I have owned the 7's and use to sell the 20's... The 7's are a 2 way, and not the best balanced speaker, they are brighter in general than the 20's... The 20's are a 3 way, for a used price the 20's would probably be a better deal, both speakers may need an Equalizer to completly smooth them out, they both crank pretty good. However the 7's are in no way even close to the cheap build quality and cabinetry of the 20's... We would get 20's in the store and the baffle sometimes would come loose from the glue letting go.. Now this was fixed I believe on some more current models, but the cabinets were like maybe 3/4" particle and VERY cheap particle, and the other side walls were like 1/2", but I actually remember them being slightly thinner wood than that... very bad joints and veeners... And being such a large and heavy speaker have pretty bad bracing, way cheaper wire and stuff with the crossovers, but they still did not sound too bad, probably a better balance than the 7's, this is my opinion, so if you can find them cheap go for it if they are in good shape. 7's have very nice cabinets for the money I would say easily far superior to the old KLF series, they are MDF, very tight and solid joints, resonably good veener, would probably last forever, and gimmicky monster cable wire in them, which are fine.. but still fairly cheap crossovers. Without an Absolute A-B test with YOUR own ears this is a near impossible debate to choose, and will always depend on the equipment it is hooked too... But like I said if you can pick up a pair for like 500 or whatever a killer deal is these days, thats a deciding factor.
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I've owned my KLF-20's for six years now and have heard the RF-7's. I haven't A/B'd them in the same room using the same equipment but will offer up my opinions of each.
The RF-7's that I heard were at a high end audio store hooked up to some very nice equipment. They were stock and sounded nice. Overall sound was really good, a little bright, soundstage, imaging and dynamics were very good too. The RF-7's respond really well to crossover mods and, in fact take this speaker to an entirely new level. I have not heard a modded RF-7.
I have spent six years with my KLF-20's. The first almost five years in the unmodified form. The last year and a half with modified crossover networks. Night and day. Stock these speaker just rock. They have balls to take plenty of power and the dynamics with horns is just fantastic. I upgraded the crossover networks and these speakers are just at an incredible level. Across the entire spectrum, these speakers are at an entirely new level of performance. They are not bright, they have dynamics in spades, excellent soundstage and imaging.
As far as the build quality of my KLF-20's, I've never had any issues with the cabinets, veneers, or construction.
Differences are mainly going to be that the RF-7 is a two way design and the KLF-20 is a traditional three way design like all the heritage Klipsch. Ultimately, it's up to your ears.
My components are as follows:
EAD-CD1000 mkIII cdp
EICO HF-81 integrated tube amp (14 watts/ch)
Plinius 8100 integrated SS amp (100 watts/ch)
Both are plenty of power for either one of these speakers. Either way you go, make sure to upgrade the crossover networks.
I own KLF-20 and RF-7 Klipsch speakers. I've also had the Forte II Klipsch speakers and the KLF-20 were on the thin side compared to the Forte's that kind of really bugged me, nice sounding but thin compared to the Forte and RF-7 but I replaced the diaphrams with the Titanium kit and this helped the KLF-20's not be so thin sounding.
The RF-7's are smoother and all the way around better from top to bottom than both the KLF-20 and Forte II. I've heard the RF-7 sounding just ok, to absolutely stunning sound by just what it's run on, so the equipment you pick for it is very important as the RF-7 are very dependant of what sound you get with just how good of gear you run on it. Give the RF-7's the best quality and it will give you back stunning nirvana sound like no other, the RF-7's perform better than my 1995 Klipschorn's with imaging, resolution, and detail. The Klipschorn's have a larger soundfield but the RF-7's come darn close to it.
My KLF-20's are from 1996 and I've never had any problems with them and the build quality is pretty good for todays speakers but yes, the build quality on the RF-7's are better.
Klipsch speakers are not bright unless you put a bright source to them. The trick with any Klipsch speaker is to not put a bright source with them because Klipsch is VERY revealing speakers.
The sound from the RF-7's are stunning and the crossovers DO NOT need to be changed, run them with very good quality high current gear and you will get great quality sound. People who changed the crossover are doing it to tame down the sound when using it with bright gear. I don't recommend that because it takes out the "presence" that is so revealing and involving that the RF-7's have.
I suggest a mcintosh intergrated amp with tone controls, the best solid state and bass boost that works with these speakers hands down. Like the MC 6500 or 6900 even better with the 5 band eq to tame the mid's and up the bass slightly on these speakers, I had to do this with every klipsch I owned from the heritage which yes were slightly warmer all the way thru the current day Reference series. Tubes could help but normally will not have the punch for the bigger bass drivers in these designs, again in my experience, but I use them mostly for Rock and heavier faster stuff, but even the beatles benefit well from some re-balancing of these speakers with some slight tone control and solid power of solid state.
Interesting comment about "not upgrading" the original crossover that has possibly the cheapest parts possible. I run my KLF-20's and Chorus II's with an EAD CD-1000 mkIII and EICO HF-81 integrated tube amp, both of which I wouldn't consider "bright". Based on what I heard from both the 20's and CII's before and after I upgraded the crossovers, I can tell you for a fact that you have not heard Klipsch speakers until you've upgraded the crossovers. I would put money on that statement.
I'm curious, have you ever A/B'd Klipsch speakers that have had the crossovers upgraded? I have with both my 20's and my CII's and I will tell you that it's more than obvious how much of an impact upgrading the crossovers improves the sound.
It improved the sound so much, that I will come out and say that it improved the sound more than any IC, PC or spekaer cable I ever bought. That is saying alot for upgrading the crossovers no matter how you slice and dice it.
I would even throw out this offer to you, you ship your RF-7 crossovers to me and I'll upgrade them; I'll ship them back to you and if you don't like the way they sound, ship them back to me and I'll return back to their original parts; if you do like them, we'll work out a fair price.
If you want to see pictures of my work, I can email you pictures. I also do Polk, B&W, and other speaker crossovers. The fact is that the original crossover parts are 2 cent pieces of junk and they need to go.
Crossovers are the key to moving these speakers to another level... A friend and myself decided one week to take an already great pair of mint RF3's using Dual 8's and a horn tweet/mid, we built a real serious pair of outboard crossovers eliminating the internal monster cable harness, and the real cheesy 3 inch square computer grade crossover... We used Goertz 12 gauge ribbon inductors, Mundorf silver caps, and I think it was either Vishay or Eagle Resistor .. We called klipsch and they gave us the official schematic cause the speaker was out of production, so we matched all values to a T'... Unbelievable advances in everything, like adding tubes, and a new Source like a quality DAC. It had about a 3db increase in sound pressure cause the volume was now way lower on the same amp, and the Bass was literally like adding a solid 12" sub somewhere in the room, no joke. Beyond that the Control physically of the drivers was like a VISE, the 8's now bareley moved and sounded so much cleaner. It was worth the couple hundred no doubt, Plus in some of the klipsch 2 way or I guess might be 2.5 ways there are very few parts, it seems they are 1st order's, cause only had 6 parts total on each board and we built them still with the Biwire posts.. I also did this to a pair of Cornwalls, it helped but was not as dramatic cause due to the 3 way it cost a lot more to use the same caliber of components that we did with the reference series, the biggest difference and Mistake in this case we believe building the cornwalls was that we ended up with Simple Solen 14 gauge inductors and they were built physically with much smaller parts to get away from just building seprate cabinets for outboards.. That was a pretty big difference though.
I found that the higher quality gear you go with, the less difference and more subtle the cross-over change becomes. It's all really subjective but someone who does the cross-overs for money will be even more less objective about them. I had my RF-7's crossovers upgraded and what I did notice, is that it tampered with the dead-on center of the vocals that I so highly liked. It widened the vocals that wasn't as realistic as the dead-center vocals like Klipsch intended it for..... as if the singer was right there in front of you in that spot. I had to trade my crossovers with another RF-7 owner to get the well-made Klipsch crossover sound back that I so enjoy. The crossover change reminded me of the wide button on some amps, making the sound wider but taking away in other areas to do so. It wasn't my cup of tea.
I've upgraded 4 pairs of Klipsch speaker xover networks and not once did I ever run into what you've described. Whoever upgraded your RF-7 xover networks probably messed them up. Out of the almost 50-75 people that I talk to on the Klipsch forum, not a single person has ever described what you are talking about. Further proof that the person who upgraded your RF-7 xover network.
It's unfortunate because it has left a bad taste in your mouth about upgraded xover networks. The truth is "you have never truly heard a Klipsch speaker until you've upgraded the xover network."
I have to agree 100% with [email protected] I bought a pair of the Klipsch KLF-20's brand new and went through replacing the tweeters and the mid horn with titanium versions and it was just way to bright for my wife and I. This was also done at the same time having the cross overs upgraded and yes the cross overs were the right kind and the most expensive ones to buy. I experienced a similar sound that [email protected] went through and my wife and I just did not like what we heard. We also invited friends over and had them bring their own music in order to hear the speakers with all the upgrades and before we made the speakers back to the way they were. All agreed that the 20's sounded much better and a lot smoother and less harsh sounding with their original diaphragms put back in. My 20's are still in my living room after 15 years and sounding just like day one hooked up to a Meridian G57 Power Amp, Classe CP-47.5 pre amp, Onkyo T-4711 Tuner and a Denon DCD-3000 CD Player, and Audioquest wires. You should hear Frank Sinatra voice coming out of those Mid-Range horns, wonderful, just wonderful. [email protected], I have to say you really do know what you are talking about when you say along the lines of using higher quality electronics for the better sound. I would put my 20's with their original diaphragms against anybody's horn speaker with titanium diaphragms anyday.