KLH Model Five loudspeaker Page 2

Geist believes that today's often bass-dense music formats are better reproduced with acoustic suspension speakers. "Today, recordings are ... not restricted below 50Hz," he proffered. "Bass-reflex designs really struggle with anything below the tuning frequency of the port. Their output falls off a cliff, and the system becomes unstable. The acoustic suspension design ... [relies] on the air spring the sealed enclosure provides. This air spring is never compromised, so the system output is more stable throughout the low-frequency spectrum."

In my system, an 8' pair of AudioQuest Robin Hood speaker cables linked the Model Fives to, variously, an LKV Research Veros PWR+ power amplifier (200Wpc into 8 ohms, 400Wpc into 4 ohms), Parasound Hint 6 Halo integrated (160Wpc at 8 ohms, 240Wpc at 4 ohms), and Schiit Ragnarok 2 integrated amplifier (60Wpc at 8 ohms, 100Wpc at 4 ohms). I burned in and evaluated the M5s using Roon/Tidal streaming via laptop to the preamp/DAC section of an Ayre EX-8 2.0 integrated amplifier, connected via a 2m run of AudioQuest Forest digital USB cable. A 2m pair of Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects joined the Ayre EX-8 (employed as a preamp) to the LKV Research power amp. Vinyl LPs saw action vis-à-vis my Kuzma Stabi R/4Point tonearm/Denon DL-103 cartridge/Tavish Audio Design Adagio phono stage into either the Ayre, Parasound, or Schiit amps, via a 1m pair of Shindo unbalanced (RCA) interconnects.


I secured the Model Fives to their boxy metal stands (included) and toed in the speakers to fire directly at my ears. With attenuation set to "HI"—no attenuation—it took me no time to find a spot in which the M5s could sing. 33" away from the front wall, 59" apart, and 59" from my listening seat, they cast a wide, high, immersive soundspace with well-defined 3D images. Central image focus was very good on instruments and vocals. As its calling card, the KLH provided some of the tightest, most sharply defined, streamlined bass—acoustic, electric, synth, organ, didn't matter—ever heard chez Ken. The Model Fives didn't produce the absolute depth, tone, or sheer low-end mass of my reference DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96s, but bass notes have never sounded tighter or more carved in black space here than they did through the Model Five—which inspired me to unearth my drum and bass, EDM, funk, and Wagner records in succession.

The M5's midrange was consistently meaty and lucid, but some recordings could excite a thin, slightly papery quality from the tweeters; it was recording dependent. Mostly, the speaker played with a detailed, sparkling upper/mid/treble chutzpah that favored and seemed to amplify texture and viscosity. Notes had realistic weight and body. These Model Fives are attention-getters of the first order, delivering a big soundstage and big, juicy dynamics.

Powered by the Ayre integrated used as a preamp and the LKV Research Veros PWR+ amplifier, the M5s parlayed the moody strings of Brahms's Symphony No.2, performed by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Antal Dorati (LP, Mercury SR90171), into a thrilling swirl of near-psychedelic tones and textures. They played orchestral music with vigor, never breaking up in musical climaxes but, rather, seeming to relish them, nearly zealous in their sense of power and drive. They repeated these feats on Elgar's Enigma Variations with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Georg Solti (1976 LP, London CS 6984). The M5s played the hard-charging sections of this piece with muscle and power, absorbing me with physical textures and occasional treble glare heard. Spinning tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker's 1987 debut (LP, MCA Impulse! MCAD-5980), the M5s' exacting treble highlighted surface noise, but also every jot and tittle of drummer Jack DeJohnette's Paiste cymbal array, with good tone and body. The M5s recreated all the sustain and decay of the albums' recording venue, NYC's Power Station live room, a '70s-era, all-wood recording space that resembled a cathedral.


The M5 performed similarly meticulous maneuvers on Steely Dan's final album, Everything Must Go (LP, Reprise Records 603497849109). Through the M5s, drummer Keith Carlock's Gretsch snare had lightning-bolt snap, good tone and weight, as did the late Walter Becker's deep, heavily plucked Sadowsky electric bass. The M5s delivered high-resolution fastidiousness and clarity, as far from my vintage, laidback, "pipe and slippers" Spendor BC1s as possible. With almost every style of music and recording, the M5s engaged me and demanded my attention, framing music in bold shapes and tones.

Since the original M5s were popular in the '70s, I wondered how their descendants would sound with '70s music. I chose the second album from New York–cum-Massachusetts rock band Thirty Days Out. 1972's Miracle Lick (Reprise MS 2085) included performances by future Ramones' manager and TDO bassist Monte Melnick and celebrated vocalists Madeline Bell and Doris Troy. The album's production epitomized the dry, flat rock sound of an era when drummers taped their heads and studio experimentation was the norm. "The Sun Keeps Right on Shining" includes guitars run through chorus effects, vocals through Leslie cabinets, and thumping, warlike drumming combined with eerie Mellotron. Vocalist Jon McAuliffe sings about future dread and prescient environmental concerns ("The rivers run much slower than they did when we first saw them"). Driven by the Ayre and LKV Research tag team, the M5s framed this power rock in rich vocal tones, detailed guitar and drums, and nimble bass, all within a wide soundstage. My mind drifted back to that foggy era of orange shag carpet, Cheech & Chong records, and bubbling bong water.

Replacing the Ayre/LKV Research combo with the Parasound Hint 6 Halo integrated amp, the M5s grew more precise as if they were gaining confidence and determination. The Parasound is consistently neutral, powerful, and clean. With the Hint 6 behind them, the M5s presented Miracle Lick with focused vocal elocution, nearly etched-in-space bass and drums, and taut dynamics, giving the music a clean-scrubbed bedrock on which to parade TDO lead guitarist, engineer, and producer Jack Malken's '70s studio wizardry.

I played another '70s record, tenor saxophonist Mark Colby's One Good Turn (LP, Tappan Zee JC 35725), a funky workout with Bob James, Steve Gadd, Gary King, and Mike Manieri. "Skat Talk," the opening track, is a slick slab of New York City funk driven hard by King's electric bass and Steve Jordan's drums—Jordan plays drums on this track only. A walloping, whipsaw groove supports wailing sax and guttural vocal mumbles inside a tricky arrangement. Through the Parasound, the M5s played Colby's funk with a crispy, airy top end like a cool outer layer surrounding a warm center. The music was ultraclear through the Parasound/M5 duo, from chunky left-channel rhythm guitar to chatty right-channel agogô bells.

On Sonny Rollins's Tenor Madness (LP, Prestige PRLP 7047), a mono LP, I could hear John Coltrane's and Sonny Rollins's tenors reflecting off the wood cathedral ceiling of Englewood Cliffs' studio, Trane's horn chewy and urgent, Rollins's fuller and more romantic-sounding through the river-clear Parasound/M5 duo. The Parasound's clarity sometimes pushed the M5's tweeter into slightly unnatural territory, but again, it was recording specific.


I hadn't forgotten that the M5 had an attenuator on its tweeter. I used it wide open throughout most of this review. Now I dropped the switch a click, which, according to specifications, should result in a mere 1.5dB diminution in tweeter output. But it was too much: The result was a blunting of the treble that I couldn't live with. I far preferred the wide-open, unattenuated tweeter plus the occasional high-frequency imperfection. Overall, I liked the M5's highs.

Amplifiers mattered, too, and one combination struck gold. Playing the Colby and Rollins records with the M5s driven by the Schiit Ragnarok 2 integrated, everything became grittier and funkier—in a good way—as if a layer of sonic polish had been removed, instruments becoming more visceral, punchy, and real. Though the Schiit seemed to lessen contrasts between Trane's and Rollins's tenor sounds, those sounds grew more tactile, weighty, and meaningful. The Colby record became more direct and potent, with raspier textures, more upfront images, and more impact.

The M5s let me hear all the differences between amplifiers and recordings via its clean treble, open midrange, and controlled, authoritative bass. The M5 was a forensic instrument when needed and an audiophile speaker capable of reproducing rich, true-to-the-source sounds when desired. For not a lot of money. The KLH M5s are intoxication kings, urging me to hear my most beloved vinyl via its big personality and well-scaled dimensionality.

I thought, "If only I'd kept that pair of original M5s I found uptown!" But the revived KLH Model Five turned any regrets into a hearty smile of satisfaction.

KLH Audio
984 Logan St.
Noblesville, Indiana 46060
(833) 554-8326

Anton's picture

Thank you!

Now, I gotta find a way to ‘side by side’ these with the Wharfdale Linton speakers. Seems like a perfect shoot out.

Ortofan's picture

... KM do a follow-up review of the Wharfedale and HR do a follow-up review of the KLH.

tonykaz's picture

There is something nice about a box loudspeaker like this, my Operatic mother liked them too ! ( says a lot ).

I sold my Hi-Fi and moved on to Motorcycles, Camping, Engineering School and Marriage with 5 Children! Phew

Later on:
General Motors Corp. sent me to England to re-lamp a Manufacturing Plant with Westinghouse Mercury Vapor Lighting Systems giving me a time budget which I was able to complete about 5 days early, allowing me to meander around London Shops and discover the Rogers LS3/5a in a small hifi specialist. ( I also discovered HiFiNews & Record Review Magazine : the finest Audio publication I'd ever seen ). I purchased Both and still feel like I'd discovered greatness.

As much as I liked my KLH loudspeakers ( enough to purchase them ) I loved ( still do ) the little Rogers and couldn't live without them or their close cousins .

Manufacturing wise :

Business people using Chinese need inform consumers about how impossible it is to get service parts.

Putting Legacy Brand Names on Chinese stuff feels like fraud.

Tony in Venice Florida

Ortofan's picture

... $2K/pair, which would you be more likely to choose:
this new iteration of the KLH Model Five or the equally new (made-in-the-UK by) Falcon LS3/5a Mo(bile)Fi(delity) Edition?


tonykaz's picture

I've already been down that road.

I'd buy an eBay pair of one of the many LS3/5a variants, specifically a ProAc Tablette.


A used pair of Genelec 8020 with possibly it's matching Subwoofer.

The Big Box design of the KLH and a great many others are probably aimed at Rock folks with a large room.

If I needed to fill a large room, I'd likely do a nice pair of Klipsch or Magnapans.

I have the feeling that these new KLHs scaled up nicely for Mr.Micallef's outstanding Electronic selection and they probably do JAZZ well in his hands.

Tony in Venice Florida

ps. I'd probably turn-down a Garage Sale pair of 5s because I no longer have the Storage space or Wife approval for big boxes of hifi. Class D is calling to me.

Jack L's picture


It all depends, bud.

For tiny listening room, minis like Rogers LS3/5a or its crones are the better choice.

But if the room is spacious, then the much larger LH Model 5 would be a better all-rounder high to low frequencies.

I know your concern about made-in-where quality given the same price level.

Me too. I always go for made-in-country-of-origin.

My car for instance: All-Wheel-Drive SUV imported from Japan, its country of origin: better quality control & minimum maintenance.

Jack L

ken mac's picture

Good times, Tony.

Jack L's picture


This I would call "smart business tactic" - to kill 3 birds with one stone" - built in so called 'developing' countries, like China to save cost, lowering selling price to sell more, & making more profit by selling more.

No free lunch, Budd. Inconsistent quality control would result inconsistent performance quality & more frequent repair. Eventually it would backfire to those "legacy brandnames" !

For loudspeakers alone, as long as all electronic components are supplied by the brandname manufacturers & the cabinets & the assembly is made by the OEM off shore should not be so bad.

My qustion is: are the speaker driver units also made by the offhshore OEMs, like China ????? I heard a few brandname loudspeakers speaker units are made in China as well. That's not good news for the consumers !!

Jack L

michelesurdi's picture

why not call them AR 3?

Jack L's picture


Not all acoustic suspension loudspeakers made & sound equally good.

AR-3a sounded so so much better than AR-3, as per some criitics published. So....

Jack L

Pryso's picture

Ken, nice review. Except the KLH 9 was not developed by Kloss. That was Arthur Janszen who KLH contracted to build a full range version with his electrostatic driver elements. Janszen's son David continues to design and build speakers under the family name and also restores the long out of production 9s.

Further information provided by David. " In 1957 Arthur designed what would become the 9 and began field tests. In 1959, KLH brought that speaker in for manufacture and began the process of putting it into production, giving my dad a 5 year contract as CTO or something like that plus some stock. This is the one case where Kloss admitted in interviews that he had nothing to do with the design, although I'm sure he helped with the manufacturing engineering."

ken mac's picture

for the correction.

tonykaz's picture

Dear Mr.Micallef,

I'm sort of puzzled by the various Vinyl Sellers reporting how they came to own large collections of vintage sealed Vinyl.

Recently, Mr.Tupper of the Bronx NY, who collected for 5 to 6 Decades, is now selling to the big Kansas outfit, mostly unplayed and quite rare first pressings, sealed and beautifully preserved. Mr. Tupper reported that he plays Cassettes and has nice Nak Cassette gear. hmm.

The Big Arizona Vinyl Shop also seems to come up with Vinyl Gems. ( presumably pristine and unplayed )

A whole lot of this recent Vinyl "resurgence" appears to be about Collecting impressive numbers of Albums including every Re-master of every popular Artist. Egads, folks seem to amasses tens of thousands of records, probably including a wide range of Duplicates or multiples of Duplicates of exactly the same Album. ( Internet & reviewing personalities will describe their personal collections ) & ( Chad Kassem. seems to limit his customers to only 3 of each of his latest pressings ).

The Jazz Sheppard 'does' play all his Albums ( while alleging that he has never properly cleaned any of them !! , I'll wager that he doesn't even own a Moving Coil or any 'good wire' ). I have him on YouTube Subscription and appreciate the Jazz education he provides.

I can understand the JAZZ lover needing a rather large collection of Blue Note.

I'm asking:

1.) will all those vintage JAZZ recording ever be widely available via streaming ?

2.). Will a 60 Year Old Person ever have enough time to listen to each of his 10,000+++ Albums?

3.) Will anyone inherit Joe Bussard's 78 rpm Collection ?

Thank you for writing for Stereophile, you are always interesting.

Tony in Venice Florida

ken mac's picture

...cleans his records on my old ProJect machine!! He does indeed play and know his records very well.
People like Chad Kassem and Fred Cohen of Jazz Record Center have been doing this for so many years--they're well jacked-in to the network of buyers and sellers and collectors. But large sealed collections? Never heard of such a thing.

Thank you, Tony.

Pryso's picture

Tony, I agree it makes sense to consider age VS size of collection and time to play them. I'm older so two years ago when I moved 2,200 miles I sold 2/3rds of my collection. I knew I'd never listen to them all so why pay to move that much weight? However I did go through them all first and it was not always easy to decide which to keep.

Regarding sealed records, a friend had a collection of about 5,000 LPs, many of which were still sealed. When I ask him why he admitted he often would buy 5 to 10 at a time. But then open and play only 2 or 3 before shopping again. With that build up he never got back to opening all the sealed albums.

Jack L's picture


This is hoarding, not collecting !

Whatever quantities of LPs one owns, 5 or 5,000 irrespective, the owner should play them to enjoy the music therein.

To show off the 'art' of hoarding or to enjoy the music itself ??

Listening is believing

Jack L