By: Dean Cacioppo
Very dynamic while still providing a graceful harmonic decay.
There are few speaker brands that even non-audiophiles recognize. KLH is one of them. KLH Research and Development was originally founded in 1957 by Henry Kloss, MalcolmLow, and JosefHoffman. Henry Kloss’ reputation in the audio industry goes back to the 1950s and includes audio brands such as Acoustic Research, Advent, Cambridge Soundworks, and, of course, KLH. Today, the KLH brand has been reborn by David Kelley (formally of Klipsch) as KLH Audio, focusing on relatively affordable hi-fi speakers, subwoofers, A/V speakers and headphones.
Excitement For The New KLH KendallsThe “new” KLH brand is shooting for the higher end of mass market speakers. I do not intend to imply that “mass market” speakers are either bad or of low quality – but simply have larger distribution channels such as Crutchfield. They are not building two pairs of these a month like some other speaker manufacturers. Upon inspection, these speakers built within tight tolerances and use quality components. All of the current lineup (with the exception of the Model 9 electrostat at $12,498/each) feature Kevlar woofers and midrange drivers, real wood veneer with a high build quality and unusually high efficiency for a speaker in this range.
There was also a little of a lower mid-range bump that stood out to me. The snare drum onMore Than One Way Homestood out more than I was used to. The off-axis response seemed to increase the lower midrange bump as opposed to rolling off in a smooth manner. Keep in mind this was with the Kendalls having to play in the perfect spot for a different set of speakers. Next was to give them the setup they deserve.
The next step was to play around with speaker placement. It would be impossible for me to overemphasize the importance of proper speaker placement, as the interaction with any speaker in a particular room has dramatic effects on how they will sound. Great speakers can sound terrible if not placed and set up properly.
This is where hi-fi becomes work for me. Moving, measuring distance, listening, and moving again. Adjusting the toe in, listening to the same songs over and over. In the end, I found the KLH Kendalls sounded best (in my room) when I removed as much of the side-wall reflection as possible. This had them with a pretty strong toe in. Hearing less of the off-axis response minimized the lower midrange bump I referred to earlier. For final listening they were placed about two feet from the back wall and approximately 7 feet apart. My listening position was about 12 feet from the front baffles.
The New KLH SoundLet me say, I kept the KLH Kendalls longer than I anticipated. In addition to being derailed by other work and a hurricane (I live in New Orleans), the Kendalls continued to sound better as they broke in. I feel confident that they would continue to improve over time as they kept getting better every day. The bass matured and became less “boxy” sounding and the lower frequencies were reproduced in a more linear fashion. The combination of the strong toe in and the breaking in of the speakers minimized the small peak in the lower midrange, but it was still there.
This was much less noticeable and even a little enjoyable when listening to music that didn’t have a lot going on. Meaning, acoustic styles of music, with fewer instruments such as Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, and the almighty Muddy Waters Folk Singer album sounded wonderful. Where the slight lower midrange peak stood out more was when playing rock and classical styles of music with a lot happening in the midrange. The bass, after proper break-in, was quite impressive. These speakers do play low and with authority. Although they are not as well defined in the lowest registers as vastly more expensive full-range speakers, they still dig deep. It is hard to believe these are only 6.5″ woofers.
As for imaging, even right out of the box, with minimal placement, they had a good center voice and filled the remainder of the space outward to the speaker. This only got better with the fine tuning of the placement. They didn’t quite hit on some of the finer attributes of imaging such as image depth and imaging outside the speakers, but these are floor-standing speakers at $1300 for the pair. If you are looking for delicate and holographic imaging in this price range, you will most likely be looking at mini-monitors and sacrificing bottom end. It is worth noting on imaging, I have found that the placement I ended up with (heavy toe in, somewhat closer to rear walls) generally does not produce a depth of image with layers or an image that extends outside of the speakers. Overall, I was willing to limit some of the imaging depth to get a smoother tonal balance.
Putting The New KLH Speakers Into Perspective
When audiophiles are looking for their next set of speakers, they usually have specific criteria they’re looking for. Some people require an extremely accurate tonal balance, whereas others look for delicacy of detail and micro dynamics, while others go for amazing imaging. Some are willing to forgo bass to get what they feel is important; some feel that without the bottom octaves you don’t get all of the music. Then, of course, some people need a great looking speaker, where some are willing to deal with “ugly” for the sake of the sound (those guys are single). Speaker selection can be a seriously personal thing.
The KLH Kendalls find a way to cram a lot into a $1300 set of floorstanding speakers. They are great-looking speakers with a lot going for them. They are very dynamic while still providing a graceful harmonic decay with the right music. It is very possible that the lower midrange bump I had experienced and mentioned previously would be neutralized in a different room. As a person that relishes the midrange, I admit I can be a little persnickety in that area when listening to any speaker in any price range.
All of that being said, I think that the “new” KLH seems to be on to something. Although there are many speakers to compete with in the $1000 to $1500 price range; they have created a very well-built speaker, with good focus and a solid bottom end. The Kendall is very efficient and will even deliver down to 25 Hz all for under $650 each. That is impressive.
Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)
Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)
Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)
High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)
Soundscape Width Front’Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth Behind Speakers
Soundscape Extension Into Room
Fit And Finish
Value For The Money
SpecificationsType: Three-way floorstanding loudspeakerFrequency Response: 25Hz to 23kHz (+/-3dB)Sensitivity: 96dB/W/mPower handling: 250 WattsImpedance: 8 OhmsCrossover Points: 800Hz and 2.5kHzDrivers: Bass reflex system with two 6.5″ Woven Kevlar bass drivers, a 5.25″ Woven Kevlar mid/bass driver and 1″ Anodized aluminum tweeter with a linear response faceplate.
Crossover: Custom multi-element crossovers with high-grade components to ensure smooth and natural transition between drivers.
Driver Details: Butyl rubber surrounds and braided tinsel leads on all drivers.
Cabinet: MDF construction featuring custom-designed internal low resonance driver chambers and bracing optimized through finite element analysis.
Connection: Dual five-way binding posts
Footers: Chrome plated steel spikes or rubber feet for proper decoupling.
Magnetic Grilles featuring a custom honeycomb design with no visible fasteners.
Cabinet: Real wood veneers in Black Oak or American Walnut.Dimensions: 40″ x 7.75″ x 14.75″ (HxWxD)
Weight: 50 lbs.
Price: $1300 per pair