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Went heritage speaker shopping yesterday . . .


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Hey everyone, thanks for those of you who gave me some info on vintage vs new La Scalas.  I finally got to hear some in person yesterday. My local (ish) heritage dealer had La Scala, Forte' 4s and Heresy in stock. Wow!  Those La Scalas are out of this world, in both physical and acoustic presence. I listened to some of my old favorites that I've heard 100s of times on my home system (zeppelin, beatles, jethro tull, bob dylan) and it was insane  . . . you could literally hear Robert Plant like he was sitting in front of you with such detail it was almost eerie, in a good way though.

 

After playing with the La Scalas for about 45 min I plugged in the Forte' 4s. Those honestly surprised me. While not as large and all encompassing of a sound stage as the La Scalas, they were dam good! I immediately noticed the lack of bass on La Scalas as others online have pointed out. It was weird, almost like you had the EQ for the lowest bass turned down to 1; you could hear the bass or a shadow of the deepest notes but it really doesn't come through. The Forte' 4s were another story though, they gave nice and pleasant bass and I'd say about 75% of the "presence" of the La Scalas but a bit narrower/smaller sound stage. I really liked them, and for my medium sized room they may be the ticket at 1/3 the price too.  

 

Question for those "in the know" . . . the La Scalas were positioned not in a corner but in the middle of a wall. Would this have a significant impact on their bass performance?  I did notice the Forte' 4s were very position dependend but since the La Scalas are so heavy and were set up I couldn't exactly move them around in the store. I played with position a little bit with Forte' 4s (closer/further from wall and toe in / straight) that made significant differences in their sound for sure. I'm still floored by how sweet those big boys played but even though I'm not at all a "bass head", they did leave me just a little bit lacking in the low department. Any fixes for this?  I know others have stiffened their cabinets and played around with ported stands on the older models, has anyone done some mods on these new ones with success?  

 

Was a fun trip yesterday. I actually didn't' even plug in the Heresy 4s since I ran out of time but wow, all these speakers look amazing and sound so sweet. Getting excited to make a decision! Thinking about another road trip to check out the Cornwalls at another dealer, very curious if those would give the bass of the Forte' 4s with the presence and sound stage of the La Scalas.    

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La Scalas are wonderful speakers.  I have a pair of 1970s original La Scalas, and a pair of 2007 La Scala IIs, so you know they’re my favourite speakers, next to Jubilees, which wouldn’t quite fit into my place.  However, as you noticed and accurately described, they don’t put out much in the bottom two octaves or so.  There are some mods which claim to fix this, but the length of the bass horn on the Scala is what it is, and the only really effective cure is to add a subwoofer or two.  Since these are premium speakers, it only makes sense to use premium subs, with fairly high power that can reach deep into the bass zone, down to below 20 Hz.

 

Some will point out that the lowest note on a 4-string bass guitar is at 40 Hz and the lowest note on a 5-string bass is at 30 Hz, so you don’t need to go super low on the subwoofer’s rating.  The reply to that is that when the sub is operating at its absolute limit, the sound will indeed be limited.  If it’s down 3 dB at 30 Hz, trying to bring it up so that its response is sort of close to flat at that point will require double the amplifier power.  Not an ideal situation.  The sub should be operating in its linear zone, reproducing those deep bass notes with no more difficulty than the higher notes.

 

So the sub that seems to fit the bill in your system is too expensive?  You can either buy a used one, or keep adding to your stereo account for a bit longer.  I’ve done both in my sub journey, and each choice seemed right for the circumstances at the time.  I first got a sub that was pretty good, so the overall sound of the Scala/sub was pretty good.  I was happy with that for years, but eventually I swapped out that sub for a much better one, costing around double the price of the first one.  Wow!  That’s what I said about that.  It went way deeper, so now it was easy to hear every note in a tune equally accurately, not rolled off like it had been with the old sub.  The feeling was “Now, this is the real thing!  This is the ‘you are there’ effect that we’re all after.”  Now, when I’m listening to some music, there’s no more feeling that this or that piece needs an upgrade, or the sound is pretty good, but...

 

Now the sound was really good, and I was hearing notes I hadn’t been able to hear before.  That was great, but my plan at the time was to get a second matching sub as soon as I could afford it.  The shop gave me a good discount on that sub, and they were good enough to agree to sell me a second sub at the same price in a few months.  Four months later, I went in and got the second sub, at the same good price.  The shop was happy to get the business (this was in 2020), and I was happy to get a pair of these fine subwoofers.

 

That’s not to say that if you can’t afford mighty subs at the moment that you shouldn’t bother.  Get what you can when you can.  Very few of us can afford to buy our dream systems all in one go.  Most of us build them up a piece at a time, and the sound gets better and better, until it reaches a point where the feeling is that it’s just fine as it is, with no lust for more or better.

 

Part of the logic was of this was to be sure that the subs should be as sharp on transients as the La Scalas, plus having the two subs means that the drivers only need to move half as far to produce the same total volume.  Half the cone movement should mean around half the distortion, getting them closer to the very low distortion of the horn-loaded La Scalas.

 

It’s been pointed out on the Forum a number of times that La Scalas plus subs equals a system that can sound better than the Klipschorns, the top of the Heritage Series.  As well, they give much more flexibility in positioning.  La Scalas are fine speakers that can be the heart of a great sound system, one that you can enjoy from the first day you have them, and improve pretty much as far as you want to take them, and the rest of your system.

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I think at the end of the day it comes down to personal preference, influenced by room size, placement and type of amplification.  I have heard plenty of bass heavy speakers, and still own a nice pair of Cornwall's. But I favor the '77, stock LS's in my main system. Nothing provides me with a more magical reality. My room is medium sized at best, the LS's tucked into corners, with a McIntosh MC240 amp and C11 preamp driving them. For my ears, I get all the bass I could ever want, especially when I turn up the volume some. But it doesn't take much. Listening to several types of music over the course of the day, from symphonic, to avant garde jazz, lots of piano and cello and acoustic bass, I can feel the low notes.

 

I can afford good subs, but I simply have no need for them. I have nothing against them, or those that use or prescribe them. But I would suggest that somebody live with LS's for a bit in their own space with their own gear before making a decision to add them, or a reason for not buying LS's.

 

My .02.

 

 

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For those of you who have heard both in person, how do the La Scalas compare to the Cornwall 4s?  There's another dealer about an hour away from me that may have Cornwalls on display so hopefully I can listen to those too before making a decision.   The room I'm planning to put them in is 16' by 18' long so its med size. Thinking the Forte' 4s should be big enough and if I'm not happy could always trade them back and upgrade down the road.   

 

Side note: it really is crazy how nice these Kipsch speakers sound/image. I went to 3 different "hifi" dealers locally just to check out as much as I could get my ears on. The one place was a Mac dealer and had an over 1MM demo room with $250,000 wilson audio speakers and all the doo dads including a $200,000 turn table set up that weighed  800 pounds. Just crazy stuff; thought my wife was going to have a heart attack when she saw the price stickers.  Now I'm sure all the high end audiophile folks would hate me but I swear, that music I heard yesterday on the La Scalas and a pretty nice music hall turntable sounded way more real and engaging than that crazy set up. I demoed about a dozen different speakers at these other hifi shops and its hard to put into words, yes they sounded amazing, they were crystal clear, but they just sounded too "neutral" , almost lifeless. So happy I decided to go for the Klipsch and just have to figure which one to pull the trigger on for now. Bear with me folks, I'm dorking out here . . .

   

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3 minutes ago, blue360cuda said:

For those of you who have heard both in person, how do the La Scalas compare to the Cornwall 4s?    

 

I liked the Cornwall 4 better, because of the excellent midrange. The La Scala bass was different, a bit more dynamic but not necessarily better-defined. In the rest of the spectrum my ears preferred the Cornwall. YMMV.

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9 minutes ago, blue360cuda said:

I'm dorking out here . . .

   

How big's that checkbook?  Pair of LS w/a couple subs?  Nummy!  The decision is yours on the Cornwall / LS.  Check them both out a couple times before you buy.  Throw whatever you want at them and make your decision.  Take YOUR selections with you then throw something of theirs on you've never heard before on and listen.  You become engrained listening to your own stuff all the time.  Be objective and throw something on completely different and listen first THEN your stuff.  :)

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I have owned the CW IV and now the LaScala II. I would say you can hardly go wrong with either. I too think the LS has very good bass on it’s own. But if you want the bass performance of the Cornwall, you will need a sub(s). If you don’t have the room or just don’t want the hassle of subs, buy the Cornwall IV and don’t look back.

 

I completely agree with @Islander LS with a pair of subs surpassed KHorns in my room.

 

Shakey

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I always remembered Chuck sayin that LS totally needed a sub.  God did me a solid when I found that JBL cab w/the twin 18's.  Talk about a line array for in here?  Ouch!  My jaw still drops when I crank it up.  Never had K-horns in here.  I cut my teeth on LS 50 years ago.  Today's society has become more centered on that bottom whereas PWK's wasn't I think.  PWK was a purist though and totally right.

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I can't speak to the modern versions of the LS and the CWIV...but having just switched from a pair of '85 Cornwalls to a pair of '85 La Scalas, I can attest to the difference in bass. I had high expectations, and I have to say, I was not blown away.

Don't get me wrong--they sound amazing...more detail than the CWs, tighter bass (but not as deep). What this makes me realize, is just how special the CWs really are, that they're not that different from the La Scalas in quality--and this is the conclusion that seems to be drawn between their contemporary iterations as well: You trade maybe 10% in detail for a lower octave or two of bass.

 

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I've had LS (older pairs), and heard CWs at the first Klipsch gathering in Indy. I didn't like the Cornwalls at all, as the bass seemd a little bloated.

 

However, there are a couple generations newer out for both so you will just have to listen to them and decide. I can't do without the horn loaded bass, though.

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