Pros: smooth sound; deep bass; work well with different kinds of music; nice walnut cabinets
Cons: too large for some living situations
The KLH Model 5 (sometimes written out as KLH Model Five) is a rare KLH three-way loudspeaker from the golden era of “hi-fi.” Almost all of KLH’s speakers from the late 1950s through the mid-1970s were two-ways, including the famous KLH Model 6 and KLH Model 17. The KLH Model 5 may have been designed to compete with the Acoustic Research AR-3 and AR-3a, which were the large three-way bookshelf beasts of that era.
Each KLH Model 5 has a 10” woofer, two striking gold midrange drivers, and a cone tweeter with a protective screen. The KLH 5’s woofer looks like that of the KLH 6, but it has a heavier magnet assembly than the KLH 6 woofer. The midrange of the KLH 5 is the same driver as the one used full-range in the famous KLH Model 21 table radio. The tweeter may be the same as that of the KLH 6, but it is crossed over at a higher frequency in the KLH 5, relative to the KLH 6.
The KLH Model 5 is a large and fairly imposing speaker. Each one measures about 26” tall x 14” wide x 11 ½” deep and weighs about 42 lbs. The cabinets are finished in real walnut veneer, and the front edges are angled 30 degrees or so toward the outside. The thick front edges are reminiscent of those of the Acoustic Research AR-3a and original Large Advent.
All KLH 5s I’ve seen had knobs, rather than toggle switches, for the three-position midrange and tweeter controls, suggesting a later (by vintage KLH standards) design. According to the Classic Speaker Pages website, the KLH was introduced in 1968, a year or two after the KLH 17, and 10 years after the KLH 6. I’m curious about the extent to which Henry Kloss, co-founder of KLH, was involved in the design of the KLH 5. Kloss had left KLH in 1967 to form Advent Corporation, and he seemed (by that time) to favor two-way designs, as evidenced by the KLH 6 (reportedly his favorite KLH design) and the Advent Loudspeaker, his first speaker with Advent Corporation.
Set-up and Listening.
A pair of KLH 5s recently fell into my hands for restoration, so I thought I’d give them a listen and review. These are some heavy and well-build speakers, though AR-3as weigh still more. I listened to the 5s on 20” stands, about 2 ½ feet from the rear wall and about 8 feet apart. I had Dynaco A-25s, Dynaco A-25s with Datyon soft dome tweeters, KLH 6s and DCM Time Windows on hand for direct comparison.
The KLH 5s weigh substantially more than the KLH 6s, but they aren’t unusually hard to move around if you have a strong back. Speaker wire hook up is via thumb screws similar to those on Acoustic Research AR-3as, KLH 6s, and Large Advents. Not a problem.
When I first fired the KLH 5s up, I listened to Jim Hall’s Concierto CD, a nice ‘70s recording of jazz music featuring of Paul Desmond on saxophone. I had been listening to my Dynaco A-25s before I hooked the KLH 5s up. The sound of the KLH 5s initially struck me as typical of “East Coast” speakers of the era. They were not bright, but the highs sounded fairly extended. They were more similar to the Dynaco A-25s than they were different from them, but there were differences as well. The bass of the KLH 5s sounded like it could extend deeper if it needed to, and the overall sound was a bit slower, warmer and more relaxed than that of the Dynaco A-25s. The Dynaco A-25s imaged a bit better and provided a bit more air around cymbals. They also presented microdynamics (subtle volume changes within the music; drum hit transients, etc.) a bit better. The KLH 5s sounded remarkably neutral and enjoyable on Jim Hall’s acoustic guitar, and bathed it in a sort of golden glow. Overall, the KLH 5s were a little more “relaxing” and mellow, with deeper bass extension, while the Dynacos were a little more “accurate,” with slightly better microdynamics and air. Neither sounded ”better.”
Of course, I had to switch in the KLH 6s to see how the KLH 5s compared to their slightly smaller two-way older brother. The sound of the two was remarkably similar on Concierto, but I’d have to say the KLH 5s “out-KLH 6ed” the KLH 6. That is, they were a bit more relaxed, effortless, and mellow-sounding, relative to the KLH 6s. The KLH 6s sounded like KLH 5s with just a hint of Dynaco A-25 thrown in. There was a tiny bit more brightness and matter-of-factness with the KLH 6.
On an EMI Classics recording of Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopin Nocturnes, the KLH 5s sounded very clean and emotionally evocative. The plink of Rubinstein’s piano was presented well, and the age of the recording wasn’t an issue. When we switched to my “Customs,” which are really just Dynaco A-25s with Dayton soft dome tweeters, the sound was even more articulate in the high end, and the sense of space was increased, but a bit of the body of the piano was lost. Dynaco A-25s sounded similar to the Customs but with a little more upper midrange energy. We liked the Customs and the KLH 5s best on this recording.
On a CBS vinyl recording of Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic playing Saint Saens’s 3rd Symphony (the “Organ Symphony”), the KLH 5s did a nice job. They added more bass to the contribution of my M&K subwoofer than did my Customs, and the sound of the orchestra was generally quite smooth. However, the strings as presented by the Customs with the Dayton tweeters were even smoother. When we switched to DCM Time Windows on the Saint Saens, the sound was more dynamic, but no more or less “effortless” than with the KLH 5s. Overall, the presentation by the KLH 5s of large scale classical music was quite respectable. They sounded a tad restrained and polite but very much in control. And the bass extension was as good as anything in my house at the time. I didn’t have my AR-3as on hand for direct comparison (AR-3as are famous for their deep if sometimes slightly loose bass).
On Keith Jarrett’s Standards Live, with Gary Peacock on bass and Jack DeJohnette on drums, the sound of the KLH 5s was excellent, and we had no desire to switch to the other speakers. Jarrett’s piano had nice plink without sounding too bright, and Peacock’s bass sounded deep and full. DeJohnette’s cymbals were a little splashier than with the Customs, but the overall effect was really pleasing. When we switched to the KLH 6s, the sound was very similar, but with a little more treble energy and just a touch less of a sense of ease and relaxation.
I’ve really enjoyed listening to the KLH Model 5s. I think they are excellent speakers overall, with a slightly reserved sound and an excellent sense of control. Their bass extension and control is also noteworthy.
I should mention that all of our listening was done with the speakers driven by a 17 watt per channel Fisher tube amplifier. I’ve read that Acoustic Research AR-3as are “power hungry,” and that you need relatively high powered solid state amplification to get them to really open up and sing. I’m not sure if the same is true of the KLH Model 5s, but it’s possible that with high power solid state amplification, the 5s would be more dynamic and open in the highs. However, I’m addicted to tubes right now, and I was perfectly satisfied with the sound of the KLH 5s driven by 17 tube watts per channel. At no time did the speakers sound strained, even when we were listening to Saint Saens at fairly high volume. KLH Model 5s are another vintage speaker that I could live with as my main speakers without reservation.
Associated equipment used in the writing of this review: NAD 521BEE CD player; Kenwood KT-7300 tuner; AR ES-1 turntable with Shure M97xE cartridge; NAD 1020 preamplifier; Fisher X-100B tube integrated amplifier; Dynaco A-25 loudspeakers; Dynaco A-25 loudspeakers with Dayton soft dome tweeters; KLH Model 6 loudspeakers; DCM Time Window loudspeakers; M&K V-2B subwoofer.
Thanks to wsmunch for adding the KLH Model 5 to the Epinions database!