- Manufacturer & Model
- KLH Kendall Floorstanding Loudspeaker
- $649.99 each
Crisp, clear imaging and an engaging soundstage
And they perform well in locations where other speakers often do not fare as well
The KLH Kendalls have a refined treble range that seems perfect for natural acoustical instruments. They are handsomely finished and versatile and will complement any decor.
The KLH Kendall is a three-way bass-reflex tower speaker with two 6.5-inch woven Kevlar bass drivers, one 5.25-inch woven Kevlar mid/bass driver, and one 1-inch anodized aluminum dome tweeter. Crossover frequency points are at 800 Hz and 2.5 kHz. The 25 Hertz low frequency cutoff spec caught my eye. That is deep bass for a tower of this type.
There are two tuning ports on the back of each tower, and a foam port plug is supplied allowing for reduction of bass frequencies if one’s room calls for it. The enclosure is blockish and simple. The wood veneer finish I received was Black Oak. This is a straightforward yet handsome finish that will work in a home theater setting where reflections from glossy speaker surfaces are to be avoided. The cabinet design is solid, with minimal panel vibrations while in use.
There are two pairs of five-way binding posts on the rear of each speaker, allowing for bi-amplification with the crossover shorting straps removed (I did not test this), or standard one-channel-per-speaker amplification with the straps installed. The binding posts come with plugs that prevent the insertion of standard banana plugs, since there are countries with AC power connectors that are a similar size and shape. The plugs can be pried out easily with a screwdriver or needle-nosed pliers by the end user.
With sensitivity specified at 96 dB and a power rating of 250 watt, the Kendalls are made to deliver serious sound pressure levels.
The Kendalls arrived well-packaged and protected, with a base plate installed and with optional spikes if needed. The towers were easy for one person to unpack and set up. Magnetic latching grille covers are also supplied.
The Kendalls were tested in seven configurations in my listening room: (#1) at the front wall with zero toe-in, (#3) at the front wall with toe-in straight at the listener, and (#5) away from the wall at the ideal listening position for soundstage and imaging (SS&I). Each position was tested without (#1, 3, 5) and with (#2, 4, 6) front wall absorptive treatment, and in the final test position (#6) with the addition of Dirac Live room correction (#7).
Measurements are at the listening position in my listening room, unless otherwise noted. The reader will be aware, no doubt, that most of the low and mid frequency response variations shown are due to interaction of the Kendalls with the modes and resonances of the listening room.
Test Position 1 - Front wall, zero toe-in, no front wall treatment
84 inch - tweeter to tweeter spacing
24 in - tweeter out from front wall
0 degree - toe-in angle
122 in - front wall to listener
98 in - speaker plane to listener
107 in - tweeter to listener
There is a frequency response bump in the mid-bass that helps give the sound of the Kendalls a solid feel and is not objectionable. Up through the mid-range, there is a very nice, even, and lively tonal balance for sounds panned mostly left and right, with nice clarity.
"So Far Away" by Dire Straits: center-panned guitars and vocal, the mids get a little bit muddled, imaging is soft and a bit recessed in the higher ranges. High frequencies are also recessed, and there is significant image smearing in this range.
Very few loudspeakers perform really well in this position close to the wall. The Kendalls performed fairly well here, but not great.
"Trouble With Dreams" by Eels: the center panned glockenspiel, vocals, drums and organ are more forward and distinct but still suffer with soft imaging..
"The Landing" by Dynohunter: bass build-up with this dance mix ends up a little heavy and mushy, but the Kendalls are still surprisingly listenable. Port plugs in the upper ports tightened and controlled this somewhat. Overall image clarity is fair to good in the mid-range. Shifting forward in my seat a couple of feet made the image clarity through the mids and highs significantly better, suggesting that a wider room and/or outward toe angle might benefit SS&I even further if such a configuration was necessary and wall treatment was not an option.
Test Position 2 - Front wall, zero toe-in, with front wall treatment
For a speaker evaluation get together a few years ago, readers requested that we give a very cursory listen to the test speakers located at or near the front wall. We did so against our better judgment, knowing that the results would be subpar and not very pleasing, but hoping to please the readers and provide them with the data that they asked for. As expected, only a few models over several evaluation sessions have performed well in this position, with the priority being on SS&I, and perhaps only one or two as well as the Kendalls, which performed very well.
I am starting to gain an appreciation for the tweeters in the Kendalls. "Black Hole Sun" by Soundgarden: the upper frequency range is smooth and extended but not at all over-bearing. Vocals and grinding guitars that reach that range never impart any kind of edge or roughness to the sound. There are listeners who are very sensitive to sibilance and to high frequency roughness or harshness, and who will reject a speaker design out of hand if there's a pushy nature to that range. The Kendalls seem immune to any such effect.
A glance at the frequency response plots shows us that the highs are indeed quite smooth, free from any roughness that might stand out, with a resonance at about 22 kHz, which allows a little bit of ringing at that frequency when activated by content. Of course no one will ever hear a 22 kHz resonance, and it helps prevent energy storage by the tweeter domes, which can cause harshness. This benefit, combined with the smoothness of response below, all adds up to a refined sounding tweeter, polite, easy to listen to, free of fatiguing elements.
Deadmau5's "4ware:" the placement of each individual note is very clear and distinct with excellent imaging and no receding center sounds. The bass, while still emphasized, is well damped by the front wall treatment and its bass absorbing capability. The prevention of reflections off of the wall by the treatment allows for this precise imaging. Even with the bass emphasis, the freedom from ringing keeps those low-frequency notes clear and solid, and allows the listener to hear subtle detail that would otherwise be masked.
The soundstage in this configuration was wide, well beyond the speaker placement width, with the speakers almost able to pull off a disappearing act therein.
"Beethoven, 7th Symphony, Allegretto" by F. Reiner and the Chicago Symphony: the double bass and timpani revealed no disappointing peaks or valleys in the low frequencies. At a moderate listening level, the strings were presented smoothly, free of stridence. Cranked up to a higher level, the strings are not quite as smooth, although it is difficult to crank up a large orchestral string section without it becoming a little tangled-up sounding, in my experience.
Although I did not expect this to be my favorite listening set up for the Kendalls, I thoroughly enjoyed several full albums before moving on.
Test Position 3 - Front wall, with toe-in straight at the listener, no front wall treatment
84 in - tweeter to tweeter spacing
24 in - tweeter out from front wall
21 deg - toe-in angle
122 in - front wall to listener
98 in - speaker plane to listener
107 in - tweeter to listener
"Vision of a Kiss" by The B-52s and "I Love You" by the Climax Blues Band: with a quick listen it was easy to tell that the centered images are stronger compared to the Position 1 setup, which is a definite plus in this configuration, sharpening the presentation somewhat. But with the flabby Bass, the mushy, broad imaging and the recessed center images, this is simply not a useful listening setup. I moved on.
Test Position 4 - Front wall, with toe-in straight at the listener, with front wall treatment
"Vocalize, pour l'Ange qui announce la fin du Temps" by Messiaen and "Beethoven's 7th Symphony, movements 2 3 4" by F. Reiner and the Chicago Symphony: both very Dynamic pieces, were a delightful listen on the Kendalls, though not as much so as with the towers in Position 2. It is almost as though they were made to favor orchestral and unamplified instruments.
In this configuration, with a port plug installed in the upper ports, the Kendalls showed off their full-range, well-integrated fidelity, running at a healthy volume setting throughout. The high frequencies are a bit more pronounced with the listening position straight on the tweeter axes, but still well below the level of feeling overbearing. The presentation is lively and present, while still inviting natural room spaciousness to engage the listener even further. The port plugs both reduce the amount of that low frequency resonance and extend the low frequencies down to almost 20 Hz. The Kendalls can deliver deep bass notes, as evidenced by Beethoven's timpani and double bases.
At their peak during the Beethoven, running at high volume, the strings still had a little of that stridence I had noticed earlier, but I still hesitate to blame the Kendalls, believing this to be rather a recording hazard with a large orchestra.
The soundstage in this configuration is compressed, held down to the width of the speaker spacing. The overall tonal balance, with the extra emphasis in the high frequencies, makes this configuration inviting for rock and pop music, but is simply too narrow to be enjoyed by those accustomed to a soundstage that is wide and open.
"Morning Mr Magpie" by Radiohead: it is hard to get excited with the narrower soundstage restriction of this configuration, although image clarity in itself is not too bad. Centered voices and sounds are still noticeably recessed.
Test Position 5 - Away from the front wall at the ideal listening position for soundstage and imaging (SS&I), no wall treatment
94 in - tweeter to tweeter spacing
48 in - tweeter out from front wall
20 deg - toe-in angle (listener is 15 deg of tweeter axis)
122 in - front wall to listener
50 in - speaker plane to listener
69 in - tweeter to listener
Finding this ideal configuration only took a few minutes with the Kendalls.
"I Know The Reason" by Mindy Smith and "Qui Dorm, Nomes Somia" by Deerhoof: with optimum placement and no wall treatment, the Kendalls project an exciting soundstage with very sharp imaging, but a peak in the bass response is not well controlled, and when that resonance is activated, it almost takes over the presentation, even with port plugs installed. That low frequency peak almost stands out more now than with the earlier configurations. Front wall treatment with good low frequency absorption might just be a necessity.
Test Position 6 - Away from the front wall at the ideal listening position for soundstage and imaging (SS&I), with wall treatment
With front wall treatment, the bass decay is much faster, and the low frequency peak much less noticeable. On the Beethoven symphony, the Kendalls seem set on demonstrating that this is the kind of duty that they were designed for. The voicing with strings and woodwinds is particularly inviting and engaging, and the bass extension delivers the fundamental tones of double basses and timpani with satisfying strength and clarity. On occasion there was a hint of midbass distortion during louder passages, but this was rare enough to have me wondering if I had imagined it.
"Variations on a Theme of Corelli" by Rachmaninoff, performed by Scott Davie: although the characteristic tinkle that I look for from the unique Overs piano on this track was not quite as present as I was hoping for, the Kendalls handle the dense Crescendo passages with excellent clarity.
"So Far Away" by Dire Straits, the guitar tone and detail, the sparkling clean and natural high hat, and the crisp snare drum keep me coming back to this track on the Kendalls. The soundstage now extends well beyond the speaker spacing, and imaging is very sharp.
"Still Island" by DJ Krush: the front wall treatment clears the way for the percussive impact of this track.
"Revolution Earth" by The B-52’s, mixed to mono: this track is a great test for Imaging sharpness. The mono image should be precisely centered between the left and right speakers, and will have zero width. Indeed, the mono mix occupies only a sharp imaginary line spaced exactly between the tweeters and midrange drivers, and there is no indication of that image bulging, shifting, or smearing as it might if Imaging was not at its absolutely rock-solid best.
"Collapse The Light Into Earth" by Porcupine Tree: strings fill the room with their completely natural sound and tonal balance from the Kendalls. It is simply wonderful what the Kendalls do with a well recorded string or orchestral track. Even during the opening credits of a movie, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, the full orchestra struck me as having found its voice through the Kendalls.
"Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach," "Rhinestone Eyes," and "Some Kind Of Nature" by Gorillaz: the same tonal balance that handles strings and orchestral mixes so well does just fine with pop and electronic sounds, too, delivering each tone with impact and clean separation. "4ware" by Deadmau5: the complex spatial and tonal patterns through the opening of this track are revealed and laid bare by the Kendalls. The bass beat has punch even at moderate volumes.
"Idiot box" by Incubus: the slightly laid back high frequency tonal balance of the Kendalls can still deliver blazing guitars with real sizzle, although it will be without the burn that sometimes accompanies that sizzle in a more sibilant speaker. "Disruptr" by Devin Townsend: although the soundstage seems filled with blazing guitars the Kendalls still do a pretty good job of keeping straight the placement of their individual images.
"Knights of Cydonia" by Muse: the KLH Kendalls were ready and willing whatever the type of music. An occasional bit of lower-mid-frequency distortion at high volume hints that the Kendalls might be best appreciated with music featuring unamplified instruments, although I would be hard pressed to identify a specific problem area. Distortion plots that I inspected were very clean.
"Level Five" by King Crimson: one thing I like about this track is the clarity of the recorded cymbals, the way the complex harmonics are presented with clarity and zeal. The somewhat pulled back high frequency range of the Kendalls holds back that detail and complexity. The flip side of this approach is that there are no rough edges, nothing annoying ever sticks out in the higher frequency range,
But it is precisely this easily forgivable act of omission by the KLH engineers that yields the refined nature of the highs with the Kendalls. They are such a delightful delivery device for orchestral and acoustical instruments, like "In The House Of Tom Bombadil" by Nickel Creek and "Here And Heaven" by Goat Rodeo.
Test Position 7 - Position 6 with added Dirac Live Room Correction
A quick Dirac Live calibration was run to see how the Kendalls would sound with the bass and lower mid frequencies evened out. As much as I enjoyed the Kendalls without any kind of equalization, it was immediately clear that with the room modes tamed and the lower mid and bass response flattened, the overall sound of the Kendalls is vastly improved. I only ran the calibration up to 750 Hertz, allowing the natural response of the Kendalls above that frequency to remain unaffected.
Tracks like "Eyes" by The Tubes, "I Remember" by Deadmau5, and "The Veldt" by Deadmau5: all benefited from elimination of the boxiness present without EQ. As previously stated, these room modes exist in every listening room and are unique to each, and while they are influenced by the speakers in use, they are a natural listening hazard and not the fault of the speakers themselves.
The KLH Kendalls gave me a big surprise by performing extremely well when set up close to the front wall pf my listening room. Most speakers virtually fall apart at the SS&I seams when facing such a challenge, but the Kendalls delivered some of their best chops there without complaint. While we would not normally recommend such a setup, the Kendalls loved it there and might just be a go-to model where that configuration is mandated for some reason. Need a pair of nice speakers that sound good - not just okay, but really GOOD - located close to your front wall? The Kendalls can do that.
The refined high frequency range might be favored by those who are sensitive to more sibilant speakers and prefer a slightly laid back presentation, yet insist on accuracy and fidelity at the same time. The Kendalls can do that, too. They sounded so good with natural instruments featured in orchestral and bluegrass music, I can see them becoming a favorite for analog buffs who like their music tracks delivered au naturale, with no EQ or Digital Signal Processing in their systems. I listened to many such tracks without room correction and was very impressed.
KLH Kendall Specifications
- Frequency response: 25Hz-23kHz.+/-3dB
- Sensitivity: 96dB.
- Power handling: 250 watts.
- Components: 2 x 6.5” Woven Kevlar bass drivers, 1 x 5.25” Woven Kevlar mid/bass driver, 1 high performance 1” Anodized Aluminum tweeter
- Inputs: Dual 5-Way Binding Posts
- Enclosure Type: Bass Reflex
- Finishes: Walnut Wood Veneer or Black Oak Wood Veneer
- Impedance: 8Ω.
- Crossover points: 800Hz and 2.5kHz.
- Dimensions:: 40” x 7.75” x 14.75” (H x W x D).
- Weight:: 48.7 lbs.
Frequency Response is extended into the 20 Hz range, very deep. The highs are slightly laid back, with a pleasing refined nature.
Without the port plugs in use, the lows are more emphasized (red). With the plugs, bass was smoother and went deeper (blue).
Wall treatment (red) changed the response markedly, while improving SS&I.
On axis response was slightly brighter (orange), although still refined and free from fatiguing effects.
Out from the wall, by far the best position for SS&I, bass response peaked quite a bit, but was not flabby or annoying.
Although thoroughly enjoyable without room correction, Dirac Live tamed the lower ranges beautifully.
With Dirac Live engaged, measured at the speaker terminals. Up to 10 dB of additional amplifier drive can be required.
The measured impedance of the Kendalls.
Unpacking The Kendalls
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