HiFi: My Speaker of the Year 2020. Klipsch Heresy IV
By Steve Huff
It’s that time again. The end of another year and this year, 2020, may go down as the worst year of our lifetime if we look at it as whole. We have the pandemic which is still raging worse than ever across the USA with so many of us feeling fatigue from the pandemic and even insanely divisive politics. It’s been a bad year but oddly enough one filled with some of the best camera releases of recent times. One that was also filled with some amazing Audio/HiFi releases as well.
This year I had the pleasure off listening to some crazy high end audio equipment, and once again I learned that it is not always about the price one pays for HiFi gear (same with cameras) it is about the ENJOYMENT one gets from their investment. I have had speakers in here I disliked that were very costly, five figures. I have had speakers in here that cost $399 that surprised me at how good they were.
I always say one should not base audio buys on cost, but rather on what it brings you for that cost. Once you get past the $5k threshold these days in audio you are sort of entering into those “diminishing returns” you have heard about. This means the more you spend after that will bring you teeny improvements, usually reserved for the most picky audiophile. I admit, I used to be one of those guys.
In Feb 2020 I reviewed the Klipsch Heresy IV speakers after owning the III’s and I LOVED them. I was so overjoyed by them they inspired me to make a video about them back then, earlier this year. When they had to be packed up and shipped away I missed them terribly even though I had a pair of the newer, bigger, more expensive Cornwall IV speakers to review (why I sold my H4’s). I loved those as well, but for me, after reflecting back at the enjoyment level I achieved from both sets of Klipsch, I can say the Heresy IV were enjoyed by myself more than the Cornwall IV.
I have had speakers in the last year that ranged from $500 to $12,000 in may home. I enjoyed most of them, as when you start getting into the high end, there should be no bad speakers and all should sound great in their own ways. At the end of the day, and year, only one speaker really stood out and excelled above all of the others I have heard and reviewed.
It was those Klipsch Heresy IV’s.
THE KLIPSCH HERESY IV are not only my Speaker of the Year but one of my favorite of all time. I will try to tell you why, in a short post here. If you want to read and see my thoughts when I reviewed them in Feb, you can see that HERE. I will say that these speakers are polarizing, as many try them with HT receivers or AVR’s and if you do that, they will sound raggedy, sharp, and not cohesive. They will be shouty, and fatiguing. If you get the synergy thing right, which is the hardest thing to do in HiFi, these are pure magic. They react very well to whatever gear you use form your source to your amplification and yes, even cables.
The reasons these speakers attached to my heart and my soul is because of what they do, what they look like and what they bring to my music listening session. Yes, I call them “sessions” because at times I can sit for hours on end just being engrossed and enveloped by music. When I do that I need a speaker that delivers a “human touch” if you will. One that portrays the emotion of the recording while, at the same time, bringing you deep into the performance. It is like therapy really, sitting and listening to beautiful music that you can hear deep into. As the music swells and fills the room you can find yourself transported to another time and place. The H4’s have the capability to do this when set up correctly.
I need a speaker that sounds natural but live. One that has dynamics and detail yet doesn’t cross into the bright or shouty territory. In fact, I prefer a nice warm leaning speaker that I can sit back and listen to in the dark with a warm coffee (spiked with something nice) and one that will excel with whatever music I throw on. Wether that is modern music, vintage rock and roll, or classic vocal jazz. Wether it is EDM, classical or anything in between. I need a speaker that sounds amazing with all of it.
The Heresy IV is that speaker and it will not cost you anywhere near what those expensive audiophile brands will. Heck, we even get a 10 year warranty to boot.
Also, these are the best low volume speakers I have ever heard because of their sensitivity and crossover. That goes for the older VIII as well. This speaker has a thing with low volume listening. It’s rich and full and to have a set of speakers that do not need the volume jacked up to sound glorious is amazing. At 99db efficient, this assures these H4’s will be great for low volume late night sessions. Also, the new midrange horn on the H4 provides one of the best vocal reproductions I have heard, regardless of cost.
No other speaker offers this kind of full, engaging, and dynamic performance when played at the lowest of volumes, none that I heard anyway near this price point. It’s so damn good.
The fact that these are small, designed to be placed on the floor (and yes they sound their best this way) and just look so gorgeous with their wood veneers have me enjoying just looking at them. These have super high WAF (wife approval factor) and can add class to any room. Made in the USA as well as all Klipsch Heritage speakers are.
I will say again, these are not speakers you buy and attach a cheap amp to. If you do, you may think these sound bright, shouty, lack bass or finesse. I guarantee you this is not the case as the H4’s have amazing finesse and very good (though not boomy) bass performance. These will not shake your foundation but will offer a nice, warn leaning pleasant and HUGE sound that surrounds you and sucks you in. They are sweet if anything and they sound “right”.
When I moved I had to sell off a lot of gear for many reasons. I scaled down and realized I could have a much simpler system than I did, and possibly enjoy it even more. BTW, the Heresy LOVES tubes as much as a high quality class A or class A/B amp. I would avoid class D or G amps with the Heresy as you will not get the most from the speakers if you go this route.
The H4’s are $3000 but well worth it for an all USA made speaker that not only looks amazing but sounds insanely good with all music. As long as you feed it good clean current and use nice front end gear they can be a speaker for life. They offer me the depth, the details, the warmth, the human emotion I crave from a good set of speakers. They image like a champ as well. I mean, I love these things. THEY ARE THAT GOOD.
If you love music, then you MUST take a look at these beautiful speakers. There is a reason they have been around for 70 years. : ) I chose them as my personal speakers and my speaker of the year 2020. They sound their absolute best for me running them with a Pass Labs INT-25 amp. Nothing I have tried produces the magic from the Heresy IV’s quite like this amp.
Compared to the JBL L82 the H4 have more finesse, more clarity, a wider soundstage, a bigger sound and midrange and a classier look. They are also a much easier drive and sound much more effortless and do low volume better. The L82’s are more direct and beefy, Not as refined but cool to rock out too.
Compared to the Dynaudio S 40, the H4 are more open sounding, much bigger sounding, have a more pronounced vocal region in the mid and sound more live. Much easier to drive as well. I have never heard Leonard Cohen sound as good as he does on the H4. The S40 almost sound compressed/darker in comparison, and I love the S40’s.
Compared to the Cornwall IV the H4 sound smaller, but honestly, more precise and controlled. I prefer the overall whole sound of the H4 in my space over the Corns. As incredible as the C4 are, I am more attached to the H4’s. I prefer them but they are like a Mini Corn. If you want MORE of the H4 and have a larger room, the Corn is one you will also enjoy immensely. I have had the CWIII and IV as well as the Heresy III and IV.
Compared to the Q Acoustics C300 I recently reviewed these are fuller and bigger sounding and a touch more warm. They offer an easier drive and in the looks dept. totally different. The C300’s are more detailed, and offer more in the way of instrument separation for sure but they lack for rock and low volume listening when compared to the H4. The H4, to me, offer a more cohesive sound, a fuller sound and better low volume. If you crave detail and imaging, the C300’s are fantastic.
Compared to some other speakers I reviewed this year, even one I proclaimed the best no mater the cost in the QLN prestige 3, well these are not as refined as those nor as exquisite but I’ll tell you something. The P3’s are MUCH more expensive and have a unique sound that is high end indeed but the H4’s are just as enjoyable, if not more exciting for MUCH less. Maybe not as refined as the QLN’s but the H4’s are not a one trick pony, they are a master of all and if you also have TV hooked up LOOK out! You will be hard pressed to find anything for this price to sound this amazing with films/HT. The H4’s offer so much for so little and while $3000 is not cheap, I can not think of a speaker more worth the asking price. None.
You can buy them at Amazon via Prime HERE
BTW, I do NOT do measurements with speakers or audio gear. Just as I do not do them for Photo reviews, I do not and will never do them for audio. The reason is simple. Measurements mean nothing to my eyes or my ears. I always go by real world, and one may look at “measurements” of a speaker and try to understand how they sound in that way. Impossible. ALWAYS go with your ears, ALWAYS go with proper set up, front end gear and pay attention to cables. If you do, measurements will mean nothing but your ears will tell you all you need to know. Go with what LOOKS GOOD to you, not what a test chart says. The truth here is that I find the Klipsch Heresy IV speakers some of the best I have ever owned or heard, and I am not the only one who thinks it was the best speaker this year when we look at price, size, design and sound. These are fantastic for the price and I would take these over just about any speaker out right now up to $10k. I’ve been there and done that again and again and it’s quite rare for me to have a speaker here that I enjoy THIS much.
As a $3,000 speaker, these are alright. They are quite colored and not at all as good as speakers only costing a couple of thousand of dollars more. I would compare these to comparable Magnapans, Monitor Audio and Vandersteen speakers first. All depends on your taste, music choices, room layout and a lot more. I have listened to more speakers than I can count, from hundreds of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars (yes, Rockport I am looking at YOU!) Speakers are as personal as shoes. One size does not fit all. Almost all reviews (which do not include measurements and blind testing) say more about the reviewer than the speaker. Steve is thorough, but unless you like what Steve likes, you are not going to love these speakers. Find a good dealer who will help lead you to what you like/need. Personally, I own a pair of the earlier generation of TAD speakers (designed by Andrew Jones) which I find far superior to what they are offering now (cost-cutting?) Go, listen, enjoy!
Thanks Steve for a great review on a pretty darn good, inexpensive speaker.
I hesitate very strongly between the Heresy 4 and the Cornwall 4.
They will be installed in my living room which measures approximately 55m2.
I don’t listen to very loud music but what scares me when taking the Heresy 4 is to lack bass.
What do you think ? I currently have an older pair of Klipsch RF62s and the bass level suits me fine.
I’d go with Corns in a larger room. But do not think the CWIV will blow you away with bass, they do not. Their bass is very gentle, and come out when called upon but is never huge or boomy nor does it have major impact. It’s just the way horn speakers go. It’s a compromise. The new series of Klipsch V4 speakers are the best they have done. The cleanest, clearest, most expansive sound with solid imaging (if your source is up to it) but the H4’s will only do well in a smaller room if you want big bass, and even then you will not get big bass. Instead you get a special midrange that will do wonderful things for vocals. So it depends on what you listen to, and your room size but if you have the room the Cornwall IV’s will be a better bet for a much bigger sound. The H4’s will do better at the soundstage and imaging thing but their bass is not going to blow you away. I prefer the full bodied sounds of the H4 over any speaker with boomy or excessive bass. I also never used the loudness button on an amp as that just bloats the music with false bass. So many are used too listening with extended false bass so when they hear a higher end system they wonder where the bass has went. : ) The reality is the music was never meant to have this bloated overdone bass, so higher end systems allow you to hear the music correctly. In any case, the CWIV’s will give you more body and bass, and the high end will be tamed a bit as well.
Man…I really want to try these but I just can’t get around the aesthetics. I mean…I’m all for retro looking things and when I look at these they time-warp me back to my childhood in the 70’s/80’s. They literally look like my Dad’s speakers from then.
All that said, my style is more mid-century modern/minimalist and these Heresy’s are just so….big and cumbersome looking. As much as i would love to try them do I want to commit to something so big? I definitely want tower speakers for my 2 channel system but I’m going to have to think on this one. I’ve been looking at Paradigm Prestige 85F in Walnut which are a similar price to these Heresy IV.
Either way, great article as always, enjoyed the read!
Great review – I really enjoy my Heresy IV:s also. You mention ” when set up correctly” in the article. Could you please elaborate how have set them up?
My favorite thing about the Heresy speakers (and most horns in general) is that you don’t need tons of power. A good 100W amp sounds spectacular with these speakers.
I have a pair of KEF LS50’s that I love, but they’re difficult to drive correctly. Klipsch has always been at home with modest power.
Yep, even a 10 watt tube amp will make these sound beautiful. I have been listening every day to these again, and they just do it all so well. Buy highest recommendation for someone looking in the up to $5k range for speakers.
That rig looks really nice, and I like that classic speaker design too. I’m also curious what model is that tube amp, placed right to the turntable?
I own Heresy IVs too but compared to legit high end speakers they lack resolution but still good.
Not really. Have you owned the IV? They do not lack in resolution unless you like analytical hyper detail over musicality. These are as detailed, and image better than some of the $10k and up speakers I have tested yet they are immensely musical. They just feel and sound right. The IV is far far different form the I, II or III. Thank you and have a great holiday!
I used to be of the opinion that horn-loaded speakers, especially Klipsch, sounded “bright” compared to something like B&W, for example. Now that I’m over 50, I prefer the refined, classic sound of speakers like Klipsch.
When a person listens to one brand forever, u begin to only like that brand or sound imaging. I spent 9 yrs in Okinawa Japan and to this day I swear that jbls are it!! But I use to really like to rock hard. My cousin dropped off a pair of Polk Monitor 10s with crossovers he himself did. U would think he was a genius. He hooked them up to my onkyo m510 and laughing put a dac on and said sit down. Guess what! Herb Alpert came alive. If my father was still alive he would have a tear in his eye. I bought a set of 10s and he’s doing some magic ✨.
You desperately need an editor.
Nope, never. Thirteen years and it’s all me, no one else. Warts an all ; )