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.
As a lifelong audiophile that believes you do not need to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a system that reproduces accurate music, I was happy to hear we would be reviewing the $1300 per pair Kendall, which claims to play down to 25 Hz (+/-3dB). They are also very efficient at 96dB/W/m, so you can utilize smaller amplifiers (which in my humble opinion usually sound better). Generally, speakers in this price range are forced to make some sonic compromises. The most common of those compromises is the ability to play the bottom two octaves of the musical spectrum. KLH has set up to build a truly full range speaker in the price range where that is very uncommon.
First Look At The Kendalls
The Kendall is the flagship, dynamic driver speaker from KLH (they do offer a more expensive full range electrostatic speaker). They are a three-way, bass reflex design (rear ported) using two 6.5" bass drivers, one 5.25" mid-bass driver and 1" anodized aluminum tweeter. The floorstanding Kendall comes in two real wood veneers, Black Oak and American Walnut. Both the woofers and midrange are woven Kevlar with butyl rubber surrounds and braided tinsel leads on all drivers. Upon unpacking the Kendalls, the first impression was the build quality. They are set up for bi-wiring (or bi-amp'ing) with high-quality binding posts. I know that every time you hear "binding posts" you see the words "high quality" in front of it – but these are very well built, especially in this price range.
As seen on the Paradigm 200B speakers that I recently reviewed, the grill on the Kendalls are held on using magnets, which make for a cleaner front baffle and let you easily remove the grilles, with them quickly popping back on quickly and in the appropriate position. The finish of the black KLH Kendalls we received appeared to reflect a higher level of attention to detail than one might expect to see in this price range. Seen below is one of the two 6.5"Kevlar woofers recessed precisely within the cabinet.
In addition, the Kendalls came with a surprisingly exceptional set of speaker spikes for anchoring them through any carpet, and they even came with diveted chrome discs for placing the spikes on tile or hardwood floors. They also included foam inserts that could be stuffed into one of the two ports, to adjust the bass response if needed. These could come in handy if you are listening to the Kendalls in a small room. For our listening, we did not use the foam inserts but did use the speaker spikes. It was obvious that KLH is looking to raise the bar for build quality and overall attention to detail in this price range.
The Kendalls And First ImpressionsOne of the most common complaints heard when buying a new pair of speakers is that they sounded better in the store than when connected at home. Although we could go into the massive effects that your room makes to the sound of your system, our point today is that the sound of most dynamic speakers dramatically improve over time. This improvement is quite drastic and can be noticed over the entire frequency band. To really hear how the Kendalls sound, wanted to break in the speakers as much as we could before any critical listening.
To speed up this process, we placed the two KLH floorstanders face to face and played a mix of pink noise and white noise into them while having one speaker wired out of phase. This process has the majority of the sound from one speaker cancelling out the other, so you can leave the speaker "breaking in" 24 hours a day for a week or so without too much distraction. As someone who is currently using a 60 Watt per channel tube amp (ARC Classic 60), I was pretty excited to hear the high-efficiency Kendalls.
The first piece of vinyl I threw on was Keb Mo - Just Like You which is a really sweet recording that includes a range of music from a jamming cover ofBB King's - Dangerous Mood, to the very musically minimalistMomma, Where's My Daddy, which is just Keb and his acoustic guitar. I have always found this album to have a little bass bump (which I personally enjoy) but did not seem to notice that on the new KLH speakers. I don't want to say they didn't go low – they did... just seemed that some bass notes stood out more than others. The image of Keb Mo's voice was solid, directly in the center of the speakers but didn't seem to have the same depth of image as did the larger Vandersteens they replaced.
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 seem 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 loudspeaker
Frequency Response: 25Hz to 23kHz (+/-3dB)
Power handling: 250 Watts
Impedance: 8 Ohms
Crossover Points: 800Hz and 2.5kHz
Drivers: 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