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Thaddeus Smith

Klipsch's place in the HiFi scene

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Klipsch - both the man and the company - evolved in parallel with the industry of sound reproduction and there's no doubt that each was shaped by the other. Why is it then, that so many in the HiFi "scene" either have never heard of the company or snub its products without even the slightest regard for their longstanding presence and impact?

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Many owners of audio salons are not Klipsch dealers, that's why. They warn their customers away from Klipsch products. There was a local audio dealer in the 70s who took every opportunity to slam Klipsch products. Later he became a Klipsch dealer then his tune changed, and he became a vociferous advocate for Klipsch.

 

The audio press doesn't favor Klipsch either, for the most part. These are the same clowns who write glowing reviews for companies who sell magic rocks, magic wires, and junk like cable elevators. Consider the source.

 

I wonder how many of the people who slam Klipsch speakers have actually listened to them? I don't see Heritage in any stores that I go to these days, maybe that's part of the problem.

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And that's my point.. so much of the audio scene can be directly attributed to what the man/company created. Why isn't there even a hint of reverence whenever the products are discussed?

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Thad, I don't know if this is a historical question capable of being answered by the Historian. 

 

It may involve market trends, competition,  intellectual property, or lack thereof,  increased competition and/or economic environment. 

 

But I will ask him to see ifor there is anything from a historical perspective. 

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Fair enough. I learned a lot from his tour this past May, in regards to the history of Klipsch and audio reproduction in general, so I drew an association there. If nothing else, I'd love to hear Jim's no-nonsense opinion on the matter (if he has one at all).

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I believe that part of what we're seeing is just the slick magazine writers relations with manufacturers and trade shows.

 

The writers are required to fill space.  They can only do this is manufacturers send them new products for testing.  Therefore "new" speakers of doubtful value are created and publicized.  Pointless tweek items too.  Foolishness becomes a self-perpetuating industry.  The mags can't turn down advertisers who make outlandish claims for improvements.  E.g. look at these graphs, this superwire works out to 100,000 Hz, you need it. 

 

I daresay that many reviewers don't want to, or don't have the technical background to, made a thoughtful analysis of how or whether a device can sound better.  So they have to resort to subjective reports like "air between musical  instruments."  You need that too, of course.

 

How could science from PWK get respect?

 

A first interesting thing is that PWK championed a center speaker to anchor central performers (Bell Labs, he points out, started this).  Decades later HT requires a center speaker to anchor dialog on the screen, which is also what is used in theaters.

 

A second is that of course is that PWK  advocated big woofers in corners.  At least one recent analysis is how many subs you need and where to put them.  One answer: use two and put them in the front corners.

 

PWK advocated science.  From time to time his wisdom is rediscovered but presented as being "new and improved." 

 

WMcD

 

 

 

 

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I think one can't overlook the fact that some people just have a hangup about horns. I'm surprised how they are offhandedly dismissed on some other forums, and I refuse to believe that all the opinions are from people who have had actual experience with horns.

 

But having said that, I do agree that "just the facts ma'am" science doesn't make for splashy copy. The ironic thing is with his creativity and sense of humor (I have never met PWK,

my reference to his humor comes from the stories I have read about him) can you imagine the hype he could have come up with? 

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I came across this recently:

 

"...we can see that there are really two types of self-confessed 'audiophiles'...

 

The first is one who...was exceedingly interested in minutia, where upgrading from an SME 3009 to 3009 Series 2 had to be done...This audio buyer reads WhichHiFi from cover to cover, absorbs all the star ratings and arrives at the audio store with the magazine under the arm and a crystal clear focus on certain models and cannot be reasoned with. Music is primarily an audio test signal. There is nothing we...can (or should) say to open this consumer's mind to being more objective...to setting aside accumulated preconceptions and to placing music as the priority over equipment. In simple blunt language, that hardened audiophile is gripped in an emotional positive feedback loop. These audio fanatics rarely if ever attend live concerts- they say live sound does not convey the essential intimacy of a reproduced performance at home on the fine gear...

The second, larger group of serious audio equipment purchasers are those who recognize good sound from exposure to concerts, playing instruments from good home audio systems. They do not read the audio magazines, and occasional visits to specialist audio dealers can leave them feeling alienated...They know what the end result should sound like but have no awareness of technology, brands, prices or compatibility and room issues...

...As I said, serious audiophilia is a psychological state where the ownership of fine audio equipment is fulfilling a deeply rooted emotional need which necessarily is extremely personal to that individual..."Let them be."...We seem to have expended a vast amount of energy trying to cancel audiophile myths. Clearly, not one [rational] word has had any influence over the complex needs of the dedicated audiophile: they walk their own path."

____________________________________________________________________

 

I've found the almost all horn-loaded loudspeakers that presently exist (beyond Klipsch and perhaps a couple of other manufacturers) are really quite poorly done, sound terrible when turned up, and are likely based on extremely old horn and driver designs whose basic design precepts originate from the 1930s before the physics and psychophysics of horn-specific distortions were fully understood and designed to prevent.  And some literally cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per pair. ("Why not do it big if you're going to do it at all? Right?")

 

So I've found that the number of really good horn-loaded loudspeaker designs without really serious issues can be counted on the fingers and toes (...and you might get away without counting your toes...).  It's apparently much easier not to screw up direct-radiating loudspeakers in such spectacular ways. 

 

But really good horn-loaded loudspeakers having superior performance with regard to the various distortions that plague all direct-radiating speakers are branded as "renegade designs" that shouldn't be listened to, because "they're colored, they're too big, and they can't convey the essence of the 'inner detail' of the music".  (Notice the strong vaccimes in play.)  Just like the difference between believers and nonbelievers in any religious context, audiophiles won't hear the advantages of well-designed (horn) loudspeakers if it hit them over the head...they have to see the loudspeakers that they're listening to in order to form their opinions on whether or not they're "audiophile quality".

 

YMMV.

 

Chris

 

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I've been looking around for a definition of "vaccimes."  Is it modern Internet slang? from a classic language? Texas lingo? or what?

 

Reading in context, I'd like to use it often.

 

Smile.

 

WMcD 

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On 9/11/2016 at 10:23 PM, Thaddeus Smith said:

Why is it then, that so many in the HiFi "scene" either have never heard of the company or snub its products without even the slightest regard for their longstanding presence and impact?

Probably because there are many who have an informed experience with Klipsch and did not prefer the result. Why does it have to be ignorance if someone else doesn't like Klipsch?

 

The honkiness of the Heritage products is extremely easy to hear. It doesn't bother many people here, but I think overall there are more people who are bothered by it. Whatever you want to attribute to the honkiness on a technical level is simply not present in a direct radiator. Ya sure, the direct radiator has more other forms of distortion, but those other forms of distortion were present during the recording phase - which means the recording engineer has adjusted the process to make them less annoying. There's also an argument for cultural conditioning having an impact too (the majority of what we hear comes through direct radiators).


It just makes sense to me that horns represent a minority of the audiophile community. It doesn't help that the consumer Klipsch products have moved away from using properly sized horns. Heck, many of the Klipsch products are barely horn loaded at all...

 

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1 minute ago, DrWho said:

Probably because there are many who have an informed experience with Klipsch and did not prefer the result.

 

I'm not talking about those people..

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Yes.  By definition ignorance means never heard of the company.  Why do so many people need the vocabulary of their native language explained time and time again?

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16 minutes ago, Thaddeus Smith said:

 

I'm not talking about those people..

Aye, but the opinions and impressions of the informed people carry over to the uninformed without Klipsch ever getting mentioned...

 

Btw, who are you referring to when you talk about the people that snub Klipsch without regard for their role in the industry?

 

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It was a very large generalization, based on things I've read on forums, the apparent surprise by reviewers when they actually listen to the speakers, etc. I have nothing referable. 

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On 9/12/2016 at 3:19 AM, Don Richard said:

Many owners of audio salons are not Klipsch dealers, that's why. They warn their customers away from Klipsch products. There was a local audio dealer in the 70s who took every opportunity to slam Klipsch products. Later he became a Klipsch dealer then his tune changed, and he became a vociferous advocate for Klipsch.

 

The audio press doesn't favor Klipsch either, for the most part. These are the same clowns who write glowing reviews for companies who sell magic rocks, magic wires, and junk like cable elevators. Consider the source.

 

I wonder how many of the people who slam Klipsch speakers have actually listened to them? I don't see Heritage in any stores that I go to these days, maybe that's part of the problem.

 

Exactly!

 

I first noticed the snide attitude toward Klipsch (and other companies that use some horn loading, e.g., Tannoy, JBL, JBL Pro, Altec, etc.) in about 1981 in a little High End salon within spitting distance of the TransAmerica pyramid in San Francisco, therefore on very expensive land.  They had just a few very expensive speakers on display, most of which I had never heard of, even though I had been a well read audiophile since about 1960, and frequented the reputable Bay Area stores of the time, like Pro-Audio, The Sounding Board, Berkeley Custom Electronics, Christopher's Audio, The Listening Post, Sound Genesis, etc.  Five of those six shops carried the Klipsch Heritage series, and well-regarded  brands like McIntosh, Crown, Revox, Ortofon, SME, Thorens, B & W, Magnapan, etc.  Naturally, the High End stores did not carry horn loaded speakers (even those that were horn-loaded only in the mid & high frequencies), so there was no possibility of A-B comparison.  

 

The other characteristics of the so-called High End speakers carried by these stores is that while they may have been thoughtfully designed, they were very simple to build, yet they were as high in price (or, later, higher) as the more expensive Klipsch and JBLs.  A product like the Klipschorn is very labor intensive to build, so the profit on simple to build "High End" boxes of equal price may be much higher for both the dealer and the manufacturer.  While the High End models sounded O.K. (or veiled) at low volumes, if I had to use just one word to describe their sound at higher SPLs it would be "wimpy."  Or, maybe, "Compression City."

 

It wouldn't surprise me if 1) sales people had been given a script that included insults to Klipsch, and others 2) They had never heard a Klipschorn, a Cornwall, etc.  I knew a sales person at a store I won't name, who could roll through all the standard Klipsch insults, taught to him by management.  He definitely had never heard any of the Heritage series. We had moved to different cities, so it wasn't practical for him to come hear my new Khorns.  He drove across his city to hear Klipschorns in a competing store.  He had to admit that they "weren't bad," and had "incredible dynamics."

 

After having ignored Klipsch for years (Klipsch bought no advertising), when Stereophile finally listened to the La Scalla II, they rated them at the top level (Class A) for "restricted range" speakers (i.e., needs a subwoofer), citing the "exceptionally smooth midrange and treble," the "spacious soundstage," and said  they were "rich, warm," "very pleasant to listen to," and "dynamic as all get out," 

 

 

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Doc might well be correct and others may be correct too.

 

We're used to accepting as gospel that there is nothing wrong with the K-400 and crossover.  The other gospel point is that PWK was absolutely correct to let the K-400 (and other Heritage) run wide open with a high pass filter rather than a passband.

 

The Vacuum Tube Valley review reported an improvement with the Max Potter P-Trap.  It alleviated a "shouty horn." It takes out the 7 kHz glitch.

 

One of our original members (member X) worked with Max on his system including installing the P-Trap.  Actually, years ago he gave me the schematic and said it was confidential.  Maybe Max, who had some affiliation with PWK didn't want to be seen as being critical of PWK. 

 

Anyway, Member X told me that his daughter came into the listening room not knowing of the change and immediately said, "You've changed something."  Therefore, as Doc suggests, some people hear problems which others might not.  Like the Certs twins in the advertisement, "You're both right."

 

We see changed and arguably better midrange crossovers using a passband.  The theater K-Horn is one and the AK-4 is another. along with the KL and KB updates.  Maybe the stage Heresy too (have to find that).  The LB patent crossover is passband with some peaking.

 

The Forte with an exponential mid got very good reviews.  Then the Forte II came out with a tractrix.  They really liked the sound of the tractrix and variations to use it in just about all new models.  K-502?  Roy knows what he is doing with the "modified tractrix" designs. 

 

It's about time that we accept the proposition that older Heritage did have problem with honk or shout and some, some reviewers might have heard it.  Granted, other reviewers just jumped on that bandwagon and became overly dismissive.

 

Add by edit.  I have enormous respect for Chris A and he is saying about the same.

 

WMcD

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I agree with almost everything in ChrisA's post on Wednesday.

 

My personal experience is that the high efficiency, low distortion and dynamic range of well designed horn-loaded speakers were a poor combination with poorly designed high power early solid state amps.  Poor recordings played loudly by poorly designed amps through Klipsch speakers produces bad results.  

 

Many people who disparage Klipsch specifically, and horn-loaded speakers generally, have never heard them, or have not heard them properly set up.  I don't require the approval of "experts" for me to enjoy recorded music.

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Wasn't there a time when CES didn't officially start until PWK walked in? I think industry insiders are fully aware of the history and contributions. 

 

We used to have several dealers in this area. They would all push that with the highest profit margin. We learned very quickly to ignore the advice of the sales people. 

 

I used to knock Heritage pretty hard until I heard a pair connected to a good tube system. I've only heard a handful of good solid state set ups.

 

The LaScala II is currently a Stereophile Class A rated product. The snobs are catching on.  

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