Pros: Cheap if on sale at $20/pair, good bass and imaging, A/V shielded, look decent
Cons: Midrange is muffled, fuzzy treble, not suitable for classical music, large
I saw the KLH L853B on sale at BestBuy for $20 a pair and decided to give them a try. Normally they sell for $80. The speakers are 11x16 in size and are 3-way 3-driver design with 3-way crossover.
The grilles are removable and they speakers feature gold-plated binding posts. On paper all this looked good as well as the 50Hz-20kHz frequency response and 5-year warranty.
I got two pairs to use as front and rear surrounds and hooked them up to the Philips 963 receiver (part of a Philips MX970 home theatre package, that I am going to return to Sams Club in a couple of days).
I used Large settings in the receiver for these speakers, since they supposedly can produce bass down to 50Hz and have 8 Woofers.
Watching DVDs in Dolby Digital showed that they are substantially better than the speakers that came with MX970 system and I believe that if you just want to use them for surround sound, they are a great value at $10 a speaker. Not so sure at $40 a speaker (regular price of $80 a pair).
However, I also like to listen to music. These speakers are bookshelf speakers that should be suitable for music. At first, they seemed to fail miserably. They were much better than smallish speakers that normally come with inexpensive prepackaged home theatre systems. They reproduce more bass and sound less muddy. However, they still lacked lower midrange, had fuzzy treble and their frequency response seemed far from flat.
Listening to Aphex Twin, beginning of Metallicas Master of Puppets and some Dire Straights produced very good results. Bass is good and the treble is OK (provided you raise treble on the receiver). But with busy music, which employs several different frequency ranges (Wagner, Soundgarden, Stone Temple Pilots), the sound became pretty bad - it was almost impossible to distinguish separate instruments and it lacked lower midrange.
For comparison purposes I hooked up the speakers from my old Sharp CD-C3800 stereo (which I bought 5 years ago for $260). They sounded remarkably better, reproducing more detail and seemed to have wider usable dynamic range.
I thought that was a shame because KLH speakers are larger, heavier and have 3 seriously-looking drivers. Sharps speakers are smaller, but they also have 3 drivers and are ported.
Then I decided to try swapping the speaker cables. It is not a secret that home theatre packages usually come with very poor speaker cables. I got some Philips 16-gauge speaker cable and connected the speakers to the receiver using them. The difference was huge. Some (but not all) instruments, previously unperceivable, were heard. The imaging became much better.
The string instruments, guitars and drums sound very good on these speakers. Lower midrange, although improved with better speaker wires, still can be better. Same with treble.
I replaced these KLH speakers with highly acclaimed Athena Point Five system, which I got at OneCall.com (it sells for $800 there). Yep, you get what you pay for. The Athena speakers allowed me to hear instumments that were not heard on KLH L853B, they sound less coarse and seem to produce "flat" frequesncy response. No fuzzy treble, no midrange dip.
I still may keep these KLH speakers and use them as stands for Athena speakers :-) . At $10 apiece, they are the cheapest stands I can find.
For $20 a pair, these speakers are a steal. They are very good for surround sound and good for music like rock if you don't care about midrange or non-fuzzy treble. Using an equalizer can help improve things.
But for classical music, or you like good sound, they might not do. In any case, make sure you use them with 16-gauge cable or thicker (14 or 12-gauge).