KLH Albany Bookshelf Speakers Review

KLH Albany are an excellent choice for bookshelf speakers at the $500/pair price point. These speakers feature a 2-way acoustic suspension design with a broad frequency response and an appealing, detailed yet smooth sound. I’ve had a pair of KLH Albany speakers in my home for several months and listened to them both casually and critically and find them easy to recommend.

KLH lists the frequency response of the Albany as 35 Hz to 25 kHz (+/-3 dB) with a sensitivity specification of 92 dB. The speaker can handle up to 200 watts and presents a nominal impedance of 8 ohms. The crossover between the 5.25″ Kevlar woofer and the 1″ aluminum dome tweeter. The binding posts accept banana plugs and these speakers are bi-amplifiable.


You can bi-amplify the KLH Albany

I wound up using the Albany speakers with both a 2-channel integrated amp—the NAD Masters M10—and an AVR, the Denon X8500h. I used them both on their own and in a 2.1 configuration that included a high-performance subwoofer.

OK, first things first… there’s no bookshelf speaker system in existence that I would not supplement with a subwoofer, if given the choice and budget to do so. Second, I happen to think a sub/satellite system represents the most cost-effective approach to putting together a high-performance stereo system. But having said that, I also appreciate a bookshelf speaker puts out tight bass with good extension. The Albany, despite being a sealed (as opposed to ported) design, plays nice and deep (with proper positioning and the caveat that bass is very room-dependent), which makes them an engaging listen on their own while also making it possible to apply a “textbook” 80 Hz crossover to a subwoofer without creating a “hole” in the system response. This, along with the threaded socket for mounting, makes the Albany a good choice for use as surrounds in a home theater.


KLH Albany with and without grill

Besides the simple but versatile design, the Albany is also an attractive speaker that’s available in Black Oak and also Walnut real wood veneer finishes. These speakers pair up well with KLH’s Windsor 12 subwoofer, which I’ve reviewed and have paired with these speakers for a rather potent combo.


Listening

I confess… I spent my time with these speakers listening to them, not running a bunch of measurements. But, just like I don’t need to know the exact IBU and temperature of a beer to tell if I like it, so it is with speakers. And yes, that’s a subjective experience, through and through.

If you are curious what I listened to, the answer is “over a hundred albums, thousands of songs, dozens of movies.” I cover the gamut in terms of genres, with a focus on electronic music, reggae dub, rap, ambient and industrial. But I also cover classical, jazz, pop, folk, rock… you name it. Thanks to streaming, there’s no excuse not to!

Ultimately, the quality of sound you get from these speakers will depend on how you set them up, the acoustics of your room, your preferred listening levels, the amount of deep bass in the music you listen to, the effectiveness and specific implementation of room correction (if present) and the question of subwoofer, or no subwoofer. The reason I bring all this up is that the speakers themselves hold up the acoustic end of the bargain, they put out a punchy but unexaggerated sound that lets you hear right into the mix while providing a deep and detailed soundfield… exactly what you’d expect from a solid, well engineered 2-way speaker.


KLH Albany tweeter closeup

These KLH are able to handle quite a bit of power before they start to run out of steam. In a 2.0 system the limits are mechanical, you’ll run out of woofer excursion. With a 2.1 system and bass management the mechanical limitation goes away, and that’s when you notice how robust these drivers are. As long as you’ve got the power, that 5.25″ driver will pour out clean and energetic upper bass and midrange that gives music and movies their clarity and impact.

The “long story short” here is the Albany sounds like the music you are listening to. It does not color the sound, it does not veil anything, it’s not too bright or too dark or too sterile or too warm. It is, as Goldilocks proclaimed, “just right. Moreover, they sounded excellent on both the Denon X8500h AVR and the NAD Masters M10.

As for room correction, based on the Albany’s performance in my room there was little or no difference between Dirac Live and Audyssey. Both systems were able to “straighten out” the bass response of these speakers, taking full advantage of that 35 Hz extension. However, thanks to the thoughtful tuning of these speakers you can also skip the EQ and get a balanced sound, so long as you set them up properly.


Measurements

When I fed the Albany a 35 Hz sine wave from Room EQ Wizard (full-range, no subwoofer, Audyssey disabled), I was surprised to hear a single speaker generate that much clean bass. My thinking here is that the high port tune of a typical bookshelf speaker does not allow it to dig this deep, whereas these KLH Albany are sealed. Interestingly, output is robust right on down to 35 Hz and then drops off a cliff. For a bookshelf speaker this size, what it does with bass is heroic.

When I measured sine wave sweeps, I found that the bass response follows a gentle downward slope that starts around 80 or 90 Hz. The trick is that indoors, room gain compensates for this drop-off and what you wind up with is a speaker that, without EQ, has tuning that sounds balanced without need for EQ and that genuinely offers response down to 35 Hz. The tuning of this speaker strongly reminds me of quality active monitors that use DSP to deliver a “room friendly” response with extra extension. KLH Albany brings the same sort of voicing to an affordable passive speaker, a notable achievement that also harkens back to why KLH is such a well-known brand to this day: Building a great acoustic suspension speaker.

Also notable… above 100 Hz the response of this speaker is super linear and REW shows it reaches 24 kHz (the measurement limit) which is a good indicator it hits the specified 25 kHz.


Conclusion

The $500/pair bookshelf speaker category is packed with option. So, why choose the KLH Albany? For the same reason you’d pick a good wine or a good beer, knowing that there are hundreds of other options: Because it best suits your taste, This is not a choice between Coke and Pepsi, Bose or Beats… this is a nuanced decision that considers what you’ll pair ’em with. And while I don’t want to get bogged down in wine analogies, I’d strongly suggest that a subwoofer is equivalent to a really good steak. Which is to say… it’s a synergistic combination but you have to put thought into the pairing.

With KLH, the pairing of the Albany and subwoofer achieves the sublime at reasonable cost. We’re talking true full-range sound that does justice to orchestras and industrial rock and Michael Bay movies, but is equally comfortable playing delicate music. Take away the subwoofer and you’ve still get killer sound with surprisingly robust bass for a compact, sealed speaker. This is true KLH and therefore is a Recommended 2019 selection in the $500/pair bookshelf speaker category.


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