Hello from the smog-and-ash-covered SF Bay Area!
TL;DR version: got 1967 Cornwalls, possibly a somewhat unusual pair -- have questions.
Long story below.
Have peered at these forums every now and then over the years but now have a much better reason to say hello as I recently became an owner of a pair of 1967 Cornwalls. A bit of background: I work in sound post production for film, and between that environment and my passion for music have been messing with various audio gear for some 25 years. My preferences as far as music reproduction in the home have stabilized about a decade ago, and as such, my playback systems have not changed a whole lot in that period and there hasn't been much gear swapping anymore. In short, I am very much a tube amp person -- not on principle but rather because the speakers I enjoy work well with tubes and some of the best-sounding gear just happned to run on tubes. I love single-ended amplification feeding efficient speakers. Enjoy coaxials and well-implemented horns. At the same time, have nothing against solid state -- and indeed own some -- but it has been been my experience that good solid state is hard to find, and generally has more power than the speakers I like need. Inefficient multiways with small drivers and complex crossovers that require gobs of power are generally not my cup of tea, although there have been some exceptions.
Through the years I have played with Klipsch speakers a number of times. Those encounters included Heresys, K3.5 and KG4, a pair of 1979 Cornwalls, and Crites' Cornscala D (a two-way with a Faital driver and horn). I was always attracted by efficiency but -- here it comes -- to my ears there was always a certain stringent quality to the upper mids and highs that I could not stand. No amount of tweaking or experimentation with various amplification options changed that fundamental quality, so in the end all those speakers went. Cornwalls and Cornscalas had a lot of promise but were not quite there still. With the Cornwall I felt the mids just sounded small compared to the scale of the speaker overall. The Cornscala, while having a wonderful dsipersion pattern and integration (I felt based on listening -- I never measured it) -- was otherwise cold and lifeless somehow. Compared, say, to 15" Tannoys. Or Altecs, on a different point of the spectrum. Both had the dreaded bite, albeit in a different frequency range, I'd say. LaScalas that I heard sounded lovely but had insufficient bass (I AM a bass-head for sure). Klipschorns were impressive but not without some other weirdness and I never had the space to do them justice anyway. So I wrote off Klipsch entirely from my future speaker "playlist". Interestingly, my journey with Altecs also has always been a love-hate affair to one degree or another, but they managed to retain their grip on me still. I guess their irregularities, quirks, and compromises, were more tolerable to me
So "no Klipsch for me ever again", I thought. Until early this year, when an acquaintance was looking to get rid of a system that belonged to his father, who'd passed away peacefully at the age of 94. This one-owner system was purchased in 1967 and had sat in the same room ever since. It included a pair of walnut-veneered Cornwalls driven by McIntosh, an Mc225 and MX110z, which were housed of course in a matching walnut Barzilay console. Everything was pristine cosmetically -- not a scratch on the wood, and not a mark on the chrome. Some lettering falling off on the MX110 glass but that's common with them. We struck a deal, and I took it home. Don't get fired up - I didn't make out like a bandit on this one and didn't get it anywhere close to free, although it was a good deal admittedly.
My plan was to restore the Macs myself -- which I finished last month, a complete entire rebuild of the MC225, and all the typical signal path and power supply stuff on the MX110.
For the Cornwalls my plan was to be selling them promptly to recoup some of the expense. And then something unexpected happened. I set them up -- right in front of my Tannoys no less -- plugged them in, and loved the sound: full, with solid and fairly well-defined bass, and overall a very big, slightly warm presentation. Very much to my liking. All the things I love my Tannoys for but with a bit different perspective. They also had a very nice high frequency extension and NONE of the bite that every single Klipsch I'd ever owned prior exhibited. I thought they couldn't sound any more different than the 70s Cornwalls I had before, IMO: the driver integration seems much better, they are smooth, and I don't FEEL like the mid horn is tiny; the mids sound big, in nice proportion with what the 15" woofer is doing. Having played these now for well over three months, I absolutely love them and don't think they are going anywhere.
Now for the specifics. These were made in 1967, as their sales paperwork indicates. There are NO labels on the backs, and no numbers embossed into the side edges on the back. They also are of what I suspect is an uncommon configuration: the woofer is offset from the center, with the midrange horn mounted above it on the same centerline horizontally, but the tweeter is mounted vertically and off to the side. I have not been able to find an account of this same configuration (forgive me if it indeed does exist on this forum and my search attempts failed). I see either early "vertical" Cornwalls where mids and highs are both vertical and woofer's off-center, or setups where all three are on the centerline and mid/highs are horizontal. I wonder if their different signature and character are in part due to this unique driver arrangement? Anyone has any insight on this particular version?
I have indeed read many Cornwall-related threads on here, and indeed I do have the temptation to start playing with crossovers, etc. -- just as I have done with many speakers in the past, and often to great effect. But I will say that these are rather beautiful sounding as-is. Based on three+ months of listening, I'd say there isn't a WHOLE lot to wish for. They could use some more clarity/transparency in the upper mids and lower highs perhaps. On the low end of things, to tighten the bass a touch further may be desireable but it's really nitpicking. Are these Mallory caps oil-filled? Should I replace them? Or is it worth trying a whole different crossover version? I don't think I want to swap any drivers but I could be convinced I suppose I am not one to preach the gospel of Alnico necessarily, but I will say that most of my favorite speakers had in fact Alnico drivers in them, so I do accept that there may be something to it.
Below are two pictures of the front and open back. Here is an album showing the insides of the left one. If you have any more insight on what these are exactly, or how to make the best of them, I would welcome any and all advice and information. Thank you for sticking with me through this long-winded tirade