Klipsch Palladium P-17B loudspeaker Page 3

For instance, all the pop recordings I've bought in the last two months sound like crap. Though I've recently bought great music by Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and Bowerbirds, these discs' over-EQ'd, overcompressed sound hinders my enjoyment of the music. The P-17B's slight emphasis of the very top treble didn't make these recordings sound any better than they are, and did little to hide their flaws. I don't fault Klipsch for this—it's the fault of these albums' engineers, producers, and mastering engineers. I also blame overcooked recordings on the general decline of Western civilization. However, if you listen only to badly recorded rock, you may do better with a more forgiving speaker.

I had hoped the Palladium P-17B and Manley Labs' Stingray iTube integrated amplifier, which I reviewed in March, would become bosom buddies—in fact, one of my reasons for reviewing the Klipsch was my hope of finding a highly efficient mate for the low-powered Stingray. However, the Manley's sonic signature includes an emphasis in the top octave of the treble that's very similar to the P-17B's. When the Klipsches and Manley played together, I got too much of a good thing: While the sound was never shrill or hard, it had a little too much of that airy treble quality. My low-powered and mellow-sounding Pass Labs Aleph 3, on the other hand, never sounded as clear or as powerful as through the efficient P-17Bs. The moral: With well-recorded music, and paired with electronics and cables that don't themselves sound bright, the P-17B's treble should be no trouble.

If the late Paul W. Klipsch was correct in saying that "the midrange is where we live," then the Palladium P-17B had me movin' on up to a Dee-Luxe apartment in the sky. Its midrange was big, open, articulate, very low in distortion, and among the best I've heard from any speaker. In fact, I believe that the P-17B's low midrange distortion sets it apart from other speakers. Its horn-loaded inverted dome excelled at snare-drum strokes, finger snaps, and guitar plucks both acoustic and electric. However, what really surprised me was how rightly this driver rendered voices. Though the P-17B's midrange driver reproduced very few fundamentals of the human voice, it did pass along most of the overtones, especially in the area where the ear is the most sensitive. Hearing these overtones so clearly and correctly, and with so little distortion, allowed me to connect with singers in a profound way. Instead of sounding like a record on a stereo, my 2010 "Record To Die For" of Arleen Augér and the Yale Cellos, under Aldo Parisot, performing Villa-Lobos's Bachianas Brasileiras No.5 (CD, Delos DE 3041), felt like a direct injection of the music into my soul. The P-17Bs confirmed what a great singer Augér was; her voice was perfectly balanced between the ping of her overtones and the warmth of her wonderfully rich vowels. And, amazingly, not once in any of the music I played did I hear any horn coloration.

A proviso
For all my raving about them, there was one thing I could not get the Klipsch Palladium P-17Bs to excel at in my room: Try as I might, I could not get them to throw a truly deep soundstage. No matter what amps, cables, or speaker positions I tried, the soundstage was a bit flatter than I'm used to hearing. This was confirmed when I borrowed from a friend a pair of old Revel Ultima Gems. Sitting on the same stands as the Klipsches, the Gems produced an illusion of a soundstage vastly deep. Most likely, the Revels' rear-firing tweeters went a long way toward helping them achieve this illusion. Still, the Klipsches did excel at throwing a broad and precise lateral soundstage that often extended beyond the speakers' outer side panels, and their image specificity was some of the best I've heard—in the lateral plane, they "disappeared."

Hope (Arkansas) for us all
The Klipsch Palladium P-17B is a world-class bookshelf loudspeaker. Yes, it's a bit expensive, and it doesn't play the lowest octave of bass. However, its performance and appearance reflect well-grounded engineering, thoughtful visual design, and immaculate execution. I've heard many other speakers that cost much more that don't offer this level of performance and beauty of appearance. If you mate them to gear that doesn't itself sound too bright, and are ready to agonize a bit over their placements in the room, you'll be rewarded. I haven't been this excited about horn speakers since my visit to Uncle John's house 22 years ago. These are horns a horn-hater can love.

Klipsch Group, Inc.
3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46268
(800) 544-1482