- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 25 August 2008
Introduction to the P-39F
Like McIntosh, the Klipsch name goes back as far as I can remember.
In those early days, it was the Klipschorn, which was a speaker that looked like a bookcase as much as it did a speaker. It was the most massive speaker I had ever seen. I experienced many a demo on those speakers, and the sound filled the room, but I didn't really understand why.
- Design: Three-way, Horn Loaded Tweeter and Midrange, Bass Reflex (Woofers)
- Drivers: One 0.75" Titanium Compression Tweeter - 900 x 600 Tractrix Horn; One 4.5" Aluminum Compression Midrange - 900 x 600 Tractrix Horn; Three 9"Aluminum Cone Woofers
- MFR: 39 Hz - 24 kHz ± 3 dB
- Sensitivity: 99 dB @ 2.83V/Meter
- Crossover Frequencies: 500 Hz, 3.2 kHz
- Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms
- Power Handling: 400 Watts Continuous (50-1000 Watts Recommended)
- Dimensions: 56" H x 12" W x 24.8" D
- Weight: 165 Pounds/Each
- MSRP: $20,000/Pair USA
It turns out that it was all in the name. Paul Klipsch had designed these speakers around a "horn" concept, sort of like a megaphone. The driver was at the back of the horn, and because the horn magnified the sound - focused it in a sense - very little power was needed to drive it. In fact, only a few watts would do the trick. While today's speakers have a sensitivity of 87 dB/W/M, the Klipschorns were (are) more on the order of 105 dB/W/M. So, to put that in perspective, if you were using a 200 watt amplifier to drive a pair of 87 dB sensitivity speakers, it would only take 3 watts to drive the Klipschorns to the same volume. The P-39Fs have a sensitivity of 99 dB at 2.83V/Meter and are rated at nominal 4 Ohms impedance.
That was half a century ago, and although the Klipschorns are still manufactured, Klipsch has moved on to many other products, including the new Palladium P-39F floor-standers that are the subject of this review.
The Klipsch Palladium is also the size of a bookcase, at least in height if not in width.
At the top is a horn-loaded tweeter, with a horn-loaded midrange driver underneath, and then comes three 9" cone woofers (not horn loaded).
A close-up of the tweeter and midrange is shown below. You can see that the drivers themselves are located deep in the throat of the "horn". You can also see tha the enclosure slopes to a point in the rear, sort of like the bow of a boat. This eliminates standing waves since no opposing sides are parallel. The review speakers came with the natural finish in a real wood veneer that resembles Zebrawood. There are two other versions with darker stains.
Looking into the throat of the tweeter shows that the driver is covered by a wave guide.
The midrange also has a wave guide.
The point of these photos is to illustrate that the tweeter and midrange are not just conventional drivers sitting at the back of a horn. There is a lot of engineering that has gone into their design. The result is a sound that is properly dispersed no matter where you sit in the room.
For woofers, the P-39F uses three 9" drivers, as you can see in the photos at the beginning of the review.
There are also three large ports on the rear side of the enclosure, and each speaker in a pair is the mirror image of the other, that is, the ports are not on the same side of each speaker. We arranged the review pair so that the ports were on the outside of each speaker. Also, in the photo below, you can see the speaker cable (Slinkylinks) coming from the underside where the binding posts are located. Because the cable binding posts are mounted on the bottom, you need to put these speakers on the spiked feet that are included, and we used small indented discs for the spikes to sit in, so that the feet would not damage our carpets or hardwood floors.
The speaker binding posts are set up for tri-wiring if you like.
I tested the P-39Fs using a McIntosh MCD201 SACD player, McIntosh MT10 turntable with Clearaudio MC cartridge, VPI HR-X turntable with Sumiko Blackbird cartridge, and McIntosh MC1201 power amplifiers. Cables were Slinkylinks and Nordost.
These speakers have a terrific ability to render detail. Such is the case with classical guitar such as Guitar Music of Chile (Naxos 8.570341). They are right on the money in terms of soundstaging too, as it was easy to sense the placement of the guitarist just to the left of center. Hand selection of matched drivers to go into each pair goes a long way to achieving this effect, along with the way the horns focus their sound projection, rather than the more diffuse projection of a conventional driver.
John Mellencamp's voice sounded very natural in his recent release Life Death Love and Freedom (8-88072-30822-0). There was no chestiness or excessive sibilance. He has aged gracefully over the decades that I have listened to his music, and the P-39Fs don't add or detract from it.
There has always been a criticism of horn speakers having a sound like it is coming from a megaphone, as if you are cupping your hands around your mouth when you sing, or around the bell of a trumpet when it is played, but I did not get that feeling at all with the P-39F speakers. If anything, there is an increased ability to localize instruments and voices across the front, perhaps because the sound is focused by the horns as I mentioned above. But, the horns did not impart a sound of their own.
Piano is always a good test for speakers, such as this EMI Classics (5-0999-5-00281-22) recording of Leif Ove Andsnes playing Mozart Piano Concertos 17 and 20. Besides just hearing a note or a chord, the you are there sense requires the sound of the felt hammers striking the wires, and that came through very clearly. However, again, what really caught my attention was the placement across the soundstage.
Now to the deep bass. The Palladium P-39F has three 9" woofers in each enclosure, so I was expecting, and did experience the deep bass in such recordings as Baroque Music for Brass and Organ (Telarc SACD-60614). The bass was not only deep, but very tight, and that is because it is easier to keep smaller drivers under control than larger ones. On the other hand, it then requires the use of more drivers if they are to be smaller in diameter, and that is why each P-39F has three of them. The bass didn't sound boomy or chesty at all, even at high volume.
My wife, Susan, and I listened to the P-39Fs many an evening, and she mentioned that they really make you want to listen to the music instead of read a newspaper.
Klipsch P-39F Speakers On the Bench
At 50 Hz, THD+N was 2.7%. I measured this at 1 foot from the center woofer.
At 1 kHz, measured from the midrange driver, distortion was a very low 0.4%.
And, at 10 kHz, measured from the tweeter, 0.5%.
Room response, measured at 2 meters, is shown below. The bump between 60 Hz and 80 Hz is a room effect. The response is flat between 600 Hz and 20 kHz. The response below 600 Hz is a little lower than the response above 600 Hz (the crossover frequency between the midrange driver and woofers is 500 Hz). I suspect this is due to the more focused transmission of the sound from the horn-loaded midrange driver and tweeter, as compared to the conventional woofer cone drivers, and that I tested the speakers quite a way in from any walls. The tri-wiring capability would really come in handy here by simply driving the midrange and tweeter together, and a second power amplifier for the woofers. Then the low frequencies could be raised to be in line with the rest of the room response.
The impedance dips down to 3 Ohms between 100 and 400 Hz, but then stays beetween 8 Ohms and 16 Ohms from 900 Hz to 20 kHz. The electrical phase stays between ± 600 throughout the audible region. In general, I would say the P-39F would be a relatively easy load to drive, even for small wattage tube amplifiers. The 100 Hz - 400 Hz region that has low impedance corresponds to a phase within -400 to +450.
I interviewed Claytor from Klipsch about the P-39F. Click on his photo below to download a video of the interview.
Conclusions About the Klipsch P-39F Speakers
The new Klipsch Palladium P-39F speakers are impressive. It takes very little power to drive them, they sound neutral, and a strong point is their remarkable ability for pinpoint instrument and voice localization across the soundstage.