Q: We have a new 50-inch Panasonic TV and are looking to replace our sound source from the 1970s Kenwood stereo in our small sunroom, which is probably 15 by 20 feet. We would like to play music through Time Warner cable and improve the sound of our TV for normal viewing.
Would we be best served to buy an inexpensive soundbar, or should we buy a receiver and use the Klipsch Heresy II speakers we already own?
The sunroom where we have the TV is small, but we both sometimes turn up the volume and want to hear it all over the first floor. We really would like to keep this around $300. I have seen good quality soundbars and receivers recommended in your column and your blog.
A: "Should I use my Klipsch Heresy II speakers, or get an inexpensive soundbar for $300?" This is kind of like asking a traveler, "Would you like to fly from New York to Hong Kong using the first-class ticket already in your possession, or would you like to spend some more and buy a ticket for coach?"
All kidding aside, this is a really easy decision. Use your Klipsch Heresy speakers. You might not know how desirable they are.
A little background is in order. Klipsch is a mass-market brand these days, but that wasn't always the case.
In the 1980s, when I was in college and learning about audio, they were available only in hi-fi specialty shops. The speakers were all handmade out of wood and high-quality materials here in the United States — specifically, in Hope, Ark. I was especially fond of Klipsch's Forte tower speakers.
Company founder Paul W. Klipsch was an interesting and inventive man. His Wikipedia entry is a great read. He lived to be 98 and went skinny-dipping in his pool every morning until near the end of his life.
Klipsch's famous Klipschorn speaker has been in continuous production since 1946. Horns are the most efficient type of speaker driver and were common in the 1940s, when amplifier power was low. The Klipschorn is a "corner horn" that is fitted to a corner in the room and actually uses the room as part of the speaker itself. It can make 106 decibels for every watt fed to it. You can drive a pair of Klipschorns louder with a 20-watt amplifier than you can drive a typical pair of bookshelf speakers with a 600-watt amplifier (assuming the bookshelf speakers don't self-destruct).
The Heresy was originally developed as a center speaker for Klipschorns. They are still made in the United States as the Heresy III, which is part of Klipsch's Heritage series. A new pair costs $1,700. Use them. You have a great-sounding piece of audio history in your possession.
The Heresys are not as efficient as the Klipschorn, but they still require a small amplifier. You want HDMI switching for your video gear, so I'm going to recommend an AV receiver. The Pioneer VSX-522 can be found for $199 online and will do a fine job.
Send questions to Don Lindich at firstname.lastname@example.org. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.