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6 Compelling Reasons to Steer Clear of the Klipsch La Scala AL5 Loudspeaker

As an audio engineer and lifelong audiophile, I‘ve had the opportunity to critically listen to hundreds of high-end loudspeakers over the years. Few have elicited such a strong "avoid" recommendation from me as the Klipsch La Scala AL5. Don‘t get me wrong – Klipsch has a storied history and lineage of innovation in the world of hi-fi audio. But with the La Scala AL5, they seem to have taken a wrong turn in the pursuit of the ultimate reference loudspeaker.

These behemoth speakers come with an equally gargantuan price tag north of $13,000 per pair. And in my assessment, the performance simply doesn‘t justify the exorbitant expense, especially considering the existence of far more practical and affordable alternatives that get you 90% of the way there in terms of sound quality. Let‘s dive into the top 6 reasons I believe any sane person should avoid the La Scala AL5 like the plague.

The La Scala AL5 at a Glance

On paper, the La Scala AL5 floor-standing speaker is undeniably impressive. Weighing in at a back-breaking 200+ pounds apiece and standing over 3 feet tall, these speakers were designed first and foremost to move a massive amount of air. The La Scala utilizes an enormous 15" woofer for bass, a horn-loaded 2" midrange compression driver, and Klipsch‘s famous titanium tweeter design.

Frequency response is stated to extend from 33Hz in the lows to 20kHz in the highs. Sensitivity is a remarkable 105dB @ 1W, meaning these speakers can get extremely loud with minimal amplifier power. So far so good, right? Unfortunately, the La Scala AL5‘s real-world performance left me wanting in several key areas.

#1: Shamefully Expensive

I‘d be remiss not to address the elephant in the room: the Klipsch La Scala AL5‘s are prohibitively, outlandishly expensive for all but the most well-heeled of audiophiles. At an MSRP of $13,000 for the pair (and that‘s before factoring in the cost of a suitably high-end amplifier), these speakers are priced in the stratosphere of hi-fi.

Don‘t get me wrong, I‘m all for paying more for genuine increases in performance. But in the case of the La Scalas, the price-to-performance ratio is way out of whack compared to the competition. I simply cannot in good conscience recommend anyone spend this much unless money is truly no object. There are just too many outstanding speakers available for literally 20-50% of the cost of the La Scalas that will get you the vast majority of the performance. Which brings me to my next point…

#2: Unwieldy Size and Weight

Did I mention these speakers weigh over 200 pounds each? At nearly 4 feet tall and 2 feet deep, the La Scala AL5s are an imposing presence in any room. Forget about easily repositioning them once in place – you‘ll need an appliance dolly and an extra set of hands to get these beasts situated.

While large speakers can offer benefits in the way of dynamics and scale, they also introduce challenges. Bass can quickly become boomy or bloated in small to mid-sized rooms at loud volumes. Optimal placement becomes both more critical and more difficult to achieve. And heaven help you if you need to move them up or down a flight of stairs. Frankly, for the majority of folks, the La Scala AL5s are simply far too large to be practical.

#3: Bass-ic Instinct

Given their massive woofers, you‘d expect the La Scala AL5s to produce truly epic, earthshaking bass, right? Not so much. While the AL5s have decent extension down to around 33Hz, the overall impact and slam of the low-end is surprisingly polite, bordering on lean.

Fellow bass-heads will want to plan on integrating one or more subwoofers to achieve the visceral bottom-end these speakers promise but don‘t quite deliver on their own. Again, for $13K a pair, I expect better. Plenty of competing speakers in the $3-5K price bracket offer more convincing and authoritative bass response in my experience.

#4: Unbalanced, Mid-Forward Voicing

To my ears, the La Scala AL5s have a distinctly skewed midrange-centric voicing that, while revealing an impressive amount of detail, quickly became fatiguing during extended listening sessions. There is a forwardness and aggressiveness to the middle frequencies that, even after an extremely long break-in period, never fully settled down.

On certain genre of music, particularly large-scale classical and acoustic jazz, the La Scala‘s ULTRA-revealing nature can be breathtaking in its lucidity. But throw on some hard-hitting electronic or hip-hop with more density in the mids, and you may find yourself wincing. I far prefer a more balanced, natural sound that isn‘t quite so in-your-face through the critical midrange bands.

#5: Louder ≠ Better

With their 105dB sensitivity rating, the La Scala AL5s can play terrifyingly loud with minimal wattage. And unfortunately, that‘s exactly where they start sounding their best. At more reasonable volumes (for most people), these speakers are simply not performing at the top of their game.

The La Scalas seem to come alive north of 90dB, where their dynamic prowess and scale can be fully appreciated. But as someone who values my hearing, I simply cannot justify listening at those levels for more than a few minutes at a time. And at normal listening volumes, I frankly don‘t find them to be remarkably better than speakers costing a third as much.

#6 Placement Frustration

Remember what I said about these speakers being huge? That size carries with it some serious challenges when it comes to placement and positioning. To sound their best and avoid bass bloat or smearing, the La Scala AL5s require a good deal of breathing room from side and back walls.

In my listening room, it was a constant battle to get the La Scalas to image accurately without the bass overwhelming the room. I ended up with them so far out into the room, it became difficult to integrate them with the decor and layout of the space. Prepare to make some serious compromises if you hope to get these speakers to sound their best (hint: professional setup and room treatment are all but mandatory).

Better Options Abound

Thankfully for those of us without Scrooge McDuck levels of disposable income, there is no shortage of phenomenal floor-standing speakers available for far less than the La Scala AL5‘s asking price. A few of my favorite alternatives:

KEF R11 ($5,000/pair)
KEF‘s concentric Uni-Q driver design and sophisticated cabinet construction result in a far more balanced and accurate sound, at less than half the price of the Klipsches. The R11s image like crazy and provide taut, tuneful bass that is worlds better than the La Scalas to my ears. An easy recommendation.

Revel Performa F228Be ($10,000/pair)
OK, so $10K for a pair of speakers is still a lot. But the F228Be are simply sublime in their ability to disappear in the room while presenting an astonishingly realistic and detailed sound field. The beryllium tweeters are to die for, and the bass is deep and muscular while still remaining articulate. If you have the scratch, these are end-game speakers.

Tekton Design Double Impact ($3,000/pair)
Probably the best "giant-killer" speaker I‘ve heard in recent memory. Handmade in the USA by a small Utah-based company, the Double Impacts offer much of the scale and dynamics of the La Scala AL5 at less than a quarter of the price. The bass is thunderous yet well-defined, and the imaging is scary-good for such large speakers. An insane value.

The Verdict

Are the Klipsch La Scala AL5s terrible speakers? No. In the right room, with the right ancillary equipment and an unlimited budget, they are capable of world-class sonics and truly preternatural dynamic range. But for the other 99.9% of us, they simply make no sense as a wise purchasing decision or good value.

If you want to hear what all the fuss is about, I strongly encourage you to seek out a hi-fi shop or audio show where you can experience the La Scala AL5s for yourself. But bring your earplugs. And be prepared for sticker shock. At the end of the day, these are ultra-niche products that demand too many compromises in the real world.

My advice? Save your money and explore the multitude of more practical (and honestly, better sounding to my ears) high-end speakers in the sub-$5K price bracket. Your significant other will thank you. And your ears probably won‘t know the difference.