Klipsch Cornwall IV Speaker Review. The Gentle Giant.
By Steve Huff
Hello to all! Yes, I know most of you are reading this while in self isolation during this global pandemic. I myself am writing it during the pandemic so I am right there with you (today is April 13th 2020). We are in a bad place as a nation, and as a world. While I know we will get through it, as I said before, I feel it will be a while. We are all in this together.
We have been locked in our house here for 25 days now as of April 13th (I think that is right), without leaving the house except to go into the backyard and get some sun and fresh air. It’s been nice actually, spending time with my family, as long as we do not dwell on the pain and sadness across the globe every moment. I know my family is safe, not sick and we have food and shelter. Where we go from here is in our hands, the people, and no one else. We are doing our part and have been. It’s all we can do, and something we all should be doing at this time.
Quarantine Music Night with the Cornwall IV
I have three sets of speakers here for review now. The Klipsch Cornwall IV, the Raven Audio Celeste Towers and QLM Prestige 3’s. All sound wonderful but all sound entirely different from one another and the differences are quite big between them all. Each have their strengths and weaknesses but all three sound quite amazing at the same time.
Today I want to focus on the massively large 100 lb each $6000 Cornwall IV speakers. When the truck delivered them in early March direct from Klipsch they were on a pallet as the weight of the set with boxes was 300 lbs! These are monsters, as were the Cornwall III, but it has been so long since I had the III’s in here that I forgot how much real estate they take up!
Before the Cornwall IV’s were put in I was spending some time listening to the QLM Prestige 3 and Raven Celeste Speakers. I was enjoying them both immensely. When the Cornwall’s were put in, as I expected, the scale of the music grew to a massive size. Thee speakers put out some seriously big sound. A sound that made the other two speakers, even in my small 12X13 room, sound small by comparison. Imagine a speaker painting sound. Some will paint that wall of sound in a small way, and some will make that a little larger. A speaker life this will paint that sound in front of you from floor to ceiling and in a very lifelike “human” way.
But how do these Version IV Cornwall’s compare to a speaker I fell for a while back, the Cornwall III?
Well, if you read my Klipsch Heresy IV review that I posted not so long ago, take what I said there and multiply it by 4. These have almost the same (but not quite) signature as the Heresy IV but to be honest I felt the Heresy IV image better and have a wider soundstage, yet they lack in the “fullness” department when compared to the massive Cornwall. As I said, all speakers have their own unique strength and weaknesses.
The Cornwall IV excel in other areas and one of these areas is again, scale, size, the overall way they bring music into your room. If you have a larger room these will blow your mind and possibly rattle your walls. If you have a smaller room like me, well these are also amazing in that scenario and can even rattle your bones if you are daring enough to raise the volume a bit. No, they are not “too much” for a smaller room as long as you have quality amplification. In fact, I have had small bookshelf speakers in here that had bass issues (too much, too thumpy) but the huge 15″ bass driver in the Cornwall IV is a “gentle giant” and awakens only when needed and called upon by the music source.
My room with the Cornwall IV’s. After a week straight of listening to the Klipsch I brought I the Qln Prestige 3’s to compare. The $9500 Qln’s are magical but they still can not compete with the massive breathtaking way the Cornwall IV’s reproduce sound when it comes to the large soundscape they create.
These never boom, not even close to it, even when ramping up the volume and rocking out in my small room. The bass goes deep but will not give you that fake artificial bass that is pumped up to impress (think older beats headphones). The bass is tight as tight can be, and improved over the III. In fact, I have never heard any speaker that gives me what the Cornwall IV give me in sheer size and bass tightness. These are vastly improved over the older Cornwall III, no question.
With a new midrange horn, a new tweeter and some design changes the sound character of the Cornwall has changed somewhat, yet at the same time, they still have the Cornwall flavor.
There is no denying the unique and legendary sound of this speaker. While not super refined like a $25k Audiophile speaker, it’s much more refined than the III. It has more snap, crackle and pop over the III which I found to be more mellow and warm. They have more detail retrieval than the III yet keep the musical flowing style of past models. The IV’s have more energy and drive yet are never bright. In fact they seem very balanced just as the Heresy IV did and they run a smidgen warm in my room with my Vinnie Rossi L2i SE that uses 300B tubes in the pre amp stage. (See my Rossi Review HERE). The Rossi amp brings that oomph, that melodic and also human emotion to the music. It makes for an amazing match to these speakers but the good news? No need to spend a fortune on an amp, but as you scale up, these speakers will scale right with your gear. My $26,000 Vinnie Rossi L2i SE, is it overkill? Yes, for these speakers it is. But man do they sound so good with the Rossi behind them.
BACK IN BLACK
My review samples came in black and with the new fancy grille and they look pretty damn nice in my room, actually much nicer than I expected them to look. They look much nicer than the III imo. The grilles are now a salt and pepper color and they used to be used on the limited edition heritage line over the last few years. Now they are included as standard and it does add a feel of luxury to the speaker. This is good. ; )
These are hand made in the USA. They are around 100lbs each. They have a ten year warranty. What is NOT to like?
They are massive but never overpower my 12X13 room. I can turn it up to concert levels and yet no boom, no harshness, no shouting, no ear fatigue at all. Rather, after 100 hours of break in these speakers kept changing and finally settled in to a speaker that does so much right, and so little wrong. The first 100 hours? They were a tad flat, soft and closed in sounding. After 100 hours they opened up dramatically and came into their own. They may even benefit from another 100 hours.
UPDATE MAY 9th 2020: I now have over 300 hours on these and they continue to improve! The tweeter has now opened up and blossomed bringing an even more wide open sound, and wider soundstage. These are speakers that one would probably keep for life as they do so much right and every time I fire these up, a smile follows.
I will say now that I have several other speakers in the house, and I have been listening and comparing all of them during this lockdown. Dynaudio Special 40, Dynaudio Emit 10, Raven Celeste Towers, Heresy IV and Qln Prestige 3’s (I bought the demo of the Prestige 3).
Here is a rundown of how each sounds:
- Heresy IV – Huge sound for the size, and excellent imaging and soundstage. The sound just pushes out from the speaker with a little teeny but of forwardness but wow, this is now one of my favorite speakers of all time. In the right size room this could be all one needs. No sub was needed for me at all but if you want that deep thump, a sub will be needed. The high end and midrange here is FANTASTIC. Huge improvement over the Heresy I, II or III. HIGHLY recommended at $3k and excel with any and all music. These can disappear like any good small speaker. My review is HERE.
- Cornwall IV – Think the Heresy IV on steroids but the high end seems a tiny bit more relaxed with the Cornwall IV (not after 300 hours as the tweeter has now opened up) and the sound is not as forward as the Heresy IV, at least in my room. Where the Cornwall III had this massive huge sound it leaned very warm and lacked any kind of great imaging skills. The III gave us beautiful rich big midrange and a soft top end. The IV give us a new tweeter for the highs but it is in no way bright or harsh, but more extended than the III was. The new Midrange horn is an improvement as it manages to sound even richer and clearer and more natural than the III. The bass is as tight as can be, and any boom from the III is gone. The bass is there when called upon and I can feel it in my body at times, yet it still doesn’t boom. Just deep powerful bass when the recording calls for it. NO matter what I throw at these, they rock the house. Not super refined nor with massive detail but they are. very live sounding, very musical and with the massive wall of sound, you feel the music.
- Raven Audio Celeste Towers – These are a piano black tower that come in under $4000 and these are very good sounding speakers that lean to the detail, air and imaging side of things in my room. These have treble with the most air and detail by far, and most excitement. A real Audiophile speaker for those who want hear everything in the recording. The midrange is a tad recessed here rather than forward so the voices sound a little distant but dynamics are top notch and again, offer the most excitement of any speakers I have heard here during this time. These are sound staging and imaging champs but lean more to the detail side of sound. If you like detail and air, these are beautiful.
- Dyanudio S40 and Emit 10 – These have more in common with each other than one may think. They sound identical but the S40 has more mid bass thump, hence a meatier sounding speaker. These can have a tendency to give me boomy bass with some music in my room, more so than any other speaker I have here. The Dynaudio sound is here in full effect and that is rich, full and with fantastic imaging skills.
- Qln Prestige 3 – These are VERY special speakers. Pure magic, but expensive at just under $10k. They do the audiophile tricks very well like 3D, disappearing, beautiful texture and layering, etc. With that said, these can not do the wall of sound that the Klipsch excel at from floor to ceiling. The Qln have a smaller sound, and while they are some of the best I have had under $40k, the Klipsch Cornwall IV is just as satisfying, if not more so. Hard to put into words, but after 300 hours these Cornwall IV’s opened up and blossomed. I may prefer them to the Qln now, which says a lot as these are $6000 retail where the Qln is $9500. Different presentations, but I love both.
So here I am sitting in my listening seat now with the mighty Cornwall IV speakers playing. It’s a Monday, at 11:22 AM and I am loving what I am hearing. The volume on my Vinnie Rossi is at 13 and the sound is massive in scale, painting a large wall of sound but this time, rather than the details and sound being more mushed together as a whole as it was with the Cornwall III, now we get imaging, soundstage width and depth and height. While these are not top rated for imaging (the Heresy IV are better here in this regard in my room) they do image and present a rock solid center image with instruments placed in their correct places, though on a smaller stage, and not as surgically cut out as with a higher end “audiophile” speaker. Even so, the music just flows like soft room temperature butter spreads on bread. Smooth, human and even at low volume, these can be delicate and still sound large with keeping the same big sound, even at low volume. These are low volume kings.
What the Cornwall IV offers over the Qln and even Klipsch’s own Heresy IV is this:
When you fire up your system with the Cornwall IV in place, set up correctly and with proper quality upstream gear you better be prepared to be blown away by the immense scale of sound. It’s like an aural assault on your senses and you just might feel that nothing is lacking. Breathtaking is a word that comes to mind as they can indeed take your breath away. These are well balanced and the sound has now matured for Klipsch. They sound more and more like a higher end audiophile speaker, and while not as refined as uber $$ speakers they offer things that those speakers could never offer.
A cohesive welcoming sound. It draws you in and yes it gets addicting. As the sound surrounds your ears and room you feel you are inside of the performance at times. Low volume? The speakers still sounds huge but more like a gentle giant. No piercing treble, no shouty midrange and no boomy bass to be found here. While here are not as refined as $10k speakers, they are much more refined than the previous versions of this speaker.
The quality of the cabinets also seems nicer with the IV and the bass ports, still in the front have been refined as well to eek out as much performance as possible. The rear connection plate is also improved over the plastic of the III. Now with metal binding posts, it is more fitting for this class of speaker.
No snobbery here, the Cornwall IV’s are some of the best speakers I have come across in my audio life. They bring the artists to your room and this time the sound is better than it has ever been with this legendary speaker, in all aspects from high to mid to low. Small room or large they sound amazingly natural, musical and fluid. They keep the rhythm and beat pumping and there is a solid foundation to the music.
You will not find anything lacking here yet nothing is in excess either. With a speaker as large as this you would think the sound would be unruly in a small room. Nope, they just fill that room with beautiful music that has life, thrilling dynamics and a massive size to the sound. Think BIG in every aspect but even so, you can listen at low late night volumes and still have that scale as it stays true even at low volumes. Acoustic instruments are amazing with these, as is the Human Voice. Think Leonard Cohen. His voice is full, throaty, and huge with the Cornwall IV’s, yet the clarity is so much better than previous versions.
These are not speakers one will sit down to listen to so they can dissect every sound, every instrument and every breath. Rather, these are made to listen to, to feed your soul with music that just flows like a live performance flows. Play some strings on these and be wowed by the emotional beauty they can push out. Again these sound organic, fluid, and no matter if you point them right at you or straight on into the room, with quality amplification you will never hear any harsh or brightness here.
The brightness some associate with Klipsch often comes from the amplification, the pre amp, the cables (YES they make a difference) or the room itself. When powered with quality gear, and set up correctly there is no brightness or hardness AT ALL. Do not use a cheap receiver with these, as then you may hear the effect of the amplifier/receiver. Im using a $26k retail integrated amp with them, but have also hooked up a $5k Raven Osprey all tube amp and they sounded maybe even better. Yes, Klipsch Heritage excels with tubes. ALL tubes. I tested them with a Musical Fidelity M2i and they sounded a little aggressive with this powerhouse $500 integrated. Feed them tubes as if you do, they will reward you for teh effort.
The Klipsch Cornwall IV do not excel at 3 Dimensional sound but they do have some of this audiophile 3D effect. Where the III had little, the IV steps it up and again as yes, these do image nicely. They do have some 3D sound if set up correctly. It’s just that this is not what they are made for. They are made to rock and roll, to give you concert level volume if you want it, to play as subtle as you need late at night and still sound full, large and in control. These are made to give you pleasing music for the rest of your life and are super easy to drive. Grab a decent $500 all tube amp and you can make these sing. Grab a $500 receiver from Best Buy and they may sound hard, and shouty. These deserve amplification as good as the speakers. Spend $6000 on these? Spend at least $4000-$6000 on an integrated amplifier to get the most from them. Actually, I would look at THIS piece for these speakers if you want to get the best from them.
Being so easy to drive means you do not need a megawatt amp as these are more about subtlety than raw power, though they have that as well and most think of RAW POWER when they see these speakers. Yet they also excel at subtlety. The Cornwall IV is one of the most impressive speakers I have heard in my life, as what it does well, it does very well. When I go back to the $10,000 Qln Prestige 3 I sense an immediate shrinking of the sound wall. It sounds smaller, and less dynamic. While the Qln excel in other areas they just can not touch the Corn’s in their ability to shake your foundations and bring a live concert into your room.
The $10k Prestige 3’s are amazing in what they do best. They also offer a solid foundation, maybe even more so than the Cornwall IV but they also offer an amazing natural textured 3 Dimensional sound with the most impressive instrument separation I have heard. These are much more refined than the Klipsch, but again, offer up a different sound. After a day with the Prestige 3’s I bring the Corns back in and notice that massive sense of scale but also notice a little less depth, air, and a somewhat flatter sound. Even so, that is only noticeable when I listen to them one after the other. Some will prefer the Klipsch sound as it just command attention instantly. It’s so welcoming, instantly. It is sound you can also feel at times.
As for setup, the Cornwall IV sound their best in the corners, but pulled out into the room some. Toe in? I found it to sound best toed in sort of extreme, with the sound crossing in front of my ears rather than behind them. This tightened up the imaging and gave me the voice, rock solid, right in the middle. These speakers just sound BEAUTIFUL. Powerful. MASSIVE. Until you have heard a speaker of this size, you do not realize how much a difference the size of the sound makes and you also realize that not many speakers sound as balanced as these do.
These are lifetime speakers. No muss, no fuss. Easy to set up, easy to drive, and the sound is so pleasing and natural that one could not want for more unless you are an audiophile who has the disease of always wanting to try everything to see what it sounds like.
These? I could be happy with them as my final speaker, without question. When I listen for hours, I do not miss the extreme imaging and air I get from other speakers. I just enjoy the music as it flows to my ears, mind and soul. The big warm leaning presentation just feels good, and fills my space with a solid foundation of sound that feels as if the music is coming from the heavens themselves. It just sounds right, as if this is how it is supposed to be.
$6000 PER PAIR
At $6k per pair thee are not cheap but nothing of exceptional quality is these days. If you want something truly fantastic, you have to pay, as yo do here. I find the $6,000 price tag to be very fair here as they are made in the USA, use matching wood and offer them in matched pairs only. With a TEN YEAR warranty, these are made to last as all Klipsch Heritage speakers are. It’s no longer 1981, it’s 2020 and things are more expensive these days ; )
The Heritage line to me is the top of the line from Klipsch and it shows when you unbox the speakers and smell the beauty as well as see the beauty. No, they do not look all fancy nor do they have a glossy appearance. They are not futuristic looking and look more like they traveled from the 1970’s to your home but they sound every bit of 2020. To me there is a special beauty to the Heritage line of speakers, all of them. For 2020, the newest line of Heritage speakers are the best Klipsch has ever made and for me, they beat so many competing speakers today as most speakers today try to be too much. They try to be exceptional at one thing and can sometimes lack in other areas. Not these, no matter the music type they sound amazing, and give you back the same full and big character. Even my thin sounding records sound fantastic on the Cornwall IV.
The Cornwall IV have no real weakness. They can blow you from the room all while staying composed. They can seduce you at 2am listening at quiet listening levels. They sound gorgeous in my small 12X13 room or when I bring them out to my (4X the size) living room.
I have heard speakers that cost twice as much not sound nearly as good as the Klipsch Cornwall IV. If you have the space and want a speaker than brings it all, take a serious look at the Cornwall IV. If you want something smaller, with even better imaging and 3 Dimensionality then check out the Heresy IV. They will offer less bass and not as solid of a foundation but they are even more impressive for the money and size IMO. Not better, just a different solution for a different scenario.
Klipsch is on a roll with the Forte III, Heresy IV and now Cornwall IV.
My digital setup consists of an Innuos Zen Mini MKII, an Innuos Phoenix and Innuos Power supply. I stream Tidal and Qobuz using Roon. You can see my review of the Innuos gear HERE. I used my Vinnie Rossi L2i SE integrated amp for most listening. Also the Raven Audio all tube Osprey Integrated which you can check out RIGHT HERE.
First up. Listening to this obscure Cure song was a treat. The baseline is crisp, tight and powerful in a gentle kind of way. The vocals are SCARY here as Robert Smith sounds so real, it almost sounds like he is in the room with you. I have never heard this vocal so realistic, no matter the speaker used.
Sinead O’Conner’s Jackie is one of my faves from the 1980’s. It starts out slow and quiet and builds throughout the song to a liquid smooth vocal with aggressive guitar that floats in front of the voice, which is DEAD CENTER by the way. A powerful performance that not all speakers can “flesh out” properly. In fact, this is the first time EVER that I have heard this song sound this good. The Cornwalls have what it takes to bring scale and power to this usually flat sounding song. Turn it up and this will take your breath away.
Perfume Genius has some interesting music and this is one of those songs that can be haunting if the speaker is up to the task. On my Prestige 3’s this song is astoundingly real and textured. With the Cornwall IV it is just there, in the room with a fleshed out cohesive sound. Not as airy as other speakers but more natural, more like a live performance. But the speakers easily do justice to this surreal song.
I love First Aid Kit. Have seen them live, have an autographed Album and own all of their albums on Vinyl. Their harmonies are beautiful and these two sisters are like a modern day Simon & Garfunkel. This is one of their most beloved songs, and it sounds so full, rich, organic and pure through the Cornwall’s. The vocals are so clean and clear and so beautiful due to the midrange horn here. Again, may be the best I have heard this song sound. The presentation brings the artists to you, for a private show.
David Darling’s Cello Blue is beautiful and on the Cornwall IV’s the sound is intoxicating. Smooth, realistic and just the right amount of heft to it. Makes it sound like real music instead of some speakers that make music sound fake with too much detail or high end. This is beautiful and can take your mind away. The entire album is very good, and the Cornwall’s are up to the task of presenting it to you in such a beautiful human way.
The Klipsch Cornwall IV are FANTASTIC. If you have the space, and are prepared to feed them with some quality amplification you will be rewarded for your efforts. These are the biggest sounding, most powerful sounding, most easy to set up and get rocking speaker I have ever had here. They are improved in all ways over the I, II and III versions of this speaker and offer up a better top end, a better midrange and tighter better sounding bass. My room is 12X13 and they sound crazy good in here. In my living room they sound just as crazily good. Low volume or skull rattling, these keep composure and offer a balanced huge wall of sound. While not up there with the higher end speakers in imaging, air and holographic depth these offer what those speakers can not. SCALE!! They do not disappear like a stand mount speaker, and yes, you do feel like the sound is coming from the boxes for the most part, but that’s how it goes with large speakers. These are meant to fill your space with beautiful music. Nothing more, nothing less.
The Cornwall IV is a speaker that is easy to drive and paints a sonic wall so large you feel as if you can step inside. A human presentation and makes music sound like what we feel it should sound like.
These are without question, the best version of this speaker Klipsch has ever created. If you love the Cornwall sound, or are just curious about what this sound is all about then I urge you to demo these when you can. I call them a “Gentle Giant” not because they are anything less than a giant but because they offer subtlety as well as all out slam. They offer beauty and realism, as well as screams and shouts. They can rock and roll or be as composed as you need them to be, all while staying full and beautiful sounding. Highly recommended.
At $6000 they are not cheap but hey, they are not cheap speakers. You get what you pay for and then some. This is a speaker I can not imagine ANYONE being disappointed with. A speaker for life!