Klipsch Heresy III Speaker Review. I’m floored, and here is why…
By Steve Huff
UPDATE 12/27/17 – I wrote this review after listening to these speakers with the fabulous Yamaha S3000 but I found something SO MUCH better. While I did try these with a Cary 300 SEI and felt it was lacking in some areas, the Line Magnetic 219ia I reviewed almost 4 years ago makes these speakers sing on a level I could never imagine Heresy’s achieving. Simply amazing with the Class A all 24 WPC tube integrated. The 219ia Review can be read here and I am happy to say I now have one again and trust me friends, with the Heresy III’s this amp makes them magical and NO SUB required at all (In my small 12X12 room). I will say that in over 20 years of HiFi, the LM 219ia is the most magical amp I have ever heard. I have updated Parts of this review to talk about the LM 219ia with the Heresy III. Enjoy.
Well well. It has been a long time since I have done an audio review, and for good reason. I have enjoyed my KEF LS50 Wireless for quite some time, but I have to be honest. Being an audiophile, I knew it was a matter of time until that itch I have had for years needed to be scratched, and lately that itch has festered into a full blown scratch fest for a speaker I have been wanting to own or at least try, for much of my life.
For decades I have heard about the Klipsch Heresy speakers. Ever since I was a teen I had been eyeballing these, and now in their MKIII version, they are supposedly better than they have ever been. These lovely vintage looking speakers are small, squat, designed to sit on the floor, horn loaded, highly efficient and depending on who you speak with (of who has owned them), they are either amazing or the worst speaker ever. Yep, you either LOVE them to pieces or you HATE them. When browsing online reviews, forums and thoughts from some who have heard them you get a huge range of opinions on these speakers, which to me is VERY odd. But I think I know why…
I think many thoughts on these comes from the earlier versions (I and II), as some say that the earlier models are VERY anemic with bass, and some have said they just sound horrible, flat, tinny or just bad. THAT IS NOT THE CASE WITH THE HERESY III and it has taken me YEARS to “jump in” due to these inaccurate reviews you see online from some in forums. They made me jittery and nervous to even buy them to try them. I assumed I would hate them by some of the remarks you see on these..harsh, thin, bright, in your face, etc.
BTW, as I write this I am listening to a classic Moody Blues album “A Question of Balance” and boy does it sound soooo good. Sooo big, sooo organic.
In fact, keep reading and you may be very surprised at what you read here in THIS review of these very polarizing speakers. I have lived with these speakers for over 2 months now, as I wanted to wait, listen daily and make sure it wasn’t “new speaker” syndrome making me like them. So two months in, with the Heresy in my main listening room, I can proudly and happily say that I am SO GLAD I jumped in and ordered a pair of these. Not only to fix my 30 years of curiosities about them, but to see for myself how they sound when set up correctly and used with a good amp and cables in my room that is kind to smaller speakers. Are they the best speakers I have ever owned? No, but they don’t to have to be because what makes them so good is the fact that they are so DIFFERENT from any other speaker I have owned or tried, due to there being a horn loaded midrange which gives them a HUGE LIVE and REAL sound.
Getting them was easy…I Ordered from Amazon and they arrived in one day via Prime shipping. A flawless shopping experience. One day I click on them, add to cart and order and the next morning they are here in my home making music.
I ordered the standard Hersey III’s, the latest model, in Walnut. $2000 from Amazon prime for the pair ($999 each). With Amazon Prime, you get a 30 day return policy, so these were no risk at all. If these were going to be the worst speaker ever, at least I had a backup (return policy) to avoid a huge loss. So I pulled out the old, rarely used credit card and took the plunge.
I also had the fantastic but expensive Yamaha S3000 integrated amp (See my review here from years ago) , as I was so in love with the build, look and sound of that amp when I reviewed it a couple of years ago. I only returned that amp back then because it was shutting off on me, randomly. But the new one, has been flawless for weeks and boy, what an amp this is. I think the original may have been a shipping damage issue or something, as this one has been rock solid and boy oh boy it is quite the integrated. While it can not touch the $7500 Line Magnetic 219ia, it is solid state so no need to mess with tubes. Even so, the 219ia sounds 10X better with the Heresy III’s. (I have owned integrated ranging from $2500 to $12500 and nothing like the 219ia has ever reached my hands). The Yamaha I was trying again has now been sent back.
THE KLIPSCH HERESEY III. Is it the most misunderstood speaker in the Klipsch lineup?
Sitting next to my $399 Wharfedale Denton speakers (best deal in HiFi for 2017), the Hersey III’s look much larger, and amazingly nice. I love the lower profile look in my room, and while many out there in internet land say these have to be raised up off the floor to get them to sound good, hmm well, after trying this for myself I have to disagree. At least for my room and tastes.
Remember, rooms play a huge role in sound. My room is perfect for smaller speakers, and most speakers sound amazing in here. Somehow I got lucky in this regard and not sure how, but my room is fantastic for a 2 channel audio system. Well, a smaller to medium sized system anyway. Too large of a speaker and it gets overpowered, and I learned that the hard way, by losing cash trying large speakers in here. Lucky for me, the Hersey III’s do not have uber low bass performance, but in my room, they rock the hell out of my brain without ANY HINT of harshness or shouting EVER. There is nothing lightweight, weak, bright, harsh or thin about these Version III heresy’s. Anyone who says there is, well, I will say that they just did not know how to set them up, or their room is too large or they were using V1 or VII models or a cheap AV receiver, which will make these sound flat, lifeless, dull or even harsh. So do NOT use a receiver unless it is a nice vintage variety. Modern day Best Buy receivers will not makes these sound good or even close to what they can sound like.
The bass is there, and while not super low, what it does have on tap (with a good amp like the 219ia or most tube setups) is simply beautiful to listen to. Rich, detailed yet never ever analytical or in your face with a huge wide soundstage with the little squat speakers aimed right up at me for listening. When raised up they sounded worse, IN my rom anyway. Lifted up with the speakers more ear level the sound got a bit hard sounding and the bass weakened. On the floor is where they belong for best bass control and sound, at least in this room and with my ears. Again, maybe the V1 and VII sound better lifted off the floor but not these, not in this room. Besides this is how Paul Klipsch designed them, for on the floor and even corner use.
When powering them with the Yamaha S3000, a $7k solid state beast the Heresy III’s sound fantastic but a tad bass shy in my room, a tad. The Yamaha has a little dryness to the sound which is apparent when doing a Side by side with a class A tube amp like the 219ia. Trust me guys, the Yamaha sounds beautiful with the heresy’s but you will still get some of that SS hardness in the sound. Like something is missing. The 219ia turns the speakers into something very special and to be 100% honest with you guys, the 219ia and Heresy III combo beats my older 219ia and Guarneri Evolution combo, and those were $25k speakers. $2k vs $25k. Talk about matching. I can not believe the sound the little III’s put out with these 24 Watts of class A, and when listening in low level at night I get full bass and a fullness to the sound with all of the magic, using less than 0.01 watts. The 1st watt of this amp is UNREAL good.
The speakers, when playing, just sound cohesive, together and balanced. Nothing is exaggerated and nothing seems missing, even though the lowest bass frequencies ARE when using solid state. With the tubes it’s very fleshed out. So if you are a BASS HEAD, and listen to only electronic music with DEEP thumping bass, these will not be for you. They will sound HUGE playing electronic music (I do at times) but the lowest bass will be missing. But again, the bass that is there integrates so well with the midrange, it sounds like one big driver at work. A cohesive and flawless presentation that makes you brain think you aren’t really missing anything.
Right now as I type this I have Lana Del Ray’s latest album playing…”Lust for Life” (This album sounds delicious) and at the lowest volume setting it sounds warm, rich, full, big, wide and my entire room is full of music, and I am using less than 1 watt from the S3000 and less than 0.01 watt from the 219ia when I bring that one in! So low volume listening in a small room is sublime, which was another worry of mine with these. My room is literally 12X12-ish and these speakers are almost a perfect match. No boom. No shouting. Nothing harsh. Just big sound, with air and precise imaging as well as a nice big soundstage (ALMOST the widest I have experienced in the room). All that is missing are the lowest bass frequencies but to be honest, these do the mid bass and midrange so well, you do not miss that uber deep bass unless you do a side by side comparison with and without a sub for example, and for me, keeping the sub out eliminates the boom or overpowering in my small room. They are perfect just as is when used in a smaller room. Also, do not worry about these EVER being bright in a small room, they are nothing but natural, fluid and with a balance that I rarely see in a speaker.
I did try a Klipsch RS10 sub as well as a SVS 10″ sub and they just ruined the sound IMO. Some of the magic left but it is tough to integrate a sub into a small room for the best sound. So no sub in this room, for me. Also, one should use a GOOD sub, and really good ones cost a couple grand. I’m happy as is, with the tubes and the speakers alone. These speakers at $2000 are a bargain in TODAYS market and economy. Sure, back in the 70;s they cost much less but we are now in 2018, and prices have gone up in EVERYTHING. Cars, houses, groceries, gas, clothes, furniture, and well, EVERYTHING.
In fact, if these speakers cost me $5k TODAY I would be happy with what they are doing here. But they were $2000 and are blowing my mind. At $2000 these are an absolute HiFi steal if you power them with quality amplification, use good cables and keep your room small to mid sized and are not a bass head. The problem is many spend most of their stereo budget on speakers, and one thing I have learned is that it is much better to spend the bulk of your budget on amplification and pre amplification. DO NOT POWER THESE with an AVR receiver or a receiver from Best Buy. If you do, you will get either harsh sound, a bass free sound, something will sound off and not right and you can get fatigue. It’s the amplification my friends. These may be sensitive speakers but they CRAVE quality power. Give them that and you may be in disbelief at what they can do.
Amps & Cables. They are important! DO NOT SKIMP!
Now keep in mind that I am running these Heresy III’s with a $7,000 SS Integrated Amp (Not owned, just testing) and a $7500 Tube Class A 845 Amp (The 219ia which I now own again), and using a $600 Interconnect (Audioquest Water) from my Sonos connect to play Spotify premium using Spotify connect. I am using the DAC from a Cambridge Audio 851C which IMO is the best DAC you can get for under $5000. DAC’s are tricky but I love this one so much I have owned it three times. I sold them in the past to try and find better, and I never did, even when spending more. As a bonus it has a CD player as well, so I get CD and DAC use out of one box, and it sounds amazing. A huge step up from the DACMAGIC 100 I have here as well (Was doing a side by side trying to save money but the 851C DAC won out without question, it was very easy to hear the difference). But some more exotic brands that come in at over $2k sounded worse to me as well. In these days it seems too many manufacturers are going for HYPER DETAIL and COLDNESS that will fatigue you. Strange.
Overall this is the same setup I used with my Devialet Phantoms (minus the dac), and other setups. It sounds amazing, huge and glorious. Also, do not discount the interconnect and speaker cable here. THEY MAKE A HUGE difference if you are using cheap RCA connectors that cost you $10. When I switch the Audioqest Water’s out to a $10 cable the sound gets thinner, smaller and sounds not so hot. It just SHRINKS and falls flat. The Water brings a bigger sound, more soundstage width, bigger bass, better imaging, more clarity, and just a bigger WOW sound though I do prefer the Nordost Red Dawn LS to these (which I no longer own). DO NOT discount the interconnects! They make a difference. I bought mine from Amazon (prime), again, so I could return them if they did not improve my system. They did, so there ya go.
I set up the Hersey III’s in the same manner I set up most speakers. About 1 1/2 feet from the back wall, and 2 feet from the sides. They are about 7-8 feet apart and I sit 7-8 feet from them, with the speakers toed in to my listening chair to form the sweet spot. I have the Sonos setup I mentioned above, and also with a turntable which is a Marantz TT15 with CLearaudio Virtuosos II cartridge. Vinyl with these? Forget about it. These were made for vinyl. Enough said.
The GOOD NEWS is that when set up the speakers this way on the floor, as intended, the III’s sound simply amazing yet DIFFERENT from most speakers I have had here. Make no mistake, you will get a slightly different sound from a speaker like this (highly efficient), let’s say compared to that of a Dynaudio or Sonus Faber. The Klipsch, if I could describe in one word how they present the music, it would be “effortless”. I am telling you, it’s amazing and I hear no horn shout or wonkiness. I do get a nice rich midrange when I use the tubes and it sounds INTIMATE. With Sonus Faber you are paying for the wood work, cabinet, all promo parts and drivers and yes, the sound. But $2k vs $20k? Sure you will get more refined sound in the higher end SF speakers but you lose that LIVE and REAL sound. It’s odd really how different each sounds.
These may be efficient but they love quality power. THIS IS KEY! The 219ia sounds like it was tuned with these speakers, as if they were made for this amp. I could not ask for more from a set of $2000 speakers, and honestly, I have had speakers in this room that set me back $12k that did not sound nearly as enjoyable as these do (Dynaudio C1’s for example). The little III’s present music naturally, and when I compare them side by side with NON horn loaded designs, the sound is so much different but also much more recessed (from non horn speakers). The Klipsh pushes the performance INTO your room. Most speakers keep that subdued and more behind the speakers or even in line with them. It’s a very live feeling. If you want the most detail and resolution you will not get it here, but at the same time, these will never fatigue you, ever. If I put on some classic 70’s rock, dim the lights and sit in my chair I feel like I am back in time, hearing these bands live one more time.
At the end of the day, I am BLOWN AWAY by these little affordable made in the USA high quality speakers. They are beautifully made, and will last a lifetime. The woodwork is brilliant and I ordered two singles yet got a matched pair somehow. In walnut these are beautiful, if not a bit understated. They look like furniture pieces. I have been so stuck in uber high end for so many years, I failed to see just how good a $2000 pair of speakers can be, and get this…
These kill my Wireless KEF LS50’s in the way they just fill my room, every inch, with music. It floats in my space, all around me with scary good imaging. Something I never imagined with these little Hersey speakers though this setup cost A LOT more than the LS50 Wireless setup I just mentioned. I thought they would be dull, lifeless, harsh, or even thin. The way some spoke about these you would think they are just awful. NOT TRUE! Let me stress that as I was like you, reading reviews and seeing these issues with the Heresy line. With the III’s these issues are non existent for me, in my smaller room, with quality electronics and the sound is the biggest I have ever had in my listening space, without losing the audiophile magic I love (imaging, depth, 3D, etc). With that said, the LS50 Wireless had a different sound altogether that was also beautiful. Detailed, a tad dry, but very much like a mini “audiophile” speaker. Tight bass, controlled sound, a tad compressed… so different from the out in the room live feel of the Heresy III.
Now do not get me wrong. These are not nearly as rich and magical sounding as some much more expensive speakers nor will they offer the fancy looks, but what they do offer over those mega buck speakers is that these are much less expensive, and offer a sound that is actually more enjoyable and intimate with some music. Just to be crazy, if I compare these to the $20k Guaraneri Evolutions I wold lose some midrange magic, deep bass performance and overall top end bite. I would gain a more fluid, natural, intimate presentation. It’s hard to explain but both are so different yet both are so lovely. To be 100% honest, I prefer the heresy presentation (right now anyway) as again, it sounds REAL and LIVE. The Sonus faber is gorgeous in looks and sound but we are talking $2k vs $20k.
For $2k, I do not think I could ever find a speaker I like better than the Heresy III. In fact, it would be tough. For under $4k it’s tough to beat the Forte III by Klipsch. The next step up from that would be the Devore Orangutan 096, which are simply gorgeous in every way and sensitive/easy to drive as well.
When I switch out to my little Wharfedale Dentons, which sound much better than they have a right to sound at $399, the sound collapses, and then everything sounds much more recessed and small. The dynamic range seems to dwindle. As nice as the Dentons sound, they just can not even get close to what the Heresy’s are putting out. No joke here my friends. When I put in the Audioquest Water IC’s the bass seemed to get even more plentiful, and stayed amazingly tight and rich. The soundstage and air grew and gave me some of that magic I normally associate with much higher end speakers.
Going back to the $10 RCA IC’s shrinks that. So again, good interconnects are a must as is good amplification!! I can not stress that enough. Those who say the III’s are not picky with amps, well, they get much better as you supply them with better amplification, so in a way they are picky.
Just because these are sensitive do not think for a second a $300 receiver and $10 speaker cables will make these sound great. Yes, I am running them with $8500 worth of electronics and cables yet the speakers cost me $2000. Crazy but in a good way ; ) I can save cash on speakers yet have a solid front end that delivers the goods to the III’s.
IS THIS THE BEST $2000 SPEAKER I HAVE EVER HEARD?
YES YES AND YES.
I have had more speakers in this house then I want to admit. I have spent a small fortune testing and trying audio gear and have had speakers that range from $399 to $45,000 in this room, and before that I had many systems in other houses I have owned. I would say these are my 2nd fave that I have had in this room and that is giving HUGE praise to the Hersey III. Funny as I expected these would be BAD. I expected to return them. I never imagined these would become faves of mine.
I think the room, the electronics, the cables and the setup are making these SING, and it shows the Hersey III is not a speaker to take lightly. It’s the real deal. After two months I crave the sound they put out, as if it were an addiction, so be careful! It’s hard for me to go back to other lesser speakers that just do not let the music “flow”, and that my friends is the word I have been trying to get out.
These speakers just have a FLOW about them and I hear virtually NO horn coloration with these. Well, maybe 2% when compared to other speakers side by side, but whatever these are doing they are really doing it right. PLEASING no matter what I feed them with, yet never boring or soft or dull. But let me stress, these do not exhibit the usual horn midrange, that wonky shouty sound. These may not have the best Mid Range I have ever heard (That goes to the Sonus Faber Guarneri Evolution) but even so, it is VERY good and delivers the male and female voice in an intimate and rich way. Again, bringing them in to the room with you. Probably my 2nd favorite midrange when used with the LM 219ia.
Bottom Line on the Hersey III
These have been here for 8 weeks now at the time of this writing, and they are staying. I expected to return them due to some things I have read about them online. Yet they shocked me with their sound. A HUGE sound, even at low volume. Rich, wide, big soundstage with super good imaging and air. Yes they have “air” when the recording is good. What it does for the male voice is stunning. Johnny Cash never sounded so real or so intimate. Vinyl is magic, and these are the best “Vinyl” speakers I have owned yet, coming in ahead of my Devialet Phantom Golds. In fact, the LM 219ia, these speakers and my setup sound better than my Phantom Golds did as they offer a more live, effortless IN YOUR ROOM experience. No heart exploding bass but again, a different vibe altogether that I think I prefer. I am now a HUGE KLIPSCH heritage line fan (though still not a fan of the reference line, and I have owned RF7II’s in the past..found them a tad fatiguing).
For $2000, these may seem expensive. But think about it. These are made in the USA speakers that will last a lifetime. The wood veneer is gorgeous and the craftsmanship is truly spectacular. No faults there at all. They look vintage but are new, and today vintage is in. They could have used better speaker connectors/posts (these use the old plastic type) but even so, would that have changed the sound? No. Would it have raised the cost? Yes. So I do not mind that Klipsch cheaped out on the speaker terminals a bit. These come in for MUCH less than speakers by B&W, Sonus Faber, Focal, etc and in many ways they do some things better than those. I have heard them all folks. Cheap and Uber Expensive. The Heresy III’s are fantastic.
The sound is modern, with some vintage mojo mixed in which gives me a nice, warmer yet detailed and huge sound that fills the room with a slice of magic as well. Wether I listen to Enya, KISS, Lana Del Ray, Massive Attack, Frank Sinatra, AC/DC or Moody Blues they sound gorgeous. They do all music well. They even make my crappy recordings sound pretty damn good.
I can not understate here how good these really are. BUT I suggest these for a small room like mine they are perfect.
Steve’s TIP: DO NOT DISCOUNT THE KLIPSCH HERITAGE LINE my friends. Do not let the $2k per pair make you thing they are lesser than other speakers that cost a bit more. They are not, and when placed correctly in a room with quality amplification, they will sound so much better than you could ever expect them to sound.
This is THE perfect amp for the Heresy III (and forte III) – The sound is mind blowing amazingly good with air, soundstage width, holographic imaging and a full rich sound that never sounds lacking WITHOUT a sub.
Anyone who ever said these sound bad never heard them here in my room. If they did, they would have to eat their words. This is good though, as now I can and will keep these, with my fave integrated of all time, the Line Magnetic 219ia and experience my own kind of audio nirvana every day. I can be happy knowing I did not spend $10k on these speakers, yet at times I swear to you that they sound like much more expensive speakers.
There is lots of hype in high end audio. Too much. Sometimes that hype is warranted, but more of those times it is not. Sometimes you come across something that you would have never thought of owning simply due to the name, reputation or cost. When some think of Klipsch, they think “I saw those at Best Buy”. Let me assure you now…The Heresy’s are NOT your typical Best Buy Klipsch variety speakers. These are special, on another league and planet than what you see at Best Buy in the Klipsch Isle. Also, you can find Heresy I and II cheap in internet land, used. But these will sound different, as the III’s have been improved over time. So you will not get the same bass, and sound from those that I describe here. This review is strictly for VIII.
LET ME BE CRYSTAL CLEAR: When driven correctly and with good electronics, The Klipsch Hersey III are not thin. They are not harsh in any way. They do not sound dull. They do not sound shrill. They do not sound flat. They do not sound OLD. They do not shout or have that wonky Horn sound.
Anyone who says the Hersey III fatigue you, again, I would suggest they did not use them with quality amplification or cables or are using them in a larger room or do not have them placed correctly within the room. Using a cheap receiver, even a nicer $800 receiver will not give the best results. Step up to something nice, even something like a class A design and you will have a perfect (and gorgeous) mate to these, they can take it and do deserve it.
In my room now I have the Klipsh, the Dentons and a pair of Dynaudio X14’s. These Hersey III’s, in my room, literally slaughter the other two smaller speakers in presentation, room filling sound, and vocal reproduction. Voices come out to greet you with the Heresey III vs the smaller presentation of the Dentons or Dynaudio. The Dyn’s are more “punchy” and “thick” but lack the overall pleasing sound of the Klipsch, which is almost like LIVE sound. You can almost feel the sweat, the tears and the smells of a live crowd when listening to a live recording LOUD. You are there, 1st row and it’s pretty nice becasue if you want concert level volume, go for it. These can handle it.
So do not be afraid of the little Hersey III. When done right they are among some of the best I have heard or owned due to their wall of sound live feel. After 2 moths I love them (and the amp) more than ever. This setup just offers up a sound that I can not get from less efficient speakers. I love it. If I ever did sell these I know for a fact I would regret it and buy them again, as I often do with audio (and camera) gear. While not as lush or romantic as a big mega buck Sonus Faber setup, these offer a different presentation, and I like it. While not as detailed and precise as some mega buck Audiophile speakers, these offer a much more pleasing musical sound and flow. Yes indeed, I love it and I am now a HUGE HUGE fan of the Klipsch Heritage line. My next set I will test is the Forte III and if I love them I will keep both and use the Heresy’s in my bedroom. Everything I have read tells me the Forte III are even more special than the Heresy III. I shall soon see.