Klipsch Belle loudspeakers | Listening test

24.01.2012..

[Ed.] – The listening test of the Klipsch Belle, a typology of loudspeakers whose high efficiency is a characteristic that divides since ever the audiophile world in detractors and supporters, has been followed by this review about the set-up of the Klipsch Belle.


This is not the first time I amuse myself in describing what I call the “audiophile days”. It happened before when I used to collaborate with paper magazines. The audiophile days are full days where I can bone up on playback music through captivating and involving systems. I mean, very interesting and so well developed systems that they do not require deep and long comments. The listener does not compete with the system, because he realizes quite soon to come across a well-balanced system with a fulfilling and convincing sound. Top systems though, where “top” means not only expensive devices, but also the fact that every single cable, every single piece and every single accessory has a specific reason to stay here: performing at best and performing fine.

Therefore, the purpose of the day is not making comments about the sonic performance of the system, but verifying, with the friends that have come with me, what I call a “path”, that is the thought, the philosophy that have motivated the choices that have been carried out. So, we are going to chat and speculate on the reasons and the “keystones” of such outcome.

 

 

Like all things, also these systems have a beginning, a starting idea.

Previously, there was a pair of Avantgarde Duospeakers. We succeeded in making them perform properly thanks to the shrewd guess of bi-amping and bi-wiring. Today we have another superb pair of speakers: the Klipsch Belle.

This pair has been purchased second-hand in Switzerland by Atelier del Suono, that is not a shop or a dealer, but a gathering spot founded by an enthusiast who, during forty years dedicated to hi-fi and hi-end, has been storing up so many devices that made the head spin also to the most accustomed and inveterate audio fans. Visit his website, no wonder that he is a partner and supporter of ours.

Back to us, we are talking about a pair of very well kept Klipsch Belle. The first listening tests were thought to verify the condition of the components, all originals, which have turned out to be absolutely okay. We have also decided to change the crossover and we bought it in the States from the specialist Crites. We have got an excellent improvement in detail, dynamics and control in the emission of the frequencies.

The initial concern was about the small room, even if in the past other huge speakers, like the Tannoy Westminster, had already appreciate the soundproof room thanks to more or less twenty thousand LPs that cover the walls!

It is clear yet, that the problems were relating to a too direct and intrusive sound emission. We were expecting a very dynamic sound with a lot of presence effect. But it was something else.The first cry of the Klipsch Belle has given birth to great hopes for an amazing output.

 

Since 1971, Paul Klipsch has been making the Belle. Their name is the name of Colonel (Klipsch)’s wife. He earned his rank in the United States Army working in a centre for the development of munitions and bullets based in Arkansas.

Belles are a refined and elegant version of La Scala, with the same components: a 15” woofer with the midhigh range reproduced by two horn-loaded components. The tweeter uses a phenolic diaphragm. The frequency response is from 38 to 17.000 Hz, the sensitivity is 104 dB into 8 Ohms. Following Klipsch’s tradition – the sole exception is the Heresy - the woofer is loaded with a folded horn and can be endorsed to the wall without using the angle: this helps the insertion into the domestic environment.

So we can say that this speaker winks to the domestic hi-fi, without necessary being thought for the wide spaces of the theatres.

 

If this experience has started with the Belle as protagonists, we have to take into account that the pulsing core of the system is the final amplification, better the Western Electric 310A electron tube: a pentode preamplifier tube with third harmonic distortion, which fits with the woofer of the Klipsch Belle that has a second harmonic distortion at 50 Hertz. The Colonel himself used as a reference the Brook 12A Lincoln Walsh monoblocks in push-pull mode, with the 2A3 employing pilot tubes with a third harmonic distortion.

 

Here the description of the system:

ZYX UNIverse –X- SB, ZN pick up (Japan, current): a cryogenically treated MC cartridge with 0,24 mV output and 4 ohms of internal impedance

Fidelity Research 64/S tonearm (Japan, 1980) with Audio Tekne CH7C shell (Japan, current)

Micro RX1500FVG turntable (Japan, 1980-2000) on air, Micro RX1500 flywheel with RY1500DV outer motor and RP1110 pump, everything on Carbon Blocks and different levels

Da Vinci MC Transformer Grandezza step-up (Switzerland, 2008) into 10 ohm and 26 dB of gain

AN Il King MM phono preamp (Italy, 2011)

Da Vinci Grandezza Passive Control passive magnetic preamplifier with super-permalloy transformers (Switzerland, 2007)

Legend 300B Les Realisations de l’Audiophile monoblocks (France, 1992), with W.E. 310A preamplifier tube, Chatam Electronics 5R4WGY rectifier tube and 300B/N Full Music output tube

Klipsch Belle loudspeakers (USA, 1992) with Bob Crites's crossover

Audio Tekne ARA500 signal cables from tonearm to transformer, from transformer to phono preamp and from phono preamp to passive preamp; ART Millennium 6000 from preamp to power amps; ART Millennium 3000 from power amps to speakers.

 

Before starting the listening test, I want to point out that the set-up is the result of a careful evaluation of the delicate gain balances of the single components that make the audio chain, mostly with respect to the analog source, meant as a reference source. To confirm that, when we inserted the Air Tight ATH-1 step-up, which gains 32 dB into 3 Ohms, instead of the Da Vinci, that gains 26 dB, we have obtained a too intrusive sound with a very forwarded scene. More explanatory are, though, the words of the friend Luciano Cavenaghi, that I deeply thank, who commented the day spent at the Atelier del Suono: “I have never been an estimator of the horn speakers. I mean, I appreciate the horn loading of the woofers. The sound is full bodied, fast and keeps that naturalness that no other loading can give. The only inconvenient is that if you need a low frequency, the speaker has to be huge. I cannot stand the sound of the horns for the mid and high frequencies. Except for the Kiom speakers(I definitely exclude all the others, from all nations or whatever price they have), I have never stand the aggressive sounds that characterize the horns. Instead, referring to the system we tested, I had to change my mind. The sound was extremely natural, sweet and delicate but also strong and dynamic when the signal was requiring those features. The Klipsch Belle are about seventy cm. wide and the listening position was at a distance of about three meters. Nevertheless, the speakers disappeared, leaving a marble and deep perspective image. I had been asked about a technical motivation of the sonic result considering the system and its set-up. Like new Bacon, Atelier’s friends have obtained an exalting result through the experience and the experimentation, aside from the purely technical knowledge. I deputize Descartes and convey some rational hypothesis. In the ‘70s and 80’s, Maison de l’Audiophile’s team, composed by people like Jean Hiraga, Chretien and Touselez, in order to obtain a good sound, considered important not the extreme reduction of the distortion but a neat harmonic decay. A practical example: it is better a total distortion of 4,5% composed by distortions of the 3% in second, 1% in third and 0,5% in fourth, rather than a total distortion of 0,5% with a prevalent third harmonic distortion. Because of their nature, the horn speakers distort predominantly in second harmonic: in fact, the diaphragms (both woofer and driver) have different loads on their opposite faces. The central woofer has the horn as a load, and on the back (as with the Belle) a sealed enclosure. The same is for the horns of the midrange and the tweeter: a horn in front and behind a compression chamber. In our system, the presence of a transformer preamp that, due to a hysteresis loop distorts mostly the third harmonic, connected to the Legend power amp (a single-ended 300B driven by a 310A pentode) and other components, has outcome optimally in the harmonic decay field. If that is true and the sonic result I have heard is that one, well, it is a good thing any experimentation in this direction. The question comes up: is it possible to generalize this experience in other cases? It hinges upon the approach. We have not said that this system is the panacea, but that the union of these devices connected with these cables to the Belle was optimal. For the horn speakers a similar approach could be the employ of a push-pull power amp. The push pull configuration if does not eliminate, gradually softens the second harmonic distortions. If a transformer preamp is not available, an adequate choice could be a pentode input stage. With other loudspeakers, it would be interesting approaching the study of one good match for them by watching previously their measurements of distortion”.

 

Luciano hit the nail on the head but it has been so serene in his judgment to admit that, in this specific case, the experience has allowed scientifically demonstrable conclusions. That is quite something.

 

For the listening test, we have played some records of certain audiophile extraction, but also commercial records. The conclusion was the same.

Despite the mass of the Klipsch Belle, dominating in a room with no adequate dimensions, the sound was absolutely balanced in all the parameters that usually are taken as a reference. The frequency response is wide and the range extremes never intrusive or out of control. The midrange is absolutely fresh and open, never too present or forwarded in the scene. The sound image is a very clear window overlooking the plausible musical setting, I would dare to say real. The dynamics is very very pushed but not annoying or ear-drilling. There is so much sonic pressure that you can get it with your ”belly”, with more physical than hearing sensations. Even pumping the volume very up all the particulars of the recordings are homogenous and controlled, never and I repeat never, compressed or overblown. Amazing the recording of the Sheffield Drum Record with Ron Tutt and Jim Keltner or Flamenco Fever: impressive for presence and reality. The tone gives no room to criticism. Just listen to the Steinway piano of Fukamachi to realize that you are facing a system whose strength point is the tonal balance. The Klipsch Belle disappear without closing your eyes. The room fills with music and this happens when we play an LP by Francesco De Gregori, who, everybody knows that, does not pay attention to the recording quality. A long but satisfying audiophile day: thanks to Atelier del Suono, to the Klipsch Belle and to the audio system that was so convincing and natural in its performances to make us forget that we are seating in front of… an audio system.

From YouTube:

Klipsch Museum of Audio History Tour, Part 1of 4

KlipschFan meets PWK Paul Klipsch, Part1


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by Roberto Rocchi
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