Heritage Klipsches: Cornwall and Forte II

Klipsch Cornwall Detail - logo and custom grille on bullnose

Klipsch Cornwall Detail – logo and custom grille on bullnose

I’ve recently had a run of Klipsches come through the house.

First was the pair of Klipsch Cornwall speakers in beautiful naked birch finish that I found in the spring of this year.

Cornwalls are the flagship of the direct radiating bass speakers in the Klipsch Heritage series.

What does that mean in English? It means that Klipsch is all about horns – enclosures which surround a driver and shape the direction of the waves. They are a good way to tune which frequencies are accentuated from a driver, where they go, and how they sound. They also boost efficiency of speaker systems considerably.

Klipsch Cornwall in Builder Birch

Klipsch Cornwall in Builder Birch

The biggest Klipsches in the Heritage series, the Klipschorn, Jubilee, and Belle Klipsch, all use a horn tweeter, midrange (also known as ‘squawker’) and woofer in a folded horn enclosure.

The Cornwall is the largest of the Klipsch speakers below the folded-horn woofer designs. That means its 15″ woofer just sits in the speaker like everyone else’s designs – it’s not hidden within the cabinet.

To get the desired bass, that means the Cornwall is large – 36″ high, 25″ wide, 16″ deep and easily 70-90lb apiece.

Detail of the Klipsch Cornwall Birch finish. Beautiful after 3 decades

Detail of the Klipsch Cornwall Birch finish. Beautiful after 3 decades

The pair I had were made in the 1970s and came in ‘builder’ spec – which meant an unfinished birch veneer and no grille. These models were intended to be sold to installers who would add their own veneers or enclosures. By the time I got my pair it had acquired optional grilles and bullnose (the surrounding of the grille on the fascia) and small risers. Interestingly the grilles were nailed on behind the bullnose – no looking at the speakers from the front.

Cornwall grille detail. No way to get these off.

Cornwall grille detail. No way to get these off.

The grilles were in excellent condition, and the veneers, despite some dust on the lower reaches, were in great shape. I was really worried about the veneers. – birch is pretty soft, and these had survived 40 years with no protection whatsoever. I didn’t want to mess them up. When I got them I didn’t even oil or polish them, just a little warm water on a damp cloth to pull the dust off. They are beautiful.

I liked the sound too. Very smooth and well-balanced. I found them very similar to the Klipschorns I used to have but easier to place since they don’t have the corner-horn placement requirement. The forward-mounted woofer concentrates the bass right with the mid and tweeter.

I didn’t crank these enough to have any problems with too-forward treble or mid, just a very nice presentation.

Even though they are much easier to place and live with than the Klipschorns, these were still too wide for my space and found a new home in a beach house in Deleware.

They came along with a pair of Tangent 5000s, which are seen in the pictures alongside the Cornwalls. The Tangents were a gap-filling model line between the Heritage line and later CF and Reference model lines. These Tangent 5000s were basically a Heresy II with a passive radiator on the back in a much larger enclosure. I bought them because the components and crossover were the same as the Heresys, and I planned on putting them into a smaller and better-damped enclosure and get a modded Heresy. But I couldn’t gel with the sound – even with the larger enclosures there was surprisingly little bass – I suspect that a woofer may have been wired out of phase. The downside to the Tangents notwithstanding their great components was the cabinet-  it was thin and much flexier than the Cornwalls, KGs, or Fortes I would later have. I’m sure they contribute a lot of negative resonance to the tangent’s sound. They left before I could figure out how to re-purpose the components.


Klipsch Tangent next to the Cornwalls

Klipsch Tangent next to the Cornwalls

Then a little later on I came across a pair of Forte IIs in Walnut. In excellent original condition – the grilles had never been off. I bought them from a record store that had accepted them in trade from the original owner.

These I like. Very well balanced with a Tractix mid horn on the front with a 12″ woofer and a 15″ passive radiator on the back. The sound and presentation is exceptionally smooth and well balanced. I’ve heard these described as the best of the Heritage line – advanced and balanced mid and high range horns, good bass response, very good efficiency, all in a manageable size. These are really nice. But alas they could not kick my mighty CF-4s out of the rotation and I don’t have anywhere else for them to go. They were competing for a while against my modded Polk Monitor 7s, but I’ve found that since the Polks’ new crossovers have burned in, they have an amazing synergy with my Harmon Kardon 3380 receiver in my living room and I don’t want to mess up that mojo – I finally have a system with great imaging and detail, good bass (amazing bass for a Monitor 7!) and clarity in a room with terrible acoustics.

Klipsch Forte II in Walnut. Beautiful shape, beautiful sound

Klipsch Forte II in Walnut. Beautiful shape, beautiful sound

Klipsch Forte II walnut veneer

Klipsch Forte II walnut veneer


~ by silverfacestereo on December 10, 2015.

2 Responses to “Heritage Klipsches: Cornwall and Forte II”

  1. The Klipsch Tangent series wasn’t so much a “gap filler” as it was a special line of speakers designed and sold exclusively through AAFES and Navy Exchange (I got my first pair of Klipsch speakers, Tangent 300, via AAFES in Germany back in 1991). I found this out via a video tour of the Klipsch factory (circa 1989, on youtube).


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