Your response to the initials KLH will likely be largely dependent upon your age and when you became interested in hi-fi. If you’re older than me (50), you remember Henry Kloss’ company as one that produced higher-end speakers in the 60’s and 70’s such as the various Twenty series and even electrostatic panels. If you’re younger than me, you might have a less positive association with the brand, remembering them as an economy brand of small speakers and headphones from the 80’s.
Resurrecting any moniker can be a difficult task, but some very innovative and eager folks have decided to do just that, and to bring back the brand’s once revered name. Much ado was made when the new KLH company’s Kendall floorstanding speakers were released. I’ll admit, when I first heard them, I too was very impressed. However, I saw beyond just that offering, and became very excited about a growing product line that included a couple of bookshelf speakers and a new subwoofer. This was where my interest instantly fell as I was shown around at the KLH room at the AXPONA show.
Ames Bookshelf Speakers
While I got to hear a couple speakers that were connected at AXPONA, my eyes drew to a tiny pair of speakers at the back of the room that were only being shown, but not played. Now, I’m normally a huge skeptic of really small speakers, but these small white cubes were some of the most stylish and attractive little speakers I’d ever seen. I had to know if they sounded as good as their larger counterparts.
Not much later, my demo set showed up and I would find out for myself. I admit, I remained skeptical even as I unboxed the Ames. Sure, they looked great, but they were… tiny. I don’t like tiny speakers. I hooked them up in place of my Mission 775 towers. Yes, seriously, there they went, smaller than the stands I was putting them on, replacing my beloved tower speakers. Here we go!
Not to be particularly gentle, since the pair I received were already broken in, I put in the Tedeschi Trucks Band album Signs. It was within grasp and seemed a great introduction to the Ames.
I was immediately astounded.
Here were an (dare I say it) almost micro set of bookshelf speakers that instantly gave me the presence, imaging, detail, and even the force of bigger speakers. If I closed my eyes, I’d swear I was hearing something much larger. I was hooked. At this point, I only had them set up in my master bedroom, just to hear how they sounded. Now I have them set up in my listening room with the KLH Windsor 10 subwoofer, and I am even more impressed. Let’s get right down to it.
Let me start with what the Ames is. It’s a sealed two-way speaker with a 4” mesh woofer and dome tweeter. I’m already finding that not having a port was a fantastic choice for this design. The Ames is an amazingly accurate and responsive speaker with so many of the characteristics of its larger siblings. I also find it to be very room-friendly, imaging remarkably well whether I have them toed in or positioned straight into the room. However, it’s really the sound that makes these speakers what they really are- addictive.
Right now, I’m listening to Eric Clapton’s Pilgrim disc from 1998, and the KLH Ames make this disc sound very fresh. Clapton’s voice sits perfectly in the middle of the room, while instruments sound large and deep in the mix. Backing vocals paint a larger picture in “River of Tears.” In “Broken Hearted,” the Ames effortlessly bring out all the detail in the percussion that is layered in this track. To further my point on the level of detail, there is the crackle of a vinyl record in the beginning of track 5, “Circus,” that comes out beautifully here. I’m going to come back to this song in part two of this review, because the bass in this song really makes the Windsor 10 subwoofer work its magic. I’m finding that this disc does a lot with instruments panned hard left and right, as well as throwing sounds back-and-forth across the channels. The Ames create an almost studio-like soundstage. For their size and very modest $379 price point, these speakers outperform many two-way and three-way designs that I’ve heard at several times the cost.
While listening to Pilgrim, I found that the Ames brought out acoustic instruments very nicely, so I dipped into my collection for something folksy. Liege and Lief, the classic album from Fairport Convention will do wonderfully. As I suspected, acoustic guitars and mandolins sound very live, breathing new air into this 1969 release. Skipping up to track 3, “Matty Groves,” Sandy Denny’s haunting vocals flow creamily over Richard Thompson’s guitar. I find it impossible to listen to “Tam Lin” at anything other than a loud volume. The Ames are a speaker that you can listen to all day without ear fatigue. They’re just a downright pleasure.
Windsor 10 subwoofer
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you likely know a couple things about me- I’m hyper-critical of subwoofers, and I’m not a bass-head. So, when KLH sent me their new sub, I was anxious to hear it, but skeptical as always. For me, a sub has to be musical above anything. Would the Windsor sound as good as their full-range speakers?
As I unboxed it, I was immediately pleased with the aesthetics of the Windsor 10. It’s one of the nicer looking subs I’ve seen in a long time. Not just a plain black box; KLH incorporated curves and woodgrain into the front-firing box. OK, awesome! But how does it sound?
I went for my standard wall-shaking demo disc, Blue Tofu’s bass-rich debut from 2001. I hate to reuse this expression, but it bears repeating… Once again, I was astounded!
Not only did the Windsor 10 hit deep and hard, but it remained very balanced with the Ames still, even as the bass hit my chest. Musical? Yes. It does sound very musical. While I can see this sub being very at home in any home theater, it immediately impresses in this configuration.
There are people that think you need a bigger driver than a 10”, or those that believe you need multiple subs in a room to make your life complete. Let me tell you, I was barely pushing the Windsor 10 and it was moving a ton of air in my listening room. The 10” driver was very fast and responsive to the very demanding Blue Tofu tracks. The bass never felt muddy or overwhelming. The fact that this subwoofer is only $299 is incredible.
I said I would come back to “Circus” by Clapton for the low-end review. Here is where the Windsor really shows its musicality. The heavy bass line in this song is enough to move the furniture in this room. The modestly-size Windsor 10 grooves like a much bigger sub. You could buy a bigger, more powerful subwoofer, but why? I’m hearing every note the bass player is laying down with perfect clarity, while feeling it in my whole body. This is what you call bang for the buck.
Wrapping Them Both Up
KLH is making a strong come-back in the audio world with some amazing products that genuinely deserve a spot in your listening spaces. At prices that are beyond reasonable, with a fit-and-finish that is found in much more expensive products, and a sound quality of much higher-end speakers, KLH is a company well worth reinvestigating. Happy listening!
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