August 16, 2022
By von Roman Maier – Owner/Managing Director
The KLH Model Three is a textbook retro speaker. The design is legendary, the workmanship first-class and the equipment lush. In addition, the two-way transducer scores with extraordinary extras and special features. And that benefits the already good sound again.
Even though the brand has been a bit quieter in Germany in recent years, KLH is one of the most traditional loudspeaker manufacturers on the planet. Founded in 1957 by the legendary Henry Kloss in Cambridge, Massachusetts, among others, the American brand can now look back on a 65-year history. Evil tongues could say “you can see that in the Model Three”. This is partly true, because klh still adheres to proven values to this day. Values that make up the brand. One of them would be the special acoustic suspension, which I will describe in more detail later. In addition, there is the excellent material and workmanship quality – and of course the sound. KlH traditionally subordinates everything to this. After I was allowed to listen briefly to the Model Three, the Model Five and the slim Kendall at the German distributor Bellevue Audio, I have now ordered the smallest version of the retrostyled two-way transducer for testing in our listening room.
Consistent in design and construction
Retro is in – at least in the hi-fi world. If you take a look around the market, you will find models from Klipsch, JBL or klH, to name only the most important ones. In addition, there are other similarly styled variants – usually without a significant history. This is different with the brands mentioned. At Klipsch, some models have remained almost unchanged for decades. JBL repeatedly sets milestones based on the success guarantors of the 60s and 70s. At KLH, it’s a mixture of both. The members of the model series do not change visually or technically. They stick to their basic principles, but make their transducers more and more effective through the use of new materials. In detail, the Americans rely on a harmoniously acting two-way system in the Model Three. At the very top is the 25 millimetre diameter aluminium tweeter. To protect against mechanical damage, it sits behind a fine-meshed metal grille.
Special technical features
Directly below is the large woofer. It measures 200 millimeters and is equipped with a lightweight, but at the same time high-strength pulp membrane. Since it only decouples at around 1,600 Hertz, a high degree of agility is required here. The Model Three gets this from its flexible bead and from the acoustic suspension already briefly mentioned. The air volume inside the housing serves as a kind of air spring. To put it simply, the air becomes the dominant part of the suspension. Since it is difficult to escape, it guides the membrane linearly back to its original position. Especially under higher levels, distortions are kept significantly lower than with loudspeakers in the conventional bass reflex structure. However, if you do not want to see anything of the technology, simply place the magnetically adhesive fabric covers in front of the baffle. They are included in the scope of delivery, but are also available for an extra charge in a deep black version or in the so-called Stonewash Linen.
What every Model Three comes up with, however, is the Acoustic Balance Control: A small but very effective feature that not many transducers in this price range have to offer. Via a small knob on the back of the housing, each loudspeaker can be individually adapted to the spatial conditions or the taste of its owner in three stages. In our case, by the way, the center position proved to be ideal. Another special feature is the base made of powder-coated 14-piece steel, which is tilted backwards by eight degrees. This is factory-installed in every model Three cardboard box and shows itself as a visually and sonically ideal complement. The angled position of the tripod promises the ideal sound radiation. A little tip: This speaker stand is really well made and it is comparatively inexpensive to have through the authorized KLH specialist trade. So if you are still looking for installation solutions for your old speakers or modern vintage design sound converters, you should definitely take a closer look at this model.
Spatial & honest
Before going into the hearing test, it is first necessary to ideally position the two American transducers. According to the manufacturer, this should be done quite quickly and easily. That is also true. But if you want to elicit the sound optimum from the two KLHs, it is advisable to take a few minutes and play a little with the positioning. I first set up the duo at a distance of about 2.50 meters from each other and about 30 centimeters from the back wall and aligned it directly to the
reference place. What is immediately noticeable is the really excellent spatiality. Mark Knopfler stands firmly in the middle of the Dire Straits classic “Money For Nothing”. On the left the electric guitar, behind it the drums. The staggering also fits really well. High and medium tones determine the sound – that’s how it has to be. What I also like right away is the harmony with which the two speakers act here.
Transitions seem almost seamless. There are simply no breaks between the treble and midrange. The KLHs also succeed in transducing into the basic tone smoothly and harmoniously. But what I’m not satisfied with at the moment is the bass. But since I was already able to listen to the Model Three at the German distributor Bellevue Audio, I know that there is much more to it. When I get up and move towards the speaker, I suddenly find myself in a bass peak. Wow, only about a meter from the listening place, the bass is rich and voluminous. However, this is not a KLH-specific phenomenon. No, there are differences in the bass in every loudspeaker and also in almost every listening room. Here I only feel the difference is stronger, because my reference place is obviously in a bass valley. However, this is not a problem. Now only some time and leisure is required to position the two transducers ideally.
By the way, in a classically furnished living room, the described bass valley will most likely not occur at all. Here the sofa is usually close to the wall and there the bass adds up a bit anyway. When I push our sofa close to the wall, the bass performance is also much more impressive, as expected. However, only very few music lovers have the opportunity to move their sofa accordingly. But it doesn’t have to be, the same effect occurs when you experiment a little with the locations of the speakers. First, I move the duo closer to the back wall. Only shifted by about 20 centimeters, there is now a noticeable thickening in the bass. That’s good, but still not what I know from the Model Three. So I go the opposite way and push the two two-way transducers in ten-centimeter steps towards the listening place. This can also be easily implemented in any living room.
Small change, big effect
When a distance of about 50 centimeters is reached, the sound image then literally snaps into place. The bass is rich and also the previously described positive sound memories are preserved. Great, that’s how it has to be. My impression is then confirmed with “Clint Eastwood” from the gorillas. Hardly played, the basic tone whips and tunes in to the song. More importantly, the bass is also voluminous and dynamic. The voice of Stuart “2D” Pot, which begins shortly afterwards, hovers over everything. But the most impressive thing is undoubtedly the basic tone. This becomes more and more noticeable in the stomach area as the duration of the song progresses. The ideal positioning has therefore been found. “Karma Police” by Radiohead rings in the next test section shortly afterwards. After the short guitar intro, it is Tom Yorke’s unmistakable voice that takes command. Based on another impressive upper bass, the listening room is filled with music.
Thus, the song gains in fullness and body within a few moments. For me a good reason to give the volume control a strong right turn. But the KLHs don’t mind that. On the contrary, now it really starts. OK, again something learned. The Model Three plays even below room volume already grippy and punchy. But if you then raise the level to party level, temperament and wiriness are added. And also in terms of bass expansion and performance, the American duo continues to show its chocolate side. It becomes much more agile in the subsequent “I Predict A Riot” by the Kaiser Chiefs. The short high guitar intro is followed by a second, much deeper tuned guitar. A cool game of contrasting tones that almost merge before Ricky Wilson joins in. While the frontman of the British band now takes command, the spherical sounds discreetly used again and again can be heard in the background.
Sounds I haven’t noticed yet. However, the Model Three does not put these sound components in the spotlight. No, they remain in the background. The sound engineer also wanted her to have them in the mixing. However, they are also not obscured by other clay parts. A clear indication of the high level of detail of this speaker. With Björk’s “Human Behaviour” I now feel this talent further on the tooth. The Model Three also proves to be a reliable sniffer dog here. First of all, there is the bass coming from a kind of acoustic fog. It seems somehow intense, but at the same time spongy. A deliberate effect that the KLH duo follows perfectly. In addition, there are the small, stylistically interspersed cracking noises in the song, which are reminiscent of the reproduction of an old record. They, too, are reproduced in a targeted and absolutely realistic manner. It crackles and crackles – intentionally, of course. The Model Three hardly seems to miss a detail.
Feeling and character
It gets a bit more musical afterwards with Pagan Poetry from my Qobuz playlist. The voice of the Icelandic artist is further peeled out of the instrumentation in this song. It is clearer, brighter and somehow friendlier. Likewise the harp, which gives the track a heavenly touch. All this is optimally staged by my test guests. And even though Björk’s voice now seems much more present, it never tends to sound or annoying. No, the song instead demands attention and now delivers gripping emotions. If you don’t know this piece: Definitely listen to it on a better system. If everything fits, the track just gets under your skin and you can hardly get around to turn up the music a little louder. That’s exactly what’s happening here. The track goes into the blood. After the instrumentation becomes a bit more extensive, the character of the song then changes from one second to the next.
Follow the music
Suddenly it becomes quieter and now there is only Björk. Much more melancholic than a few moments before is a fragile “I Love him, i love him, i love him …” before the background singers with “She loves him, she loves him …” get on. Following this immediate change of character, the KLHs to the point. But I didn’t expect anything else after the previous test sessions. In no time the cheerfulness disappears and a kind of oppression makes room. We know that Björk is multifaceted on the road. And even if the Icelander is currently no longer so much in focus, it is always worthwhile to listen again and again. In “Oceania”, for example, it is the agile basic tone that pulls you into the song within seconds. Reproduced via the Model Three, it bangs neatly – but never tends to boom or impose itself intrusively. Not many transducers succeed in this form.
It almost goes without saying that the artist seems to be positioned almost holographically between the loudspeakers. Further proof that the fine adjustment of the loudspeakers was worthwhile. Now my test guests play in every genre at the highest level. Sometimes hard and sometimes much looser. For example, in the subsequent Lenny Kravitz title “Where Are We Runnin ́”. Starting with the first moment, a soundstage is again stretched between the two KLHs, which floods the room with positive music. Now speed and fine dynamics are required. The duo then reacts precisely and vividly to changes in the level. The emphasis is clearly on the exhilarating atmosphere. Drums and guitars are very lively and create a real sound firework. One that is once again captivating and makes you want more. And as if all that wasn’t enough, the Model Three couple adds another one with the squeaky clean reproduction of the New York artist’s sonorous voice.
With the Model Three, KLH continues the tradition of its legendary loudspeakers. The smallest member of the model family is sophisticatedly styled and relies on tried and tested KLH virtues. If you take some time for the correct set-up, the Model Three inspires with its correct, sovereign and honest music reproduction. The supplied tripods, which guarantee the perfect orientation to the listening position, also help here. From now on, the KLH duo is the focus both visually and sonically, but it never tends to exaggerate. Thanks to the control placed on the back, the sound can also be adapted to any living environment and every listening taste. Afterwards, you can hardly escape its agility, basic tone dynamics and multifaceted reproduction of this loudspeaker. All this is available at a really excellent price/performance ratio. This makes the Model Three an absolute highlight of its class for us!
Test & Text: Roman Maier
Photos: Branislav Ćakić
Overall rating: Highlight
Class: Luxury class
Sound: 89 of 90
Practice: 90 of 90
Equipment: 90 of 90
|Bookshelf speakers (incl. Tripod)
|2.195,00 Euro / Pair
|Bellevue Audio, Unna
Phone: 02303 / 3050178
|482 x 311 x 267 mm (incl. stands)
|16.4 kg / piece (incl. stands)
|1 x 25 mm
|1 x 200 mm
|46 Hz – 20 kHz (manufacturer specification)
|Scope of delivery:
|– KLH Model Three
– Front coverings (magnetically adhesive)
|Pros and Cons:
|+ excellent workmanship
+ metal tripods
+ honest reproduction
+ tone control, three-stage
+ dynamic basic tone
+ excellent spatial representation
– no bi-wire
|Value for money