The Klipschorn Speaker

The Klipschorn was such a revolutionary speaker, it can still hold its own with some of the best of today’s home theater speakers. Paul W. Klipsch founded his company in 1946 in Hope, Arkansas, and built his first 12 Klipschorn speakers in 1947. They were fitted with Western Electric 713A compression tweeters and 12-inch JBL or Jensen woofers. The Klipschorn was designed to fit into the corner of a room, using the walls and floor as extensions of the speaker’s bass horn.

The K-Horn became a three-way design in 1951, with 1-, 2-, and 15-inch horn-loaded drivers. Design specifications continued to evolve over the years, and at different times Stephens and Electrovoice woofers were used as the standard drivers. The K-Horn and all subsequent Klipsch speakers are designed in accordance with the founder’s four core principles: high efficiency, low distortion, controlled dispersion, and flat frequency response.

Incredibly, the 50.75-x-31.25-x-28.25-inch, 175-pound K-Horn is still in production and is still hand-built in Arkansas with the 1951 driver configuration. As big as it is, Paul Klipsch’s original intent was to design a compact version of a professional movie theater speaker, but one that would sound great in a home. Fast-forward to 2012, and big horn speakers are still used behind the screens in cinemas, so it should surprise no one that this 66-year-old design outperforms most contemporary home theater speakers.

Nowadays speakers with horn-loaded woofers are extremely rare, but—trust me on this—nothing pressurizes a room like a pair of K-Horns with 15-inch bass drivers. While there have been hundreds of incremental design improvements to the Klipschorn over the years, the fundamentals are unchanged. The 1949 price was $590 each, which was very expensive for the time, so the current $4,500 MSRP seems very reasonable for a speaker hand-built in the U.S.

(Thanks go out to Klipsch’s Mark Casavant and Jim Hunter for their help in preparing this report.)