September 02, 2008
| by EH Staff
In the beginning there was Klipsch. Well, if not quite the beginning it was in 1946 when Paul W. Klipsch founded the company that bears his name in Hope, Arkansas.
His very first speaker, the Klipschorn, was so good it’s remained in continuous production to this day, and sales over the last few years are on the upswing!
With the Palladium Series the company ventured into a new higher-end strata.
Years in development, Klipsch project engineers working in the company’s technology center in Indianapolis, Indiana, collaborated on the project with engineers in Hope, Arkansas; Munich, Germany; and Guangzhou and Shenzhen, China.
The new speaker forgoes Klipsch’s traditional, square-edged aesthetic; for the Palladium project the company enlisted the talents of BMW DesignworksUSA in Los Angeles, California. Right—they design some of BMW’s cars and that explains the three bass-enhancing ports gracing the rear flanks of the speaker. The ports really do lend an automotive look to the Palladium P-39F. Vrroom!
The boldly curved speaker’s “boat tail” shape is distinctive as all get out and the rounded cabinet’s interior quells resonance that would muddy the sound. Those curved sides are made from seven ply, constrained layer, composite laminate wood panels, and the front baffle is reinforced with steel. It’s a large speaker, 56 inches tall and 24.75 deep, but it doesn’t seem as imposing as some statement designs.
The Palladium’s zebra grain veneers come in your choice of three finishes, Natural, Merlot, and Espresso (the wood is sourced from protected forests).
The 165 pound speaker rests on an aluminum and steel plinth/base; which reminds me, the P-39F’s speaker cable connectors are stealthily concealed within its bottom panel.
With the grilles removed it’s easy to see the P-39F is a very different type of speaker. Like every Klipsch ever made the new flagship is a “horn loaded” design. That is, the speaker’s .75-inch titanium tweeter and 4.5-inch aluminum midrange drivers are set into Tractrix horns that precisely control the drivers’ dispersion, lower distortion and increase the driver’s efficiency compared to direct radiating drivers mounted on a speaker’s baffle. The three heavily dished 9-inch, three layer aluminum/Rohacell/Kevlar hybrid woofers pump out the P-39F’s bass. Oh boy, do they ever.
The engineers set out to make the drivers the company’s very best ever, true statement designs. Each pair of speakers’ drivers is matched to extremely tight tolerances, and each P-39F gets shipped with a complete set of testing and quality control documents. And just like the granddaddy Klipschorn and the professional cinema speakers, the Palladiums are hand-assembled and tested in the company’s Arkansas facility. Same as it ever was.
The P-39F isn’t the sort of speaker that I have to struggle with to describe its sound. They’re serious rock and roll animals, sounding better and better when I cranked the Black Keys’ Attack & Release CD to the max. The P-39Fs’ freewheeling dynamics unleashed the Akron, Ohio guitar and drums duo’s heavyweight grooves, so I as much felt them as heard them.
Sure, that’s expected with big speakers, but the P-39Fs sound even bigger than they are. Bass is meaty and solid, yet as clear and concise as the midrange and treble. Oh, and before you get the impression these bad boys have to be played at lease-breaking volume levels to sound their best, I found them to be exceedingly accomplished at hushed, late night volume as well.
The focused directivity of the horn tweeter and midrange drivers minimize floor and ceiling reflections that would smear the sound, so the imaging is razor sharp. Eric Marienthal’s alto saxophone on Mike Garson’s Jazz Hat CD was incredibly believable. It sounded full size, and when Marienthal cut loose and wailed, the P-39Fs didn’t hold anything back. These speakers really let you can really feel the improvisational power of the music.
Some horn speakers are saddled with a “cupped hand,” boxy coloration, but I hear none of that with the P-39F. Vocals sounded very right, very human and natural. The big Palladium serves up oodles of detail and resolution, without a hint of that aggressive, in-your-face sound that can wear thin after a few hours of listening. No, the sound is incredibly pure so the speaker has an ease that makes normal hi-fi considerations beside the point.
The Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s basses and cellos on Romeo and Juliet SACD communicated their fulsome presence in the concert hall. The P-39F’s low-end may not be the most exquisitely defined bass on the block, but it never runs out of steam. The three woofers compress and rarefy a lot of air and they’re ready for anything.
The bass is something of a contrast to the uptight, overly controlled bottom I hear from some high-end speakers. Klipsch claims the P-39F can effortlessly accommodate 1000-watt-per-channel amplifiers, and based on my experiences exploring the speaker’s performance envelope with my 400-watt Parasound Halo JC-1 amps, I have no reason to doubt the speaker’s abilities in that department.
We’re looking at the P-39F tower speaker here, but the Palladium Series also includes a full complement of home theater models. The somewhat smaller P-38F and P-37F floorstanders, P-17B bookshelf speaker, P-27C center channel, P-27S surround speaker and P-312W subwoofer. Complete Palladium 5.1 systems start at around $15,500.
Home theater may be a relatively new market for most high-end speaker manufacturers, but it comes naturally to Klipsch. It doesn’t hurt that the Palladium Series designs share technology with the company’s professional cinema horn speakers in your local multiplex. Those are huge things, but Klipsch does occasionally sell the pro cinema horns for use in really large home theaters. But while those behemoths are meant to be hidden behind a screen, the Palladiums deserve to be seen as well as heard.
PRICE: Palladium P-39F, $20,000
CONTACT: 800.554.7724, klipsch.com