Klipsch La Scala AL5 loudspeaker

There's a good case to be made that the world's greatest—and strangest—audiophile culture resides in Japan. Probably the most important notion the Japanese have introduced to our hobby is that home audio isn't merely a way of heightening the musical art of others but can be an art in itself. This idea's most flamboyant embodiment was the poet, journalist, chef, and amplifier builder Susumu Sakuma, better known as Sakuma-san.

After having built many amplifiers as a young man, Sakuma-san experienced an epiphany: Amplifiers that measured well often failed to make him feel deeply. He soon discovered that, for him, the most emotional sound came from mono systems powered by transformer-coupled amplifiers that used directly heated triode tubes.

In 1968, somewhat improbably, Sakuma-san opened a restaurant in the quaint seaside town of Tateyama. The eatery, called Concorde, was crowded with amplifiers of his design, which he demonstrated with a Garrard 401 turntable, a damped Grace tonearm, a Denon DL-102 mono cartridge, and Altec and Lowther speakers. Apparently, Concorde also served food: For years, the sole dish prepared by Sakuma-san was "hamburger steak," which came with two sauces and cost around $10.

In the articles on hi-fi that he contributed to the Japanese magazine MJ, Sakuma-san also wrote about film, fishing, karaoke, and pachinko machines, and he usually began and ended his contributions with a poem. He considered himself an evangelist for emotional sound and demonstrated his audio systems in homes, at conferences, and on concert stages around the world. Though he passed in 2018, his fan club, called Direct Heating, remains a happening concern (footnote 1). Sakuma-san was fond of coining mottos—one was "farewell to theory"—but what has stuck with me most is his description of the ideal sound: "endless energy with sorrow."

Living with the Klipsch La Scalas
This phrase came to mind often during the months I spent living with the Klipsch La Scala speakers, which imbued my musical life with unprecedented amounts of sound and emotion, and which I believe Sakuma-san would have enjoyed. Despite what some of the glossy ads, in this magazine and elsewhere, would have us believe, no speaker can excel at every aspect of musical reproduction. All of them, even the megabuck ziggurats, are a compromise. Yet what the La Scalas do well is so rare in today's audio scene, and so fun, that everyone should experience it at least once. Their strengths also happen to dovetail neatly with my musical and sonic biases. It goes without saying that these biases may not be yours.

First introduced in 1963 as a public address speaker, the La Scala, now in its AL5 iteration, is the smallest of Klipsch's fully horn-loaded models, a little sibling to the venerable Klipschorn (with which it shares its three drive units) and the newer Jubilee. Of course, it's not even remotely small: Each speaker, made of birch plywood and MDF, measures 40" tall, 24 ¼" wide, and 25 5/16" deep, and weighs 201lb. (Just typing that number sent a twinge through my lower back.)

The La Scala is composed of two stacked sections. The upper cabinet contains the tweeter—a compression driver with a 1" polyimide diaphragm mated to a Tractrix horn—and the midrange unit: a compression driver with a 2" phenolic diaphragm mated to an exponential horn. Both horns are made of ABS plastic. The lower cabinet contains a 15" fiber-composite-cone woofer that's mounted backward and fires into a folded horn (which some would argue is in fact a waveguide). The rear of the upper cabinet has two sets of heavy-duty binding posts, allowing for biwiring or biamping.

Mercifully, assembly was not nearly as odious as I expected thanks to the La Scala's modular structure and the bass cabinet's substantial rubber feet, which made moving the speakers surprisingly easy. Assembly does require two people, and one part—holding the upper cabinet while connecting its wire harness to the lower one—requires three, as I learned after much grunting, awkward contortion, and foul language.

Despite the La Scala's boxy form—roughly the size and shape of a washing machine at a big-city laundromat—I found its appearance delightful. The book-matched walnut veneer on the pair I auditioned was seamlessly applied and beautifully finished, making the $13,198/pair La Scalas appear more heirloom-worthy and furniture-like than many pricier alternatives. Even the magnetic grilles, done up in a guitar-amp mesh and sporting vintage-looking logos, were conceived with enough restraint to look cool. Nothing comes off quite as pandering and corny as retro styling done wrong, and Klipsch should be commended for hiring astute designers.

The manual offers assembly illustrations and one solitary paragraph of text. Reading it, I learned that 1W of power will cause the Klipsches to emit a hair-raising 105dB, roughly the amount of noise made by a Douglas DC-8 at one nautical mile. (110dB is the average human threshold for pain.) I also spotted a diagram suggesting that the La Scalas should be placed 13'–17' apart, a recommendation I found a bit laughable given that most of us don't live in a Greyhound terminal or aboard Jeff Bezos's superyacht.

In practice, the La Scalas proved to be fairly forgiving about placement, though they sounded bloated when pushed against a wall and a little bass-light when pulled more than a few feet into the room. Some internet commentators suggest toeing them in 45° and crossing them in front of the listener, but in this position they sounded pretty awful. The Klipsches ended up working best roughly in the same spot as my Altec Valencias: 8½' apart, 2½' from the front wall, and some 10' from the listening seat, toed in to cross slightly behind it.

When the folks at Klipsch offered to send me a new pair of La Scalas for review, I requested that the speakers undergo several hundred hours of use before they were shipped, but this proved impossible. Straight out of the cartons, they had a plasticky, nasal sound and gummy transient response; with low-power tube amps, they refused to make much bass at all. Happily, all of this went away after about 100 hours of use. Patience is something I struggle with, and I admit that I came to some incorrect conclusions about the Klipsches before those long hours elapsed.

Oh, and about those neat-looking grilles: Music sounded more open without them, so regretfully I left them off.

The La Scalas offer a fundamentally different experience than most audiophile speakers. Their ability to (re)produce lifelike dynamic contrasts and scale is unmatched by any speaker I've had in my home, and matched by few speakers I've heard anywhere (all of which were larger). Once most speakers reach a satisfying volume, they allow a fairly limited range of additional loudness before they begin to compress, sound grainy, or distort. With the La Scalas, that range was practically limitless: I could set the volume anywhere from Mozart-trio moderate to Mastodon-concert loud with no audible penalty. In part that's because horn loading allows not only for increased sensitivity and efficiency but also for drive units to operate at lower levels of distortion.

The Klipsches created sonic images that were eerily, entirely life-sized and placed them on a stage as large as the recording and the room allowed. Combined with their hair-raising dynamic chops, this allowed the La Scalas to come uncannily close to creating the illusion of real musicians playing in a room. That's a big-time reviewing cliché, so perhaps a more effective way to communicate this is to say that they reveal how radically most speakers—even large ones—miniaturize the dynamics and scale of recordings.

I couldn't get enough of this illusion. Near the middle of "The Windmills of Your Mind," from Dusty in Memphis (LP Atlantic SD 8214), there's a moment when the band, the string section, the background voices of the Sweet Inspirations, and Dusty Springfield all surge. Played at a satisfying volume through most speakers, this crescendo comes across as a splashy, screechy mess. The La Scalas made me aware of the extent to which I had trained my brain to fill in the missing information; through them, I heard every detail of this passage, played at a loudness comparable to what the recording engineer must have heard at Memphis's American Sound Studio in September 1968.

The big Klipsches also allowed me to hear an array of meaningful detail with startling clarity: the reverb on Springfield's voice, her intakes of breath before every phrase, the mahogany chunk of Reggie Young's electric guitar, the coppery ring of Gene Chrisman's cymbal. These musicians appeared in front of me utterly human-sized, playing and singing in physical space with realistic force. With the right amplifiers (more on this later), the La Scalas also imbued this recording with copious presence, texture, and tone color, making it as lifelike and complete as I've heard it. (What I heard was an illusion in more ways than one: Springfield recorded her final vocals in New York and had them overdubbed. Aren't records great?)

If I'm making the Klipsches sound like a party speaker that excels only at playing loud, permit me to correct that impression. "Do they play opera?" Herb Reichert asked when I enthused to him about the La Scalas. That's a fair question given that they're named after the world's most storied opera venue. Listening to Boris Khaikin and the Bolshoi Theater orchestra and choir's rendition of the letter scene in Eugene Onegin (Spotify BMG Classics 74321170902), I was struck by the delicacy with which the big horns rendered this compressed mono recording from 1955, first issued on the Soviet Melodiya label. It happens to be my favorite version of Tchaikovsky's opera, with a radiant, 20-something Galina Vishnevskaya in the role of Tatyana and Khaikin taking the score faster than is common today, imbuing it with vigor and wit missing from more lugubrious readings. This nearly 70-year-old recording also showed off the Klipsches' buoyant way of carrying rhythmic lines, which sound as dancing or as relentless as the music dictates.

The La Scala is not without flaws, or more precisely, limitations. Surprising for a speaker of such ample proportions, it doesn't do really deep bass; its 15" woofer rolls off steeply at around 50Hz. Roy Delgado, Klipsch's chief audio engineer, told me that this is a result of a compromise that allowed Paul Klipsch to design a relatively compact bass horn. (The Cornwall, a smaller and less expensive sibling in Klipsch's Heritage line, dispenses with the bass horn and goes down to 35Hz.) Whether this deficit might be a problem for you depends on your musical diet and priorities. While I noticed bass missing on certain electronic music and hip hop recordings, I rarely missed it; some La Scala owners, though, use a subwoofer. I should add that, despite being limited, the Klipsches' bass is in no way wimpy: When called upon, the big horns emitted bass notes as stentorian and downright scary as any speakers I've lived with.

Last, while the La Scalas throw an enormous and cavernous soundstage, they do not create the razor-sharp sonic holographs of the kind conjured by certain contemporary minimonitors. But if that's crucial to you, you probably aren't considering these speakers.

In my room, the Klipsches' frequency response sounded just a shade richer than neutral, with an extended but mellow top end and some added presence in the lower midrange and upper bass. This euphonic voicing made poor recordings easier to listen to and good recordings propulsive and fun. I wouldn't change it for a flatter one, but frequency-response-graph enthusiasts for whom absolute neutrality is paramount should probably look elsewhere.

Footnote 1: You can learn more about Sakuma-san and his designs on the Direct Heating website: www.big.or.jp/~dh.

Klipsch Group, Inc.
3502 Woodview Trace
IN 46268
(317) 860-8100

remlab's picture

I was definitely not expecting to see that.

georgehifi's picture

It's -10dB down at 45hz for a speaker the size of a fridge!!!! with a broadband bump at 150hz of +5db to make up for it.
I owned a pair of the originals to see what all the hoo-ha was about, sure they went loud without too much stress (so does a PA system) but boy were they colored, they lasted a couple of weeks.

Cheers George

carewser's picture

In fairness to Klipsch I mean how much bass can one expect when you only spend $13,000 for a pair of speakers?

m_ms's picture

Price has no bearing here, but rather physics as laid out by Hoffman's Iron Law:

"three parameters that cannot all be had at the same time. They are low-bass reproduction, small (enclosure) size, and high (output) sensitivity." Hofmann stated that designers could pick two of these three parameters, but in doing so, it would compromise the third parameter."

The La Scala's are a high efficiency, (all)horn-loaded design, and their restricted size for a bass horn means you sacrifice low end extension. Not only that they also stop acting as a horn from just above 100Hz on down, which means they're essentially too small as a midbass horn also. With horns, all-horns not least and certainly for them to be their best, there's no escaping size.

remlab's picture


jack_lint_1984's picture

On behalf of the International Committee on Complaining, I wanted to personally commend you, George, on your performance here - ever diligent, never satisfied.

Bravo! As we like say in the trade, pleasure is overrated!

Glotz's picture

Well put. George still has a lot to offer.. just delivery methods.

jimtavegia's picture

My favorite has always been the Cornwall, but I have never lived in a house with a living room large enough that would make them work, sadly. I have heard them sing with a small 40 watt/channel EL34 tube amp.

DougM's picture

The La Scalas, and the mighty K'Horns, are more capable than any others of bringing the performance into your room, with an immediacy and effortless dynamism that sounds more like live music than any other speaker I've ever heard at any price. My bucket list speaker.

Toobman's picture

The warranty is 10 years, not 5 as stated in the specifications. Also, there are no rubber feet supplied as the reviewer stated. I know because I just bought a pair. Further, I set the speakers up all by myself and it was not difficult. I'm 58 and in average shape. I can't imagine why the reviewer would suggest it takes 3 people to mate the upper and lower cabinets.

michelesurdi's picture

horns amplify noise.were the scalas silent with the amps you mention?

FransZappa's picture

I'd like to ask you how
You like the feel of the bass in your face in the crowd

I have bought my Scala's about three years ago and they have never ceased to amaze me. My amp is an Elekit TU8600R - 300B and 9.2Wpc and my room is not exactly big. Believe me: it does do bass, not stomach turning low but very real life like bass. Gary Peacock is standing in front of you - like bass. It plays the Beasties and Aphex Twin and never has anyone sitting next to me commented about a lack of bass. Tom Waits' scrapyard percussion sounds fantastic and they unravel Zappa's genial madness brilliantly. And the Scalas are deadquiet with my amp. The last speakers I will ever need.

vince's picture


Try a sub, I tried a JL Audio Fathom and it brought a new level of enjoyment of my La Scala.

ejlif's picture

I agree, I have a pair of older ones and have had a lot of other speakers and stuff costing way more and with the La Scala it's like it really happening in front of you. For me the bass is good and almost but just not quite enough, sometimes it's fine other times I feel it's lacking a little. I added a HSU sub and it works good, it's the first time I've had a sub and been able to stand it.

Toobman's picture

Why does the reviewer say they can be bi-wired but not bi-amped? One set of posts goes to the mid/hi drivers and the other set goes to the woofer, so they should be able to be biamped.

Alex Halberstadt's picture

Thanks for the catch, Toobman. My mistake. I'll make the change.


FredisDead's picture

my enduring love for the Manley Steelhead until I read this piece of audio journalism dreck. I immediately concluded that Jim Austin must have decided it would be "cute" to review some audio icons-of-yore and even cuter if they were given rave reviews. How would that not create some stir among the ol' geezer subscribers?
As it so happens I recently heard a newer set of these speakers and I could not get over how they sounded-old, tired, slow, soporific (Ambien soporific) outdated, disassociated, discontinuous, unnatural, etc. Dynamics? What good is lack of compression when you are overwhelmed by crass treble, scratchy midrange, and soft bass, all failing to integrate and instead sticking out like three sore thumbs?
Which leads to only one inevitable head scratching inquiry-has Stereophile truly, once and for all, jumped the shark?

jack_lint_1984's picture

Have you ever been to an arena sporting event? If you have, you’ll have noticed certain people in the crowd screaming at the players, as if their opinions are more important than the action unfolding in front of them. As if the professionals should stop play and pay attention to every voice in the crowd.

You, FredisDead, are one of those screaming fans.

FredisDead's picture

I don't yell at players, don't go to arena sporting events, don't drink beer, and don't know what rock you crawled out from either. Am I such a person in your tiny mind for expressing a different view and relating it to editorial policy? It is simply ludicrous to call the La Scala competitive with modern designs and I chose to express my opinion here where the piece originated. This is a subjective hobby but it is hard to imagine that most would find this product capable of providing a fraction of the performance of most modern designs. I happen to be a fan of easy to drive efficient loudspeakers and my personal choices (Devores and Spendors)are 93 db/W/M and 90 db/W/M efficient without difficult phase angles or impedance curves. I simply disagree with the flowery language used to describe their sound.

rschryer's picture

"...the flowery language used to describe their sound." You should've started with that.

jack_lint_1984's picture

You are the kind of person who acts like a childish bully hoping it makes you seem less...Defensive? Sensitive? Afraid?

You disagree with the reviewer and prefer your choices in speakers. Not exactly revelatory stuff, FredisDead, especially without all of your flowery machismo.

georgehifi's picture

The forum cop or something??? Go away and let people have their say.
Argue the point not the person!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

jack_lint_1984's picture

Are you the forum cop, georgehifi? This is so confusing ;-)

georgehifi's picture


georgehifi's picture

No look at it again, YOU JUMP ON MEMBERS PERSONALLY if you don't agree with them, instead of opposing their statements with something tangible from your mouth.

jack_lint_1984's picture

FredisDead's comment was pure dreck and I have to wonder if he was just trying to be "cute" to anger the old geezers or if he's completely jumped the shark.

georgehifi's picture

It's his opinion on these Klipsch speakers, and he didn't attack YOU PERSONALLY!!!
You should do the same and attack his views on THEM NOT HIM in a subjective or objective way technically or whatever, and lay off him personally.!!! Otherwise your just being a redneck.

jack_lint_1984's picture

I just re-used his exact words. FredisDead's words. The fact that you didn't see that makes me wonder if you actually read the things you comment on...

Unless you think its OK to "personally attack" Stereophile's reviewers and Editor, you should also aim your outrage at FredisDead.

I have to point out that complaining about a perceived personal attack wherein you personally attack the perceived attacker is not a great way to make a point or set a standard of conduct.

Anton's picture

You beat me to it.

Audiophiles are an amazingly disgruntled lot. Likely the amount of rancor from a person is inversely proportional to his auditory acuity.

jack_lint_1984's picture

If so thank you, if not apologies. I'm new here, long time reader, and our grandchildren coaxed me into 'participating' so forgive my clumsiness.

Disgruntled! About hi-fi? About listening to music? I imagine it's a byproduct of free time, something that was in short supply back in the day. And on that note, this 'participating' may not be for me. Listening to music is a luxury, at least it is for me, so I've got no interest in arguing over the means to that end.

Anton's picture

Yes, I meant that as a compliment to your post!

I did not mean to impugn audiophiles, in general....just some.

Cheers, and pleased to meet you!

FredisDead's picture

just opinionated. If the loudspeaker that is the subject of this review is a "great" loudspeaker, than what loudspeaker that produces some degree of sound is not? Are any of the loudspeakers sold at large appliance stores really all that bad? How are they inferior to the La Scalas?
It is the lack of relativism that provoked my first post. If the gist of the subjective review was that they bring a lot to the table and offer plenty of good attributes despite having some shortcomings (including being huge for the sake of so-so bass response), I would have been fine with the review.
Re-reading it, I see that the lack of holographic imaging and a slight "euphonic" character is mentioned at the conclusion.
In the bigger scheme of things, my gripe is with being far too complimentary to virtually any product under review. This particular outdated, limited, and highly compromised product captured the cover of the magazine.

JHL's picture

...because demands for tolerance are never tolerant.

To extend the arena metaphor, don't be mad guy shrieking for the ref to penalize the player who finally hits back. I'm with jack: When a driveby commenter drops in just to attack the publication and its readers I assume the only tone he understands is that tone. He's declared war on everybody; who are you to impose decorum on the victims, mister punctuation?

If high end audio doesn't maintain then it won't be maintained. That would be unacceptable.

georgehifi's picture

Well your just as bad then

TK-421's picture

I've heard plenty of Spendors and they are a boring snoozefest compared to La Scalas, not to mention way overpriced for performance you get compared to others. Just expressing my opinion.

Glotz's picture

Love that phrase... I wish could've stuck 'narky' in there too. LOL, just kidding.

ejlif's picture

I'd take the La Scalas in a heartbeat over the Kef Blade 2. I owned both at the same time and I find the Kef bland and boring. We all like what we like. I'm not going to say I'm right and you are wrong, I just don't hear it like you do obviously. Some folks think the new top gun movie is a good film to those folks I would just say I won't be watching any movies you recommend. If you think the La Scalas sound that bad then I would not take a shred of your hifi advice either.

prerich45's picture

The Kef Blade 2 measures better than the Klipsch La Scala. No one should argue that point. That being said, everyone has their particular taste, and everyone has their own hearing and health. I find that many people think speakers that measure well are lifeless. Klipsch may not be accurate, but they're never lifeless. My first experience with Klipsch LaScala's was in the military at an Exchange overseas. I heard "Thunder Rolls" and had been tempted to buy a pair ever since (I've owned Heresies and Cornwalls). That was one of the most impressive demos I've heard...until I heard the Legacy Whispers...which I now own...another speaker that doesn't measure well but sounds right. I also owned the Infinity Preludes ..that do measure well...and I loved those too.

Psyduck103's picture

I got my 3rd set of K-horns to use with optical soundtrack films. My first two pairs were back in the 70's and I used the most god awful amps in the world for them. A Phase Linear 700b and a Marantz 240. My main speakers are Infinity IRS Betas. The Klipsch have the same problem the Western Electric wide range system had in the '30s. A large time delay with the length of the three horns. Just for fun I used a mini DSP 4X10 and four Mcintosh Mc30 and two Mc275 amps and bypassed the Klipsch crossovers. It took awhile but it was worth it. However in my application the phase delay is part of the charm in their sound on these old films. If I had the money and space I would use original Wester Electric 16 & 12's with 555 drivers.

Staxguy's picture

My first loudspeakers were Klipsch Heressy Ii’s (x3) and Klipsch KG 1.2’s. The store that sold them also sold La Scalas. For bass, I had a Velodyne F1500r. At the time I would have preferrered a Carver Amazing Loudspeaker with ribbons and four 12 inch drivers per side, but couldn’t fit or budget them. Noted that I preferred the kg 1.2 bookshelf speakers for music over the heresy’.


The Klipsch horn systems really sounded honkey to me. Ok for dynamics. I much preferred a friends home theatre with 5 psb stratus gold speakers and five velodyne f1500rs, which I later upgraded to. A bit overkill in the bass though.

Obviously now, I prefer electrostatics. Quite the opposite of horns.

The new la scalas as pictured are drop dead gorgeous. Perhaps Klipsch has upgraded the sound also. The price is quite reasonable, at that of a high end phono cartridge.

My auditions at the time don’t quite pass muster, today, 30 plus years later.

I appreciate the article. As for realistic audio, the only speakers which sounded live to me were the focal grande utopia iii em, which I auditioned when they came out many years back.

Still, I wonder how a Bob carver design of today would compare to the La Scala.

Electrophone's picture

I was enthusiastic about hi-fi as a teenager, but could only afford the most basic equipment. A key experience back then was the Klipschorn demonstration in a Frankfurt/Germany hi-fi studio, which I was able to sneak into. I can still remember the track being played: "Silly Putty" by Stanley Clarke. I was deeply impressed by the dynamics and the live character of the playback. Unfortunately I don't remember which amplifier and turntable was used.
A few years later I regularly went to a small nightclub in a suburb of Frankfurt. Two Klipsch La Scala speakers were used there, suspended from the ceiling. No subwoofers! The sound was very good, the bass not too deep, but very defined and powerful.
My last encounter with Klipsch loudspeakers was in 1983 I believe.
Wolfman Jack was then on the "European Tour, sponsored by Klipsch and Phase Linear" and performed in American clubs. He also did a gig at Rhein Main Air Base and an American friend took me with him.
I still have Wolfman Jack's autograph today, and a Polaroid of me with him. I had to pay an extra $20 for the Polaroid back then, on top of the entrance fee!

scottsol's picture

While the Wolfman is long dead, he will be appearing in a late summer tour in the guise of an Elon Musk designed humaniform robot. For maximum durability the robot makes substantial use of tungsten carbide elements.

To avoid possible legal troubles with the WJ estate the simulacrum will be known as Wolfram Jack.

Anton's picture

I am so old, I can remember the 40 (or so) years when "Klipsch sucked."
They couldn't get a good word in the Hi Fi world to save their souls.

Now, they are great, again.

I look at this with some happiness and some cynicism. It's almost hard to discuss. I partially see both sides.

Is it that they figured out what they lacked was simply a healthy bump in price and that got their audiophile bonafides sorted out? Did we slowly wake up to what they do well? Is modern Hi Fi sterile or some adjective that makes us go 'pop' when we hear actual dynamics? No set answer, but great wine conversation!

When we talk money/value: These $1100 per pair in 1978.

I'll leave it to whomever to run that through an inflation calculator. It ain't like they reinvented the wheel, you know.

Anyways....I've always enjoyed them, they have plusses and minuses, of course. But all in all, a fun product! My son stole my La Scalas and is quite the happy audiophile. If you ever get a chance to hear Elvis' vesrion of "Fever" on these, you will know what the fuss is about. (They also play the band Morphine like they were made for each other. As John marks used to say, "Different horses for different courses.")

mobilelawyer's picture

Anton's comments are apt. People forget that Klipsh products were often vilified in the audiophile and quasi-audiophile press as it was 40 years ago. Is there a night and day difference between the La Scalas of that vintage and today? I doubt it, but I am sure the various design tweaks have improved the sound in both measurable and audible ways. One would hope so for a $14K investment.

Reviewing audio products is like reviewing movies. The reviewers are there becuase they like movies and enjoy giving their opinions about them, and when they like or dislike a movie or a performance, opposing views often invoke rage. They have a professional and emotional investment in their product, and when someone questions their judgment, they bow up and react. Reflection and the passage of time sometimes causes them to reevaluate their original opinions and what were once "horrible without redemption" become "underappreciated masterpieces".

I submit that audiophiles are much the same. We so enjoy the hobby that we cannot understand why others seem to tolerate the intolerable or appreciate aspects of a product that we think are obnoxious or unimportant. But age and years of listening can change our perspective as well.

vince's picture

I have a pair of the La Scala II. I found the bass a bit lean, until I added a JL Audio sub and it became awesome. They image well, they have plenty of slam and dynamic range, and sweet sounds sweet. I have them paired with a 300B SET amp. I'm glad I have them, they can give me goosebumps, given the right recording. The latest example of this was from the Analog Production's reissue of Cat Steven's Tea for the Tillerman.

Anton's picture

I agree.

They are pretty "unboxy."

There is a certain frequency in the upper bass where you can 'hear' that there's an enclosure involved in the sound. It's a bit hard to describe. It's not 'horniness,' but almost like a hint of 'box echo' with the woofer at the upper end of it's frequency range.

You can hear this on something like Joe Jackson's "Another World" with the percussion at the beginning.

teched58's picture

So I will need a subwoofer if I want to get low bass out of my La Scala setup.

Isn't the subwoofer supposed to be the biggest speaker in the room, not the smallest?

tnargs's picture

I have twice had extended auditions with the La Scala, 30 years apart, and decided that they are one of the worst serious speakers I’ve experienced.

Sal1950's picture

Great Review Alex.
But you better run like hell.
Sam Tellig wrote a rav review on the La Scala's here in 2006 and the horn haters nearly stoned him to death.
I owned my La Scala's from 1978 to 2011 when I moved to Fl and didn't have the room for them here. Like every speaker before and since, they have their weak points and strong points. The things they do right, they do better then almost any speaker ever made.
Wish I still had the room for a pair.
cent' anni,

ejlif's picture

I was excited to see what AH thought of the La Scala. That he is a fan of Altec makes me curious. I own the La scala myself, grabbed a pair at a garage sale beat up and cheap. They really caught my attention when I hooked them up for a garage system and in the house they came and put them down in front of my Kef Blade speakers. they turned my hifi world upside down. Kefs are gone, La scala were made pretty with new veneer and cleaned up. I have more fun and enjoyment listening to my 1978 La Scala with various amps than the expensive various you name it I've had it hifi brands. Alex really sums it up with the descriptions of how music is communicated and yes the bass is a problem, just a little bit of a problem. Many times I thought I could live without a sub but they are just barely lacking. I've managed to integrate a sub (I never have liked subs) and it's just enough. Other types of speakers are nice and present music in a different way but after so many years in the hobby and so many speakers I've landed. Herb reviews and also describes why he is left cold by the tall skinny speakers. They were on to something way back in the day when they made these and other speakers like these. I think I vibe with HR and AH and Art Dudley too as well as Ken Michalief and their opinions on sound and music. JVS and even JA they come from another camp. That' great we all hear it a little different and have a different taste.

steve59's picture

My buddy was, probably still is a klipsch guy, owning the lascala’s and then the big K horns. He was so stunned when the khorns lacked the mid bass boost that he nearly returned them. I remember the lascala’s of the late 80’s having bloated, kind of thick bass, but I’ve learned setup, room size and components can make such a difference in each demo that I take it all with a grain of salt.

dan3952's picture

La Scalas, are truly speakers like no other, not just in terms of their resolution, or their dynamics, but also in the unique way they present the music to the listener. Good drivers that offer good resolution in other speakers, still may not present music in a realistic way. It still sounds like you're playing a recording and not listening to a band in person. We had also brought into question the razor sharp imaging that many modern studio monitors have: would music even sound like that, if you were attending a live performance? It may not, depending where you're sitting in the audience. Focal's Utopia headphones have probably the best imaging I've ever heard (no crossover, no room interactions, and stiff beryllium drivers), but, the music had still sounded like it was artificial, and coming from headphones. Advantages of horns to me, heard recently even cheaper vintage horn speakers: 1. you can play them really loud or really soft and the music still sounds right. You don't strain to hear details. 2. properly reproducing the dynamics that were in the original recording and not compressing them (when heard for the first time, folks may say "it sounds too bright"). 3. providing "a sound wave" that makes you overlook imaging, layering and a soundstage, that may be behind that of modern, narrow baffle, tall studio monitors. 4. high sensitivity that lets you use smaller, simpler amplifiers.

smileday's picture

The speaker is directional at 300 Hz. This might have something to do with the so-called "big" sound. Speakers with small driver (or drivers) are more omnidirectional at that frequency.