Klipsch Forte III loudspeaker Page 2

As I played different recordings, I kept thinking the low end should be better defined, given the woofer's high cutoff frequency. The Forte III's thin footers practically embedded themselves into the floor, so I slid four 2" by 2" by 7/8" Anti Vibration Isolation Pads (ribbed rubber with cork center, Amazon $6.99/4) under each cabinet. General focus improved, as did low-end definition.

A drummer (in his spare time) who well understands how bass frequencies can bloat, Delgado gave me his blessing to go further. "You don't want the speaker to couple too much to the floor because it will cause some things to resonate that you don't want to resonate," Delgado said. "Raising them up will tighten the bass."

I sourced six BXI Anti Vibration Isolation Pads—these measure 6" by 6" by 2" and weigh 12 ounces apiece (Amazon, $22.99 per two-pack)—and placed three of these chunky rubber-and-cork squares in a triangle pattern under each Forte III. Experiencing one of those epiphanies that occur when the Gods must be crazy, everything snapped into focus. I could now hear minute differences in bass-frequency textures, with some recordings presenting finely layered slabs of well-defined bass drum, acoustic bass, synthesizer, or Hammond B3 organ. From classic rock to modern electronica, the Forte IIIs forged beautiful bass waves, defining what seemed nearly subsonic frequencies with ease.

Pianist Russ Lossing's Motian Music (CD, Sunnyside SSC 1532) pays tribute to master drummer Paul Motian, joined by the pianist's longtime compatriots Masa Kamaguchi (bass) and Billy Mintz (drums). Like Motian himself, Lossing's interpretation of Motian's music is playful, even rambunctious. The Forte IIIs revealed the excellent engineering of Paul Wickliffe and the acoustic space of his Charlestown Road Studio in Hampton, New Jersey. Panned right, the entire drum set had its own distinct stage, each decay, cymbal ring, and drum resonance part of a larger percussive whole that poured forth from the Forte IIIs with exhilaration. Casting an immersive soundstage, the Fortes resolved all level of microdynamic interplay between the three musicians. Far from isolating each instrument in its own space, there was considerable bleed between piano, bass and drums, creating a fully alive sonic experience.


Discovering talented jazz vocalists is always a kick in the head: Ashley Pezzotti's We've Only Just Begun (CD, Ashley Pezzotti Music AP0001) is a spirited performance, the Miamian powerhouse equal parts Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, and Diane "Deedles" Schuur. Via the Fortes, in the album's speed-demon opener, "It Only Takes A Moment," Pezzotti soared as drummer Kyle Poole popped his brushes and bassist Bob Bruya traced a superfast walking line. The upright bass sounded so rich and palpable it was irresistible.

The Schiit Ragnarok/Klipsch pairing produced consistent magic in terms of bass reproduction, some CDs or LPs creating visceral yet agile, creamy yet forceful, sculpted low-end frequencies; Kruder & Dorfmeister's beat-heavy G-Stoned—CD, Quango 162-448 011-2—was ballistic in that regard. Bass like buttah!

The Fortes were also consistently transparent to the source, sometimes painfully so. Bad recordings were undeniably bad. The Parasound Halo HINT 6, which leans toward the cool side, could make the Fortes sound tonally light, while with other recordings it seemed the III's horns were muted or shut down. But those concerns were swept aside by great recordings like pianist Greg Reitan's West 60th (CD, Sunnyside SSC 1542): With that disc, the Fortes disappeared, leaving Reitan's grand piano reverberating in what sounded like a large space (LA's Concept 2 Studios). And again there was no sense of boxy, shouty, or spitty upper-frequency colorations. (Maybe the Mumps were doing their job!) Approaching the see-through quality of electrostatic speakers, the Fortes seemingly vanished as the trio joyously swung. And on Jersey by the Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet (CD, Motema MTM0233)—Guiliana was a passionate and popular jazz drummer long before working with David Bowie on Blackstar—the music emanated from well beyond the confines of the speakers: The soundstage was wide and deep.

I'm a drummer. Percussive sounds always capture my attention. I'm aware, for example, of the difference in sound between felt and lamb's wool bass drum beaters. Felt beaters create a harder, more direct bass drum sound, while lamb's wool is like soft cotton swooshing the head, moving its internal air more gently to create a softer sound. On Jersey's title track, I heard the soft, warm sheen of a bass drumhead being driven by a lamb's wool beater. The Forte was wonderfully transparent to this detail buried deep within the music.


Klipsch meets Shindo Laboratories
I switched to vinyl and to my beloved Shindo Allegro preamplifier and Haut-Brion power amplifier, which I suspected would be a winning combination. ($20k in amplification might seem like overkill for a $4k pair of loudspeakers—and indeed I would expect less expensive tube components to also lock in well if carefully matched.) Good friend and hi-fi guru Steve Cohen visited not long after the Klipsch/Shindo pairing was in place, and we sat and listened in silence to this mighty system: Good sound, good friends, and good music make for joyful living.

Playing a perennial favorite LP, Poll Winners Three! with Barney Kessel, Shelly Manne, and Ray Brown (Contemporary Records S7576), the Fortes reproduced the essence of this natural-sounding recording. Through the combination of Forte IIIs and Shindo amplification, I could easily hear the moments of contact between Ray Brown's fingers and his bass strings, Marine's sticks and drums, Kessel's pick and guitar strings—those instants when action becomes visceral music. The super-efficient Klipsches reminded me that the Shindos are unique in their absolute faithfulness to what I take to be the spirit of every recording I play through them: When I fire them up, it's always like returning home.

The Forte III bared the Shindo's natural, honest beauty of sound.

The Klipsch Forte III didn't rise to the majestic peaks of the Volti Audio Rival. It lacked that speaker's ability to describe the richest, densest tonal complexities. Yet, otherwise, it achieved the same results: Used with the best recordings and associated gear, it disappeared in service to them. Likewise, the Klipsch lacked the generous warmth of the DeVore Fidelity O/93 but surpassed it in terms of dynamics, transparency, speed, and low-end extension. And it was uber-sensitive to every piece of gear upstream—only the relatively soft-sounding Auditorium 23 speaker cables would do, and it didn't take kindly to the lit-up signature of the Parasound Halo HINT 6. It was, above all, a truthteller.

Designer Roy Delgado's words came back to me: "It's like a magnifying glass."

For sheer elation, for joyous jumps and shouts, for exhilaration of hi-fi enjoyed and music revealed, the Forte III is a one-of-a-kind loudspeaker. It gave me serious bliss and musical insight. Somewhere, Paul W. Klipsch is smiling.

Klipsch Audio Technologies
3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46268
(317) 860-8100

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be KM could also review the JBL L-100 Classic speakers ......... L-100 Classics are also about the same price, $4,000/pair :-) .........

Indydan's picture

According to one review.


Bogolu Haranath's picture

I read that Hi-Fi News review ......... We don't know what amp that reviewer used ........ Hi-Fi News measurements of JBL don't look bad ........ Hi-Fi News gave that JBL 'editor's choice' award, anyway ....... It would be nice to get a 'second opinion' from Stereophile :-) .........

Jason P Jackson's picture

On one hand, I'm surprised JBL are satisfied leaving a $4k design measuring that way. On the other hand, I've worked with a manufacturer who insisted on limiting the performance of a less-expensive design, as to avoid the design being "intrusive" toward the upmarket models. Why else would JBL be satisfied with a 5db uptick at 2k? Ouch.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Those measurements were taken with the MF and the HF controls set at 0 db ......... KH mentions that in the measurements section ......... L-100 comes with HF and MF adjustable controls ....... Listeners can adjust those to suit their preference :-) ...........

dalethorn's picture

It's not like the wizard of oz. You don't get points for linking to something you don't understand.

Jason P Jackson's picture

The comment section of an online magazine is hardly the place for "points". Hahaha.

Ortofan's picture

... a full-range horn-loaded design.
As mentioned in the review, a "steep-filter passive network crosses over at 650Hz and 5.2kHz" to the horn-loaded mid-range and tweeter.
So, the main radiator of frequencies up to 650Hz - about one and one-half octaves above middle C - is the 12" paper cone woofer.
In that event, how much of the apparent sound quality from the Forte III is a function of the horn-loaded mid-range and tweeter versus the relatively conventional passive-radiator-loaded paper cone woofer?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be 'best of both worlds' :-) ........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JBL also has several different models, which use similar type of cone woofers and horn midranges and horn tweeters ....... JBL also uses that 'hybrid' type of configuration in several of their pro models :-) ......

Ortofan's picture

... rave reviews of such "hybrid" speakers because they are horn-loaded, when that applies to just the tweeter (and midrange) driver(s).

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ortofan, La Scala is for you ......... Fully horn loaded .........Talk to Anton ....... See below :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... the following speaker is the one for me:

Bacek's picture

LaScala bass horn works only till about 100Hz. Below that works like "direct" radiator.

David Harper's picture

kind of amazing that in 2019 an old fashioned conventional horn loaded dynamic speakers-in-a-wooden-box can be described by a reviewer in such wonderfully imaginative terms of sound quality. And only four grand! For 700 bucks a pair of the new maggie LRS speakers would,I suspect,reveal the primitive nature of the aformentioned Klipsch horns.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

We're talkin'about LOUD speakers heer :-) .........

Anton's picture

It's nice to see Klipsch regarded as "Hi Fi" again.

In the millennium prior to this one, Klipsch was anathema among the Hi Fi hoi polloi.

I don't have precise recollection of when Klipsch was welcomed back into the fold, perhaps when Sam Tellig heard a pair during his travels and mentioned it in a column?

I root for Klipsch. Horn loading and high efficiency strike me as the beating heart of getting at 'the absolute sound.'

Thanks for a fun review!

I impulse bought a pair of new Heresy's last year to use in a small loft and love them (observations in the press about occasional HF intensity are correct, by the way,) and my son uses a pair of La Scala speakers with a PS Audio Sprout to FABULOUS EFFECT.

It's nice seeing Klipsch back in the pantheon.

ken mac's picture

Glad you enjoyed the review. I love the Forte IIIs.

Anton's picture

I wanna go hear the new Klipshcorns and La Scala AL 5 speakers, as well!

I also lurk at the Klipsch forums, they have a very dynamic tweak/upgrade community!

About 5 years ago, our club played with a pair of Klipsch corner horns and we attacked two large plywood "corners/wings" to the back of the speakers and then played then in free space, it worked very well!

I am on the Klipcsh website's mailing list...if they ever discount the heritage line like they do the regular line, I am taking a deep dive!


David Harper's picture

and best of all they're really really LOUD!!!! So loud that you may not ever want to listen to anything again.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May cause 'hyperacusis'? :-) .........

Robert Francis's picture

Nicely written article Ken, I remember hearing a set of Klipschorns at Kenny's Castaway's on Bleecker St., back in the late 80's. From the first note to the last, wow, those babies really sang out and opened my ears to a new level of reproductive high fidelity sound that I didn't think was possible at the time. Of course the living musical waves that resonated out from the large plywood cabinets could only be amplified by a fine vintage, sweet-sounding, and artfully crafted McIntosh tube amp that was well cabled.

The Klipsch/ McIntosh combo creates a sublime depiction of a musical landscape that still lives on within my inner ear. I'm grateful for holding dear to those beautifully sounding sense memories that I recall when an occasion arises. Plain and simple, music, I mean high quality sounding music makes life truly enjoyable in this paradise known as earth. Thanks Ken. You truly are a gifted writer, and you really helped me out all those years ago. Kudos, to you my friend.

Ken? Hmm... I think I subleased your place back in 1990 on MacDouglal Street, I remember a roommate who played a great jazz trumpet as the aroma of Mamoun's spicy fried falafel balls wafted through your place enticing me to indulge... Though, perhaps you're a not the Ken I once knew. Anyway, keep up the great work. I too love the fine art of audiophile grade music as much as you and your esteemed colleagues at the venerable Stereophile magazine enjoy. Cheers.

ken mac's picture

That was surely me, and my apartment, then, thankfully I no longer reside above Mamouns. And the trumpeter was Ken Watters, a fine musician. I remember your name but not your face. Sorry. Thanks for the kind words. I never knew Kenny's had that setup!

Robert Francis's picture

Yeah, it took me awhile to figure out where that amazing sound was coming from at Kenny's. As one walked through the set of double doors, the bar was on the left, and on the right was the jukebox that connected to the McIntosh amp that was tucked discretely on a lower shelf in the sound booth area.

The speakers were up on a platform toward the ceiling at the end of the bar... What a bunch of misfit characters at that place, it reminded me of an old pirate ship. I worked the day bar, and served hot dogs and a beer for a buck, and at night I managed the floor at the Bitter End, a couple blocks to the east. That was a really fun time, we were saving the Bitter End from a rogue outfit of real estate scavengers from Long Island who had plans to suck the life's blood out of Bleecker by gentrifying the spirit out of the place. Needless to say we were set to make a final stand and so Kenny Gorka, Paul Colby and the crew called in reinforcements in a successful attempt to make the Bitters into NYC's only official landmark status dive bar. People like Bonnie Raitt, David Crosby, Judy Collins, Joan Biaz, Kris Kristopherson, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, etc... all showed up night after night to attract the needed PR and I was lucky enough to have been there at that time. What a blast of great memories from the past.

Ortofan's picture

... work/sound with the First Watt SIT-3?

ken mac's picture

would know.

Ortofan's picture

... doesn't like - save for some speakers he once owned several decades ago.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Is he the opposite of Mikey? :-) .......

ken mac's picture

...products he doesn't like. If he gets in something for review that truly stinks, he returns it. He doesn't want to waste his or the reader's time. I believe that is a correct characterization....

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wonder how they sound like with the new darTZeel NHB-468? ........ See AnalogPlanet :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

SIT-3 may work even better with 101 db sensitive Klipsch La Scala AL5 ........ See Hi-Fi News measurements :-) ..........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

AD could review the La Scala AL5 ....... Should work well with his favorite SET tube amps :-) ........

Timbo in Oz's picture

No, not true.

cyclebrain's picture

"which implies low distortion."
Why don't you do speaker distortion measurements?
Would be interesting to see speaker efficiency vs distortion.
Maybe don't want to show orders of magnitude of distortion between speakers and electronics.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hi-Fi News does speaker distortion measurements in addition to the other speaker measurements :-) .......

smileday's picture

I guess it is difficult to measure in low frequency without an expensive anechoic chamber.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You can read JA1's previously published articles in Stereophile about how he does loudspeaker measurements ....... You can also watch JA1's previous video presentation of how he does loudspeaker measurements at the RMAF :-) ..........

smileday's picture

We need the exact level of the fundamental to tell harmonic distortion. In the bottom end frequencies, the level of the fundamental is inaccurate. It is guessed.

johnny p.'s picture

I just wonder if Ken ruffled any feathers with those who own the O/93. Several on the 'phile staff do and Ken reports that the Forte is more transparent than the Devore. I believe it, but this would be amazing, at the Forte's price.

ken mac's picture

...the generous warmth and easy soul of the O/93s. Those are major qualifiers.

smileday's picture

I guess Klipsch had Stereophile review Forte III instead of Cornwall III, because Forte III has smoother 'horizontal' off axis response.

However, there are online reviewers saying that Forte III is very sensitive to positioning: toe angle, tweeter height, etc.

I guess the discrepancy between JA's off-axis plots and human experience is due to the incompleteness of two sets of off axis measurements: horizontal and vertical.

We naively guess all off axis responses from the two sets: horizontal and vertical. It may not work that simple in the real world.

If a speaker has an ideal point source as a tweeter and an ideal point source as a mid-range driver, the two sets, horizontal and vertical, can give us a good guess about all off axis responses. Reality, however, is more complicated.