Klipscherific: Klipschorns

Klipschorn!

Klipschorn!

 

How many products introduced in 1940s are still in production today?

AK-47s?

Anything else?

Klipschorns!

Paul W. Klipsch introduced his revolutionary Klipschorn corner horns in 1947. His guiding vision for these speakers was to bring the sound and dynamics of live music performances to people’s homes for the first time. Keep in mind that back in 1946 most people were getting their music from tube AM radios with one small speaker in the middle. Not much fidelity.

The Klipschorns today stick to the same design principles of the original model: it’s a three-way design, with a large 15″ woofer in the bottom compartment, a 2″ midrange compression driver and horn (formerly known as the ‘squawker’), and a 1″ tweeter compression driver and horn. All three drivers were horn-loaded – that is, they use horns beyond the drivers to focus and amplify the sound. The 15″ woofer is entirely concealed in the bottom 2/3 of the speaker assembly, aimed back at the internal construction of the box and the external walls that the speaker was intended to be set in to – the speaker uses a room’s corner as an active part of the speaker assembly. This placement and the horns result in extremely high efficiency – 105db/watt at a meter. Paul Klipsch said that these speakers could be driven to concert levels by as little as one watt. To this day they’re favorites with users running low-wattage tube amps.

I can say that my initial demo was with my little Lepai amplifier and I was very impressed with the clean sound I could get out of that little amp while not even turning the knob past ‘2’.

So how do they sound?

Well, the first thing I can say is that due to their design they are very placement sensitive. To get the most out of them they both need to be in the corners of a room, mounted flush against the back walls to make a seal and ensure sufficient bass. My listening setup was far from ideal, with only one speaker enjoying a full corner, and both being about an inch from the walls with a large open space behind both. Despite this shortcoming I could get a full range of sound out of the Klipschorns, with sufficient low and immediate bass.

Klipschorn midrange horn

Klipschorn midrange horn

Immediate, by the way is the best word to describe the Klipschorns overall. Perhaps due to their extremely high sensitivity, these speakers feel alive like few others. The attack of notes and dynamic changes are half a step quicker with these other many other speakers I’ve tried. Music is more alive.

This is definitely a design characteristic of these speakers, but it can get addictive. In my configuration (and some may say by design) these Klipschorns were not imaging very much at all but I wasn’t bothered by it because the music all sounded different, with more feeling.

One shortcoming of the Klipschorns (and some say of many Klipsch designs) is a squawking or resonance in the mids and highs, caused by ringing in the horns. This can be a grating and unpleasant sound. I can say that with some amps and songs  the highs were too forward to me, but this can be mitigated by a different amplifier.

The Klipschorns are sensitive to inputs and amplification to a very high degree. I played 4 different amps through the Klipschorns: my little Lepai, my Pioneer SX-1250, the Kenwood KR4400, and a NAD 7240PE. Each had its own flavor with the Klipschorns. I think that the one I liked the best was the Lepai, to be honest…

The Klipschorns that I had were made in 1990, and came in the oiled oak finish, which was absolutely beautiful.  The crossovers were the AK-3 version.

Klipschorns, and other speakers in the Klipsch Heritage line (La Scala, Cornwall, Heresy) are made in the same way as the Klipschorn, according to the decades-old designs. They’re made in Hope AK to order, and still command a dedicated following.

And like many older made-in-America items (muscle cars come immediately to mind) there is a large aftermarket of designers and tinkerers ready to help you restore old components or modify new ones to reach a higher level of performance. The Klipsch Community website forum is a great resource in this regard.

I think the sound is utterly beguiling, and if you ever have the chance to try out a pair of Klipschorns (or bring one home), I definitely recommend you do so.

 

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~ by silverfacestereo on November 19, 2014.

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