Old Fashioned Sound vs. Newfangled Tech: Klipsch Heresy

Old Fashioned Sound vs. Newfangled Tech: Klipsch Heresy

Aug 22, 2008

We love audio in all its many forms here at Unplggd.gov. Music is something that everyone can relate to in one way or another. Without boundaries or real definition, music can be anything you want it to be. We have talked about many different types of reproduction from gorgeous digital ipod docks to analog vinyl and tapes and today we go into depth on a speaker type you might not be familiar with. It is also one that is generally considered vintage, which means we are employing the green tenet of Reuse.

Some of these old speakers last forever.

Last week a friend introduced us to the wonders of horn speakers- something we have talked about in the past, but mostly from a distance. We have heard them before, but it is different thing to have them lent to you so you can take them home and letch all over them listen to them in your own space and time.

Klipsch, as previously discussed, is a long standing royal in the kingdom of audiophilia. They have been around since the phrase "I bet my dad can lick your dad" meant one's father was tough. They produce some hardcore stuff that generally takes your breath, not to mention your cash, away. We will be talking about the Klipsch Heresy HBR's (circa 1980) this week.

Vintage is a hard issue to talk about on a tech blog because you always expect everything to be new and spaceshippy but there are a few reasons why this is such an easy exception:

  • They are still in production after more than 35 years- buy new ones here.

  • They are retro-cool. Even our Munny thinks so- see below (he does not speak for all munnies, nor does he speak for Kidrobot).

  • You can easily find the vintage models online- ebay and wherever else. There is something special about hunting for old stuff at garage sales and thrift stores.

  • Their age gives them meaning. This is something no marketing magic can manufacture.

  • They have such a unique sound which no one really tries to replicate anymore- one that is really worth listening to.

These speakers use what is called a "horn" to help project the midrange and high level frequencies. Horns look like what you might find on the top of a propaganda truck blaring out the benevolent qualities of a ruler who is about to take all the human rights away from a population. See below:

Essentially they work by increasing the power of the sound by expanding it through an ever-enlarging orifice. In other words; the horn is actually a passive amplifier of the sound. Think 'Trumpet' and you will get the picture. This allows one to use a relatively less powerful amplifier to drive the speakers (compared to the same speakers without the horns.).

The great thing about these is that depending on who you are talking to, they either sound like angelic effervescence or like hollow flatulence. Herein lies the joy of the experience! A better description for the sound could be "woody" and… "vulnerable". There is an honesty to the music that cannot be created from the digital realm. It can be replicated to a certain degree- but only the way a print of Van Gogh's Mulberry Tree can replicate the original ( If you have ever seen the real thing in person, it is quite a shock- give it a try.).

We set them up in the wood floored living room and spun a few records through them. Amplification came from our K-12 tube amplifier which we built here a couple weeks ago.

The sound? We tried a few different approaches. We wanted to see how the music which was popular at the time of manufacture sounded. Level 42's 1984 hit "Something About You" sounded tinny and emaciated, as did Simple Minds' "Alive and Kicking". When a few classical guitar and sitar albums were tried out we discovered a sound that we hadn't really experienced before. It's like nostalgia, distilled. Not because the sound is old, but rather because it is melancholy- like reliving old embarrassment with a humorous eye. The best results were with Dire Straits' "Your Latest Trick" chased by the unknown but suddenly deep "Why Worry". Wow, this is a well recorded album. It's as if the music were being laid upon you like a blanket. So- mixed results but with the high points being higher than previously experienced.

We can't stress enough how right the right music sounds through the Klipsch Heresys. That is perhaps the argument breaker- it's just right and feeling right with the world is all anyone can ask for.

Please, give horns a chance. With the breed on the endangered list, it is worth being a part of protecting the species. Ultimately the goal is reintroduction into the wild but there is work yet to be done. Write your congressperson… and Reuse people!

Related Links:

Klipsch Rock Speakers

Look! The Quadraflex: Eames Designed Speakers

Plywood Headphones by David Burel

Warm Your Office: Natural and Vintage Wood Desks

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