Are the KLH Model Fives My New Favorite Speaker?
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
When I heard KLH was back on the scene, the first thing that came to mind were the multiple sets of cheap speakers that I have come across at thrift stores and garage sales over the years.
Never did I expect that their newest product would create a rift in my perspective on the world of audio.
KLH was founded in 1957 in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Henry Kloss, Malcom Low, and Josef Hofmann. The company’s original intent was to produce loudspeakers and KLH was the first company to manufacture the electrostatic speaker flat from 40hz-20khz. However, in 1964 the company was sold to the Singer Corporation, then Electro Audio Dynamics in 1980, followed by Japanese conglomerate Kyocera who decided to stop manufacturing audio products altogether in 1989.
It wasn’t until long time Klipsch executive, David Kelley, purchased KLH Audio Systems, renamed it KLH Audio, and put together a team to resurrect the company and honor the original vision of Kloss, Low, and Hoffman had for the premium speaker brand.
I quickly realized that this newest incarnation of the classic brand wasn’t the KLH that was mass produced in the 80’s after having a candid conversation with KLH Chief Engineer, Kerry Geist.
This is a completely different brand and vibe that has transcended that era and is quickly showing the audio industry that they are a formidable force, ready to engage with even the most demanding audio enthusiast.
KLH wanted the original Model Five to represent their best efforts to make the highest level of performance available in a speaker system of reasonable size and cost. They achieved this by combining a wide frequency range, low distortion, and exceptionally uniform response across the audible frequency range.
The Model Five offered amazing low frequency and power handling capabilities of all KLH bookshelf size speaker systems in an Acoustic Suspension design (which is something KLH helped pioneer back in the 1950’s). Its high frequency response and dispersion provided the impression of an open, completely unrestricted sound source, with full musical definition of even the most complex and demanding orchestral material.
In addition, the model five only demanded 25 watts of power per channel, which is well within the capabilities of both tube and solid-state amplification. 53 years later not much has changed as the Model Five returns with its aesthetic heritage of the past, however, this time the engineering team made sure they used the most current technology available to create something truly enchanting while still utilizing the acoustic suspension design.
The African mahogany veneer, the old-world linen grille cloth, and the styling used for the input panel, and logo are all based on the original (even the packaging artwork is based on the original). The avocado green used on the carton and manual is based on the color trends that were popular at the time the originals were released. KLH wanted to have fun with the project but at the same time looking at it from the standpoint of how Henry Kloss would have envisioned a Model Five in the year 2021.
This drove the engineering team to add much to the level of attention to detail on the units, including the riser-base, which makes It quite debatable on whether the new Model Five should be called a stand mount or floor stander because of its actual size.
It’s sort of in between the two platforms.
KLH designed the drivers & network using all the modern techniques and equipment (which have come a long way) to really optimize the performance of the individual components, which include a one-inch aluminum dome tweeter, a four-inch paper cone midrange driver and a 10-inch paper-cone woofer.
The crossover design is quite simple and straight forward. Designed with the end user in mind to create a seamless transition between crossover points.
The attenuation knob is also a carryover from the original Model Five. KLH changed its functionality so it would be more useful in taming difficult room acoustics. The attenuator decreases output above 400Hz. Basically the “Hi” setting is the default, or normal “0dB” setting, “Mid” is -1.5dB, and “Lo” is -3dB. Depending on how your room is treated will dictate where you want the attenuator to be set. The effect of the attenuation switch is very subtle at only (1.5dB). You may not immediately notice it with music, however, too much attenuation will change the voicing of the loudspeaker. Although, ranges above 400hz are mostly instrument and voice fundamentals, so it tends to only affect harmonics.
The bass was one of the biggest takeaways of this speaker.
I asked Kerry, the lead engineer, why this speaker has so much beautiful bass from a sealed design and why KLH didn’t go with a bass reflex design (what most companies are doing).
Kerry explained that the main difference between a sealed and bass-reflex enclosure is in how they behave below the low frequency cutoff of the loudspeaker. Generally, bass-reflex designs have good output down to their tuning frequency (which is typically around 40Hz on average). Below that frequency their output falls off a cliff. Typically, a bass-reflex attenuates at 24dB per octave below cutoff. In an acoustic suspension design the output above cutoff isn’t typically as strong as a bass reflex design, but its attenuation rate below cutoff only falls off at half the rate, or 12 dB per octave. That provides a lot of useful output at low frequencies, especially considering that more modern recordings use the frequency band below 50Hz far better than just 20 years ago.
Frequency Response: 42Hz – 20,000Hz +/- 3dB
Low Frequency Extension: -10dB @ 32Hz
In-Room Sensitivity: 90.5dB @2.83V / 1M
Free-field Sensitivity: 87.5dB @ 2.83V / 1M
Power Handling: 200 Watts / 800 Watts Peak
Recommended Amplification: 20 Watts to 200 Watts
In-Room Maximum SPL: 112.3dB
Impedance: 6 Ohms (3.5 ohm minimum @140 Hz)
Horizontal Dispersion: 140° Degrees
Three-Position Acoustic Balance Control Crossover Frequency: MF: 380Hz (2nd Order Electro-Acoustic) HF: 2,850Hz (2nd Order Electro-Acoustic)
High-Frequency Driver: 1" Aluminum Dome with Soft Rubber Suspension
Mid Frequency Driver: 4" Pulp-Paper Cone with Reverse Roll Rubber Suspension
Low-Frequency Driver: 10" Pulp-Paper Cone with Reverse Roll Rubber Suspension, 2" Diameter Flat-Wire Voice Coil
Enclosure Material: Structurally Reinforced ¾" Medium Density Fiberboard
Inputs: Five-Way Gold-Plated Binding Posts
Height: 34.25" (87.0cm) w/ Included Riser Base 26.0" (66cm) w/o Riser Base Width: 13.75" (35.0cm)
Depth: 13.0" (33.0cm) w/ Included Riser Base 11.5" (29.2cm) w/o Riser Base
Weight: 44Ibs. (20.0kg) w/o Riser Base 52Ibs. (23.6kg) w/ Included Riser Base
Included Accessories: 5° Slant Riser Base
How does it Sound?
These speakers are a music lover’s dream speakers.
The detail and soundstage are on-par with some of the best if not the best speakers I’ve ever heard.
They image beautifully and effortlessly.
It feels like they were truly meant to interpret exactly what the artist had intended. The bass is deep and raw. Providing the listener with a full range experience without it technically being a full-range loudspeaker. The transition between the crossover points is completely natural and smooth. There is so much clarity to the midrange and treble adding so much life and energy to whatever you are listening to.
Overall, these speakers not only reminded me of that classic mid-century vibe, but they performed well beyond speakers within their same price class as well as punched well above their competition. To be completely honest, these speakers may have ruined it for many other speakers in their category for me since I feel like KLH has set such a high standard for sound through the Model Five.
Check out the video review:
If you are interested in buying the KLH Audio Model Five's click HERE!