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Klipsch's Iconic Heritage Speakers, An Expert Explains What You Need to Know

We chat with Roy Delgado, Klipsch's chief acoustic engineer for the last 37 years, who helps us break down the company's iconic Heritage speaker line —which it still makes today.

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Klipsch

Klipsch is one of the most revered American audio companies, with a history dating back to 1946 when Paul Klipsch introduced the first Klipschorn speaker. Since then, the company has grown enormously and expanded into the realms of home theater, headphones and wireless audio, but it also has stayed true to its roots. In 2022, it's still handcrafting its beloved Heritage speaker line out of Hope, Arkansas.

"The Heritage [line] represents the blueprint because those speakers were specifically designed by Paul when he started the company," said Roy Delgado, who's served as chief acoustic engineer for more than 35 years. It started with the Klipschorn in 1946, but in the following decades Klipsch added a number of other speakers to its Heritage line, including Heresy ('57), Cornwall ('59), La Scala ('63) and Forte ('85).

All these Heritage speakers have a signature look; they're made out of high-quality hardwood which is what gives them real old-school flair. They also have a signature sound. Thanks to the horn-loading designs that Paul Klipsch pioneered, the Heritage speakers deliver really lifelike audio. "It makes it like a live experience — it really does," Delgado said. "I remember when I interviewed for Klipsch and I was in a band and I could never get that sound, and then I heard the Klipschorn and the first thing that I told Paul was that it sounds live, it sounds like they are right here, and I had never heard a speaker like that."

Paul Klipsch was a tinkerer who was always looking for ways to improve sound quality, explained Delgado. "He was constantly updating crossovers for the speakers, then was making them available to people who had those speakers so that they could update their speakers." Through the years, Klipsch has refined its driver, cabinet, and crossover designs and incorporated these modern updates into its latest generation Heritage speaker. (For example, the current Heresy IV has the same look and feel as the original Heresy, but improved acoustics.)

If you're interested in buying a Klipsch Heritage speaker today, you can, but you're not alone — Delgado says they are struggling to keep up with orders. "I think what happened was the resurgence of tubes, turntables, the appreciation of two-channel — people coming back to two-channel — and then, in addition, we finally decided to pay attention to Heritage and put some effort back into it," he explained. "It's kind of like the perfect storm."

Klipschorn

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Klipsch

The Klipschorn (commonly referred to as the "K-Horn" or the "corner-horn") is the company's oldest, biggest (not counting the 2022-released Jubilee) and most iconic loudspeaker. It was first sold in 1946 and, as it's still being sold today, holds the unique distinction of being the longest continuously produced speaker in history.

Each loudspeaker is a fully-horn loaded, three-way system — with a 2" midrange, 1" tweeter and a 15" folded-horn woofer — that was meant to be placed in the corner of a room; its unique woofer cabinet design uses the corner walls of a room to reflect sound and extend its low frequency range. The current model of the Klipschorn, the Klipschorn AK6, looks almost identical to original, but it has an updated tweeter and a fully-enclosed woofer cabinet which gives the listener the extra flexibility of not having to place it right in the corner of the room.

As for sound, the Klipschorn delivers a booming and concert-like experience. "When people hear Klipschorn it's kind of a spiritual thing," Delgado explained. "They remember where they were, what store it was, what they played — that's what grabs you: the realism. You don't just hear it, you feel it."

Klipsch Klipschorn AK6

klipschorn speaker
Klipsch


Frequency response: (+/- 4 dB) 33Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 105dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power (Cont/Peak): 100W/400W
Maximum SPL: 121dB Continuous
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms Compatible
Price: $7,499/ea (or $14,998/pair)

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Heresy

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Klipsch

The Heresy was the next loudspeaker that Klipsch came out with after the Klipschorn. Released in 1957, the Heresy was actually originally designed to be used as a center-channel speaker in a system with two Klipschorns. It was built as two-thirds of a Klipschorn, as it had the same horn-loaded midrange and tweeter drivers, but it has a different direct-radiating 12"woofer. "When a friend of [Paul's] saw the Heresy, he said that 'a non-fully horned loaded speaker from Paul Klipsch is heresy'," recounted Delgado. And the name stuck.

The Heresy came out at a time when stereo wasn't big yet, but Paul Klipsch knew it would be because he was already making his own recordings using stereo. "He would load up a Heresy and fly out to dealers to demonstrate what could be done in stereo," Delgado said. "It became kind of a piece of luggage that'd go and demonstrate stereo with dealers who already had one Klipschorn."

The Heresy is an acoustic suspension speaker that has an acutely sealed cabinet. It's also the most compact (and most affordable) loudspeaker in Klipsch's Heritage line, making it extremely popular, too. The big deal with the Heresy IV, the latest version of the speaker, is that it has a ported back, which Klipsch says improves its bass extension by nearly 10Hz.

Heresy IV

heresy speaker
Courtesy
Frequency response: (+/- 4 dB) 48-20k +/-4dB
Sensitivity: 99dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power (Cont/Peak): 100W/400W
Maximum SPL: 116dB Continuous
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms Compatible
Price: $1,499/ea (or $2,998/pair)

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Cornwall

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Klipsch

Originally released in 1959, the Cornwall is essentially a larger and more full-range version of the Heresy. It's a three-way loudspeaker with the same horn-loaded midrange and tweeter drivers as Heresy. And it also has a direct-radiating woofer, like Heresy. But Cornwall's woofer is bigger (15" versus the Heresy's 12") and it's ported out the front.

This vented system design helps the Cornwall be very efficient at the low-end, according to Delgado, so that it can deliver crisp and powerful bass without compromising the sound out of the midrange and the tweeter. The resulting bass is not quite on par (in terms of with the immediacy and the dynamics) that you get from a horn-loaded woofer like on a La Scala or Klipschorn, but it's definitely impressive when matched up against the Heresy.

The most current version of the Heresy, the Heresy IV, was released in 2019 and it boasts an updated midrange driver, updated ports (for even more punchy bass) and updated crossover networks.

Cornwall IV

cornwall speaker
Klipsch
Frequency response: (+/- 4 dB) 34Hz - 20kHz
Sensitivity: 102dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power (Cont/Peak):100W/400W
Maximum SPL: 119dB Continuous
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms Compatible
Price: $2,999/ea (or $5,999/pair)

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La Scala

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Klipsch

The next step down from the Klipschorn is the La Scala. First released in 1963, the La Scala really started off as a PA speaker. "Paul designed the La Scala for them to put on top of a car to help Nelson Rockefeller run for governor in the state of Arkansas," Delgado explained. "And then some people just liked the size of it and actually a lot of bands would buy them and use them as a PA."

The La Scala are actually very similar to the Klipschorn. Each loudspeaker is a fully horn-loaded, three way system that has the same exact midrange horn and driver and same tweeter horn and driver as the Klipschorn. The woofer driver is also the same, but the low-frequency horn is shortened on the La Scala so it can't achieve the same levels of bass. A La Scala is basically a Klipschorn "that doesn't go as low," according to Delgado.

The La Scala has been updated a little bit with time. The latest model, the La Scala A5, has been updated with a more modern crossover network, the same new tweeter as the updated Klipschorn, and it has a slightly thicker high-frequency cabinet to reduce resonances.

La Scala AL5

la scala speaker
Courtesy
Frequency response: (+/- 4 dB) 51Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 105dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power (Cont/Peak): 100W / 400W
Maximum SPL: 121dB
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms compatible
Price: $4,999/ea (or $9,998/pair)

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Forte

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Klipsch

The Forte is one of the newest and most popular loudspeakers in Klipsch's Heritage line. Released in 1985, the Forte is a three-way loudspeaker that sits between the Heresy and the Cornwall — it's taller than the Heresy and thinner than Cornwall — and is kind of the perfect storm (in terms of sound quality, size and price) for hi-fi enthusiasts.

The big thing with the Forte is that it has a rear-mounted 15" passive radiator — the only speaker in Klispch's Heritage to have it. According to Delgado, an engineer named Gary Gillum came to work for Klipsch and introduced them to this different way of venting a speaker, which gave the Forte extra kick. "What they did [is] they took the midrange horn of the Heresy, the tweeter horn of the Heresy and developed a higher sensitivity higher-efficiency woofer," said Delgado. " And now we are able to place [the Forte] in between Cornwall and the Heresy."

The most current version of the Forte, the Forte IV, has pretty much the same design as the original, but has been updated with modern crossover networks.

Forte IV

forte speaker
Klipsch
Frequency response: (+/- 3 dB) 38Hz – 20kHz
Sensitivity: 99dB @ 2.83V / 1m
Power (Cont/Peak): 100W / 400W
Maximum SPL: 116dB Continuous
Nominal impedance: 8 ohms Compatible
Price: $4,500/pair

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The New King: Jubilee

speakers in living room with two chairs
Klipsch

The Jubilee is the new flagship Heritage speaker that Paul Klipsch started working on before he died in 2002. Twenty years later, the Jubilee is finally here and it's unlike all of Klipsch's other Heritage speakers. (The Jubilee is set to launch in late-April 2022.)

The Jubilee is a two-way — not a three-way — fully horn-loaded loudspeaker, which (if done properly) can deliver a cleaner, more balanced sound. In fact, according to Delgado, Paul Klipsch originally designed the Klipschorn to be a two-way speaker, but was unable to do so because of technology restrictions from decades ago and thus gave it a tweeter to extend the top end. "I tell people the Jubilee has all the tricks we know," said Delgado.

For the low end, the loudspeaker packs dual 12” woofers with three 4” ports in a patented horn-loaded vented enclosure. For the midrange and high ends, it has an all-new 7" horn compression driver. It has an active crossover network and a built-in digital signal processor (DSP) and equalizer. And, according to the company's press release, each component has been "specifically optimized to operate in its individual pass-band, making it one of the most efficient loudspeakers on the planet."

      Paul Klipsch had always planned on calling the Jubilee the "Klipschorn 2," but everything changed when he heard an early prototype of the speaker. "He heard it and was shaking his head." Delgado, who thought something was wrong, recalled. "He said we can't call it a Klipschorn 2 — [because] it was better than the Klipschorn. Now, the Klipschorn was his baby," said Delgado. "For Paul Klipsch to say that — I was floored. "

      Jubilee

      jubilee speaker
      Klipsch
      Frequency response: 18Hz – 20kHz
      Sensitivity: Avg. Sensitivity of HF - 110dB; Avg. Sensitivity of LF - 107dB
      Power (Cont/Peak): LF - 300W / 1200W; HF - 100W / 400W
      Maximum SPL: 125 dB/1m (Using DSP)
      Nominal impedance: LF - 8 ohms, minimum 3.5 ohms at 160Hz; HF - 16 ohms, minimum 7.6 ohms at 4.3kHz
      Price: $35,000/pair

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