Vol'ti - v. - to turn over a new leaf; to move forward

Three Pairs of Klipsch La Scalas

This is a very large webpage, with almost two hundred pictures, that documents the restoration of three pairs of Klipsch La Scala speakers.    I started this work back in March of 2004 when I was in my old shop.

Updated April 2007 - please note that I have not had the best results using raw wood veneer with Titebond II wood glue.  I am currently using paper backed veneer with HeatLock Iron-on Veneer Glue and the results seem much better.

Here's my next batch of projects.   Over the last couple of years, I had obtained 3 pairs of La Scalas.   They're a little rough, but perfect for a custom refinishing job.   Two pairs of these are sold already to a gentleman in California who plans to use them in a home theater.  The last pair will be refinish in Pau Ferro, Santos Rosewood with some very custom features.

These all came to me in pretty rough shape with factory black paint.   There's every imaginable cometic blemish to deal with.   Nonetheless, they are structurally sound, and the components were all in great shape.

This pair had that gray carpeting glued and stapled on.

6 empty shells just waiting to go to the shop.

Just getting started.

I tried chemical stripper, but it didn't work all that great.   Lot's of 100 grit sanding discs!

I had to fill in where the handles were on one pair of these.   I routed out the handle openings with a rabett joint, half lap, and did the same on pieces of plywood.  The pieces are glued in place.

Here are the new tops for the Rosewood La Scalas.

You just can't imagine how much filler it's taking to fill holes and square up edges and corners!

Repairs are being carefully made so that there are no loose joints or delaminations.

Here's the handle fillers belt sanded down.

The veneer arrives!

I'm front surface mounting the horns on the Rosewood pair.   Here you see the wood has been carefully routed out for a very tight fit to the edges of the horns.  I'll mount the tweeters by taking the lens off and putting them back together while installing them.

I decided to start with the rosewood pair since there was a lot more work to be done to these.  Certainly Wood sent me some beautiful flitches of Pau Ferro Rosewood about 9' long and 13" wide, so I only need two pieces wide.  The grain will "flow" up one side of the speaker, across the top, and down the other side; all matching if I do it right!

Just trying it out with the horn in place and raised up a bit to see what it will look like.

I don't know who this dude is.

Kinda goofy looking though.  The MWM's make great stands to work on!

I'm installing braces in the bass bins.  These braces will also hold the grills that are going in the bass bins.

Here's the braces installed.  They are glued and screwed in with square-head finish screws.

The upper horn cabinets with the veneer installed.

Notice how the grain "flows" up over the cabinet.  I'm not very happy with myself however, on the other side of this one I installed the piece upside down.  Actually, I'm pretty upset about this, but there nothing I can do about it now.

The bass bins glued up and drying.

I had a discussion with a former senior Klipsch engineer, and he told me about tests they had done where they pointed the La Scala bass bins into corners and they were able to change the bass response and output.  One of the reasons I split the top horns off the bass bins is so the owner of these speakers can experiment with the placement of the speakers in different configurations.  Please note that I have finished the backs of the bass bins and matched the grain from the bass bin up onto the top horn.

Matching grains from bass bin to horn section.

Matching grains from the side of the bass bin to the top of the bass bin, but also came pretty close to matching the sides of the top horn section at the same time.  I made sure to cut the pieces for the sides and the top of the bass bins from the same point of the flitch.  Of course this only works real well on one side of the bass bin.   EEEERKK!  Makes for a nice photo though, eh?

I attached a solid oak trim piece to the fronts of the oak La Scalas.  This finished the edges and provides a place for the top horn grilles to go.

New bass bin covers for the oak La Scalas.  I installed oak veneer edging on them.  The tops and bottoms of these covers will be painted black.

I've found it's easier to veneer before painting the painted parts.  It took about an hour to tape and cover the veneer on each speaker .

Overall, this project has taken a lot more hours than I thought, but I think it'll be worth it.

It took quite a while to get them all unwrapped.   The black paint came out pretty good overall.

Here's one with the first coat of stain.  The future owner of these has purchased a very large bar/aquarium with the same stain finish.  Looks like it's going to be one heck of a nice home theater/rec room!

Stained with 3 coats of Minwax wipe-on polyurethane.

Getting close now!  Assembly is next.

All assembled and sounding great.  Working on the grills.

The upper grills have 4 tabs that fit into holes, the bottom grills will be held in with velcro.

I threw together a few extra pieces for a test system.    It's great to have these to listen to while making the grills!

I stretch the cloth as evenly as possible over the wood frames, and then staple.

856 pound crate!  It took quite a few hours just to pack them up and build the crate.

I'm fortunate that I have a lot of nice tools to work with, it makes the various jobs easier.

March 5th, 2008 - Back At It Again!

It's been over 3 years since I finished up the four oak La Scalas and sent them to my customer in San Diego.  I got the rosewood La Scalas about half done back then, and for whatever reason, just never finished them.

I recently got a request from a gentleman in the U.K. interested in some Klipsch Heritage speakers.  One thing led to another and he's going to be the proud owner of these beauties.

Here's some pictures of them after I got them out of storage and cleaned them up.  Actually, in these pictures, the bubbles in the veneer have been repaired and they have been finished sanded.

As with almost every veneer job I did with raw wood veneer, I had bubbling issues.  It seems that using the iron-on method with raw wood veneer is trickier than one might think.  The problems are more than I want to ever deal with again, which is why I will not use raw wood veneer and the iron-on method in the future.  I have had very good luck with the iron-on method using paper-backed veneer and Heatlock glue.  I get my veneer from Oakwood Veneers and the Heatlock glue from Joe Woodworker.

I originally designed these to have slant wood feet, very much like the ones McIntosh used on some of their wood cabinets years ago.

These are made of mahogany, and I'll stain them to be darker than the rosewood.

Like liquid rosewood poured over the speakers!

The front mounted horns have been painted black, but I have considered many different colors, one of which is shown below.

Making the grills for the bass bins.

I used mahogany for the feet and applied tinted oil to color them as dark and red as the rosewood will be.

Fitting the Lexan covers for the bass bins.

New woofers have been ordered from Bob Crites and new Universal crossovers have been ordered from ALK Engineering

I put another coat of paint inside the bass bins where the woofers go.

The Crites woofers are just a little too big to fit inside the La Scala bass bins, so they need to be trimmed a little.  I wrapped each in a plastic bag and exposed the area to be cut.

I used a grinder to grind about an 1/8" of material off the flange of each side of the woofers.

The woofers are installed and wired into new binding posts.  The covers used for the woofer access panels are 1/2" thick Lexan.  I milled them to fit the routed-out openings and drilled them for the bolts that hold them on.   The bolts are copper colored alan-head that screw into T-nuts imbedded in the wood blocks that I installed around the woofer access opening.

My past experience with these woofers is that they need to be broken in.   So they got a 12 hour workout trying to keep up with the MCM's!

Little brothers usually look up to their big brothers.

The tweeters are front mounted without using the Z-brackets.  I rebuilt them with new diaphragms and assembled them right onto the motorboards.

Woofer wire.

K-55V midrange drivers.

I'm using danish oil finish.  The first coat was applied lightly and wiped dry.  Before the second coat was applied, I used wood filler to fill in the numerous small cracks in the veneer.  I mixed different colors and used them to match into the color of the grain as best I could.  Then I applied more oil and used a very fine sanding pad to dissolve the wood filler, mixed it into the oil and wet sanded the finish.  This filled in any little cracks and gave the veneer a nice hand rubbed shine after wiping it with a dry cloth.

I've got about 10 hours in on the finish and I'm about half done.

The ALK Universal crossover networks are just beautiful!   Every time I order something from ALK the items are nicer than I expect.  These are definately worth an extra $500.   I can't wait to hear how they sound.

Making grills for the bass bins.

Sorry, not the greatest pictures, my listening room is very dark right now.  I have these set up in a small room that I use for listening at my shop.

They are singing now, and wow, what a sound.  La Scalas are the first Klipsch speakers I ever listened to and ever owned when I was just 14 years old, but I've never heard any sound this good.  I'm using a tube-fired CD player, and a pair of Dynaco Mark III's (40 wpc) and in this small room, they are making very low bass.  The mids are a little too laid back for me, but so smooth.   The new owner can adjust the mids on the crossovers.

One more wipe down with oil and a final cleaning and they'll be ready for packing.

I've discovered something surprising with these speakers.  When I started this project a few years ago, and made the decision to split the tops off the bass bins, I thought I might like to try turning the bass bins into the corners of a room to see if they would corner load, sort of like a Klipschorn.  Well I tried it, and I am very impressed with the results.

Here they are in my little listening room of my shop with the bass bins turned into the corners.

The spacing to the wall is critical.  I tried them farther out and closer in and this is where they sound the best.  Note the odd angle.   This is where I got the best center imaging.  The mid horns are actually turned out so they are not pointed towards me, and in my sitting position, the saxaphone player is right in front of me, slightly higher than the midrange horn!

Please note how the grain of the wood flows down from the front of the top horn section to the front (back!) of the bass bins.  Just to show that I really did think of turning the bass bins around when I was veneering them.   I cannot believe how good these speakers sound in this room.  With the bass bins turned into the corners, I'm actually getting more low bass AND more mid-bass too!   What I thought would happen is that the mids and tweets would be too loud compared to the bass, and I also thought the upper bass would suffer.  But that's not the case at all!  Very surprising!  The mid-bass frequencies are making it around into the mix with ease, perhaps even better than when the bass bins are pointed right straight out.  Instead of the mid horns being too loud, the mix is actually balanced more to the bass, which is to my liking anyway.  Couple that with the fine sound quality of the ALK crossovers with the mids set back in the mix a little, and this is a powerful and smooth sounding system.  I'm getting this HUGE low bass, which frankly, La Scalas have no business making.   This is obviously the room making this very low bass.

One interesting thing is that the midrange horns seem even clearer and more detailed, I think maybe because they are not competing with the midrange coming out of the bass bins.  So here we have it.  I've stumbled on a combination of things that are working so well together, that this is truly one of the best sounding systems I've ever heard, and I don't say things like that lightly.

I moved the speakers to my living room at my house, which is a much larger room really made for Khorns, and they didn't sound the same at all.  They sounded very good, but they didn't load up the room with deep bass like back in the smaller room of my shop.  What I hit on at the shop with these modified La Scalas, the Dynaco tube amps, the tube CD source, the room, was really something special.

The speakers are done now and here are the "Glamour Photos".

This next photo shows a small red dot under the back side of the top horn section.   This is matched up to the bass bin that has a small red dot.

Volti Audio - Klipsch Khorn V-Trac Upgrades and Restoration