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The Audacity of Hope, Ark.: The $20,000 Klipsch Palladium P-39F speaker

Klipsch's new flagship speaker, the Palladium P39F, makes a bold and beautiful statement: American high-end audio is alive and kicking.

Klipsch may be one of the oldest American speaker companies, but that doesn't stop it from manufacturing iPod, computer, stereo and home theater speakers, along with a full line of professional cinema and music speakers.

Paul W. Klipsch founded the company that bears his name in Hope, Ark. in 1946. And incredibly enough, the Arkansas plant is still building the company's higher-end speakers.

I reviewed Klipsch's new flagship speaker, the Palladium P-39F ($20,000/pair), for Home Entertainment magazine, and I had a blast. The new speaker forgoes Klipsch's traditional, square-edged aesthetic; for the Palladium project the company enlisted the talents of BMW DesignworksUSA in Los Angeles, Calif. They did a great job.

The Audiophiliac and the P-39F

I found the new boldly curved speaker's "boat tail" shape distinctive as all get out and it's not just for show, the rounded cabinet's interior quells resonance that would muddy the sound. Those curved sides are made from seven ply, constrained layer, composite laminate wood panels, and the front baffle is reinforced with steel.

It's a large speaker, 56 inches tall and 24.75 deep, but it doesn't seem as imposing as some statement designs. The Palladium's zebra grain veneers come in your choice of three finishes, natural, merlot, and espresso (the wood is sourced from protected forests).

The 165-pound speaker rests on an aluminum and steel plinth/base; which reminds me, the P-39F's speaker cable connectors are stealthily concealed within its bottom panel.

It's a serious rock and roll animal, built to handle dynamics and power like ultra high-end speakers that retail for many times the price of the P-39F. Bass is meaty and solid, yet as clear and concise as the mid-range and treble. Oh, and before you get the impression these bad boys have to be played at lease breaking volume to sound their best, I found them exceedingly accomplished at hushed, late night volume as well.

When I reviewed the P-39F tower speaker it was the only Palladium available, but in New York last week Klipsch showed the P-17B bookshelf speaker ($4,000/pair), P-27C center channel ($3,500), P-27S surround speaker ($4,000/pr) and P-312W subwoofer ($4,000). Complete Palladium 5.1 channel systems start around $16,000.