Klipsch Icon WB-14 Speaker System
Tale of the Flower Horn
This is the story of the flower horn. It is a story of bumps and mumps. It is getting started a little cryptically. I always love it when that happens.
The patented XT Tractrix Horn now figures prominently in several Klipsch speaker lines. The one under review here is the Icon WB-14 system. It features the WB-14, a two-way monitor speaker; the WC-24 center, and the XW-300D subwoofer for a total price of $2,396.
If you’d prefer the same horn and wood-veneer finishes in a floorstanding speaker, take a look at the other Icon W series systems (WF-34, $3,146; WF-35, $3,746). If you have a value orientation, you may want to investigate the Icon V series systems (VF-36, $2,010; VF-35, $1,710; VB-15, $1,260).
A Big Mouth Gets You in Trouble
Klipsch wanted the Icon speakers’ horns to disperse sound broadly—suiting a home theater audience and allowing greater flexibility in placement—while fitting into a smaller enclosure. The new XT horn has a broader radiation pattern of 80 degrees both horizontally and vertically. But such a horn can bring complications with it. According to Klipsch, the wider a horn becomes, the more inconsistent
it becomes, especially at extreme high and low frequencies. A conventional horn with a large mouth and shallow depth will cause sound waves to lose contact with the horn walls, which can result in less uniform dispersion.
To deal with this problem, the design team led by Roy Delgado—who spent years working on horns with company founder Paul Klipsch—elaborated the horn with four convex bumps (or mumps). They resemble the petals of a flower, so the design was dubbed the flower horn during the development process. The team went through more than 50 different designs before it settled on the current XT horn. Klipsch claims that by adding bumps to the horn, the XT design slows the flare of sound waves and forces them to hug the horn’s walls, leading to better dispersion across the frequency spectrum.
In addition to broadening dispersion, Klipsch also wanted to broaden the audience for this product to include more demanding upper-end consumers. The result is a gorgeous wood veneer called Berlinia, also known as Rose Zebrano or Ebiara. It is a cousin of zebrawood, hails from West Africa, is not an endangered species, and comes in two finishes, the dark-red Cabernet (like our review samples) or dark-brown Espresso. Each speaker is finished with 10 coats of polyurethane, with visual inspection and sanding between each coat. The result is a rich, dark finish that would please the most critical eye. The woodgrain is visible but quiet. Klipsch packages the speakers with white gloves, so you can caress them and liberate them from finger marks—although the semi-gloss finish probably won’t pose much of a problem in that regard.
Pull off the magnetically attached grilles, and you can admire the drivers. Note the absence of visible fasteners on the baffle. The tweeter in the center of the XT horn incorporates a 1-inch titanium dome, while the woofer below has a 4.5-inch fiberglass cone. All driver sizes and materials carry over to the WC-24, a horizontal center in the usual woofer-tweeter-woofer configuration.
The XW-300D subwoofer doesn’t share the other speakers’ veneers. Instead, it’s adorned with a gloss-black top and vinylwrap aluminum-look sides. An ultra-high-excursion 8-inch fiberglass-coned front-mount driver is animated by a BASH amp rated at 270 watts continuous power and 480 watts peak power. The back panel of the sealed enclosure is notable for its minimalism. It includes a pair of stereo RCA inputs, a power switch, and an infrared remote sensor. (The sub doesn’t come with a remote, but if you want to add a touchscreen or other remote, the command codes are available from Klipsch technical support.)