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Sunday, March 24, 2019

EAN Audiophile Review!
The KLH Kendall Tower
3-Way Loudspeaker
“Making Mr. Kloss Proud"


Brevis...
Price: $1,299
Likes: sound, price
Dislikes: no complaints here
Wow Factor: how much a pair?
More info: KLH Kendall

by John Gatski
  Sacred brands in audio are bought and sold en masse all the time, but a few years ago there was a business transaction involving the fabled KLH brand. You remember KLH, it was founded by audio deity Henry Kloss (AR, KLH, Advent, Kloss Video Corp. Cambridge Soundworks and Tivoli Audio), who was quite an audio VIP in the 1950s through the 1990s. Long-time audio speaker player David Kelley, who worked for many years at Klipsch, bought the KLH brand and has, subsequently, created a crafty blend of high-value/performance hi-fi speakers that, I believe, Mr. Kloss would be proud of.

The new KLH
  The new KLH has a lot to live up to. Over the years, I owned several pairs of original AR’s, KLH’s and Advents, as well as an AR turntable and the famous KLH Model 8 tube FM table radio. The new KLH, based on my review of the flagship Kendall speaker here, is hitting the target of good sound/great pricing formula created by the original KLH.
 Today, under David Kelley and Co., the new KLH features designed-in-USA, manufactured in China speakers that offer performance that defies the cost. The flagship KLH Kendall reviewed here is an incredible $1,299 retail per pair, and I have seen them as low as $975 on special deals.

  At a street price under $1,000, these towers can do a budget audiophile, or even a picky, high-end audio guy proud. Balanced, smooth and uncolored in its midrange projection, the Kendall has a lot going for it — in terms of price/performance! 

  I met Kelley and his KLH team at the 2018 CEDIA Expo last Sept. and got a chance to listen to the Kendalls and talk to the gang about their new ventures, previous audio biz lives — as well as sample the whiskey that was flowing freely. (Man does not live by sound alone).
  When they fired up the Kendalls with a high-end tube amp and let me sample various bits of Jazz and Classical music, I immediately found the KLH tower nicely balanced — without the cheap speaker crossover bump and soggy mid bass — I often hear in the $1,000-$1,500 range. In fact, after  more listening, I thought the Kendalls sounded quite good, though I thought the tube amp was a tad slow for my taste.
  After my first Kendall listening session, Kelley queried me, asking me “how much do you think these speakers retail for.” I responded with a rather wide swath of price range, estimating a $3,500 to $5,000 range. When Kelley told me the actual $1,299 retail, my jaw dropped. After I left the demo, KLH promised to send me a pair to review.

KLH woofer muscled down to low 30 Hz i n my room.

  A few weeks later, a pair of Kendalls dropped on my door step, and I commenced to testing them for EAN, matching them with high-end solid state amplifiers (Pass Labs, Benchmark, Bryston, an original McIntosh MC275, Mytek Brooklyn Class D) and even a few top-tier home theater receivers from such companies as AudioControl and  Onkyo.
  It did not matter what I powered the KLH towers with, they sounded good with everything. Sure there was some extended refinement with the upper-end amps, but the Kendalls showcased an accurate, balanced speaker sonic impression that nicely fills small to medium listening rooms with good-sounding music. Just like I heard it at the CEDIA demo.

Features
  The three-way, bass reflex KLH Kendall tower speaker features two 6.5-inch Woven Kevlar bass drivers, a 5.25-woven Kevlar mid/bass driver and a “high-performance” 1-inch anodized aluminum tweeter with a linear response faceplate. Each driver sports butyl rubber surrounds and braided, tinsel leads.
  For the money (and then some), the KLH speakers feature real wood veneer made from black oak and American walnut. The MDF construction with custom-designed, internal low-resonance, driver chambers and bracing optimize the acoustic inertness of the cabinet. Sound smearing affects are kept to a minimum.
  Other construction pluses include powder coated, die-cast aluminum driver baskets, with oversized magnets and brushed-aluminum tweeter faceplate and driver fascia.  
  The passive crossover network sports multi-elements with high-grade components to ensure smooth and natural transition between drivers. The crossover points are at 800Hz and 2.5kHz, 12 dB per octave.
  The speakers also include a black satin MDF base for additional mount stability, and chrome plated steel spikes and rubber feet for additional decoupling. The speakers use magnetic-mount grilles that feature a custom honeycomb design. 
  Factory rated specs list a 25 Hz-23 kHz +/-3dB frequency response; Sensitivity, 96 dB; Power handling, 250 watts; Impedance, 8Ω; Dimensions, 40” x 7.75” x 14.75” (H x W x D); Weight, 50 pounds each.

The set up
  I tested the speakers in several home audiophile configurations and the annual Holiday Party for  the DC Hi-Fi Group last December. 
  In my home setup, the Kendalls were matched with a number of amplifiers: Benchmark AHB2, Pass Labs X350.8, Pass XA30.5, Pass INT-60, Bryston 14B-SSTII, Mytek Brooklyn Class D, AudioControl and Onkyo receivers, and my old McIntosh MC275. Preamps included a Benchmark HPA4/line stage (one of the most transparent pre’s in the biz), and my Rogue Audio RP-7 tube preamp.

Aluminum dome is silky smooth in its tone        

  On-duty DACs featured Benchmark DAC3-HGC, Mytek Manhattan II and the Mytek Brooklyn. I  also threw in a turntable audition with my Clearaudio Emotion/with Benz Wood MC cartridge. All cables were from Wireworld and the AC was tethered via power cords and a strip from Essential Sound Products Essence line.
  I placed the Kendalls in my audiophile listening room about 11 feet away from the listening position with speakers toed-in a few degrees and 16 inches from the back wall. Since there is a rear port with available port plug, I did play around with stuffing the port when moving the speakers closer to the wall. I left the grills on initially, but also removed them to compare the covered and uncovered audio difference, if any.

The audition
  First up was the Warren Bernhardt - So Real SACD rip, playing from the Apple Laptop, via the Audirvana player app with the audio fed to the Benchmark DAC3-HGC, which routed its pristine conversion to the Benchmark HPA4 preamp and on to the $13,000 Pass Labs X350.8. I mentioned that amp’s price because ordinarily you would not imagine mating such an amp to a pair of $1,300 speakers. 
  From the first play of the “So Real” title track, the Kendalls revealed how much of an over performer they are. Wide and deep imaging, smooth mid to tweeter crossover, and a taut bass with good extension down to 32 Hz, -2.5 dB, in my room.
  The drum kit rim shots and cymbal brushes, plus  the Steinway piano tone, on “So Real” had a nice sheen to the top end — without the raggedness I have heard from other metal dome tweeter designs. The Kendall duo sounds great on jazz.


Pretty in walnut — KLH Kendall

  On the luscious, organ-drums-jazz guitar recording of The Anthony Wilson Trio - Our Gang, the warm, hollow body jazz guitar, Hammond organ and the laid-back drum persona, was relayed with precision finding the right balance of warm bass-to-treble ratio. The organ’s lower register is the bass, but it did not overwhelm the Kendalls. The top-end presence of this recording came through just fine. For this kind of money, the top end was way more than I expected.
  Moving on to the Joe Pass/Ella Fitzgerald collaboration, Easy Living, from a 1986 ;ive recording, remastered to DSD, Mr. Pass’ excellent, succinct note playing on the Gibson ES-175 guitar and Ms. Fitzgerald’s pleasing vocal range on the album’s jazz vocal standards were delivered with a focused, balanced tone that showed little diminishment when compared to speakers that are thousands more. The vocal clarity and lack of excessive sibilance showed me how serious the Kendall is.
  On the CBS Living Stereo SACD release of SibeliusViolin Concerto In D Minor, Op. 47, performed by Jascha Heifetz (Walter Hendl Chicago Symphony), Mr. Heifitz’s Stradivarius tone  was delivered with the overtones and resonance I come to expect from good speakers. Not quite as fully dimensional as my $10,000 ML Montis electrostatics, but still quite revealing. If you ain’t comparing directly, you fall under the spell of the Kendall quite easily, especially when a pair can be had for under a grand!

 The plump drum tone and ringing rhythm-guitar propel the catchy, late ‘70s/early ‘80s retro tribute tune, “Get Lucky” from Daft Punk in 2013, and it is easily carried by the Kendalls. For such a low-cost speaker, the midrange clarity and top-end succinctness is quite noticeable for a speaker in this price class!

  On Pop music, such as the new reissue/remix of The Beatles - White Album (24/96), the Kendall tower showcases the new mix’s more-forward presentation — with an upscale space impression. Imaging is really good with lots of width and bits of extra guitar, strings, backing vocals and percussion filling out the space in between. And, again, with the speakers well out from the wall, I did not notice any excessive bass bloom in the midbass.
  The 2013 mega Pop hit “Get Lucky” from Daft Punk (the Random Access Memories album) — with that funky Nile Rogers/Chic guitar riff and Pharell Williams lead vocal — was presented in its percussive, dynamic, energetically driven wall of sound. The plump drum tone and ringing rhythm guitar propel the catchy, late ‘70s/early ‘80s retro tribute tune that is carried easily by the Kendalls. For such a low-cost speaker, the midrange clarity and top-end succinctness is quite noticeable for a speaker in this price class. 


Kendall plus other KLH models equal a 7.1 system

  Did I need more proof of how good the Kendall is? In a play-through of a 24-bit/384 acoustic guitar sample cut I recorded several years ago for a converter company, the KLH tandem rose to the occasion. In 2013, I had recorded this three minute, flat-picked guitar ditty on a custom Taylor 810 dreadnaught guitar. It was recorded with a pair of Audio-Technica AT-4041b instrument mics in an X-Y stereo placement, using an Apple laptop, the Audacity recording app and an Antelope Audio mastering A/D converter.
  The stereo mic placement makes the recording bigger sounding, in terms of imaging, for just one instrument. On accurate speakers, it has full width and depth, with a bountiful midrange, an airy, low-treble crispness and a tight bottom end. The intricate, flat-picked notes have snappy transient tone — with lots of complex string-to-body overtones.

  Once again the Kendall’s impressed me with its ability to convey my homebrew 24/384, hi-res acoustic guitar hi-res recording. The balance between slightly crisp and neutral was right there, and the aluminum-dome tweeter produced the high-end attack — without being strident. Just like the Taylor guitar sounds.

  Once again the Kendall’s impressed me with its ability to convey this hi-res recording. The balance between slightly crisp and neutral was right there, and the aluminum dome tweeter produced the high-end attack — without being strident. Just like the Taylor sounds.
  The KLH Kendall’s budget-buster, audiophile character was evident with all my amplifiers. The old McIntosh MC275 was a little softer in the bass than the various MOSFET/bipolar output solid state amps and the Class D Mytek Brooklyn, but the old KT88 tube amp still sounded great through the mid and treble — with a slight softening of drum cymbal transients and upper register piano notes.
  At the DC Hi-Fi Group’s Holiday party in Alexandria, Virginia last December, the audio playback system included the Kendalls and a Pass Labs INT-60; it was quite a match. The Class A-A/B MOSFET amp and Kendalls delivered a very musical character for the various genres of music we played at the party. Plenty of upper-end clarity and bass. On some Pop and Jazz with prominent bass guitar, we noticed a bit of midbass fattening due to the  logistical requirement of keeping the speaker very close to the back wall. The port plug fixed most of this mid bass proximity effect.

Survey says!
  Numerous members commented that they were impressed by the KLH flagship pair. DC Hi-Fi Group Member, and noted speaker builder/reviewer Tom Perazella, remarked that the KLH Kendall was “quite a good-sounding speaker,” and seemed well made.
  With many hours of Kendall listening under my belt, I can positively say this KLH flagship was a pleasure to listen to and to look at. I know some audiophiles criticize Chinese-made audio products, but in reality, the place of manufacture is not as paramount as is good design, quality parts selection and competent assembly.


  The KLH Kendall three-way, floor-standing loudspeaker is attractive, performs as claimed and its price cannot be beat for a full-sized tower. From the casual listener on a budget to the serious audiophile who desires a cost-effective, hi-fi speaker for a small-to-medium room, this tower should be on your short list.

  There are lots of high-end audiophile gear and speakers being built in Asia, in today’s economy, that are excellent choices. Even high-end ones like Revel. You can add KLH to the list of quality Chinese-built speakers. A good speaker is a good speaker. Who cares where it’s built?
  I had not one problem with the tested KLH speaker tandem or any negative. At a street price under $1,000, these towers can do a budget audiophile, or even a picky, high-end audio guy proud. Balanced, smooth and uncolored in its midrange projection, the Kendall has a lot going for it — in terms of price/performance. 
  It can even be used as the L and R in a serious  5.1 to 9.1 home theater set up — adding other KLH models and, maybe, a subwoofer. (Hmm, do I smell another review? Stay tuned.)



The verdict
  The KLH Kendall three-way, floor-standing loudspeaker is attractive, performs as claimed and its price cannot be beat for a full-sized tower. From the casual listener on a budget to the serious audiophile who desires a cost-effective, hi-fi speaker for a small-to-medium room, this tower should be on your short list. It receives our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound and a nomination to the EAN Speaker of the Year list, which will be revealed in December. Way to go, KLH. Henry would be proud of the Kendall.

    John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net







Monday, March 4, 2019

Home Theater Review!
Paradigm Defiance X12 Subwoofer
“15-inch Driver Performance
From A 12-inch Subwoofer”


Brevis...
Price: $1,299
Likes: impact of a 15, ARC
Dislikes: ain’t no way
Wow Factor: I want to buy two
More info: Paradigm X12

by John Gatski
  Subwoofer technology has progressed to the point that smaller subwoofers are now big performers — in terms of clean output level and frequency extension — even from modestly sized enclosures.
  Case in point is the fantastic Paradigm Defiance subwoofer, a 12-inch sub that would put many 15-inch subs to shame a few years ago.
  Take the X12 Defiance reviewed here. This star-performer of a subwoofer offers nearly flat 20 Hz performance at 95 dB plus  level with ultra clean punch, in a box that is not that big, offers Anthem Room Correction (ARC) tuning via PC and smart phone app. — all for $1,299. Dang! For $199 bucks more, it can be run wirelessly.

Features
  The Defiance X12 contains a 12-inch (305 mm), long-drive driver with ART Surround (carbon-loaded polypropylene cone), 650W RMS (1,300W dynamic Peak) Class-D amplifier, control app via smartphone, and Anthem Room Correction (ARC) with Windows PC or smart phone app are included as well. Anthem Room Correction automatically equalizes the bass to tailor the sub’s response to the room. It is one of the best room correction mic/test/adjust apps for speaker applications.


X12 sports full array of connection options

  The key to the performance is the tuned, bottom port cabinet combined with Paradigm’s patented driver that moves much more air than typical 12-inch woofers. Top it off with a powerful, X12 amplifier that sports auto-on/off and improved soft-clipping circuitry, which enables huge dynamic peaks without audible harshness.
  The X12‘s on-axis frequency responseis listed at ±3 dB from 20Hz – 230Hz, which is amazing performance from a box that is under 20-inches deep and wide. The extended, low-frequency measurement is 15 Hz (DIN), though level is reduced at that frequency. Still audible level at 15 Hz is quite impressive in a single-12 inch subwoofer enclosure.

 As a subwoofer, the Defiance X12‘s performance defies its $1,299 retail price. The powered sub's nearly ideal performance/value ratio, for both music and movie watching, makes this subwoofer an instant Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award winner!

  The subwoofer comes in a satin black finish and measures 18" × 19.5 × 18.75" (45.7cm × 49.5 × 47.7cm). The crossover is adjustable from 30 Hz - 120 Hz; the unit and downloadable app contains the phase control: variable 0° - 180.°
  The X12 comes with three RCA (Left, Right, and LFE) for left/right line-out and/or sub-out from receiver/processor or other line-level source, two speaker-level (Left and Right) for input from amplifier or other speaker level source. I still run some  audiophile system speaker/subwoofer setups with speaker level connection, and I applaud Paradigm for still including that feature on some subwoofers.


X12 looks good — with or without grill


  The subwoofer is equipped with one Micro USB port for the ARC™ room correction via Windows computer, as well as firmware updates.The Defiance WT Wireless Kit (sold separately) is $199. It allows you to send the signal from a pre-pro or receiver or smart device without any wires.
  The Defiance Series features six models: from 8-inches to 15-inches: V8 (no ARC) V10, V12, X10, X12, X15) The 8-inch and the 10-inch do not have the ARC, but are also fine performers in small rooms. The 12-inch and 15-inch are perfect for larger rooms where low-bass extension and level are paramount.

The set up
  I placed the Defiance X12 in my typical sub position, left front of the room near the side wall, about four feet from the main speakers, which are the very accurate Westlake Audio Tower 5, Westlake Audio LC 6.25 center channel and NHT One dipole rear surrounds.
  For the electronics, I fired up the Audio Control Maestro M9 pre/pro, AudioControl Savoy multi-channel amp, an Oppo BDP-203 BD player, and a Sony XBR 60-inch LED. All components were plugged in Wireworld with Essential Sound Products Essence II power cords and power strip.


Optimizing the bass via ARC app is a snap

 I set up the Defiance X12, using the ARC app and my Dell Latitude Windows computer. I placed the measurement mic at the listener position, programmed the app and let the software measure and set the bass.
  The ARC does a great job dialing in the accurate bass response. After the ARC sessions, I noted only a 2 dB variance from 30 Hz to 140 Hz in the room, as independently confirmed by my AudioControl analyzer and calibrated microphone.

The audition
  I auditioned the Defiance  X12 mostly as a home cinema subwoofer, and I was quite impressed with how clean and loud this subwoofer reproduced the low end. With test tones, I was getting a shade under 95 dB level at 22 Hz and it was flat at 26 Hz in my room with the ARC tuning. Turning off the ARC, I still got flat, clean and loud response down to 25 Hz.
  An example of the thunderous, yet clean extension of the Defiance X12, was the U571 submarine movie from the early 2000‘s. The depth-charge explosions segment is relentless and a capable sub relays sub-audible, stomach churning room vibrations.

  When the dirty nuke bomb goes off in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan yarn, “Sum Of All Fears,” my roof vent buzzed and rattled. I was astonished that this 12-inch subwoofer could produce this physical boundary effect two floors away.

  My eight-year old Paradigm Sub15 subwoofer from a few years ago set the reference for my room for 22 Hz and deeper, loud bass from that movie. That was from a 15-inch driver and a larger box. The Defiance X12 equaled the loudness and extension of the old 15. When the dirty nuke bomb goes off in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan yarn, “Sum Of All Fears,” my roof vent buzzed and rattled, just like it did with the Sub15 and the Paradigm Prestige 15-inch subwoofer I reviewed a few years ago. I was astonished that this 12-inch subwoofer could produce this physical boundary effect two floors away.


The proprietary XWoofer can move some air

  I also used the Defiance as the primary low bass for two audiophile set ups. Using it in conjunction with my Lipinski L505 stand speakers and Westlake Lc8.1 stand speakers, I drove the main speakers with a Pass Labs X350.8 amp, Benchmark HPA-4  preamp line stage and a Mytek Manhattan DAC.
  With level matching and crossover set between 60 and 80 Hz, depending on speakers, the Defiance X12 created a perfect blend with the stand speakers, allowing the Hi-Res music to go way down in bass to present a full-frequency audio signal with plenty of slam.
  With Classical music organ performances from several Bach SACDs, symphonic kettle drum tympani as well as synthetic bass-heavy Pop and Rock, the overall balance was much more fleshed out using the Defiance.


X Series Stack Attack: Paradigm X10, X12 and X15

  The cannon shots on the thirtieth-anniversary Telarc Eric Kunzel and The Cincinnati Pops 1812 overture were downright subsonic and simultaneous thundering with windows vibrating and in your chest pressure while the midrange and treble were soaring in decibels. I really like this 12-inch sub!!
  I even used the Defiance X12 in my home recording studio, running it speaker level with a Bryston 14B SST-II amp, which was  fed via a Mackie-USA mixer. Perfect balance speaker/sub sound for the mixing of a basic bass, drums and electric guitar combo recording that I was doing a bit of mastering on.
 The sub does not have XLR pro connections, but it was ultra clean, quiet and extended and loud in my set up by using the speaker level conduits. Most pro subwoofers don’t have this level of performance at this price. The X12 is tight, fast, and extended. You have to spend a lot more in the pro world to get this level of performance.

The verdict
  I had zero problems with the Defiance X12. For 90 percent of home theater owners in typical rooms, one of these is all you would ever need. It kicks out loud 25 Hz bass and under in spades, nets you an optional smart phone control app when operating in a wireless configuration, comes with the excellent ARC set up software and is not that large at less than 20 inches squared.



  The Class D amp, the extended motion woofer and tuned box give you a sub whose performance in this size was unheard of 10 years ago. Two of these would be perfect for home cinema or music.
  As a subwoofer, the Defiance X12‘s performance defies its modest price. Its nearly ideal performance/value ratio for both music and movie watching, makes this subwoofer an instant Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award winner and an automatic nominee for Subwoofer of the Year 2019. Yes, it is that good.

    John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net