No one taught me more about the heralded tone of Ortofon SPU cartridges, the magical pacing of idler-drive turntables, or the dynamics and speed of horn-loaded speakers than Art Dudley, Stereophile‘s late deputy editor. His equipment reviews and monthly Listening columns weren’t merely tutorials on how to review audio equipment with insight and an individual voice; they were also an entertaining, informative immersion into the kind of hi-fi he loved. We also shared many conversations, though too few.
Whenever Art lacked the time or interest to review a horn-loaded speaker, I pounced. Between May 2017 and August 2019, I reviewed the Volti Audio Rival, the Burwell Mother of Burl, the Klipsch Heresy III, and the Klipsch Forte III. In my review of the Forte III, I praised its reproduction of percussion, writing, “the entire drum set had its own distinct stage, each decay, cymbal ring, and drum resonance part of a larger percussive whole that poured forth from the Forte IIIs with exhilaration.” The III offered solid “bass reproduction, some CDs or LPs creating visceral yet agile, creamy yet forceful” sounds. The Forte made the most of jazz trios: “I could easily hear the moments of contact between Ray Brown’s fingers and his bass strings, [Shelly] Manne’s sticks and drums, [Barney] Kessel’s pick and guitar stringsthose instants when action becomes visceral music.”
The Forte IV
On its surface, the Klipsch Forte IV appears almost unchanged from its predecessor (footnote 1), and the IV’s specifications are identical to those of the III. Both are three-way, horn-loaded, floorstanding loudspeakers. The frequency range of both is specified as 38Hz20kHz, the sensitivity 99dB/2.83V/m at 8 ohms nominal impedance. The dimensions are very close: The IV is ¼” shorter (now 35.75″; 908mm) and 0.13″ wider (now 16.63″; 422mm) than the III. Both are 13″ (330mm) deep, and both weigh 72lb (32.7kg) per speaker. Both models come in American walnut, natural cherry, black ash, or distressed oak. The IV is priced at $4500/pair, $500 more than the III.
There are other important differences. On the IV, the high-frequency drivera titanium-diaphragm, K-100-TI 1″ (25.4mm) compression driver affixed to a 6″ × 4″ K-79T hornhas added an ABS phase plug “for a wider, more accurate sweet spot,” Klipsch says. There’s a new midrange: the Celestion-made K-702 1.75″ (445mm) polyimide compression driver paired with a 10″ × 7″ K-703-M horn. The combination is said to ensure “exceptional detail and dynamics.” The two bass unitsthe K-281 12″ (305mm), fiber-composite cone woofer and, on the back panel, a KD-15 15″ (381mm) passive cone radiatorare unaltered.
What else? Klipsch says that the IV has been “completely revoiced from its predecessor, utilizing premium componentry in an all new high-fidelity networkminimizing electrical degradation throughout the circuitryfor truer to life sound with best in class efficiency and power handling.” The new crossover network, Klipsch says, was influenced by the crossovers in the Klipschorn and the La Scala. “When I first came to Klipsch, Paul [Klipsch] was working on steep-slope networks,” designer Roy Delgado told me during a phone call. “Paul evolved with his science on speakers. When he got the anechoic chamber, that created possibilities to get a lot more resolution. He would do tests and over the years update the networks, because he felt you would learn something new about the combination of drivers we had.
He felt that the weakest link was the crossover.
“We brought in the steep slope, which we also use in the Klipsch cinema speakers,” Delgado continued, “because I wanted to make them efficient in their bandwidth; it also added a protection that wouldn’t mess up the driver because of its strictly limited bandwidth. So, when we were redoing the Heritage series, I designed a steep slope crossover for the Forte IV.” The specified crossover frequencies remain the same, and yet, Delgado told me, “The difference in the networks between the Forte III and Forte IV is not subtle.”
I wanted to hear that for myself, so I wrestled the Forte IVs from their boxes, furloughed my DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/96 speakers to the hallway, and pushed the Forte IIIs into the living room.
I used a variety of equipment in various combinations with the IVs, with Tidal streaming via Roon from my laptop to the preamp section of an Ayre EX-8 2.0 integrated amplifier (in for review). After that, the signal went either to the EX-8’s amplifier section or to the LKV Research Veros PWR+ class-D power amplifier (specified at 200Wpc into 8 ohms). A 2m run of AudioQuest Forest USB cable connected laptop to preamp’s internal DAC, a 2m pair of Triode Wire Labs Spirit II interconnects joined the preamp to the power amp, and an 8′ run of AudioQuest Robin Hood speaker cables linked the IVs to whichever amplifier was in use. I used A/V Room Service Equipment Vibration Protectors (EVPs) under the IV’s 2″-high support pedestal.
Listening inside the box
I immediately heard in the IVs a refinement and poise that the IIIs, for all their virtues, lacked. The IIIs have a little bit of the character of the fat-boy, low-rider Klipsch Heresys: energetic, dynamic, and just a little rough around the edges. The IV sounded smoother and richer than the III from the midrange through the upper treble, and the soundstage was deeper.
I listen to Fortes toed in so that they fire directly at my listening seat 66″ away, with the speakers 61″ apart on center. The IIIs could sound beamy in that configuration, but with the IVs,
I never heard that; instead, I heard a slightly wider soundstage and a more open, transparent top end. The IVs sometimes sounded a wee dark overall, which I didn’t mind.
Footnote 1: The Forte III is still available.Ed.
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Klipsch Audio Technologies
3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46268
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