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Then one afternoon, after hours and hours of break-in, something happened. The speakers came to life, opening up and finally letting the music out, like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, and the difference was astounding. Recordings were presented in a balanced, detailed and flat, yet, compelling musical picture. It all made sense. The shrill trebles faded away; in their place came the full bloom of music, and I liked what I was hearing. Once over that hurdle, the WF-34s performed beyond my expectations and wooed me with their great sound and looks. And my head stayed in place.
Yes' Open Your Eyes is an overlooked recording full of excellent songs set in a very crisp mix. I liked the WF-34's ability to firmly deliver transients like Alan White's cymbal accents, yet keep Chris Squire's bass from rolling off too soon. The speakers could keep the softness in Jon Anderson's voice while letting Steve Howe's angular guitar lines bite hard.
One of my favorite moments with the WF-34s was with The Allman Brothers Band's Brothers And Sisters. That album will always be a landmark of triumph over tragedy, as the band soldiered on to record its first full studio album after the death of guitarist Duane Allman. Guitarist Dickey Betts assumed a major songwriting role and penned two of the band's biggest hits - “Ramblin' Man” and “Jessica” - but it was the sparkling detail on “Come And Go Blues” that perked my ears. This tune has a deceiving arrangement, sounding sleepy but there's lots going on and the Klispch's peeled back each layer for a full reveal.
I remember receiving an enthusiastic e-mail, a few years back, from my friend Martin Popoff – a multi-book author and heavy metal expert – shortly after the release of Deep Purple's 2005 release Rapture Of The Deep. He recommended the recording as equal to the best of the band's work, and I didn't need convincing that the current Purple lineup was capable of greatness. A revisit of Rapture through the Klipschs confirmed Popoff's assertion. The album is loaded with nuggets, and it was a blast to listen to the nasty funk groove of “Wrong Man,” the sinewy exotic lines of the title track and the plaintive “Clearly Quite Absurd” through the WF-34s. The music was engaging and had a gorgeous stereo image with detailed placement of each instrument. Ian Paice's cymbals crashed and held that crash, decaying like cymbals do in real life and not tempered by studio tricks. Again, more excellent transient response from the WF-34s. I also really liked Ian Gillan's vocal presence, which seemed slightly out in front of the other band members, but never overbearing or to the detriment of the song.
While I'm gushing over music, let me share my musical find of 2009: Ireland's Dead Heroes Club and their sophomore release A Time Of Shadow. With A Time Of Shadow, progressive rock has firmly planted its anchor in Irish soil, following the highest traditions of Genesis and Marillion. Dead Heroes Club has a frontman Liam Campbell, who has a remarkable delivery with lyrics that are topical and thought-provoking; the music is expertly played and arranged. Again, the WF-34s were highly revealing and detailed. They have a monitor-like flatness that keeps music from false colorations or veering toward highs or lows, yet the WF-34s aren't cold or clinical – just smooth, open and involving.
If you're looking for a competitively priced floor-standing loudspeaker that looks great, takes up less space and delivers the classic Klipsch sound, the WF-34s just may be your speaker. Give them ample time for break in and you'll be well rewarded.
Marantz PM-KI Pearl Integrated Amplifier
Marantz SA-KI Pearl SACD/CD Player
Marantz TT-15S1 Turntable with ClearaudioVirtuoso Wood Moving Magnetic Cartridge
Klipsch WF-34 Loudspeakers
RS Audio Cables Illume Silver Interconnects (1 meter)
RS Audio Cables Illume Silver Loudspeaker Cables (8 ft)
RS Audio Cables Kevlar Starchord Power Cable (6 ft)