Record collector, New York brand ambassador for Discogs, former DJ and Brooklyn local (by way of England) Lloyd Evans spent four years looking for his perfect pair of Klispchorn after first being exposed to them through the Joy party collective when he arrived in New York City. “[It’s] a magical party that honours and respects the traditions of David Mancuso’s Loft,” said Evans. “I will always remember walking into the room and being struck by the balloons that adorned the celling, the unique styles of the dancers on the floor, but most of all the sound. It was like nothing I had ever heard before.”
Evans related how he spent time speaking with friends in the NYC scene who own Klipsch, reading forums and searching Craigslist/eBay for the right pair, saying he came close on a few of occasions, but would always just miss out. In the end he was able to score a pair of K-horns from an estate sale in upstate New York. “The owner – who I subsequently found out was well known locally for owning a timber company – had them installed in his cinema room. It was clear that he cared for sound as he had Klipsch Heresy throughout the rest of the house and I like to think that he’d be glad they’ve gone to someone who appreciates them. I have all the original paperwork including the price guide at the time, which is geeky but fascinating.”
“Their crystalline and immersive sound reveals the most minute production details and continues to shed a new light on classic tracks in my collection."
Evans said his pair are vintage 1975 and look/sound incredible given their age. “They’re slightly unusual in that they have feet that raise them up off the ground by an extra two inches but other than that, they are stock. If I do make any modifications, the logical thing would be to upgrade to Bob Crites crossovers.” According to Evans, the speakers have had a profound effect on the music he listens to. “Paul Klipsch designed the Klipschorn because he wanted to recreate the sound of a symphony in the living room and there’s been numerous times when I’ve felt that the artist is in the room with me.
“Their crystalline and immersive sound reveals the most minute production details and continues to shed a new light on classic tracks in my collection. For example, I find myself listening to Dexter Wansel’s "Life on Mars" or Alton McClain & Destiny’s "My Destiny" and hearing parts of the arrangement in a completely different light. It’s also influenced the music I buy – I subconsciously prefer certain tracks as I know they will sound even better on my set up.”
Strictly speaking, the design is best expressed as a “bifurcated trihedral exponential wave transmission line” with the floor and walls completing the trihedral corner. Klipsch’s ingenious cabinet configuration, which initially used more than 350 screws to secure the hand-cut boards together, forms the “K-Horn,” which is a diamond shape. The front is a flat wood panel, the rear an exposed point with the top covered in a cloth grille. The driver is situated at the intersection of two adjoining baffles, and the whole chassis tuned to use wall and floor boundaries to extend the range of the folded horn. Looked upon as transformative in the way it utilised the room for more realistic loading, the folded-horn also allowed expression through low frequencies (down to roughly 35Hz) not seen in such a compact design previously.
The basic Klipschorn design – three-way with 15-inch woofer handling bass, horn-lensed compression driver squawker and tweeter handling midrange and treble respectively – has not altered much in seven decades (excepting for the decision in recent years to close the rear of the horn to make the speakers less dependent on full corner placement), but it has seen dozens of tweaks and production-associated component streamlining or replacements. Midrange and treble drivers have all incorporated various manufacturers over the years including Western Electric, JBL, Jensen, Stephens, Electrovoice, Atlas and Eminence to name several. Material use shifted over time as new alloy, plastic and electronic circuitry developments accommodated simplified production processes, improved frequency response, reduced measured distortion or resulted in better sound per design-team listening tests.
This immersive soundfield quality, scale and dynamics of Klipschorns along with their ability to be tucked into corners no doubt contributed to David Mancuso using them in the ‘70s when he launched his world famous Loft parties as mentioned by Evans (if you’ve not been exposed to these legendary get togethers, a great introduction is the 1999 4xLP box set curated by Mancuso and cohort Colleen Murphy available HERE). Klipschorn afforded more dance floor space and their inclusion in the signal path speaks to how far Klipsch’s design migrated through, and cross-pollinated listening styles since their introduction. To go from ‘40s American home-furniture behemoth to disco infiltrator in 30 years is demonstrative of how K-horns became internationally recognized for their musical abilities from one generation to the next. Mancuso’s parties continue today amid strict fealty to the original aesthetic – still using Klipschorn.
Once loaded into the truck and brought back to Los Angeles, Cowie was met with the sad reality that he couldn’t fit them through the front door of his small Venice Beach house. “I called my DJ partner Elijah to tell him what I’d done and asked if I could store them in his guest house until I sorted out a plan… Like a good DJ partner, he agreed and we unloaded them for a proper listen.” Cowie was clear that nothing can prepare a person for the first session with a K-Horn. “It creates one of those rare ‘hi-fi moments’ that you’ll spend the rest of your listening-life chasing. Such was the case for Elijah and I.” It wasn’t long before he sorted out a loft in downtown LA to accommodate the speakers. “Am I the first person who moved just so they could have K-horns? I doubt it,” laughed Cowie. Summing up, he added, “About six years ago I got restless and ventured into Altec-land, but my love of the K-horn remains strong. I'm certainly glad I know where my old pair ended up…”Seven decades is a lifetime in human terms and an eternity in technological longevity. Few other electronic conveniences designed and built 70 years ago are still as relevant now as then. That a loudspeaker created in the time of Eisenhower evokes reverence in 2021 is not necessarily surprising, that it has been rolling off production lines relatively unchanged since before Ike was president is. Garrard turntables, Western Electric amplifiers and QUAD electrostatic speakers, for example, are just as revered and are almost as old – or older – than the Klipschorn, but none have been in continuous production. While some may remark that our current digital age signals an end to massive horn loudspeakers as dematerialised music, wireless/active speaker systems and the mobile-phone-as-source dominate the market. I say that 30 years from now people will still be borrowing a van and rallying friends to help pick up a pair of Klipschorn found online because, “there’s not much time.”