Listening #119 Ken Micallef June 2018

Ken Micallef wrote about the Heritage Heresy III in June 2018 (Vol.41 No.6):

In the November 2012 edition of his "Listening" column, Art Dudley wrote, "The coelacanthic Klipsch Heresy III . . . is among domestic audio's living fossils, the original Heresy having been introduced in 1957 as a 'center-channel' speaker for use with stereo pairs of the original Klipschorn. . . ."

A fat little floorstander measuring 23.8" high by 15.5" wide by 13.25" deep, the Klipsch Heritage Heresy III ($1998/pair) is a fossil (footnote 1). Its tweed-like grille, 12" pleated-surround woofer, and horn-loaded midrange and high-frequency drivers are, by contemporary hi-fi standards, practically Homo heidelbergensis. The Heresy was originally designed, in 1957, as a meat-and-potatoes center-channel speaker. But an audiophile speaker? It was never intended as any such thing. Fellow Stereophile contributor Steve Guttenberg confirmed that when, responding to the news that I'd be reviewing the Heresy III, he exclaimed, "Those aren't audiophile speakers. Those are party speakers!"

After I'd positioned the Heresys' butt-ends 2' from the front wall, their interior sidewalls 5' apart, and each speaker 6' from my listening seat, Steve's description seemed spot on. Connected to my Apple MacBook computer, PS Audio NuWave DAC, and Heed Elixir integrated amplifier, the Klipsches (99dB specified sensitivity and 8 ohms nominal impedance) sounded big and exuberant. Music jumped out of them with verve, energy, and gusto. Little did I know what awaited me, once I'd switched from streaming tunes via Tidal to spinning big, shiny black discs on my Kuzma Stabi turntable with Stogi tonearm, and sending their signals through my Shindo Laboratory Allegro preamplifier and Haut-Brion power amplifier.

According to Klipsch's website, the Heresy has been revised several times since 1957: "In 2006, the Heresy III was upgraded with a more powerful [fiber-composite] woofer, bi-wire network, as well as midrange and tweeter compression drivers, featuring a titanium diaphragm [replacing phenolic diaphragms] for smooth and accurate definition." My review pair arrived in living-room–friendly matched walnut veneers.

The Klipsch site also states that "The Heresy III offers the greatest degree of placement flexibility of all of the Heritage models due to its relatively compact size." Friends, this is sadly untrue. When toed-in and listened to at fairly close range—say, from 4' to 5' away—the Heresy IIIs will blast your ears clean off your head. I found that the Heresy's horn-loaded 1" and 1.75" titanium-diaphragm compression drivers could be merciless with some recordings. Jackie McLean's One Step Beyond (LP, Blue Note BLP 4137) produced tinny cymbal sounds and metallic-sounding reeds. String sections on some classical LPs sliced my skull in half like a samurai's blade. Firing the Heresys straight ahead largely ameliorated the problem.

With the right records and optimally set-up, the Heresy was a marvel. I'd never before heard a speaker, at any price, sound so fast, so energetic, so purely alive. From acoustic jazz and manipulated electronic compositions to classical and middle-eastern folk, the Heresy communicated the essence of the music stamped into each disc, as well as the width and breadth of the recording venue, with presence, power, and weight.

While the Heresys didn't do ultimate deep bass as well as my DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93s—rather bizarre, given the Klipsches' 12" woofers—the little fat boys wrung extremely coherent, taut, and superbly clear double-bass notes from my favorite jazz discs. While their bass-reproducing abilities were often revelations of clarity, the Heresys also imaged very well within a broad soundstage. I can fault only the Heresy's sometimes strident treble, and even that was disc-specific.

Driven by my Kuzmas and Shindos, the Heresys showered me with intense levels of fun and discovery, communicating a visceral, deep sense of knowing with each disc. The sheer speed of the speakers' sound was uncanny. It satisfied my lust for deeply articulated double-bass notes, cymbal arrays that shimmered as much as they stung, and melody instruments—saxes, guitars, violins—imbued with solid touch and impact. The Heresys didn't sound as romantic or as tonally rich as my DeVore O/93s—they lacked the ultimate sense of humanity the Orangutans deliver by the truckload. No, the chunky IIIs were indeed party speakers—they were all about rhythm and release, about very specific details cast on immersive soundstages that seemed to re-create the original recording venues. Nothing was glossed over, submerged, or suppressed. When I played Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic's 1977 recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2862 001), the second half of side 2 sounded like a riot: the orchestra raced, plunged, exploded with mind-boggling speed and rich sonorities and occasional skull-shredding string transients. But—the dynamics!!

Double bassist Dave Holland's Triplicate (LP, ECM 1373) features drummer Jack DeJohnette and alto saxophonist Steve Coleman in a driving, exploratory trio outing. The Heresys told me more about Holland's chewy bass lines and DeJohnette's sweltering drum and cymbal attacks than I'd ever before heard from this album. Every note of Holland's signature bass sound was laid bare; every finely delineated manipulation of fingers on string and neck, every pluck and hammer, gave me greater insight into his mighty magic. I've heard DeJohnette's drums and cymbals in many live venues, as well as in his own basement studio in upstate New York. The master's touch on his oddly dark cymbals and dry-toned drums was fully revealed by the Heresy III, again giving me greater understanding of what I take to be the intent behind this great musician's playing.

The Heresys were so clear, resolute, and fast that they approached the ideal of live music in the home, if that's your thing. It's not mine—studio and live sound are two different things. But the Heresy's inherent speed and überwide dynamic range were as close to live as I've heard in my MacDougal Street residence.

Some albums are purely studio creations, the results of digital samples manipulated and combined to realize the composer's vision. Fennesz's Bécs is such an album (LP, Editions Mego 165), its rolling bass waves and golden rhythmic and melodic tentacles given full expression via the Heresy IIIs. Fennesz's music oozed and spread around my pad, creating a large, cavernous space of viscous electronic beauty. The Heresys' soundstaging was one of their most convincing traits—an oddity, given that these speakers are . . . well, like I said, fat little floorstanders. But the Klipsch Heresy has remained in production for 61 years for many reasons, and high on the list is its natural-sounding presentation of original recorded (or created) spaces.

Sonny Rollins's Newk's Time (mono LP, Blue Note 4001) is an all-time classic of hard bop. The tenor saxophonist's improvisational prowess and organizational logic are galvanizing forces, given flight by pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Doug Watkins, and drummer Philly Joe Jones. Though the Heresys occasionally blasted Sonny's horn like a warning siren, their overall rendition of the dynamics, speed, and spatial aspects of Newk's Time outweighed those negatives.

One typical lazy Sunday toward the end of my listening to the Heresy IIIs, I wandered over to In Living Stereo, a high-end audio salon in Greenwich Village. As I chatted with Steve Guttenberg and the store's Steve Cohen, a woman in her early 40s walked in. What she then said was a shock: "Last night, I heard a pair of Klipschorn speakers and they changed my life."

It's hard for any piece of audio kit to change the life of a crusty audio reviewer. But Klipsch's Heritage Heresy III came close. It revealed the joys still possible from a venerable loudspeaker design in which speed, dynamics, depth, and breadth all come together in a well-designed and affordable package. Choosing the correct ancillary components is a must with the Heresy III—but the results may reward you, as they did me, with the pleasure of music sublimely reproduced.—Ken Micallef


Footnote 1: Klipsch, 3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200, Indianapolis, IN 46268. Tel: (800) 544-1482, (317) 860-8100. Fax: (317) 860-9170. Web: www.klipsch.com.

COMMENTS
Jerome W's picture

Dear Art, 

I wonder if you used your Shindo CC amps when you listened to the Heresy III. I am quite sure you did. Because indeed I had the exact same experience with the Shindo Apetite : it was a very bad matching with the Heresy's, to my great surprise. While the Apetite is very happy driving my big and pretty difficult PMC EB1i ! ( 88 dB and 6 ohms nominal impedance.... ) 

The Heresy III gave me a wonderful presentation of all styles of music, with a smooth and refined treble, with my Mc Intosh system composed of C48 preamp and vintage MC2205 power amp. For the price they are by far the best speakers I have heard and I could live all the rest of my life with only them. ( I say this in perfect consciousness while I have 3 systems at home, the top one using Wilsons WP8, and Shindo preamp / power amps... ). Jeff Dorgay from Tone Audio published a review about the Heresy III titled "Perfect Balance". I could not agree more. 

mikesp1's picture

I totaly agree, If there was only one loudspeaker in the world, I would be very happy with the heresy! I paired them with Wyred4sound class d amps and they realy sing. Here are some lifestyle photos:

https://www.mediaelectronics.be/product/klipsch-heresy-iii/

Jerome W's picture

It is very cool to be able to post comments on line like this. 

It would be much cooler if a respectful question to the writer could be answered. 

I really wonder which amp(s) was used in this listening of the Heresy III. 

Art Dudley's picture

Apologies for the late response. I did indeed use my Shindo Corton-Charlemagne amps, which were made with Hammond output transformers having selectable secondary windings (set for 8 Ohms during this and most other reviews). I don't know what output transformers are used in the Appetite integrated amp, but I doubt very much that they are Hammonds -- and would in fact suspect that they are, as with most current Shindos, Lundahl single-secondary transformers, optimized for 16-Ohm loads (which characterizes all of Ken Shindo's own loudspeakers).

In any event, I'm glad that you enjoy your Heresy loudspeakers in your Mac system.

 

-- Art

Jerome W's picture

Dear Art, 

Thank you for your answer. 

I tried them with my Corton Charlemagne Q monoblocks and the Giscours and it is much better than with the Apetite but still, these speakers like rather warm amps : they sing wonderfuly with the Mc Intosh MC2205 and with my Manley set up consisting of the 300B Neo Classic preamp and the Snappers monoblocks. 

IMHO, you just did not pair them with the correct amplifier. It would have been nice to give them an other chance ! ;)

Best wishes, 

Jérôme

helomech's picture

The Heresy IIIs require sufficient break-in as well as thoughtful amp pairing. The highs do mellow out after a couple hundred hours. Can we assume they were given a comparable amount of break-in as speakers that receive full feature reviews?

As for amps, despite their high efficiency, the H-IIIs don't perform as well with flea watt glass. Feed them 50 watts of KT88 power and you'll have a very different experience regarding the highs.

Lastly, these speakers are intended to be used with grills in place. Given the typical reviewer penchant for removing grills, I think it's worth noting the configuration for these demos.

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