The Klipschorn Speaker System Constantine Soo 3 August 2001
I mentioned in my
Granite Audio interconnect review that I would be posting a review
of my Klipschorn speakers, which I put aside because of commitments.
Recently, a reader reignited the flame by inquiring into the status
of that review. Thank you, reader.
When Stereophile held its High end Show in San Francisco, I returned to two horn exhibitors’ rooms three days in a row: Kochel and Tannoy. Kochel was a new Korean company making multi-driver horn systems, utilizing the classic diaphragm-plus-throat approach, while Tannoy sported their prestigious dual-concentric technology in the Churchill enclosure, the core technology having been patented before World War II. The East and the West met at a junction in the form of the horn. Both exhibitors drove their speakers with low-output, single-ended triode amplifiers. Since I couldn’t afford either speaker, I kept coming back with CDs in order to etch in my mind the two systems’ incomparable sonic attributes. While different sounding, their two crowning attributes were dynamic realism and harmonic coherency.
In the spring of 1999, when a pair of used 1989 Klipschorn became available, I seized upon the moment and bought them. According to Klipsch, the 1989 and 2001 differ only in an updated crossover, which, so far as I can determine, produces no variance in sound. Like the Kochel and the Tannoy systems, the Klipschorns, powered by remarkably few watts, can transport you to the realm of sonic realism. The Klipschorn exhibits an intensity of dynamic transients via tube or solid-state amplification. In fact, I’d been driving my Klipschorns with one Monarchy Audio SM-70 with extraordinary results until January 2001, when I bought a second SM-70 for monoblock operation.
The tweeter’s horn sits on top of the midrange horn and covers the range from 6kHz to 17.5kHz. Centrally situated above the bulk of the cabinet and below the tweeter’s horn, the midrange’s horn runs only about half of the width of the cabinet and is the main driver of the system with a specified frequency range of 400Hz to 6kHz. The main cabinet houses the rear-firing, 15-inch driver’s folded bass horn, which covers the range from 400Hz to its specified limit of 35Hz.
Most speakers sacrifice soundstaging definition when placed wide apart. The K-horns are designed for large rooms and will generally function satisfactorily in opposite-corner placement. In a medium-sized room like mine, I had to make a few minor adjustments to optimize performance.
Specifically, the K-horns are designed to fit into the corners of the long wall, using the adjoining sidewalls as an extension of the bass horn. This unusual placement actually creates the Klipschorn’s life-size soundstage. Although the dimensions of my listening room, at 12’ × 17’ × 8’ (W × L × H), can accommodate the recommended long-wall placement, it is an open-ended rectangle with only one short wall. Since this asymmetry precludes the recommended placement, I had to use the short walls’ corners. At their initial setup, the K-horns inevitably became overly "toed-in," both channels converging into a sweet spot five feet in front of my listening position, making the soundstage unfocused and remote-sounding. I toed them out until each K-horn’s midrange was firing at the listening position. Then I tilted the speakers slightly downward to have the midrange fire straight at me. Thus set up, with my listening position approximately three meters away, the K-horns throw a precise center stage with excellent overall soundstage delineation.
The height of the midrange and tweeter horns further reinforce the life-size soundstage. For our readers in San Francisco, it resembles the Premier Orchestra first floor seating at the San Francisco Symphony’s Davis Hall.
And yet, with their impressive soundstage depth, horns are less than peerless in soundstage crystallization. For readers who are adamant about supreme image depth, quite a few planar and cone speakers will do a better job, e.g., my Apogee Duetta Signatures. Furthermore, the K-horns’ midrange and tweeter horns are so highly directional that my ASC acoustic treatments are largely unnecessary. The Klipschorns sound their best when pointing directly at you.
Klipschorn’s 17.5kHz roll-off, although I’ve never seen such limited
top- end specifications from any speaker, I have always been happy
with the K-horns’ highs. Other speakers in the same room do not
provide more perceptible top-end information. In addition, the 3dB
roll-off slope may be slow enough to allow for higher-frequency
information at high listening volumes. Furthermore, with CD’s 20kHz
upper limit, the differences may be too subtle to be appreciable.
The 125-wpc, EL-34-based Music Reference RM9 II was inappropriate, in that it must be set to the highest feedback/lowest output position in conjunction with the Wadia to keep the idling noise down. At this setting, the RM9 II lost its transparency.
are quiet during idling. Both my relatively high-powered Aragon 2004
and Monarchy Audio SM70 produced very satisfying results. The 2004
rendered a less energetic presentation, with a softer top end,
smoother midrange and thicker bass, versus the SM70’s crystalline
top end, detailed yet slightly forward midrange, and dynamic lower
midrange and bass.
Even after careful consideration, it may require a leap of faith to acquire a horn system, since to do so may alienate you from orthodox audiophiles. To return to the High End Show I mention above, I was able to loiter for long periods of time in the Kochel and Tannoy sound rooms because neither room ever got crowded. The true believers stayed away. Even stepping in for a peek would mean excommunication. That was about three years ago. With recent rave reviews for the European Avante Garde horn systems, a heightened awareness of a well-designed horn’s strengths may have changed High-end sentiments.
When driven by my 25-wpc, solid-state single-ended class A Monarchy Audio SM-70, the K-horns delivered full-blown dynamics and convincing dimensionality. Tube amplifiers, like the Audio Note Quest monoblocks (see my recent review) and the Decware SE84C (review in progress), provide a mellower, more musical sonic signature without dynamic sacrifice. The technically capable purist can replace the original crossover with an external three-way unit, the doing of which might elevate timbre accuracy and dimensionality, among other performance aspects.
My sincerest thanks go to Trey Cannon of Klipsch for his responsive replies to my many background inquiries.
Taken from http://www.stereotimes.com/speak080301.shtml