 hands-on review

If you don’t remember the Cat S60 phone, it was the world’s first smartphone with a thermal imaging camera on the back. It’s not something most of us would normally use, but the phone turned out to be incredible well-received by tradesmen in industries as varied as plumbers and security guards to vets. This is the Cat S61, the S60’s sequel, and Cat Phone-makers Bullitt Group have listened to the prime customers using or interested in the S60, and integrated three of the most desirable new features into the latest, even more capable device.

Improved thermal sensor

The thermal imaging camera, made by experts Flir, is still present, and while the Lepton sensor is the same as on the S60, the software has been reworked and updated.

It’s more user-friendly, but more crucially, the thermal image resolution has increased. The S60’s old VGA image has been replaced by an HD picture, and the difference is dramatic. Now, the display shows considerably more heat spots, with more clarity, making at-a-glance temperature assessment easier and quicker.

Additionally, the temperature range has improved as well, starting at -20 degrees centigrade (-4 degrees Fahrenheit) and rising to 400 degrees (752 degrees Fahrenheit), up from 100 degrees centigrade on the S60, making it more versatile. Wondering what you’d use a thermal imaging camera for? The S61 is helpful for car mechanics, where engine operating temperatures are often much higher than 120 degrees.

Vets, especially those that work with horses, have used the camera to identify internal swellings when horseshoes have been incorrectly fitted. The camera’s ability to see hotspots up to 30 meters away has helped security guards out too, as they use the phone to scan areas where their guard dog is barking, without the need to use a flashlight. Greater temperatures and more visual clarity will only increase the device’s usefulness.

More sensors

The first brand new addition to the phone is an air quality sensor.

It’s a Volatile Organic Compound sensor (VOC), picking up a range of contaminants and designed for indoor use. It’s tailored for people working with potentially hazardous materials that affect the air in a room, including solvents, cleaning products, paint, or glue. The sensor provides real-time reports and adapts as you move around.

The data is presented in clear, color-coded graphs. Additionally, it shows humidity and temperature data in case you need it. Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Joining the thermal imaging camera and air quality sensor is a laser distance measure. It’s built into the rear of the phone, and is effective up to 10 meters. It doesn’t just measure straight lines, it can also plot 2D shapes like walls.

For example, the laser can measure out a wall space to help estimate the amount of tiles needed to cover it. We didn’t see it working on the prototype of the S61.

Same rugged body

All this is encased in a hard-wearing Cat Phone body, with its IP68 water-resistant rating, and a rugged exterior that goes through extensive tests. For example, Bullitt claims the device withstands drops from up to 1.8 meters in height on to a variety of hard surfaces.

The screen measures 5.2-inches and has a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, is covered in Gorilla Glass 5, and there are three hardware Android buttons under it. The phone’s thick and heavy, which is a consequence of a 4,500mAh battery inside, but it does help improve grip especially if you’re wearing gloves. Also, the aluminum die-cast body is designed to meet MIL-STD-810G military toughness standards, and the screen works even if it’s wet.

The phone itself doesn’t have remarkable specifications, but it does everything you’d want. Android 8.0 Oreo is kept relatively clutter free, with the only changes instantly obvious coming from extra tools for the thermal camera, and a toolkit-style recommended apps section. Bullitt confirmed it will release an update for this year’s Android P version in the future.

The phone itself doesn’t have remarkable specifications, but it does everything you’d want with a 16-megapixel camera on the rear, and an 8-megapixel camera on the front. Inside is a Snapdragon 630 processor, 4GB RAM, and 64GB storage space. This gives the S61 an acceptable level of performance, and it slid through menus smoothly enough; but response times for apps was slow.

We used a prototype phone, so it’s unfair to judge performance without further testing on a final unit.

Price and availability

Given what makes the Cat S61 special, it’s clear the phone is designed with specific use cases in mind. Anyone looking at a Samsung Galaxy S9 likely won’t be considering a Cat S61, but if you have considered a Galaxy S8 Active, then the Cat S61 may be a great alternative.

Cat S61 Compared To

Sadly, you’re going to have to pay a premium for all this tech — the Cat S61 will cost 800 British pounds or about £1,117 when it goes on sale in the next few months. There are no plans yet to bring the phone into the U.S.

Still, when you add up the individual costs of a tough phone, a thermal imaging camera, an air quality sensor, and a laser distance measure, the Cat S61’s may just be worth the high cost.

Land Rover's Explore phone won't flake out on a mountain hike

The Land Rover Explore is built to weather the snowstorm.

Dom Daher/Bullitt

Ever had your phone battery flake out on you because it caught a chill? You’re not alone. On the surface, the modern smart phone is the ideal tool for the outdoor adventurer — it’s got maps, cameras, a clock, a compass, a torch and its lifeline to the civilised world.

But the reality is that when you’re out in the elements, most phones out there prove kinda wimpy. Enter the Land Rover Explore. This rugged phone built by British manufacturer Bullitt is a device for people who need something that won’t conk out them at the first sign of a rainstorm or blizzard.

Design cues pay homage to the Land Rover Discovery through the speaker grille, the grooves on the back, which mirror those on the car’s roof, and the headlight effect around the camera. But Bullitt insists that this is not just a phone for car lovers — it is a phone for those who love the outdoors.

The speaker grille is borrowed from the Discovery.

Katie Collins/CNET

At its heart lies a 4,000mAh battery, which has been tested at the top of Mount Snowdon and the Bavarian Alps for reliability. “This is where you learn how the phone is going to respond,”Bullitt chief branding officer Charlie Henderson told CNET in a briefing. When it comes to interface, the Explore is as close to Vanilla Android as possible (it arrives running Nougat, but an Oreo upgrade is planned).

One thing Bullitt has built in is a dashboard with access to advanced weather metrics through the on-board barometer. It also has an SOS torch and night red filter (to stop your eyes from being affected by your phone light in the dark) easily accessible from the pull-down menu. The phone undergoes the same drop tests and boasts the same IP68 waterproof rating as the Cat phones, which are also made by Bullitt.

But whereas the people who buy Cat phones are largely male and working in manual jobs, the Land Rover Explore is designed to fit much more easily into the day-to-day life of someone who works in an office during the week but heads to the hills at the weekend.

A number of accessory packs are available.

Katie Collins/CNET

To that end, the Explore has a range of accessory options, which are designed to take the phone from soft to hard adventure in an instant. These accessories take the form of packs — one that boosts the battery, one that allows it to easily attach to the handlebars of a bike, and the adventure pack, which combines extra battery, a patch antenna and views of the local topography in augmented reality courtesy of ViewRanger. The antenna offers a more advanced version of GPS than is available in the average phone — it’s more like that of a proper sat-nav.

To take advantage of this, the adventure pack comes with a premium maps voucher that you can use to purchase digital versions of advanced local maps (like Ordnance Survey in the UK).

ViewRanger’s AR view is exactly what you need in a whiteout.

Bullitt

This sounds like the kind of feature you wouldn’t want to miss out on if you’re keen on the Land Rover Explore. Fortunately the adventure pack will come bundled with the phone when it launches in Europe this April for GBP599 or 649 euros. A US launch is on the cards, although details are not currently available, as are further product partnerships between Land Rover and Bullitt, with tablet and IOT projects in the pipeline.

No mention was made of availability in Australia, but its UK price converts to about AU£1050.

Mobile World Congress 2018

Uber’s ExpressPool service offers cheap fares, but you’ll have to walk a bit

If you’re a ridesharing fan, what’s more important, convenient pick-ups and drop-offs or cheap fares? If it’s the latter, then you may be interested to know that Uber has just launched its first new service in three years. Called ExpressPool, it works by grouping together riders going in the same direction and designating a single pick-up point for everyone, not more than a couple of blocks from where you made the ride request.

So, yes, it’s likely to mean a little exercise and taking a bit longer to the moment when you actually climb in the car, but with fares reported to be up to 50 percent cheaper than UberPool, and up to 75 percent cheaper than UberX, what’s not to like? The new ExpressPool service is available now via Uber’s app to riders in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Denver. It’s also up and running in Boston and San Francisco where it was tested over the last few months, and by the end of the week will be available in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Miami.

A nationwide rollout is planned “soon,” the company said. ExpressPool will be seen as a response to similar offerings by rivals, among them Lyft Line, which often works out cheaper than UberPool, Uber’s service that matches riders with other riders going in the same direction, but picks them up wherever they make the ride request. Uber says that with Pool rides, time can be wasted picking up additional riders along the way, but with ExpressPool you’ll all be picked up in the same spot with no detours en route, which could end up making the trip just as quick as a Pool ride.

Essentially, if you don’t mind walking a block or two, Pool Express looks like a sensible option for riders keen on value for money.

“Walking and waiting help us make more optimal matches and provide better, straighter, faster routes with fewer detours, delivering an even more affordable and consistent option than [Uber]Pool to consumers,” Uber’s Ethan Stock explained in a blog post outlining the new service, adding that Express fits with its long-term plan of easing congestion and cutting pollution by “getting more people into fewer cars.”

Editors’ Recommendations

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe goes edgy, gets a diesel

Like most new-car dealers, Hyundai franchisees have been clamoring for more crossover SUVs. Seemingly no matter the size, price or class, American customers can’t get enough soft-roading in their lives. The problem has been more acute with Hyundai than with most brands, however, which is why its dealers are surely salivating over this all-new 2019 Santa Fe.

Now entering its fourth generation, the Santa Fe has been the company’s best-selling SUV in the US, and you needn’t look past this new model’s bold front end and its glowering LED headlamps to realize that it carries significantly more attitude and ambition than before.

Nobody will confuse the new Santa Fe with the old one. It’s a whole new look.

Hyundai

The new Santa Fe also carries a lot more tech, particularly on the cabin and safety side. Base models are equipped with a seven-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but upper trim levels include a larger eight-inch screen with Hyundai’s latest AVN 5.0 navigation system, and a 630-watt, 12-speaker surround-sound Infinity audio system is available.

Upper-trim models also receive a seven-inch reconfigurable gauge cluster screen, too. Other tech niceties in the more premium-looking cabin include Qi wireless charging and an available 8.5-inch full-color head-up display. We’ve seen the latter in other Hyundai models before, and it’s a good one — it even integrates blind-spot notifications.

Naturally, Blue Link telematics, which incorporates expected attributes like remote start, stolen vehicle recovery and Car Finder, is also included, as are uncommon features including smartwatch and Amazon Alexa integration.

Before getting into the Santa Fe’s new drivetrain and safety details — of which there are many — there are a few ground rules: Those familiar with the outgoing generation may recall that the Santa Fe lineup had two distinct models: the two-row Santa Fe Sport and the Santa Fe, a longer-wheelbase three-row model. That nomenclature may have been a bit confusing, so henceforth, this new two-row SUV will simply be known as Santa Fe, and the current three-row, seven-passenger model you already know will soldier on into 2019 model year wearing a new name, Santa Fe XL. The new 2019 Santa Fe seen here is bigger than before, stretching 187.8 inches long — 2.8 inches longer than the outgoing Sport, but still a full 5.3 inches shorter than the carryover XL.

That means you’ll find fractionally more space inside in most dimensions, both for humans and for cargo. (And if you still need more space and don’t care for the XL, help is on the way. As part of its Santa Fe announcement, Hyundai has confirmed a new, larger eight-passenger SUV with an entirely different name is in development). Got all that?

Let’s move on. The 2019 Santa Fe has a pretty typical powertrain story, with one big twist: There’s a diesel option. Regardless of which engine you choose and whether you go front- or all-wheel drive, a new eight-speed automatic transmission is mandatory.

Most shoppers will doubtlessly either select the base 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter gas four-cylinder (torque has not been revealed, but the engine delivered 178 pound-feet in 2018 guise) or the punchier 2.0-liter gas turbo with an estimated 232 hp. Interestingly, that’s 8 hp fewer than the outgoing model, suggesting a retuning (perhaps for more torque). Either way, if torque is your bag, you may want to consider the 2.2-liter CRDi turbodiesel, which arrives in early calendar 2019 and is pegged to deliver “around 200 horsepower at 3,000 rpm” and an estimated 320 pound-feet at 1,750 rpm.

There’s a catch, though: The diesel brings with it a mandatory three-row configuration. In fact, it’s the only engine you can get with a three-row Santa Fe going forward. Yes, that’s right, you can now get a third row in this new Santa Fe, as well as in the carryover Santa Fe XL.

That may sound a little confusing, but Hyundai explains it thusly: “The diesel version of the 2019 Santa Fe will also get an occasional-use third-row seat with one-touch folding second-row seats for easy entry into the third-row by children.” Think of the Santa Fe’s available “way-back seats” as just-in-case perches for the wee ones, not unlike the tight third row offered in the Nissan Rogue and Mitsubishi Outlander. Regardless of powertrain, Hyundai has yet to reveal any mileage estimates for its 2019 Santa Fe, saying only that the aforementioned new gearbox is good for an increase in fuel efficiency by “more than three percent.”

Hyundai is not an automaker to shy away from relying on both touchscreens and physical buttons, and we appreciate that.

Hyundai

This being a family-minded vehicle, it should come as no surprise that a full battery of advanced driver assist systems will be on offer. Many active safety features will come standard beginning on the SE trim, and buyers can specify things like adaptive cruise with stop and go, high-beam assist, forward collision avoidance and a 360-degree camera system.

Other, more unexpected safety features include a driver attention warning system, ultrasonic-based Rear Seat Occupant Alert (to curb hot car deaths among children and pets) and Safe Exit Assist, which temporarily prevents doors from being opened into traffic when the system detects that a vehicle (including cars, bicycle and motorcycle) is approaching from behind. On sale this summer, the 2019 Santa Fe will be joined by at least two other new Hyundai SUV models this year, including the funky entry-level Kona subcompact and the Nexo fuel cell. Pricing has not yet been announced, but given its new tweener size, the new Santa Fe will likely be asked to cover a lot of ground.

Either way, having been handcuffed for a few years by a lack of new crossover models, Hyundai dealers — and Hyundai shoppers — now appear poised for a much happier year.

Hyundai Kona: Looking for something a bit smaller?

Check out Hyundai’s other new SUV.

Hyundai Nexo: We took a road trip to CES behind the wheel of Hyundai’s fuel-cell SUV, where the only emissions byproduct is water.

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