The Klipsch LaScala AL5 Speaker Review. Pure Emotion.
By Steve Huff
For me the attraction to the Klipsch LaScala speaker has been about its iconic design, its incredible efficiency, its effortless dynamics and big huge cinematic sound. It has truly been a speaker I have dreamt of owning for over ten years and now that they have been in my listening room for a while I wanted to let you guys know if they were worth the wait.
My video Review. It’s a long one at 30 minutes!
Today in 2021 Klipsch offers the LaScala AL5 (introduced in 2019) which is an improved version of what has come before it. The previous version was simply called the “LaScala II” and that is the model that made me truly dream of owning a set one day.
In fact I remember almost pulling the trigger on a set of 70th Anniversary LaScala II I found for $6500 in 2018. The retail was $14,000 for the 70th anniversary set. Not cheap but a stunning work of art if you ask me. I did not end up buying those speakers as quite honestly I knew my room at the time was way less than ideal for the sheer mass of the LaScala.
Even though I had Cornwall IV’s (my review) in my then very small listening room (and loved them for their sheer scale and lifelike performance) I kept reading online, in forums, that the LaScala needed more room to breathe and small rooms need to apply. So I waited…and waited…and waited.
When Klipsch released the newest version a couple of years back in 2019 the dream to own a set of these hand made beauties became even more dreamy. When I saw that Klipsch recently raised prices (June 2021) and the new AL5 jumped from $11995 to $13,200 reality hit me and I just accepted the fact that these speakers would never be in my life.
Still owning and LOVING my little Heresy IV’s (I placed them back in my reference system and fell in love again with what these little boxes bring to the table) I was wondering how the LaScala would compare.
You can see my full Heresy IV review HERE but listening back to those little stout boxes with the Pass Labs Class A amplification really hit home. They deliver a huge sound with fantastic imaging, soundstage and solidity but I knew the new Forte IV may be even better, sound bigger and deliver more bass so away I went, as I had to scratch that itch.
In fact the one speaker in the Klipsch Heritage line that I have never reviewed is the Forte. With the newest Version IV now available I searched online for a dealer with the best price and one that I could possibly drive to and pick up to avoid the risk of shipping damage. I once ordered a pair of Cornwall III’s in the special anniversary finish and they arrived busted up and had t0 be sent back, so this time I wanted to do a pick up if at all possible.
As luck would have it, I discovered a place called Paducah Home Theater in Paducah KY.
After contacting them to see if they had a pair of the new Klipsch Forte IV I also discovered they had a showroom demo set of LaScala AL5 at a nice discount from new. They were used for a while (couple years) in their showroom, had a couple of scuffs on them (not too bad) and a scratch on the top (didn’t bother me) so I was able to get a superb deal on these if I chose to buy them.
I knew that the new retail price of the AL5 at $13,200 would keep me from owning these (brand new) but at the price I was offered I could not pass these up if they indeed were for me. It’s as if the universe said “this is your last and only chance to own the newest versions at this price, take it or leave it”.
I talked with my one and only Debby and we agreed to take a trek to Kentucky and visit Cory who would show me the speakers and his amazing warehouse full of Klipsch speakers. It would be a day trip but well worth it to see all of the new Klipsch in one place.
Inside the Warehouse of Paducah Home Theater. I saw a sea of Forte IV, Cornwall IV, Heresy IV and more. This is the place to call if you need Klipsch, and they ship nationwide. You can see footage from this in the video above called “Serious HiFi”.
As for the LaScala AL5….Klipsch Says this…
“The AL5 features a newly-designed, highly-efficient tweeter with an extremely high 109 dB sensitivity.
Our 90° X 40° Tractrix horn’s high-frequency performance creates a mammoth sound, bringing the most subtle nuances to the forefront of your listening experience.”
In 2019 Klipsch upgraded the LaScala II to the AL5 with some pretty nice improvements to the cabinet thickness and rigidity as well as the tweeter. There were some tweaks to the crossover as well and the speaker now sits 1.5″ taller than the LaScala II. The styling was ever so slightly changed and with all of this as well, and IMO I feel that this is without question the nicest looking version of the speaker to date.
While today’s LaScala is made to a much more beautiful and artistic standard and the sound is more refined than ever I was curious as if I would truly think these are worth $13,200. Heck, my bookshelf Dynaudio Heritage Specials retail for $7000 and the LaScala are MUCH bigger, MUCH heavier and have the years behind it as a legendary speaker. Hmmm, I am excited for this.
The early models of the LaScala can sound bright due to the presence and all out volume these can produce in a home situation. The older versions had different tweeters that were more aggressive as well as different crossovers and construction. This new LaScala AL5 is much more refined and smooth than the older versions of the LaScala.
My #1 dislike in HiFi is thin/bright or shouty sounding speakers. Been there and done that and I feel there is nothing worse than a set of speakers that scream and shout and sound bright. They give you a headache, give you fatigue and eventually you stop listening to music to avoid these issues. Maybe they are just bright up top or maybe they sound thin without body. Maybe they lack bass and the highs overpower the sound. ALL of these circumstances are a recipe for fatigue and head pain.
I am a guy who loves warmth, emotion, and realism in my music reproduction. I prefer richness and depth over surgical detail and resolution. My main worry when deciding wether I should purchase the AL5’s was wondering what they would sound like in my still somewhat small 13X18 room.
Would they be “too much of a good thing” or even worse THIN sounding. So many forums and comments online state these have horrible bass as they do not deliver low seismic bass without a sub. I get that but I do not feel we need seismic bass for music. Movies? Yea, sure. Music…well, not the music I listen to.
I can say I am 100% happy with the bass of my Heresy IV on their own in this room, so if the LaScala could at least deliver that level of Bass I would be thrilled.
The one area where these speakers are reported to bring absolute magic is the midrange and even the top end is said to be quite dramatic. Music lives in the mids, and I have always been a sucker for mid range centric speakers. It’s why I love speakers from Sonus Faber and Dynaudio as I feel they get the mids right, and when vocals are so real sounding it gives off the illusion the artist is in the room with you then for me that is when the magic happens. Everything I have heard about the LaScala tells me these do the midrange like no other.
TAKING THE DRIVE
We decided to go to Paducah KY to visit Cory and see the showroom. We knew that we would be coning home with either the Klipsch Forte IV or the LaScala AL5 Showroom Demo’s he had.
We took a drive and met Cory who is an extremely nice guy. He met us at his showroom and let us hear whatever we wanted so I could decide if I truly wanted to leap into the AL5’s.
He gave us demos of the Forte IV and AL5’s and after we heard them both it was an easy choice for Debby. I was leaning 60/40 to the AL5’s as those Forte IV had some serious KICK and tightness to the bass but at the same time, the Forte IV seemed brighter than all of the other Heritage speakers. Brighter than my Heresy IV and the Cornwall IV I owned. They were exciting, detailed and slick but Debby said “when he switches to the Forte the sound goes flat in comparison to the LaScala”. I listened again and I heard it, even when the volume of the Forte was turned up to match the volume of the LaScala. Now, this doesn’t mean the Forte IV is bad or hobbled, it is not. This is only with a direct side by side comparison so it is no surprise that the more expensive speaker took the sound quality prize. On it’s own the Forte IV ROCKED and was a wonderful speaker for the price.
Debby and I both much preferred the sound of the LaScala AL5 with all genres of music we heard that day. Vocal, Acoustic, Rock, you name it. They sounded neutral to warm leaning to these aging ears and that is exactly what I was hoping for. I didn’t hear any kind of imaging iii the showroom but I chalked that up to speaker position and upstream gear. I had a feeling the LaScala’s would sound breathtaking in my room.
The Previous Version, the LaScala II
Going back to the Forte IV. Man those had some serous kicking deep bass (due to the radiator in the rear) that the LaScala could not even begin to muster. For us that was not a dealbreaker as the mids and all out scale, smoothness and delicacy of the AL5 were far superior in our opinions. Deep, lifelike, huge sound that doesn’t sound like its coming from speakers, and more realistic than I have heard in a speaker, no matter the cost.
My Pass Labs INT-250 and the XA60.8’s I am evaluating now make my little Heresy IV’s sing like they have never sung before. The Pass gear gives my Heresy IV life, bigger bass, bloom and haunting vocals. I knew they would do their magic with the big LaScala even though these puppies are 105DB Efficient meaning you can feed them just a watt or two to perform very well.
My INT-250 is a 250 WPC beast of an integrated but those first 15 watts are all Class A watts, and Class A delivers (for my ears) the sound I love and adore. It puts meat on the bones, it delivers richness and detail but with a slight warmth and fluidity that class A/B and Class D Amps cannot muster. The XA60.8 Monoblocks that I will also hook up and test with the LaScala’s deliver even more class A watts (60 into 8 ohms) and sound even juicer than the INT-250. I knew these would make the LaScala’s maximize their magic.
After an hour or two in the showroom and visiting the Paducah Home Theater warehouse (see some of that in my video on the LaScala) we made the decision.
We ended up buying the LaScala AL5 so these speakers are not a “review unit” sent to me, I BOUGHT THEM with my own cash! It took us about 45 minutes to box them up and load them in my pickup bed.
Getting the AL5’s boxed up to take home!
We arrived home and Debby and I used a hand truck to bring the four boxes inside. These speakers are about a couple of hundred pounds each, so it took some time to unbox and assemble.
The LaScala AL5 is a 100% pure horn speaker from the tweeter, the mids, and the bass. Unlike the Klipsch Cornwall IV, Heresy IV or Forte IV there are no regular drivers, no cones, no traditional bass woofers. Even the bass comes from the entire lower cabinet which is a horn loaded woofer. This brings a lighter footed, lightning fast tight bass but it does NOT bring a very deep bass in any way, meaning below 50hz will be MIA. Even so, the bass that the LaScala does do? Absolutely amazing/
FYI: Most songs bass lie in the 90-120hz range. The LaScala can cover this with ease.
To many though this lack of seismic activity would be a dealbreaker and I get it, I understand. Because Bass delivers a foundation to the music, how could one be happy with a speaker (and an expensive one at that) without this uber lower bass capability. Well, for those who want bass a good and very fast sub will be required with the LaScala. When you add a quality sub that can handle the speed of these speakers it will bring some of the finest music reproduction in the world, regardless of cost. Horn subs are recommended by some for the LaScala’s.
As is, without a sub…
I was hoping the LaScala AL5 would be ok without a Sub for me. It needed to be at least as good as the Dynaudio and Heresy IV in the bass dept. for me to be happy long term.
Once we set up the LaScala AL5 almost all of my worries faded. Not only was there plenty of bass, at times I FELT IT as the floor started to vibrate. Now let me be clear, these do not put out DEEP bass, so if your music has these subterranean bass notes it then it will be absent on the LaScala, but in all honesty it doesn’t matter as these speakers sound more complete, more full of life and can image with the best of them.
It delivers amazing meat in the mids with astounding clarity and a complete lack of distortion with the cleanest tightest most pleasing bass I have ever heard in any speaker. The horn loaded bass on the LaScala is special in what it does have. It believes in “Quality over Quantity” without question, and guess what? It works because the top and middle and mid bass is so good here, you really do not feel as if anything is missing, at all. I have not used subs with my Heresy IV (didn’t need one) or my Dynaudio Heritage Special. I am used to and very OK without having that extra layer of DEEP BASS in my room as long as the speaker sounds full, present and has meat on the bones when it comes to vocals and instruments.
In my room I have the LaScala AL5’s 10 feet apart, slightly toed in to where the tweeters point just outside of my ears and converge behind me by about a foot. This brings a huge wall of sound that provides some rather astonishing imaging and yes, these image amazing. Better than my Dynaudio Heritage Specials and that is saying a lot.
Here I have 400lbs of speaker that disappears in my room just as well as a reference $7000 small bookshelf speaker and this truly blew my mind. I have never experienced this kind of presentation in a larger speaker. I’m sure there is some kind of synergy here with my amps and DAC as well as room. There has to be, as these are impressing me greatly.
When I play the amazingly recorded and ethereal song called “Amen” from Enigma the LaScala’s give me an experience that I have never had before in my 35+ years of audio life.
The sound emerges from the speakers yet it doesn’t appear it is coming from the speakers. Music is “in the air” so to speak. I hear slight warmth, massive depth, crazy detail, cavernous spaciousness and sounds I have never heard before in this oh so familiar song. The imaging is TREMENDOUS and brings me into the song, as if I am floating in space and the sounds are emanating all around me. This creates a WALK IN soundstage and my entire room is just full of wall to wall sounds and music and richness. Front to back, floor to ceiling. With this track I am not missing the deep bass as the sound is full, meaty and big in the mids with a punch and kick that I have not heard in any other speaker when playing this song.
I hear only a small teeny coloration to the mids, but this is to be expected from the horns and if I must say, it adds some life to the voices. My Heresy IV’s have slight coloration but I will say that the version IV Heritage Line and the AL5’s are pretty much free from the horn sound of the past. Many feel Klipsch are bright or harsh sounding, and well, they used to be many years ago. Today’s Klipsch has come a long way in getting rid of that harshness and shoutiness to where it is virtually non existent. In fact none of the Version IV speakers have that old school Horn wonkiness.
These do have a high end that can be “exciting” if positioned incorrectly in the room and/or with the wrong amplification. Synergy is key. My Pass Labs does well but I bet a single ended tube amp could be even better. These can be much like the other Heritage speakers. Unbelievably amazing, rich/spacious and full bodied or they can sound thin, grating and bright. Amplification and cables do make differences as well as placement and how lively your room is.
Watch the LaScala being built by hand at Klipsch in Hope Arkansas in the video below!
The LaScala’s are just effortless, and yes they seem to breathe music. They can be as delicate as a drop of dew on a leaf or as balls to the wall as you need. They can also bring a live performance to your home. No, really. They can.
I have never heard a speaker do what these do with a live recording.
Listening to Billy Joel “Captain Jack” on his “Songs from the Attic” LP delivers a huge thrilling live sound. If I close my eyes and turn it up a but I feel as if I am in the audience, as if I traveled back in time to the 70’s and there I am. I can almost smell the sweat and excitement in the air. I do admit though, with this song and album I do feel I could use just a hair more bottom end but it’s not a must. It’s as if I do not care because the presentation is just so big and full already.
As Billy sings with his voice placed dead center and jetting out about 2 feet in front of the speakers as if he was invisible in my space, floating and singing in the middle of my room, I hear the drums kick and the instruments creating a solid musical performance coming from the left and right of my room. I am loving my Koetsu Black Cartridge right now ; ) It seems to be a perfect match to the LaScala as vinyl has been upgraded with these speakers over my Dynaudio and Heresy’s.
The soundstage is just as deep as it is wide and to those who think Klipsch can’t image or provide a cavernous soundstage never heard a set of LaScala AL5 properly set up.
Running them only with my Pass Labs INT-250 Integrated I decided to up the game and hook up the Pass Labs XA 60.8 Monoblock amplifiers. Overkill? Sure, maybe! But so is my INT-250! While these speakers would thrive with a modest tube amp driving them my Pass Gear is as close to tubes as solid state will get you and yet they have amazing current delivery which I feel brings more of that fullness to the Heritage Line of speakers.
The XA60.8’s are all class A power and this brings more warmth, solidity and IMO a more juicy fat sound while retaining a large soundstage and sweet details with some air.
Once the big Class A’s were connected the sound was a little bit more beefy and solidified. There was less excitement in the highs and in it’s place an ever so slightly more subdued top end. At low volume listening this combination brought a beautiful experience. With the volume set to only 11 I was getting big, rich but quiet sound at night.
I pulled up an interesting track called “Party Boy” from Marlon Williams and I was able to listen at 1AM without disturbing Debby a couple of rooms away. Even at low volume I heard a full presentation that again, leant ever so slightly to the warm side of neutral in the mids.
I hear the voice dead center about 3 feet in front of me. I hear drums that sound like they are 10 feet back to the left. The soundstage in my room is DEEP with the LaScala.
When the instrumental break comes in at 1:10 the effect is mesmerizing. The way the LaScala separates voice from instruments is natural and yet surreal. Drums are so realistic with these speakers and vocals are so special with the LaScala as well.
When I fired up “I’m Confessin'” from Dean Martin…HOLY WOW…there was a holographic 3 dimension wholeness to the sound. I MEAN…HE WAS IN MY ROOM. The sound was as real as can be. It didn’t sound “HiFi” or processed…rather it was natural.
There was a “sit back in the couch with a tasty adult beverage kind of vibe” going on with old Deno. It was soft, deep, 3D and so so real. I have never in my life heard more realistic vocals than I did with this track. This is to me what the LaScala excels at along with dynamics and edge of your seat thrills (when the music calls for it).
Deans voice sits right in the center with a fullness that makes it almost eery. Details in the voice are there as well, like he is right in front of you. The breaths…the space and air…amazing. I hear piano in the back right of the room which sounds as if it is 3-4 feet from Deans voice. To the left I hear the bass and every pluck of the string is evident and clear with meat on the bones of the strings. That’s it. The voice and two instruments.
The LaScala can do intimate low volume stuff just as well as the loud stuff and that is amazing.
I will say now though that these speakers will not be for everyone.
You can already tell I truly feel the LaScala is a special speaker but it is my guess that some would dislike them due to the absolute bottom octaves just not being there. While a sub can fix this, you will need a very good one to do so and some just do not want to add a sub to their system. So if you want to play some types of music like hip hop, rap or music that is bass heavy these are NOT for you.
I feel the LaScala’s are insanely artistic and even cinematic in sound. Big, Brash, Bold, Exciting and Cocky. They can take almost any music and turn it in to a true spectacle, a performance if you will. It grabs hold of your emotions and it never lets go until you power your system down.
One track that made me realize just how special these speakers are, one that made me sit up in full attention for the entire track is a piece called “Light and Shadow” by Vangelis and the English Chamber Choir. Turned up to 30 with the Pass Labs INT-250 and XA60.8’s I felt as if I had hair it would have even blowing from the sheer presence of the music.
It wasn’t harsh any all though, rather it had tremendous depth and I felt as if I was just surrounded by music and beauty. On “Conquest of Paradise” from the same album the music had power, guts and instruments as well as the vocals were seemingly floating in space away from the speaker boxes that are impossible to ignore.
The AL5’s deliver on bringing you a performance. No other speaker I have heard has delivered this kind of scale, excitement or fun in my space. None.
These can play soft and low or loud and proud and they always sound “right” when doing it. Due to the tremendous midrange performance and mid bass quality it feels as if nothing is missing.
Some speakers out there have a thin recessed midrange and a big fat bottom end. What this does is make it sound like thee is a gap of information missing in that midrange area and it sounds a tad hollow. I prefer a fat meaty midrange to a recessed one and that is just what these speakers deliver when driven properly.
In my room and they fit in quite well.
VS THE CORNWALL, HERESY IV AND FORTE IV?
VS the Cornwall IV
I have heard all of the Version IV heritage speakers and own the Cornwall IV and Heresy IV. In comparison to the Cornwall the LaScala is quite different. The Cornwall IV’s are absolutely amazing speakers, world class. They deliver the excitement, impact and depth I speak of with the LaScala but they have that massive 15″ woofer and with the front ports on the Version IV the Cornwalls do a tremendous job of delivering the entire package.
In fact, the Cornwall IV is THE speaker I would recommend in the Heritage line above all else right now to those reading this as it brings all you need in one massive speaker. Bass, Scale, Delicacy and Raw Power at the same time, Kick, and a nice midrange. So if that is the case, why did I buy the LaScala?
The LaScala deliver a nicer and much bigger midrange to my ears as the CWIV sounds recessed when compared side by side but this is not something you would notice without a direct comparison. While the Cornwall IV sound absolutely huge the LaScala one ups them in the scale Dept.
When I listen to “Walk Away” by Jewel with the Cornwall IV I hear a beautiful large presentation of vocals and acoustic guitar that is lifelike in scale. It’s pleasing and lacks nothing.
When I hear the same track on the LaScala AL5 it’s as if Jewel appeared in my room. Her voice is more realistic with more body and the instruments sound more separated from HER position in my room. It’s crazy good and touches the heart more because of the realism. Her voice sounds thinner with the Cornwall.
I personally prefer the LaScala AL5 to the Cornwall but for reasons of the lower octaves of bass, I would recommend the Cornwall to anyone who had the space for it. It’s one of the worlds best speakers (it really is) and the latest version fixes most of the issues many had with previous versions. It’s clean, doesn’t shout, is only slightly colored (in a good way) and provides the full spectrum of sound with details and depth and zero harshness. I get zero fatigue from the newest modern day Klipsch Heritage speakers (Heresy IV, Cornwall IV and LaScala AL5).
In regards to the comparison…the LaScala images better, and offers up a more holographic presentation but without the lower end grunt that the corns can bring. It’s a trade off and my guess is more would love the Cornwall as it’s just all there, without weakness. To those who prefer a midrange kind of speaker, and one that excels at it with a realism you can not get from other speakers then the LaScala may be your pick. It’s so real it is eery at times and I never did get that intense realism from the Cornwall. The bass that the LaScala does have is also of extreme high quality. Lightning fast, tight and with BODY. Amazing.
A sound demo with the LaScala AL5 in my Listening Room
VS the Heresy IV
Here is something that may surprise you. The Heresy IV is still one of my all time favorite speakers. I have owned them for a year and a half (whenever the IV first came out) and even got rid of the shipping boxes as I swore to never sell them (and won’t). When these little guys are powered right and placed/spaced right they are astonishing and offer imaging, bass heft and a massive soundstage that rivals speakers that cost more, and they do things those more pricey boxes can not with dynamics and realism. They are warm speakers in my system and just deliver a welcoming sound. The LaScala’s are much bigger sounding but the Heresy IV’s can sound massive in a room of my size.
They do lose out on some clarity, detail and scale when compared to the mighty LaScala. They are not as detailed or lively or exciting as the LaScala but in my room? I prefer the Heresy IV to the Cornwall IV and this is without a subwoofer. The new Heresy IV delivers a beefy solid thumping sound without one when driven correctly.
THE KEY TO KLIPSCH
The big thing with Klipsch Heritage is to power them just right. $500 receivers are a no no and will bring loud, flat and harder sounds through the speakers. They will sound all kinds of wrong with the wrong amps powering them. I have tried SET tube amps, push pull tubes amps, all class A amps, class D Amps and some A/B amps. What you heard is true about Klipsch. They love tubes such as a 300B or 45 but also love solid state class A. They can be transformed with the right power behind them and I love my solid state class A (Pass Labs) gear.
I have my Heresy IV’s in a second system with a little PS Audio Sprout 100 running them and in that room they sound great for party or background music but if sitting down for serous listening that can be a bit flat without much bass heft and are even a tad hollow sounding. Even so I still enjoy that system as well, as music is music. In my reference rig with the Pass amps and better cables/DAC the sound is transformed into huge, fluid, hefty and detailed sound with air, soundstage and magic.
I love the Heresy IV but the LaScala does indeed outclass it in all areas. Even so, you can not go wrong with the Heresy IV and a something like a Pass Labs INT-25 integrated amp. It’s a gorgeous combo indeed. Take a listen for yourself in one of my Videos HERE.
These were the only Heritage I have heard that were more on the bright side of the spectrum. The newest version of this speaker breathes a tad more excitement into it yet with the tightest and punchiest bass performance of all of the heritage line.
Yes, the Forte IV offers the most solid and punchy bass of all of the version IV. This was especially good for metal and music that needed rhythmic drive. They excel over the LaScala in this way without question but at the same time, they do sound a bit flatter than the LaScala and not as effortless in their presentation. Again, only with direct comparison.
If I came home with the Forte IV I would love them and praise them for their qualities of energy, bass, punch and scale. I can see the Forte IV as being the best bang for the buck in the Heritage Lineup but each offering sounds a bit different. My leanings are to the Heresy IV and LaScala and to my ears the LaScala is more like a Heresy on triple strength steroids than they are a better Cornwall IV.
No matter which speaker you choose in the lineup you are getting something different from the norm as well as a speaker that will energize your room and breath lifelike and concert like music into your space. Klipsch in 2021 is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to HiFi.
I was curious as to how other amps would do with the LaScala AL5’s so I pulled out a couple of old faves.
I hooked up the little Naim Uniti Atom to the LaScala and it was a no go. Compared to the Class A amplification it was more thin and a tad bright. I then pulled out a cheap $400 flea watt amp that I bought off of Amazon…twice. While this is a Class A amp, it doesn’t possess the weight of the Pass Labs gear though it was pretty sweet with vocal/jazz. I then attached, for fun, the little Class D PS Audio Sprout. It did well, but not even close to what these sound like with the Pass amps. What I have found is that Pass Labs has a synergy with Klipsch. At least the Class A stuff. The Pass Gear should sound best as the cost is the highest.
I also have, for two weeks, a Luxman 590 AXII (one of my all time fave integrated) on loan from a friend. The Luxman is a top quality Class A integrated but was a bit leaner than the Pass. It seemed like it had a sweetness to the sound though, and it was very fluid and 3D. This was a nice setup. I then tried a Yamaha A1200 and it made the speakers sound a bit more forward and more dry. It was clean and had a nice mid bass solidity but I also feel the Yamaha amps are slightly colored in the mids as well, which may be too much of a good thing. None of these were “bad” by any stretch but they were certainly all different.
KLIPSCH IN 2021
I mentioned this in my Heresy IV review but Klipsch Heritage speakers are so much better now than they were just a few years ago. They have none of the old qualities that people complain about like the horn shoutiness, wonkiness or a big horn coloration. They are now neutral to warm leaning (with the right power) and offer up audiophile qualities such as soundstage depth and width, incredible imaging and some pretty nice 3 dimensionality as well as an ability to touch your soul.
They do all of this while retaining the qualities of what they are known for. A huge live sound, a huge midrange and voice as well as being super easy to drive with low power tube amps. The made in the USA quality and classic designs are all attractive to me in the Heritage line as well.
See how these are made in Hope Arkansas!
When listening to Judas Priest “Battle Cry” LIVE I feel like the energy from the performance is jetting right into me. The concert is brought to my room and I can play low or as loud as I dare.
If I do go to the wall shaking loudness the LaScala NEVER distorts or sounds jagged, It just gets louder while retaining the smooth fluid sound. It’s incredible to experience though again, as I go loud I do miss some of the low end fullness that can only be cured with a subwoofer. The Bass that the LaScala does put out is absolutely insanely good quality but it just doesn’t go DEEP. You notice it with some music and never notice it at all with other music. Metal sounds a tad better with some low end kick. So that is one weakness of this amazingly beautiful and capable speaker.
Many own and love the LaScala, even the original versions, and use them without a Subwoofer. Others feel it is a must. All depends on what you listen to really. I will say again, if you add a quality sub that can keep up with the LaScala AL5 I do not see much of anything touching it at its price point for all out musical enjoyment, dynamics, fun and filling your room with musical magic. These are some of the worlds best speakers without question.
Just look at me. I have owned and heard so many speakers from so many brands. I enjoyed many of them but for a true Heirloom quality speaker that you bond with, well they are few and far between. I feel the Klipsch Heritage line, especially the Version IV’s, all have that timeless quality that speaks to your heart and soul. It’s a speaker you want to keep for life and can as it is built to last. It’s why you see classic LaScala’s still in circulation and being used. They have stood the test of time. That’s a big deal as it speaks volumes about the speaker.
MEASURE WITH THIS TOOL!
BTW, I do not do measurements as those mean nothing to me. My ears are the instrument I measure with and all that matters is what I like when I buy a speaker. Same goes for you, so let your ears be the judge. I feel many look at measurements of speakers and judge their sound by those measurements, and that is just not possible with a speaker like the LaScala.
A speaker can only be judged after hearing it in your space and with your gear. I believe a speaker like this is worthy of building a whole system around. Start with the speaker and go from there.
As the title of this review stated, these LaScala’s can intertwine with your emotion when the music and mood is right. I have shed a tear in the past with certain music and speakers. It happened with the Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolutions. It happened with the Vinnie Rossi L2i SE integrated amp. It happened again with the LaScala and Pass Labs Amps.
I was listening to “It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday” from Jason Mraz and started thinking of my younger years when I would listen to my audio system in my basement as a teen. I then remembered my Father who used to wonder why I was so into music. My thoughts then switched to him, and how much I miss him. Losing him in 2000 to cancer was tough, and I still think of him daily. This song truly touched my heart through the LaScala’s and more so than any other time I have heard it. It is that quality that I love. It makes the small deficiencies in the LaScala (lowest bass) not matter at all to me with this speaker as if it can bring a tear to my eyes, it’s pretty special as is.
When a song takes me back like that, with vivid memories and a tear flowing down my cheek…well, you can not measure that.
Listening to Enya’s “If I could Be Where You Are” takes my breath away. Cueing up “Once I was Loved” by Melody Gardot touches my heart as well. Going around the bend with some George Jones “He Stopped Loving her Today” does it again.
The LaScala is not a be all end all speaker bit I am here to tell you, none of them are. NONE. As many speakers that I have heard in my life I can count on one hand those that truly spoke to my heart and soul and the one that sits at the top of that heap as of June 2021 is the Klipsch LaScala AL5.
I also have that special bond with my little Heresy IV’s and I love those Cornwall IV’s as well. As stated you can not go wrong with any of them. Just make sure you power them right, use decent cables (yes these speakers can show you the differences in cables) and a good source. The better your source and amps and cables the more these speakers will reward you.
It’s fantastic. The LaScala’s in my room sound much better than they did in the showroom. I believe that is due to the dimensions of my room, what is in my room as well as the amps, cables and DAC I use. It’s also due to the time spent placing them in the right spot within the room.
The beauty of the LaScala is you can put it all the way up against a wall as there is no rear port. I pushed mine about an 4 inches from the wall and toed them slightly for a full soundstage, locked in imaging and the most responsive bass performance. No need to bring them out in a small room but in a large room these would be at home pulled out some, given room to breathe.
They do work and sound mind blowing in my smallish room, so to those who say these do not sound good in a small room…well, you are wrong. I have yet to hear anything better in this room. I love the Dynaudios but they can not sound nearly as large or breathtaking as the LaScala.
LOW VOLUME LATE NIGHT LISTENING
The LaScala AL5’s are spectacular at low volume late night listening and it is INCREDIBLE what they manage to do. Listening to the Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds track “Leviathan” from Ghosteen at 1AM at low volume with the Pass Labs XA60.8 amps was almost like an out of body experience. The sound was so full of body, details, air and 3 dimensional space I felt as if I merged in with the performance. I have never heard a speaker sound so good at lower volume. I felt nothing at all was lacking. The bass was solid, tight and expressive (and without boom and the mids and high end were about as good as it gets.
I have always enjoyed (and really only bought) speakers when they can do this low volume thing well. Not all speakers sound good at low volume. Some speakers like to have the volume cranked to open up and flesh out. The Klipsch doesn’t have that issue. It’s also remarkable in the way it provides music without grain, hash, or any kind of grit. Smooth, expansive and dynamic is what we get. These speakers bring serious life to some music.
The LaScala AL5 is a special speaker but at the same time it’s not for everyone. That will depend on what your tastes are when it comes to music reproduction.
The Klipsch LaScala AL5’s are lightning fast, dynamic as all get out and can shock you with what they can do at times with the right material. They can play louder than your ears and home can stand yet stay clean and sophisticated without distortion of any kind. They are smooth, wide and expansive sounding and can disappear in a room like a small monitor. They can be run with a 3 watt tube amp or a big huge powerful amp. They love tubes and Class A amps and can sound as delicate as dew on a rose petal or as electric as a KISS concert. They have massive scale and sound even bigger than the already huge sounding Cornwall IV. They do the soundstage and imaging thing as well or better than some uber high end audiophile brands yet do so in a natural way. They can be haunting or in your face depending on the music and volume level. They do not shout nor are they bright unless you set them up wrong or use lower quality amplification.
NO, they will not rock your house down with bass but that is not at all what these speakers are about. Rather, these are about life, emotion, and I will say it…the human voice that can connect to our heart with a realism I have never heard before.
The LaScala AL5 are effortless in all they do but HIP HOP, RAP and TRASH metal fans need not apply. Those Forte IV’s will serve those Genres much better. These AL5 Speakers breathe music. They have an ever so slight coloration that comes along with the horns but it’s almost non existent and I feel what is there is a GOOD color and makes the speakers sound more life like. They can be sharp up top if you position them to where the tweeter fires right at your ears but toe them out a little more and that goes away. The high end is still big, brassy and offers excitement but not at all harsh or hard.
I will say that listening to some Buddha Bar tracks was amazing. I did not feel like there was a lock of bass at all and they were so 3D that I was in awe of what was happening in my room. The track “14 KMS” on the “Buddhas Sounds” album (streamed from Tidal) was absolutely incredible. Best I have heard this track sound. So 3 dimensional and textured. Yes, the LaScala can reveal textures in music as if layers are getting peeled off to bring forth new layers.
Are they worth the now $13,200 cost that they retail for? Well, only you can decide that. I would not have been able to pay that price as I have a limit on what I can spend on speakers but if you ask me if they are worth it…well..it depends on what YOU like and what your bank account is like.
For me that were absolutely worth what I paid for them, scuffs and all. For me they would be worth retail if I had the funds to go for it. These are not the old 1970’s LaScala’s but rather refined works of art that sound as good as they look.
If these boxes are too large for you I suggest that you can get a bit of the flavor of the LaScala AL5 with the Heresy IV more so than any other heritage speaker. The Heresy IV when set up right is a stunner and has no real weakness for me in my smaller room. The AL5’s just bring a lot more of that in a much bigger and more room filling way. Both image very well and both disappear in my room. Both offer a fluid and full midband that brings the vocal magic to you. Even so, the LaScala tops the Heresy with it’s ability to actually bring a concert to your space and for large rooms the AL5 would be a no brainer choice if within the budget.
The sheer distortion free volume and huge sound is remarkable and once you experience this it is a sound you will never forget. These are the kind of speakers that when you hear them how they are meant to be sound, it will stay with you for life.
As I wrap this review up I remember back over the last ten years and how I always dreamt of owning a set of LaScala speakers and now here I am with the latest version immersed in the music. Do I regret the purchase? HELL NO! These are truly speakers that were worthy of the ten year wait and I feel extremely blessed to be able to own them. I’m thrilled to have gotten a deal on a used demo model locally as that is what allowed me to jump.
As for the cons? Well they are big speakers. Very “200lbs each kind of heavy” and you can miss the bottom octaves if you are a bass head ; ) They can sound a tad bright if you aim them at your head or use the wrong amplification, so do not do that. Only toe them slightly and you will be amazed at the effortless sound that emerges into your room.
WHERE TO BUY?
I will say that I HIGHLY recommend Paducah Home Theater for Klipsch Heritage. They ship anywhere and offer great pricing as well as having almost anything you are looking for IN STOCK. The Cornwall IV, Heresy IV, Forte IV or even the LaScala and Klipschorn (though those may have to be ordered).
In the Showroom of Paducah Home Theater with Cory.
You can call them at 270-556-8427 or visit their website HERE.
I’m one of these people that can’t get their head around spending almost $20,000 on a pair of speakers (at least here in Canada) and THEN having to buy a subwoofer because the LaScala’s 15″ woofers produces the same bass as the 5″ woofers in my Audioengines. I’m a basshead who owns many subwoofers because I love the depth, warmth and fullness of sound that only a subwoofer can provide so i’ve always considered the Heritage line kind of a marvel of sonic engineering how Klipsch were able to put huge woofers in enormous, heavy cabinets (the LaScala’s weigh 175lbs each) and yet they’re still capable of producing very little deep bass. The only speakers in Klipsch’s Heritage line that produce deep bass are the new Jubilee’s but they belong in an auditorium and they’re the price of a new BMW. Having said all this i’ve never heard the LaScala’s or any of the Heritage line so I can’t comment on the sound quality but you admit they produce very little bass and for their price I find that inexcusable. I have to compliment you on your choice of music for the review though-Judas Priest. I’ve been a fan for over 40 years and I don’t recall any reviewer ever using Judas Priest in a review of any piece of audio gear over the years so kudos for that
your review was as detailed and rich to read as the LaScala’s must be to listen to. An Opus of a review; Bravo!!
Great review! I had a pair of 1979 LaScalas but sold them on because the mid-horn ring gave me listening fatigue and a pair of CornScalas popped up in my area, saving me from doing the surgery myself. If anyone wants to go down this path, check out the crossovers from ALK Engineering and Volti, and the DIY mid-horns from Volti. For me the LaScala’s K-horn drivers with a large mid-horn in the Cornwall form-factor is the home listening sweet spot.
A more affordable but often overlooked Klipsch speaker is the original version of the KG-4. Passive radiator on the back gives the same impressive bass as the Forte. Crites crossovers really make them sing in my 2nd system setup. Both pair wonderfully with a Mark Levinson 23, 23.5 or 27.5 power amp. I think I am finally done with upgrades.
AL5’s sound much different from the 1979 era LaScala ; )
Very interesting review, I had the opportunity to listen to the La Scala, in a $45000 package deal, today as well as the Forte. I am the furthest from an audiophile, the salesman had to explain speaker terms as I had no idea what he meant. The LeScala was the last speaker I listened to and holy cow. Your review is dead on. However I wasn’t as impressed by the Forte in relation to price. Unfortunately they didn’t have the Heresy IV. Now that Ive read your review Im going to find a set of the Heresy for a listening session. Thanks so much! The H4 is about all my pocket will take. Is there anything else in that range I should listen to?
Hi Steve. Always love your video and written reviews. I’m seriously considering the La Scalas. Two questions:
1. What stain are yours? Walnut or cherry? They look great?
2. My listening room is about 25’x22’. However my listening area is in one corner of that room – open to the rest of the room. That listening space is 11’ wide and my ears will be 13’ from the front wall. The back wall behind me is another 12’ behind my head. Is 11’ front wall width enough to get the value out of the LaScalas – the great holographic imaging and big sound stage? I guess the space between the centre of the speakers would be about 8’. Is my listening space large enough for these beautiful giants?
Thank you for your thoughts.
Mine are Walnut but I got these at a great price due to some scuffs they had. I also feel my walnut color is off some as my Heresy IV walnut are much darker and my cherry Forte IV are lighter. These are supposed to be Walnut though ; ) As for space, my room is 13X20 and that 13′ was just about minimal I would place these in. I am not so sure an 11ft wide wall will be the best for these very large speakers. In my room they sounded awesome but looked very cramped for sure. If your speakers are 11′ apart I would sit no more than 11′ from them. It’s hard to say how they will do in the room, unless you try them.
I am new in this new path.
I wonder what cables are you using to connect the La Scala to the Pass.
Thank you in advance.
My cables are Cardas Clear Reflection. I have had massive experience with cables of all kinds. Cheap to Ultra Insane prices. The Cardas Clear Reflection fits in perfectly within my system, but cables are very personal and should be auditioned before purchase. Many do not believe cables make a difference, and they very much make a difference as long as your system is set up correctly and you are using revealing gear. If not, decent $100-$300 cables can do just fine.
Steve I could not afford the La Scala, well we couldn’t if catch my drift. Anyway I bought a pair of Chorus in 1990 still have and listen to them daily. Klipsch speakers haven’t ever been known for deep bass response. I do have a powered sub. Someday when I have my own listening room where I don’t bother others I would like to have a pair of La Scala and a pair of something that I build which will happen. Thanks for your review and your passion. I think passion is what people don’t understand. Passion isn’t a fad, it’s deep rooted like you can’t help it, it’s part of us.
Thank you Scott! Those old Chorus are great, and am happy to hear you still enjoy them every day. For me there is a sound Klipsch does so well that no other speaker I have heard does in the same way. Wether it’s the ones I have had in here…Heresy, Cornwall or LaScala’s.. all just have something about them that sucks me in like few others. Thanks again, and yes, it’s about PASSION! Thank you!
I’m buying and need your opinion, Fleetwood Devilles or Klipsch La Scalas, seems you liked them both and if you had to choose between them which ones would you choose
I still own the LaScala, Heresy IV, Forte IV, Dynaudio Heritage, Deville’s. I also own a few other Lower end speakers. I love the LaScala and Deville. Two of the best speakers I personally have ever owned. I have not owned them all though, so there are many others out there to look at. But between these I prefer the Deville as they have the bass and warmth the LaScala’s lack. The LaScala though…what a midrange. It’s huge.
This review tells exactly what I was discussing with a friend yesterday. We both own LaScalas and were discussing why we like them so much. We also did a direct comparison with my friend’s Fortes and we both preferred the La Scalas. No doubt about it. We used exactly terms as 3d sound and the fact that these speakers completely dissapear. It’s like the music is floating between them. You can look at these speakers, concentrate on where the sound is coming from and still think the music is coming from somewhere else. One time another friend asked me: what’s so special about their sound. I said: it’s difficult to describe, it’s like the sound is fluid. He gave me a strange look so I took him to my listening room and then he understood. I’m powering my La Scalas with a vintage Radford Sta25, sometimes a quad 303 or Bryston powerpac 120’s. I prefer the Radford. Anyway, your reviews were the reason I bought a Leica M9 years ago and still enjoying it today. I almost bought Heresy IV’s because of you and always tought: why doesn’t he own La Scalas, he must be a La Scala guy 🙂 So was very thrilled to finally see this La Scala review on your website. Steven, Belgium.
Thank you Steven and yes, I am now a LaScala guy for sure! Love them.
A very informative read. Klipsch have passed me by. I showed the wife your video…fair to say your system did not pass the acceptance threshold. What are those massive boxes on the middle of the floor? Those speakers are just silly large. Way too intrusive. Deteriorated even further when I ventured onto price…Sounds brilliant, I explained. Did not help. At all.
Through my headphones, I could almost feel the heft, the ease. Very impressive. Bass sounded more than fine to me. How do the AL5’s sound through the INT-250? Must be blindingly good as well.
It’s big yes. But worth it. I moved the amps from the floor (these are review units from pass labs) and placed them on top of the speakers (on the glass tops) so less intrusive. But this is a room dedicated to the audio system. That’s all it is for so size doesn’t matter, just the sound : ) These actually sound a bit better through the INT-250.
Did not word it so well. It was the wife complaining about the intrusion of the speakers and the power amps, not me. I am with you. If I could, I would…
Interesting about the INT-250, but I am not completely surprised. If it is better than the INT-60 I know it must be insanely good.
I have a pair of the LaScala AL5s and truly love them. I have been a Klipsch fan since 1967, and really like their sound.
I’m also a Leica photographer, both rangefinder and mirrorless.
I very much liked your review, both written and video. I appreciate your enthusiasm and honesty. It’s so great to hear a passionate and considerate review.
Thank you Michael! The LS are truly a special speaker. I still have my Leica SL2-S and love it.
Hi Steve, I miss your lens reviews as they were so competent and spot on with an emphasis on rendering. I am enjoying your hifi reviews and you have reminded me of my past passion for fine audio that was not upgraded in decades due to priorities changing with marriage and family. However, I am now retiring and going to refresh my life. Reduce house significantly and simply my life to simple pleasures. I am eventually going to look into the Pass Labs int 25. I hope you get great joy out of this next chapter in your adventures.
I have watched your reviews for some time and only recently began reading them. As a VERY long term audiophile (35+ years) I have owned a lot of speakers and equipment. There was assuredly a point in time where if someone suggested a Klipsch speaker I would have laughed at them the same way I would have at a Bose suggestion. I have owned Magnepan (3.6r’s and now 1.7i’s), Thiel. Vandersteen, Roger, Dahlquist, Spendor and many more. My primary speakers today are Cornwall IV’s. The CW’s are magic and the single most satisfying speakers I have ever owned. I bought them almost solely off of Guttenbergs review. I was amazed from day one! I will not say that they are my end game speakers as I must hear the LaScala’s. I too have dealt with Paducah and share your positive opinions. They are a good 7-8 hours from me but I will at some point be making the journey as I know I can get a proper demo at their showroom. For what it is with, I drive them with a Rogue Stereo 100 amp and RP-1 pre. I also have a Decware Zen Triode on order (7-8 month lead time) which is supposed to be our magic with Klipsch. Hope so as they are only 2.5 watts and definitely will not drive my Maggies. Thanks for your work and reviews! I will continue to follow and find them to be accurate, enjoyable and fun!
Really engaging review Steve, i have followed you since the Leica M9 review and it is a joy to read your hi-fi reviews too, you are always considered and clearly take your time to fully immerse in what you write about …in a different way i’m very much reminded of the sadly departed Erwin Puts approach, although he was of course very technical in his reviews, i do feel you have his ethos of taking the time to really understand how something works best and indeed what it can’t do as well as what it can.
In summary it is a pleasure to read your thoughts, keep up this great work
So glad to read this review. I fondly owned a pair of Klipshorns in the ’70s. Marvelous.
Thank you Doug.