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How to Build a Klipsch or Wharfedale System for a Smaller Room: The Audiophile System Builder

Klipsch and Wharfedale loudspeakers can work exceptionally well in smaller spaces with the right components and setup for under $4,000.

Klipsch RP-600 and Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers

Space. Not the final frontier but the amount of room that all of us have to play with in our homes. Klipsch and Wharfedale customers know all about that issue. Over the past 24 years, I’ve been fortunate to visit the listening rooms of about a dozen fellow reviewers in Canada and the United States – and almost all of them had one thing in common.

Not a single one was a completely dedicated listening room isolated from the rest of the house or apartment. Most of the listening rooms were typical dens, living rooms, or home office set-ups.

2023 Vizio V214X-K6 Soundbar Lifestyle

None of the rooms were especially cavernous or horrible acoustic spaces. They were the types of rooms that most people actually share with spouses, children, pets, and stacks of books, records, and furniture. Real life.

Andover Audio SpinDeck and SpinBase Lifestyle

 A few are lucky to have accommodating family who don’t care if we lock ourselves away for a few hours in a dedicated space that has been treated with acoustic treatments and doesn’t interfere with the day-to-day operation of a house. 

That wouldn’t be me. 

For the most part, I listen in my den, living room, home office, and dining room (one of the best acoustic spaces in our home). 

People enjoy listening to music while they eat. Or sitting at the dining room table late at night working.

Most people have to work with what they have. That reality heavily influences what they buy. 

Our Music Editor has put off improving her system for the past few years for that very reason. She recently purchased her first home and will be delving into this very topic this month. She is a vinyl-centric listener with a great ear and sizable collection. 

When we were discussing her first series of audio reviews, the issue of space and creating a great sounding system for smaller rooms became the topic of conversation. For those paying attention on social media platforms – it is a topic that comes up quite frequently.

Your room has a huge impact on the sound quality of your system.

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A smaller room can work really well if you make intelligent choices in regard to equipment and set-up.

My den is 16′ x 13′ x 9′ and I listen with the speakers positioned along the long wall and 8′ from my sofa. If your room is smaller than that — you are listening in a smaller listening space. A 10′ x 10′ bedroom or dorm room is a smaller listening space.

How you listen also matters. 

Chapter VI: The Fried Chicken Platter 

The Fried Chicken Plate

Fried chicken is delicious. It’s also very unhealthy. It can be very hard on your arteries if you eat it on a regular basis. Throw in some fresh biscuits and gravy, and a side of candied yams – and you might need to keep the defibrillator close at hand.

Having lost 42 pounds in 2022, my brain is telling me to delete that image and never look back. My stomach wants to taste something new like the Klipsch RP-600M MKII, but having already sampled them — I’m going to direct you back to the original model which I think is superior. Think Coke Classic versus “New” Coke.

You should be able to find a pair of the original still online or from a dealer and you will be sorry if you think “newer” model means better.

We have seen the original RP-600M for sale on Amazon for under $380 USD and that’s a steal for these loudspeakers.

The Klipsch Audio RP-600M loudspeakers are a fried chicken platter; once you hear them at their best, you may not be able to resist another piece…I mean listen. 

These boisterous two-way bookshelf loudspeakers benefit from some space behind them and solid stands. They can work on a credenza, but I found them too large for any bookshelf. 

Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers in Walnut
Klipsch RP-600M Bookshelf Speakers (Walnut)

They are not very difficult to drive, but during their three-month visit in my den (16’ x 13’ x 9’) I discovered that their 96 dB (as quoted by Klipsch in its literature) sensitivity rating was being somewhat optimistic. 

They are also somewhat restrained sounding by Klipsch standards. The horn-loaded tweeter can be too much if your amplifier or sources are too forward sounding but can also be quite civilized in a smaller listening space. 

Keep the magnetically attached grilles on. They look better with them off, but long-term listening suggests that the sound quality doesn’t suffer. 

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Before you look at their 6.5” Cerametallic™ cone woofers and begin to salivate over how much bone crunching bass they obviously create – lower your expectations. Their bass performance is on the more defined side and actually quite tight. Even in a smaller listening space, they need to be pulled away from the walls. Quality over quantity. 

What makes them so special at their affordable price point is the remarkable degree of presence that they deliver. They won’t cause you to choke on a chicken bone, but polite they are not. 

The choice of side dish will have an enormous impact on the sound quality. 

Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier
Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier
Heed Audio Elixir Integrated Amplifier
Heed Audio Elixir Integrated Amplifier

The Heed Elixir or Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifiers work especially well with the Klipsch RP-600M. 

The Heed has a better phono stage but lacks the Ragnarok’s internal DAC and superior headphone amplifier. 

Neither amplifier has a forward sounding treble which is what you want with these loudspeakers. 

They both share a warm tonal balance and excellent pacing. The Heed will create a larger sounding soundstage with the RP-600M.

Vocals will be presented forward of the front baffle of the loudspeaker. Horns should have excellent energy without ripping your ears off. Emotional engagement with your favorite music will be exceptionally high. 

Klipsch Audio RP-600M Loudspeakers ($399.00 at Amazon)

Heed Audio Elixir ($1,450.00) or Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2 Integrated Amplifier ($1,699.00 at Schiit Audio) 

NAD C 588 Turntable/Ortofon 2M Red ($999.00 at Crutchfield or Amazon)

Bluesound NODE Streamer ($599.00 at Crutchfield or Amazon)

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Pangea Audio DS400 24” Loudspeaker Stands ($249.95 at Crutchfield)

System Total: $3,696.95 – $3,945.95

Chapter VII: Fish and Chips

Fish and chips platter

There are 2 kinds of fish and chips.

The odd fish finger concoction offered up in sports bars that might be fish and is usually served with an abundance of fries. 

Or the authentic kind served up in the U.K. or in my childhood neighborhood overflowing with Scotsmen who use Atlantic Cod or Haddock and a healthy portion of chips and mushy peas. 

With a healthy splash of malt vinegar to make the heart attack complete. 

The combination is a wonderful mixture of flavors that work even better if the fish is super fresh. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers
Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Bookshelf Speakers

Wharfedale likes to keep its loudspeaker line-up fresh and there is plenty to like about the new Diamond 12.1 (reviewed here) two-way loudspeakers. 

A pair of Diamond 10.1s get daily use in my home office so it’s fair to say that I’m a fan after all of these years.

The Diamond 12.1 are not particularly large loudspeakers (12.2″ H x 7″ W x 10.9″ D) but they’re a great match for smaller spaces on their matching ST-3 24” stands. 

They are also not especially hard to drive but they do sound better with between 35-50 watts. 

NAD C 316BEE V2 Stereo Integrated Amplifier Front View
NAD C 316BEE V2 Integrated Amplifier
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier
Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier

Between the NAD C 316BEE and Cambridge Audio AXA35 integrated amplifiers, it’s hard to go wrong but I’m sticking with the AXA35 in this system because its tonal balance offsets the neutrality of the Diamond 12.1 better. 

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I own both amplifiers and swap back and forth a lot so don’t think I’m dismissing the NAD in any way. The NAD has a slight bump in the midrange that works incredibly well with more restrained sounding loudspeakers like the Q Acoustics 3050i and 3030i

The 12.1 are not bass monsters but they do everything else so well for the price that it’s easy to forgive that crime of omission. 

Those about to move on because they can’t pulverize your room with bass – you’re making a rookie mistake. 

Quality not quantity. 

And to flesh out the bottom octaves, I suggest adding a subwoofer with these excellent loudspeakers. 

But not just any subwoofer. 

REL’s latest TZero MKIII is their smallest subwoofer but don’t be fooled by its size. REL has always been about quality over quantity and all of their subwoofers do more than just add extended bass response to your system. 

REL TZero MKIII Subwoofer
REL TZero MKIII Subwoofer

When you have it set-up properly, the REL will make the Diamond 12.1 sound larger, more transparent as you raise the volume, and expand the size and width of the soundstage. 

The AXA35 includes a very competent MM phono stage that works well with high-output Ortofon, Audio-Technica, and Nagaoka cartridges. 

Add the Andover Songbird/Schiit Audio Modi 3+ streamer/DAC combination and you’re done. 

Wharfedale Diamond 12.1 Loudspeakers ($449.00 at Crutchfield)

Cambridge Audio AXA35 Integrated Amplifier ($399.00 at Amazon)

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REL TZero MK III Subwoofer ($498.00 at Amazon )

Pro-Ject Audio Systems X1 Turntable ($1,099.00 at Amazon )

Andover Audio Songbird Streamer ($179.00 at Andover Audio)

Schiit Audio Modi 3+ DAC ($125.00 Amazon)

Wharfedale ST-3 24” Loudspeaker Stands ($249.00)

System Total: $2,998.00 USD

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  1. José Luis Narváez

    November 10, 2021 at 8:49 pm

    Hello Ian. A very interesting review. How is the subwoofer implemented in the system? The axa35 does not have a subwoofer output. Thanks.

    • Ian White

      November 10, 2021 at 9:35 pm


      Neither the NAD C 316BEE or Cambridge AXA35 have subwoofer outputs so you need to use something like a REL subwoofer with high-level outputs. You connect the REL subwoofer to the binding posts of either integrated amplifier with a special cable that REL provides. You then adjust the crossover point and volume of the REL subwoofer to best match the primary loudspeakers. The REL subwoofers like to be placed in the corner of the room but pointed out on an angle. That’s been my best experience with them and smaller bookshelf loudspeakers.

      Configured in this manner, the bookshelf loudspeakers don’t have to reproduce very much below 80 or 60Hz and they image better and sound more open. Taking the load off lets you hear just how good/bad their midrange/treble performance is.

      I’ve had great results with REL and at least 10 brands of speakers.


  2. ORT

    August 16, 2022 at 11:38 am

    Hmmmmm…A cursory click on the link to your Music Editor revealed a Goddess of the Groove…Lauren Halliday.

    I too became interested in vinyl (again) about ten or so years ago as I find solace in the tactile and emotional grip of the licorice pizzas. I shall read more of her and of the Klipsch (my personal favourite brand of speaker) and Wharefedale bookshelf setups later this day as it is time to head off to work.

    Thank you for that link and this article. “The Audiophile System Builder” has become my favourite reading material here and with good reason and all because the selection of componentry is just that – reasonable, accessible and (relatively!) affordable.

    And this stuff looks cool too!

    In all ways and for always, be well my friend!

    Oh! I am expecting delivery of a few more custom made cork mats by Analog (Analogue?) Restorations! Chris is a craftsman and his artistry is fast becoming a favourite of not only me and my family but a couple of friends for whom I am and shall continue to buy his work. I am so glad to have “met” him via your site, brother! Thank you!


  3. Charles

    August 16, 2022 at 4:01 pm

    You have touched on one of my pet peeves about audio reviewing: talking about a “small room” as if everybody knows what a “small” room is. Give the reader some details. Is a 15 x 16 x 8 foot room a “small” room? What dimensions do YOU consider to be a “small” room.

    • Ian White

      August 16, 2022 at 5:56 pm


      I mention my den in the article which I consider to be a small to medium sized room at 16 x 13 x 9, but your point is well taken.

      I will add my thoughts on that to the article.


      Ian White

  4. ORT

    August 17, 2022 at 1:16 am

    I prefer the looks of the previous generation RP-600Ms, especially so in piano black. But, they are a want and not a need.

    Which means I have to resist all the more. I already found the stands to fit ’em too! Whom can I give these to when the Cashew Guilt (Catholic-Jew. I am a hyrbrid, don’tcha know) takes hold of me?

    He’s more analog now than digital, twisted and eeevile…Use the Force, Toad…

    I like Klipsch speakers. A lot. Listening to music through a pair of towers right now.


    • Ian White

      August 17, 2022 at 2:23 pm


      I prefer the sound of the RP-600M over the new model as well. Did I say that?

      Yes I did.


      Ian White

  5. Chris

    August 7, 2023 at 5:58 pm

    Ian, would the Klipsch 600m pair well with the AXA35? Or is it better to go with Wharfedale? I have a 10×10 room that this setup will go in.

    • Ian White

      August 7, 2023 at 6:34 pm


      The original 600M would be a better match than the latest iteration. Not a fan of what Klipsch did with it.

      The Wharfedale is a better smaller room speaker; it’s smoother sounding for sure. It will image really well if you can pull out 2-3′ out from the wall.

      I think it depends on the set-up and the configuration of the room. The Klipsch does not have as much bass as you would think so overloading the space probably won’t be an issue.


      Ian White

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