The KLH Model 22s were another vintage speaker that kind of snuck up on me. Everyone knows about the famous KLH Model 6, and a lot of people enjoy their KLH Model 17s, but I'll bet there are vintage speaker lovers out there who know nothing about the KLH Model 22. When I stumbled on them at the shop of an eBay seller who specializes in audio equipment, I thought they were KLH Model 24s, a speaker I had reviewed favorably in the past.
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But a quick look at the back revealed them to be KLH Model 22s. They had the high quality thumb screws of many loudspeakers of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and no treble adjustment switch. An internet search revealed that they had been introduced in 1968 at a retail price of $55 each, and that they were nominally 8" two-ways, but beyond that, there wasn't much information out there.
My measuring tape revealed what I had suspected: They are 18" tall x 10 1/4" wide x 7 1/2" deep, exactly like the KLH Model 24s. They are finished in real walnut veneer, and come with light brown or beige grilles, also exactly like the KLH Model 24s.
So do they sound like KLH Model 24s? Not exactly. What I heard when I fired up the KLH Model 22s was a remarkable smoothness through the midrange, coupled with tight and punchy bass. They reminded me of KLH Model 6s, though of course with less bass (the upper bass of the Model 22 is perhaps a bit tighter than that of the KLH Model 6, a much larger speaker) and less overall warmth. The brightness that I associate with the KLH Model 24 was simply not there in the KLH Model 22.
The more I listened to the Model 22, the more I found myself listening to the music, rather than the speaker, and this is a real compliment. The highs sound like they roll off above 14khz or so, but this doesn't undermine the 22's ability to make cymbals in jazz music sound smooth and realistic. And the bass probably rolls off below 65 hz or so, but I still get enough visceral impact from the mid-bass to make rock and jazz music sound convincing (at moderate listening levels of course).
I ultimately decided to take a single KLH Model 22 to my office and use it with my KLH Model 21 radio, and it remains there today. The KLH Model 21 is a great little radio, but with a single Model 22 hooked up to the RCA output on the back of the radio (and the radio speaker off), the sound is much fuller, cleaner, and more satisfying. Plus it plays surprisingly loud considering that the little KLH radio probably can't put out more than a watt or two.
At this point, I'd better do a little thinking out loud. Basically, what I'm trying to resolve is this: Are KLH Model 22s just KLH Model 24s with a different model number? Or are they actually different speakers? Since I wrote my review of the KLH Model 24, I have learned that they (the 24s) came in at least two versions. One version has RCA jacks, rather than thumb screws, on the backs of the speakers. These 24s were presumably part of the Model 24 "system" that KLH sold in the late 1960s, which included a turntable (Garrard, I think), tuner, amplifier, and the speakers. But most of the KLH Model 24 speakers I've seen are the "standard" version with thumbs srews on the back. If KLH had the KLH Model 24 system, and already marketed similar speakers as the Model 22, why did they deem it necessary to also market KLH Model 24 speakers?
Could they be slightly different? I've listened to several pairs of KLH 24s and have always found them to be satisfying but a bit bright. But there has been some variability in the sound, with some KLH 24s sounding a bit smoother and others sounding a bit brighter. Could this variability be due to varying degrees of the speakers' crossover capacitors getting old and tired? I've only listened to one pair of KLH Model 22s. Could it be mere concidence that I stumbled on a pair that had the characteristic KLH sound but with the usual Model 24 brightness absent?
If there are differences between the KLH Model 22 and the KLH Model 24, I suspect they are in the crossovers, as the drivers and cabinets appear to be identical. If anyone has any information in this area, I invite their comments. I am still working on a couple of pairs of KLH 24s, and can open them up and peek at the crossover components, but I'm not opening up my 22s--they're done.
Another note about the KLH Model 22s: The woofer surrounds of these speakers are made of some kind of treated cloth, and therefore do not need periodic "refoams," as do the surrounds of speakers from Advent, Acoustic Research (in some cases), and others. If you find a pair of KLH Model 22s at a thrift store or garage sale, and it sounds like the woofers and tweeters are working, they will probably continue to work for a long time.
The real wood veneer of these old speakers finishes up beautifully, so it's worth it to lightly sand them down and apply some Orange Oil or Lemon Oil to freshen things up should you stumble on a pair. The eBay/Craigslist price for these speakes is generally about $40/pair un-refinished, and maybe $80/pair refinished. If you find them at a thrift store or garage sale, they can be had for $10 or $20.
To conclude, KLH Model 22s are another diamond in the rough. If they really are "voiced" to be slightly mellower than the KLH Model 24, then I actually prefer the 22 to the 24. These are not speakers to buy for your college-bound teenagers if they are going to be rocking out, as they are probably not designed to play rock music at ear-splitting levels. But if you are looking for small speakers for your den or office, or a single high quality speaker for your vintage KLH radio, the KLH Model 22 would be an excellent way to go.
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