Klipsch Palladium P-39F Speaker
New Klipsch flagship puts horns on top.
Review By A. Colin Flood
here to e-mail reviewer.
Before Sony Walkmans, CD
players, chip amplifiers,
and iPods, Klipsch built loudspeakers. They began in the
in 1946. Today, big ole Klipsch horns are still renowned for their large,
fully horn-loaded designs providing ultra-high sensitivity and extremely
low distortion. Their Klipschorns are the only loudspeakers to be in
continuous production for over six decades. Klipsch now has several
loudspeaker brands. They also own Mirage, Energy and Jamo speakers. The
Palladiums are their top of the line models.
At first glance, the P-39Fs are not
gorgeously impressive loudspeakers. Finished in Zebrawood veneer with a
Merlot stain, they are narrow and tall columns, only foot wide and almost
five feet tall. There isn't much surface area to grab your eyes. Plastic
squares on top form a gray face. Two horns form an eye and a mouth. The
squares make the P-39Fs look like products off a Best Buy shelf. Yet they
clearly mark the P-39Fs not only as Klipsch products, but also as
something different in loudspeaker design. Wave-guides, looking like fat
phase plugs, stare out of the mid and high end horns.
closer inspection though, the Klipsch P-39F sculpture grows on you. Like
the latest S class models of Mercedes Benz, the smooth curves of the P-39F
belie their stiff construction, hefty weight and majestic performance.
There is not one, not two, but three, smooth faced, silver 9-inch cones
staring back at you. The wood stripes of the P-39Fs curve away like the
boat tail on a classic Chris Craft. The stern, where you anchor the P-39Fs
to the amplifiers, sports three fist-size woofer ports. As with any
exquisite beauty, the P-39Fs look good from any angle. Yes, they are the
best-looking Klipsch loudspeaker.
The Klipsch P-39F bass response is not
surprisingly deep for such big beauties. It is a modest 39 Hz, a point
easily accomplished by other full size, audiophile speakers, including
many that don't cost $20,000 per pair. (See Nel's Salk
Song Towers or the Newtronics
Skates.) In fact, the P-39F frequency response and sensitivity is
quite similar to the $1000 RF-82 loudspeakers that Klipsch describes as
the "wheelhouse" of their line: the point at which the best value for the
money revolves. The P-39F response however is an important +/-3 dB. None
of these specs matter of course, if the loudspeaker doesn't sound like the
real thing. Power handling is a huge 1600 watts peak
and sensitivity is a very high 99dB/W/m. This means the P-39Fs don't need,
but they can handle, a lot of power.
Their nominal impedance however, is a
challenging 4 Ohm, meaning that the amplifier, small as it can be, had
better be a capable of pushing the woofers around. Thankfully, the P-39Fs
can be tri-wired or even tri-amplified, but to bi-amp them, you need to bridge
two of the three connections on the back. I would love to hear them with a
tube amplifier on the mid and high end. Maximum output of two P-39Fs in a
room is rated at 126 dB; loud enough to reproduce the peaks of any musical
I heard the Palladium system in a home
theater room at A Sound Decision. This is a full-service, high-end
audio-visual store on the ocean side of
. Owners Terry and Natalie Moore have been in business eight years, but
Terry has been in audio/video for 25 years. The
recently finished three HT rooms. Their main room seats 13 in comfy Bell'O
theater chairs on staggered steps. The room has a 156-inch Stewart
CineCurve screen and a JVC RS20 projector with Panamorph Anamorphic Lens
to enhance the picture quality on the large screen. Custom Matinee
Acoustics panels on the ceiling and walls cancel room reflections. There
is no equalization in the audio chain. Theirs is one of only two Palladium
HT displays in south
No speakers appear in the second room.
Furnished as a dining room, surprisingly good sound comes from Stealth
speakers hidden flush, and painted over, in the wall.
has a separate wire closet; a room with racks of A/V equipment and a 13-TB
movie server. A Sound Decision is a test site for
beta versions of new Sunfire and Élan Home Systems components. A Sunfire
Theater Grand 7401 amplifier and processor supplied power for the
Palladium room. The flagship of the Sunfire line puts out 400-watts into
seven channels with less than 0.5%
! Like the very best solid-state amplifiers, wattage doubles into 4 Ohm
loads. The amplifier has a "Vacuum Tube Emulation (Current Source)" mode,
but I say, "ain't no such thing" as a solid-state amplifier that sounds
quite like tubes. The Blu-ray player was a Yamaha BD-S2900BL.
The basic Palladium HT system includes a
massive P-312W sub. The sub is shaped like a truncated pyramid, weighs 95
pounds with three more of those silver woofer cones. The P-312W includes
its own 2,500-watt amplifier and is capable of 18 Hz depth and 123 dB
's set-up includes two of these chunky babies! Both of them are positioned
along the front wall. One, he said was set for deep bass, the other for
mid-bass. The Palladium system offers two bi-polar side channel speakers.
added two more of those also. He used custom cabling with a Monster power
Complete with everything, Moore puts the
value of the room at cool $180,000. Several thousand more reviews and I
should be there! Hope Klipsch is around another six decades when I
complete the task.
Music & Movies
The audition began with my beloved Stepping
Out by Diana Krall.
But "Jimmie" had too much tape hiss, making the CD sound sad and old. Yet
the cello was among the best I ever have heard. Bass
was plenty deep enough. The strong notes excited the room. Even with such
simple music, powerful amplifiers are required. Headroom, my notes say, is
crucial to allowing each instrument the freedom it needs to express
itself. The Sunfire amplifier certainly provided that. Like the mighty Pass
X250, nothing was too difficult for it. The
Blu-ray disc of Chris Botti in Boston
in stereo mode was next. The first impression was immediately favorable.
This disc is nothing short of remarkable. It is smooth jazz trumpeter
Chris Botti performing at the Boston Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops
orchestra. Then wide-mouth rocker Steven Tyler suddenly appears, his
trademark microphone stand draped with scarves.
"I was cryin' when I met you," he sings,
surprising the audience with a powerfully smooth rendition of the
Aerosmith classic "Crying. "Now I'm tryin' to forget you." When
croons Nat King Cole's classic "Smile," my impression of the rocker
changed. "Smile though your heart is aching,"
croons to his father in the audience, "smile even though its breaking."
A friend whispered, "I would never go out if I had this at
home." Indeed the overall sound was liquid. My notes say, "like cruising
in a Mercedes."
Horns being horns, Botti's horn on P-39Fs
sounds like…well, a horn. It has blat. It has blare. What else did you
expect from big ole horns? Then Sting appears to
sing and play several of his songs. Together, the guest appearances
transform Botti's disc into a stunning recording of a spectacular night.
Overall impression is that this is an excellent system,
well balanced, with no obvious weaknesses. Combined with the 13 foot wide
screen, the Palladium HT system seems to do everything right, if not a
little bright. The P-39F speakers are easily in the same league as the
very best dream systems I have heard, including those costing several
times more. See Deprecating
The Gifts Of The G-ds and Uptown
Like all horns, the P-39F soundstage is wide and deep,
presenting an image much larger than their mere footprint. Properly
pointed, the 3D sonic imaging of big ole horns can be spectacular, without
the honkiness of which detractors so often complain. With
oodles of power backing them up, vocals sounded effortless and very
natural. With Sunfire power, the Palladiums have all the detail and
resolution anybody would want, without the hard metallic edginess of some
horns. They also have the energy and range to
capture the full essence of dynamic instruments, such as drums and piano.
The quick dynamics of big ole horns communicates the emotion of the notes.
They get the real meaning of music. Palladiums have this ability too. They
capture this quality without dampening the vibrancy and life out of the
Harshness on the recordings however, including Krall's
Stepping Out, is readily apparent. Flaws have no place to hide on this
ruthlessly revealing system. They are not irritating, but you will hear
Next, we watched the Blu-ray of my all time favorite
movies, Master & Commander,
with Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. I love this 2003 movie because it is
a sailing adventure, with a great actor, wonderful dialogue and plot
twists. Set in 1805, Master
has incredible hand-to-hand, canon-to-canon battle scenes. Yet the raw
violence is juxtaposition with Crowe maneuvering like a chess piece to
outfox his rarely seen opponent, while he and a friend spend their
evenings playing the violin and cello music of Mozart and J.S. Bach! Crowe
did most of the violin playing on camera, but the cello playing is YoYo Ma's
work. The music is available from Decca [ASIN: B0000DG07D].
hundred watts into 4 Ohms makes any bass note as thunk like a
sledgehammer. The Sunfire and dual sub combination certainly makes Stings'
beguiling bass come alive. The bass is not only deep, but also tight;
certainly tighter than my big ole horns. Yet when
the first canon shot of Master
fires out of a blue fog, the Palladium system puts you right there. Maybe
my pants didn't flap as they did with the awesome Krell monster sub chest
($28K), but the smoothly deep and powerful bass response is all anybody
would want for musical accuracy. In my limited experience, only the
massive Martin Logan subwoofer stack was appreciably better (Deprecating
The Gifts Of The G-ds).
The P-39Fs with dual P-312W subs is bass that smacks you
in the face, warps walls, massages your scalp, shakes cobwebs off corners
and frightens small creatures. This is volcanic tremor, tsunami wave bass.
It is ominous, portending of imminent danger. It is live and tangible.
When the canons blast, your first instinct is to turn and flee. Great
stereo systems do just that. They go beyond the auditory to add tactile
and emotional information to the enjoyment of music and movies. They stir
our souls at the very depths of our fears; sounding alarms when doors
creak, awakening dormant instincts when bad guys loom near and tightening
our nerves as the climax approaches. Match every extra large TV screen
with a sound system of this caliber. This is clearly
a dream HT system in a top of the line installation.
said after one Blu-ray Botti demonstration, a woman stood up and cheered.
I don't doubt it. My big ole square-riggers will have to do a lot of sly
maneuvering to even come close to what Klipsch's sleek new flagship does
By adding a modern transmission line of three woofers,
the Palladiums are rightful heirs to the Klipsch crown. They retain
Klipsch's renown ultra high sensitivity and extra low distortion. The
Palladiums eliminate the narrow dispersion that so often plagues big ole
horns with a wide and square Tractrix eye and mouth. I
am impressed with Klipsch, their P-39F and A Sound Decision. If you
already have your sports car, if your new home has a room set aside for
HT, if this is the league you shop in; seriously consider a Palladium
system configuration like this one. It enjoys the music.
Type: Fullrange floorstanding loudspeaker
Frequency Response: 39 Hz to 24 kHz (±3dB)
Nominal Impedance: 4 Ohms (2.9 Ohms min)
Power Handling: 400W continuous / 1600W peak
Recommended Amplifier Power: 50-1000W
High Frequency Driver: 0.75" (1.9cm) Titanium diaphragm
Compression driver mated to 90° x 60° Tractrix Horn
HF Crossover Frequency: 3200Hz
Mid-Frequency Drivers: 4.5-inch aluminum diaphragm
Compression driver mated to 90° x 60° Tractrix Horn
MF Crossover Frequency: 500Hz
Woofers: Three 9-inch aluminum / Rohacell / Kevlar hybrid cone woofers
Finishes: Zebrawood in Natural, Merlot or Espresso stain
Enclosure: Bass-reflex via triple side-firing ports
Cabinet made with constrained layer MDF (Medium-Density Fiberboard)
Weight: 165 lbs.
Height: 56 x 12 x 24.75 (HxWxD in inches)
A Sound Decision
1810 South Pinellas Ave.
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Voice: (727) 789-1121
Fax: (727) 942-7270
Showroom by appointment only
Klipsch Group, Inc.
3502 Woodview Trace
Indianapolis, IN 46268