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George 47

Klipsch La Scala AL5

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Have you tried the full-fat version?

Not sure what you mean.

You gave a good review to the Klipsch Forte IIIs and I was wondering if you had tried the full-fat version of Klipsch speakers?

No what do you mean by full-fat?

Well, the Forte IIIs have a reflex-loaded bass but the Klipschorn and La Scala IIs have horn-loaded bass. The Full-fat version.

I am with you now.

Last year I reviewed the Klipsch Forte III horn-loaded speakers https://hifiwigwam.com/forum/topic/130768-klipsch-forte-iii/ and they surprised me with their sheer liveness and realism. After that review, I had the e-mail exchange summarised above.

Henley audio who are the UK importers of Klipsch were in the honeymoon period with Klipsch and were starting to distribute the line to their dealers. They obviously wanted to get the brand well known in the UK for its high value and great sound quality. This was led with their consumer-focused audio speakers. Selling the more audiophile Heritage range was always only going to appeal to a smaller market. Now that the range is established Henley started to bring in the larger speakers in the range. And by chance, the La Scala speaker (with horn-loaded bass) had been recently updated to become the new Klipsch La Scala AL5.

Klipsch Audio has been making speakers since 1949 and Paul W Klipsch started speaker manufacture in Hope Arkansas with the now infamous Klipschorn. This was a speaker used to fill large US stadia. Later on, Paul Klipsch designed a smaller and more consumer-friendly version. It was introduced in 1963 and the La Scala was born. And what an entrance. It became a favourite of many US stadia as it provides a really big and powerful sound. And it made a really big impact with audiophiles. A copy of the original design drawing of the La Scala is shown. 

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Often referred to as the “mini Klipschorn”, the La Scala is a three-way horn-loaded speaker with a 25mm tweeter, a 50mm mid-range driver and a 381mm woofer, the same as the flagship Klipschorn.

The latest version of the La Scala the AL5 yields greater acoustic power than its predecessors. It has 1” thick cabinetry throughout and it is split into two sections for effective decoupling of the high- and low-frequency transmission systems.

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The mid/high enclosure features a newly-designed, high-efficiency K-771 tweeter, with a light-weight polyimide diaphragm, mated to Klipsch’s 90° X 40° Tractrix horn with a copper-clad aluminium voice coil. This lightweight diaphragm assembly and high strength magnet structure create the tweeter’s high 105dB sensitivity.  Alongside this is a K-55-X 2” mid-range compression driver with phenolic diaphragm mated to a large exponential horn.

The low-end enclosure has a large 380mm (15”) woofer behind a two-fold horn, inspired by the Klipschorn three-fold design. The bass response reaches 45Hz with minimal distortion. When mated with the mid/high enclosure, Klipsch claims the speaker has an effortless ability to reproduce live sound.

 

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The cabinetry is finished in book-matched wood veneers, so the top and bottom cabinets and the left/right speakers are a truly matched set. The mid/high section is supplied with a new magnetic grille, featuring a metal-grille finished with the new ‘La Scala’ script logo. On the rear of the mid/high enclosure is a new aluminium input panel, capable of handling high-gauge cables. Internally, recognised high-end hi-fi cabling is used throughout from Audioquest using their Type 4 cable with Star-Quad Geometry internal wiring featuring carbon-loaded insulation, nitrogen injected PE and solid long-grain copper conductors.

As the speakers use a folded horn most of the bass comes from the front of the cabinet making placement in the room easy and I was told they are not that fussy which given their weight makes life easier.

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These speakers are not mini-monitors (mild understatement!) and although a reasonable size for horn-loaded bass speakers using a 380mm driver they are still large for the average UK living room. They are 102cms (40”) x 62 cms (24”) x 64 cms (25”). And that gave me a problem. Although I have a 9mx 7m room I share the ‘speaker wall’ with a big TV, the audio equipment rack and a fireplace in the corner. I could not fit the La Scala in the room without a major re-organisation of the room. Not popular. But I wanted to hear the speakers. So, for the first time in these reviews, I went to the company’s listening room. I persuaded Henley Audio to let me hear them in their spacious audio listening room in Didcot.  And very generous they were to. Also, I was told that connecting the top to the bottom box was really a three-man affair, with two to hold the top box and a third to connect the spade ended cables.  Not easy for one person. 

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So, armed with a ton of music and a bit of time I sauntered over to Henley Audio to spend a day listening to the system featuring these speakers. And thanks to Simon and James at Henley for entertaining me and giving me their time.

The system featured for Vinyl a Pro-Ject RPM 10 Carbon TT, an Ortofon Cadenza Bronze and a Musical Fidelity M6 phono stage. For CD a Unison Research Unico CD Due and for streaming a Roon Nucleus with the Unison Research Unico CD Due (functioning as a DAC). The amplifier was a lovely Unison Research Sinfonia with Chord cabling. I asked for a reasonably powerful valve amplifier even though the speakers are 105 dB efficient for 1 watt. I have found even efficient speakers need a bit of headroom and power to control the bass.

On goes the first album track from a Mike Valentine direct cut recording of Clare Teal and the Syd Lawrence Orchestra playing Its Too Darn Hot. This is a really dynamic track where the band let rip near then end of the track and are accompanied by some powerful and dynamic drumming.

WOW.

This is a very real-sounding track and does not hold back any of the dynamics and when the band lets go you could feel as well as hear the power of the playing. The drum kit had real raw power and the snare drums were real sounding with a tremendous impact on the track. When the cymbals are hit, they come over as a big powerful metallic musical instrument. I initially was listening for any shouty, aggressive, bright or over the top sounds. I gave up after a few minutes and just enjoyed the music. It sounded like I was present at the recording. This is different from what I have heard before from other loudspeakers. Yes, I have heard really big loudspeakers go loud but the La Scala AL5s had great speed as well as the dynamics. This was going to be real fun.

 

1454932707_guygarvey.jpg.b8e0aa73708ec459fe487aefe08c781a.jpgSomething different, Guy Garvey with Courting the Squall on vinyl. This is a reasonably well-recorded modern album. It is not as heavily produced as his Elbow recordings and a lot of tracks are just him with a few musical instruments.  The album has a slightly dark sound and this system showed that to great effect. But the realism of his close-miked voice with every detail of the singing coming across was eerily captured. The separation of the few instruments recorded was easy to hear and the music came over with a huge enormous sound stage. The soundstage was not ultra-precise but I think that is an artefact of some speakers. A lot of these tracks are musically simple and very catchy. I found myself all but humming the tunes. Everything was so easy to hear and musical.

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OK over to CD and Applewood Road. This a simple recording from Gearbox Music featuring Amber Ruth, Emily Baker and Amy Speace and some of Nashville’s finest session players. It was recorded live with a single microphone. The three different and distinctive voices were picked out as was the different amounts of emotion in each of their voices. The bass really announced its presence at the start of the Applewood Road track. A track that allowed the La Scala to show its delicate and detailed side, which of course, as we have been told in the past, horn speakers are not good at…Not these horn speakers. And on Rebecca Pigeon’s album, her clear and waif-like voice came over with clarity and detail. She has a beautiful voice

The only track that I can stand on Chesky’s Demo Disc Volume 2 is Tear It Up by Billy Burnette, a danceable roots rock track. It was all but impossible not to get up and dance. The music goes at a blistering pace and all the instruments meld into one fun band but it still allows you to hear every musical contribution. Superb.

OK let’s leave the audiophile stuff behind…..no…. how about the Vincent Belanger album from Audionote where he plays some beautiful Cello? On a horn system, really? It came across with real attack and power and room pressurisation with a beautiful tone.

OK now let’s leave audiophile music behind.

How about Robert and the boys of Led Zeppelin. Heartbreaker from Led Zeppelin 2? Oh yes. This track rocked with a powerful driving beat from John Paul Jones and Bonzo. And boy what a voice Percy had in those days. This was meat and potatoes (as our US colleagues would say) for these speakers. Yes, it rocked and without any hint of compression and even though the audio room was large it went very loud and still sounded powerful at the far end of the room that was 40’ from the speakers. These speakers give you a large sound that is completely divorced from the speakers.

And even better, playing Hell Freezes Over by the Eagles, recreated a superb live and ‘at the concert’ sound that fooled you into believing you were present. It was easy to hear the individual musicians but when they played together, to drive a song along, that integrated musical event came across really well.

The bass from these speakers was incredibly powerful and unlike a lot of reflex speakers, they play the bass notes with equal emphasis. I sometimes hear reflex speakers accentuate some bass notes, so a run on bass can have certain notes emphasised. Not here.

So, are there any issues? Yes, the low bass. The speakers do not go that low in the bass. They cut-off at 45-50Hz in typical rooms. You can’t have deep bass and great efficiency so the La Scala goes for high efficiency. When I played my bass test track of James Blake’s Limit to Your Love the low 20 Hz’s notes were missing. But the bass power and speed made up for that issue and you could always add a sub-bass unit.

The La Scala AL5’s cost £12K which is a bit of a hike from the previous La Scala 2 (£9K) but these speakers are different and improved from the 2s and represent high value for money given the cost of other company’s horn-loaded speakers.

So summarising, the Klipsch La Scala XL5 is one of the best speakers I have heard in recreating a live, musical event and they capture the dynamics and power of recorded music. If you like live rock/pop/classical musical concerts, get them. They are one of the least coloured horn speakers I have heard. Yes, there are better horn-loaded speakers but you will be into the £25K territory and then there is always the Klipschorn.  They actually do not look that big due to the superb veneer and craftsmanship from the people who build them by hand in Hope, Arkansas. If you like a monitor type of sound (with a thin reedy sound) or ultra-low bass notes they may not be for you. You could always get a bass sub and Klipsch make some good sub units.

These full-fat horn speakers are Recommended.

Now, where is my tape measure, are you sure they won’t fit??

Specifications  

 

Frequency Response                      (+/- 4 dB):            51Hz – 20kHz

Sensitivity:                                          105dB @ 2.83V / 1m

Power Handling:                               100W / 400W

Maximum SPL:                                  121dB

Nominal Impedance:                      8 ohms compatible

Crossover Frequency:                    HF: 4500Hz MF: 450Hz

Tweeter:                                             K-771 1" (2.54cm) Light-Weight Polyimide Diaphragm Compression Driver Mated to a 90° x 40° Tractrix Horn

High-Frequency Horn:                    Tractrix

Midrange:                                           K-55-X 2" (5.08cm) Phenolic Diaphragm Compression Driver

Mid-Frequency Horn:                     Exponential

Woofer:                                               K-33-E 15” (38.1cm) Fibre-Composite Cone with a Folded Horn

Enclosure Material:                         Birch Plywood and MDF

Enclosure Type:                                Fully horn-loaded

Dimensions (H x W x D):                40" (101.6cm), 24 1/4” (61.59 cm), 25 5/16” (64.29 cm)

Weight:                                                201lbs (91kg)

Finishes:                                              Natural Cherry, Satin Black Ash, American Walnut

Grille Cloth:                                        Silver Metallic

 

Edited by George 47
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