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Klipsch KLF-30 Speakers: Exit to Vintage Street

What are the best vintage tower speakers of all-time? My adventures with the Klipsch KLF-30 speakers and why I’m vintage audio for life.

Klipsch KLF-30 Legend Tower Floorstanding Speakers

On March 15th, 2019 I had the opportunity to hear my second ever pair of Klipsch loudspeakers. In a great example of the virtual becoming reality, an Instagram friend Scott (@scotty_scotchdog, who I had never met in person) invited myself and fellow IG friend Kevin (@mistachen, who I also first met on Instagram and then a couple of times in person), to a Scotch tasting/audio testing party. 

Local audio store owner Kurt (@the_audio_room, who I’d met a few times at the store) provided the audio equipment in the form of Hegel and NAD DAC/amplifiers for a head-to-head shootout, with Scott’s Klipsch KLF-30 speakers providing the familiar (to him) sound output.

Klipsch KLF-30 Loudspeaker
Klipsch KLF-30: Now that’s my kind of monolith!

Scott had found me through my whisky Instagram account (@whisky_yyc), and through that I’d discovered his KLF ownership. Pure #AudioPorn speakers. We had messaged back-and-forth quite a bit, with him asking for Scotch recommendations, and had plenty of discussions about audio components, speakers and music. I was glad to finally meet Scott, and see Kevin and Kurt again, but part of me was just there to finally hear the Klipsch KLF-30 speakers. 

I’d been curious about Klipsch, and particularly the popular, retro-styled “Heritage” Series (Heresy, Forte, Cornwall, La Scala and Klipschorn) since getting into vintage audio. The first and only Klipsch I had heard up to that point were the Quartets (1989-96), which I had owned for a little over a year. Though not officially Heritage speakers, they were a fit looks-wise; like a big Heresy with deeper bass (10” woofer and 12” rear passive, as opposed to the Heresy’s 12” woofer).

Klipsch Quartets Loudspeakers
Klipsch Quartet Loudspeakers: Like a big Heresy.

I loved the look of the Quartets, but never could get them to sound right with the equipment I had at the time. They were good with jazz, chamber music, acoustic – anything detailed and textured, without too much going on – but with louder, more complex rock or orchestral music, output lost cohesion and came across as dry and harsh. I raised them, adjusted toe-in, moved them closer to the rear wall and then farther out, changed my seating position; no matter what I did, there was something off.

I had not purchased a tube amp yet (Klipsch and tubes are a heaven-made match, but my Dynaco ST-70 was still a year in the future), but in retrospect feel that could have been an answer.

Scott’s KLFs were a different story. Whether with Hegel or NAD, they sounded big, and there was an abundance of bass. I’m not a bass-head, but I do like a solid low end and the KLF-30 had it in spades. There was also a good balance between bass, midrange and treble that was true no matter what we listened to. They sounded cohesive and I loved them.

A mind expanded by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.

The sad thing about an experience like the evening at Scott’s is that I had a new audio benchmark, and I spent the next few weeks comparing the sound of my own speakers to that. My dissatisfaction with the Quartets only grew. I let Scott know that if he ever decided to get rid of his KLFs, I wanted first dibs. He told me it was unlikely, but that yes, I’d be first in line.

Klipsch KLF-30: Treble and Midrange Horns: 1” K-79 tweeter compression driver with exponential horn and 1.5” K-52 midrange compression driver with Tractrix Horn®.
Klipsch KLF-30: Treble and Midrange Horns: 1” K-79 tweeter compression driver with exponential horn and 1.5” K-52 midrange compression driver with Tractrix Horn®.

Not only do the Klipsch KLF-30 sound big; they are big, standing 115cm tall (45”) and weighing a burly 46.3kg (102 lbs). Part of the Legend Series (30, 20, 10 and C7 centre) introduced in 1996 and manufactured until 2001, the Klipsch KLF-30 feature a three-way driver system with 1” K-79 tweeter compression driver (with 90˚ x 40˚ exponential horn), 1.5” K-52 midrange compression driver (with 90˚ x 60˚ Tractrix Horn®) and two 12” K-31 woofers (with oversize magnet structure).

Frequency response is a very decent 36Hz to 20 kHz, and sensitivity is (rated) 102 dB @ 1 watt/1 meter, and nominal impedance is 8 ohms. On paper, a speaker which will play well with anything.

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Klipsch KLF-30 Woofers: Two 12” K-31 woofers with oversize magnet structure.
Klipsch KLF-30 Woofers: Two 12” K-31 woofers with oversize magnet structure.

I got it in my mind that I should get something tall with a big box like the KLFs. If I couldn’t have the real thing, I wanted something close. Soon after the mind-expanding evening, I found a set of ESS PS4As advertised on Kijiji (Canada’s Craigslist). Double 10” woofers (one active, one passive) and small Heil AMT (Air Motion Transformer) ribbon tweeter.

Not as big box-wise as the KLF-30s, but still on the larger side at 99cm tall (39”). Rated similarly at 35Hz to 24kHz, and sensitivity of 96 dB @ 1 watt/3 feet and a 6 ohms impedance.

ESS PS4A: Great combination with Dual 701, Sansui AU-999 and Dynaco ST-70 playing Natalie Merchant.
ESS PS4A: Great combination with Dual 701, Sansui AU-999 and Dynaco ST-70 playing Natalie Merchant.

I tried them out and liked what I heard (not as big sounding as the KLFs, but adequate levels of bass, great balance and sweet midrange and highs). They came home with me, and the Quartets were quickly sold on. Ironically, they guy who bought the Quartets brought over an old Marantz 2230 receiver to test them with, and the Quartets never sounded better to my ears. Goes to show the importance of synergy.

A bit over a year on and a few months into the pandemic, Scott messaged me. “Do you still want my KLFs?” He was taking the plunge on some Tannoy loudspeakers and the Klipsch KLF-30 speakers were now surplus to requirements. Did I still want the KLFs? I was mighty happy with my ESS, but dammit yes, I wanted these legends. A deal was struck, and a few days later Scott and I lugged two 102 lb monsters down into my basement and they were mine. All mine.

Klipsch KLF-30 Loudspeakers in my room
Just Delivered: Those twin towers were heavy!

My Precious

And now, a year on, what do I think? Do the Klipsch KLF-30 speakers play well with everything? I would have to say yes. I’ve run them in all kinds of set-ups and combinations; and while they do sound different, they always sound good. Very good. 

With the diminutive Sansui AU-555, rated at 20 watts/channel and damping factor (control over the movement of the speaker cone, particularly in the bass region) set to high (45), the sound is big and beefy. This is with the volume pot set to somewhere between 2 and 3. Bass is solid with good slam and control.

The midrange and highs are detailed, and extension is excellent. Overall tonal balance is spot on, and I’d be happy enough with this combination if it was the only system available to me. Proof that an efficient speaker with a low-powered amp can work extremely well, with no compromise to sound quality.

Sansui AU-555:
Sansui AU-555: The little vintage engine that can make the KLF-30s roar.

With the bigger Sansui AU-999, rated at 50 watts/channel and a damping factor of 45, output is similar. A bit cleaner and leaner, with less beef. More refined and “audiophile.” Many 999 owners lament (somewhat) a lack of bass punch and here that reputation is born out; this is no fault of the KLF-30. That said, this combination is still very satisfying and extremely musical.

Throw the 35 watts/channel Dynaco ST-70 tube power amp into the mix with the AU-999 operating in preamp mode, and magic starts to happen. The Dynaco adds warmth, and a pinch more low end than the 999 alone. Bass is thick without being flabby, with impactful dynamics and speed (there’s thwack to the attack). Midrange and treble are well defined and balanced, neither recessed nor forward. The Klipsch-plus-tubes adage is very, very true and the result is something I could listen to ‘til the cows come home. Wonderfully balanced with just the right amount of presence and size.

Sansui AU-999 and Dynaco ST-70
Sansui AU-999 and Dynaco ST-70: Adding tubes makes the KLF-30 sing!

The one KLF-30 spec that I have yet to mention is output power; nominal 200 watts and maximum 800 watts each. These things can handle a lot of juice. So, out of curiosity, we replace the Sansui/Dynaco pairing with a NAD solid state combo of 3020 (as pre-amp) and a 150 watts/channel 2600 power amp. Damping factor of 100. For bass-heads, this is where you want to be. Attack and decay of the low end are incredibly defined; there’s thunder with no flab at all. The midrange and treble are still very balanced sounding but more dynamic and engaging. Not something I do much, but volume can be turned way up, and the speakers maintain composure. Efficient yes, but also very muscular.

NAD 3020 and 2600 with Klipsch KLF-30 Speakers
Klipsch KLF-30 with NAD 3020 and 2600: Blowing the cobwebs out with some real power.

Suffice it to say, I am 100% satisfied with the Klipsch KLF-30 speakers. Actually — 99.9%. Every now and then, the vintage-purist, OCD part of my brain whispers, “1996 is not vintage; your speakers are too new!” Many define vintage audio as being manufactured pre-1985 (while in the automobile world anything older than 25 years is vintage). If the KLF-30s were cars, the first ones off the line would now just fall in the vintage category. As audio equipment, they’re a decade too late.

Klipsch KLF-30 Loudspeakers Lifestyle
Somethin’ Else: Dual 701, Sansui AU-999, Dynaco ST-70 and Klipsch KLF-30s bring Cannonball Adderley’s classic to life.

What to do? What to do? Perhaps a set of 2nd generation Fortes or Cornwalls are in my future. Probably Cornwalls… 

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  1. James Tremblay

    July 3, 2021 at 4:22 am

    Great, great article! I just love your focus on vintage gear and appreciate the loving care you obviously have for it.

    I’ve never heard the KLF-30’s, but man I want to now! Will I ever find a pair at a reasonable price stuck up here in the furthest point of Northwestern VT? No, I really doubt it, but man do they sound (from your description) sweet. And a logical go-with, a most of amps are of the tube variety, from 300b S.E.T. to KT-120 push-pull and a whole bunch in between. Some solid-state as well, if I need something to blindly play while burning something else in.

    My Klipsch experience is radically limited to the LaScalas, which I adore, the Heresey’s, which I truly hate and and a pair of those 1980’s towers, also a hated model of speaker. But these KLF-30’s? Top of the “I really NEED to hear a pair of these” list!

    Cheers, Eric


      February 11, 2022 at 2:10 pm

      My brother’s 1976 Cornwalls were what got me addicted to Klipsch stuff. So after my 1999 divorce I consoled myself reading Home Theater magazines drooling over the gear. There was a Sound Advice outlet near the temporary motel I was staying at, so I spent a few evenings there talking with the Sales Manager. I told him about my brother’s Cornwalls. He took me to an audition room with KLF-30’s. When he asked me what kind of music I liked I said I was raised in the 60’s -70’s Rock age. He said for the best “dick in the dirt” rock speakers, nothing to compare to the 200watt rms, 800watt peak KLIPSCH KLF -30. I left with a pair. Went back the following week to buy the center speaker and wall mounted surrounds. Then off to buy the Marantz SR-19 Blackbird…Added an Ebay buy of a Phase Linear 700B for two-channel and a Carver m-1.5t Amp in case the “Flame linear ” moniker happened. Topped it off with a rare Carver subwoofer (open box buy) and then my finances were curtailed when the local bar told me I wasn’t allowed to win the Friday pool tournament more than three weeks in a row. Sent me packing to other gambling ventures in the Orlando area. My Valentines Party in the apartment I built in the mezzanine of my factory was da BOMB! My guests said they never heard a stereo system like that! It was a big, carpeted, high ceiling great room! Let those babies breathe!!!

  2. James Tremblay

    July 3, 2021 at 4:24 am

    BTW, you have a superb listening room. Nice, vintage 70’s look, great music, and some fine hooch on display. The total package. Color me jealous – and I have a darned nice one, too!

    • Eric Pye

      July 3, 2021 at 6:11 pm

      Cheers James. Appreciate the feedback. If you’re looking for KLFs, you might consider joining the Klipsch Legend Series group on Facebook. KLFs for sale are often posted there, and it’s a great place to learn more about the series. I understand that the KLF-20s are actually the unheralded stars out of the 10s, 20s and 30s, with better balance and still thunderous bass.

    • Tony

      January 10, 2022 at 7:21 pm

      Sir. I love your room. Please may I have the name of the record cabinet/shelf/credenza?

  3. Logan

    August 30, 2021 at 1:13 pm

    I recently got lucky to acquire a set of KLF-30s with a KLF-C7 center channel. They are very large physically. And they are very large sound-wise, at all volumes. The horns are crisp and clean on the top-end and mid-range.
    I have replaced the diaphragms and crossovers with Crites on all 3. I run them on a 145wpc Onkyo TX-NR5007 and have 2 12″ Acoustech subs. Music is incredible and movies are as well. I have the subs set at maybe 1/4 volume and it’s more than ample at all volumes. They are able to get down and emphasize any super low lows without being obnoxious, which is very sweet.
    I listen to all kinds of music from jazz, to acoustic, live, pop, rock, audiophile disk. And everything sounds incredible and extremely balanced. I hear things in even rock songs that I never noticed before.
    If there is any knock I could put on them, is that they are big black boxes. They are nothing to really look at as beautiful like most more expensive speakers. But I don’t have the money for all that artistic beauty in my furniture. I have speakers mostly to derive pleasure from the music, and that pleasure is about as good as it gets, unless I had 40x more money to get some AvantGuarde horn speakers and exotic amps for them.

    • Eric Pye

      September 3, 2021 at 2:52 am

      The ones in Oak are much prettier than the black, but as you imply, when the eyes are closed or the lights are low, speaker visuals become inconsequential. Great you’re enjoying the hell out of them!

      • Jon McClure

        January 13, 2022 at 3:22 pm

        Nice write up! I’ve had my KLF 20s for 10 years now. I braced them, reglued the cabinets and they already had Crites tweeters in them when I bought them. The bass punch is amazing and tight but sometimes they need a little prompting with either a bass eq or in my case I’ve attenuated the mids slightly with an Lpad. I’m running them with a 60 watt Marantz PM7000n and they really do sound great! I’d love to pick up some 30s to compare if I can ever find any within a reasonable drive.

        • Eric Pye

          January 14, 2022 at 4:31 pm

          30s will probably solve any bass issues you have, but word is the 20s are the best-balanced of the KLF series.

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