Robert Schryer | Mar 31, 2022
GO, KLH! The brand has become one of my coup de coeurs—which loosely translates as “darlings of the heart”—based on the two models I’ve heard at the show, the Model 3 in the Le Studio du Son room and now the Model 5 ($3750 w/stands) in this room. They sounded good and gave off an underdog-beats-the-odds vibe I find soulfully wholesome: their unassuming retro appearance, simplish design, small size delivering an earful (ear full?) of music. They remind me of the little engine that could, and did, climb that big mountain.
Here’s another metaphor that’s apt in some ways (and not so apt in others): These KLHs are like those small dogs that bark like crazy because they think they’re big dogs. That’s how these KLHs act, like they don’t know they’re small. They think they’re big speakers, so they make a lot of sound. Of course, the KLHs don’t bark, and they sound nothing like a small, yippie dog (unless you’re playing recordings of small, yippie dogs), but you get my drift.
If big sound was the only trick up their sleeve, I would only be mildly impressed—but they’ve got range! And personality!—the good, uncolored kind. With the solid backing of a front end made up of a 3-speed, direct-drive (a first for the company) Music Hall Stealth turntable, which includes an Ortofon 2M Blue cartridge ($2000 for the package), an MM/MC Music Hall Mini Plus phono preamp with 3-level adjustable gain ($200), a 200Wpc Plinius Hautonga integrated amp ($8000), and XLO cabling everywhere, Dave Brubeck’s Take 5 had charisma and charm. The snap of the drum! The long decays! The realistic cymbal shots! The jutting bass notes! The purity of the midrange!
Oh, and, of course, that big dog sound. Good boy.