KLIPSCH HERITAGE HP-3 - REVIEW
- TONAL BALANCE / NEUTRALITY 82%
- PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE 92%
- SOUND FIDELITY 91%
- MUSICALITY 92%
- BUILD QUALITY 97%
- ERGONOMICS/COMFORT 92%
- Good detail retrieval
- Fun tonality
- V-shape done well
- Nice for listening at low volumes
- Excellent packaging
- Midrange sounds recessed
- Can be a little fatiguing
So…as some may have figured out by now, I am a bit of a bass head. I appreciate balanced sound most of all but a healthy helping of bass brings out the goods on my EDM music. That is why I can’t have just one headphone, because while I do think that a truly balanced headphone can do EDM alright, it isn’t as gratifying as something that boosts it up a bit. This review is of a unit I purchased for myself because I heard that it was v-shape done right.
- STYLE: Semi-Open Over-Ear
- DRIVER DESIGN: Free-Edge Biodynamic
- DRIVER COMPONENTS: Full Range KG-520
- DRIVER DIAMETER: 52 mm
- FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 5Hz-45kHz
- SENSITIVITY: (1MW) 98 dB POWER HANDLING 1,800 mW
- IMPEDANCE: 25 Ohms
- INPUT CONNECTIONS: 3.5mm
- PRODUCT DIMENSIONS: 7.87” (200mm) H x 10.24” (260mm) W x 1.97” (50mm) D
- BOXED DIMENSIONS: 12.2” (310mm) H x 14.65 (372mm) W x 5.28” (134mm) D
- PRODUCT WEIGHT: .97 lbs. (440g) BOXED WEIGHT 10.58 lbs (4.8kg) COLORS Ebony, Walnut, Oak
- INCLUDES • Heritage HP-3 Headphones • 1.37m Cable • 2.5m Cable • 1/4” Adaptor • Headphone Stand
The Klipsch Heritage HP-3 is made with acoustic venting and is a semi-open headphone. Unlike the Auteur recently reviewed here which is fully biocellulose, the HP-3 driver is actually a combination of biocellulose and inorganic fiber that makes up its 52mm driver. Klipsch used the forums and advice from members of SBAF and Head-fi to help tune the headphone. I suppose they informed them of the sound signature they had in mind and utilized some of the feed back to help with any major issues heard in the tuning.
The HP-3 is top notch when it comes to its design. It is not as comfortable or as supremely designed as the Sony MDR Z1R but it has its own design niggles that separate it from the competition. The pads pop on via magnets and are angled so the drivers are parallel to the ears.
The aesthetics of the headphone are impressive with very good attention to detail. If the cups were lacquered it that would have been the icing on the cake of a very nice looking product. The packaging, and accessories really add to value of an already properly priced piece of gear. Look at the pictures in the gallery below to see for yourself.
With the opening of pads of the HP-3 providing enough room to keep my ears from touching the drivers and feelling cramped, I think the HP-3 provides decent comfort. The clamp force is just about ideal, not too much and not too little. I would just like the padding to be a little softer on the pads and headband but its not bad at all.
- BASS EXTENSION 91%
- BASS BALANCE (ACCURACY) 89%
- LOWER MIDRANGE BALANCE 91%
- MIDRANGE PROPER BALANCE 82%
- UPPER MIDRANGE BALANCE 79%
- TREBLE BALANCE 91%
- TREBLE EXTENSION 90%
- BASS CONTROL 91%
- MACRO DYNAMICS 91%
- DYNAMIC RANGE 83%
- MICRO DYNAMICS (SMALL GRADATIONS OF VOLUME) 93%
- SOUND STAGE WIDTH 83%
- SOUND STAGE DEPTH 89%
- BLACKNESS OF BACKGROUND 82%
- TONE QUALITY (REFINEMENT) 79%
*please note that in the above bar counters I use the word balance instead of presence which is a percentage of how unbiased, accurate, and neutral that aspect is. Also those aspects are totally subjective and from my point of view. Yours may differ. Also these bars and percentages are really just to give an idea of how I perceive the headphone. They are not absolute, and really just provide a visual reference of the aspects described below.
The sound signature of the Klipsch HP-3 is v-shaped. It has been called V-shaped done right and I agree. It is easy to enjoy this headphone at low levels because of the bold and crisp timbre and punchy sound.
The HP-3 bass is the kind of bass that is easily effected by impedance. It falls apart with too high of an output impedance being only 25ohms. I think it likes tube amps but just be careful with which ones you use. However, it will always sound elevated. It has decent control. It is not as solid and focused as the almighty TH900, nor is it as good as the modified Beyer T5P I had in my shootout, but it is slightly more focused in the sub bass than the Eikon and Atticus. Not as tight as an HD800 but not far off. It has good sustain, rumble, and decent slam. The textures are decently resolved and it is better than most bass elevated headphones in resolution down low. I had a tough time really nailing down the sub bass because sometimes it didn’t sound focused and other times it did. The Auteur is a little tighter.
The mid bass is snappy and kicks drums pop out of the mix with good intensity. The Atticus is a little more punchy when amped right and kick drums sound just a little more venue like with longer decay but the sub bass sounds more focused on the HP3, while the Atticus sounds fatter. It is a tough comparison in terms of engagement factor though because I can get my Atticus to rumble harder on the high impedance output of my Mogwai Special Edition and the control is not far off. Also the Atticus hits harder as well from that output whereas the HP3 just turns into mush because it is lower impedance. Both on their best pairing has the Atticus with more rumble and a little more punch and the HP3 with better control and more presence.
The Lower mids of the HP3 sound fairly even. They are present for the most part and do not have too much pressure from the upper bass presence. There is some slight boxiness . The midrange tapers off gradually until you get into the treble where the there is an elevation of response. The middle midrange sounds a little distant without sounding as recessed as the TH900. It is a fairly linear midrange considering it is v-shaped but I have a couple of issues: 1. The clarity on vocals is a little lacking to me, there is a haze over them to my ears that the other similarly priced headphones on deck did not have. 2. The dynamic range does not sound that good in the midrange; in that area it sounds a little compressed to me. No worries on the upper midrange sounding like it has a huge dip there, as the over all midrange is a gradual downward slope into the treble instead of a huge pit before the lower treble but it is still recessed. The gradual downward slope enables the HP3 to still have some cohesion. I did use eq, and while it took it like a champ, there is a graininess to the sound that still holds it back a little.
The midrange transitions into the treble that is boosted somewhere around the lower-mid treble, making things sound just a little sharp but not piercingly so. The treble is very controlled and snappy. You would be hard pressed to find this kind of treble in another headphone at this price. It is detailed, and while I wish for it to sound a little more refined, I find it to be very crisp with solid leading edges. Definitely defined. The treble, is not only well behaved but it is punchy as well with good texture. The only thing is that sometimes it has this sandpaper kind of texture to it but I still think the treble delivery is very good. Extension is decent, it sometimes sounds like my Auteur has better extension or air but I didn’t try to listen for that when I compared directly so don’t quote me there.
After hearing bios like the Nighthawk, Eikon, and TH900 I expected that clean and liquid/silky like timbre that never sounds grating or rough, even when it their distortion is not the best. Well that is not what I am getting with this headphone. I think that it is grainy and rough but solid and tangible. I know that the biocellulose drivers may sound different than the biodynamics when generalized, and maybe the TH600 had this sandy type of texture to it but the TH900 didn’t. The attacks are precise, hard, and defined with good bite. This is not a mushy or soft sounding headphone and it has good tone density.
I like the soundstage of the HP-3. My Atticus sounds bigger and more venue like because of the reverb in the cups effecting my perception of depth, but listening closely has the HP-3 with better separation and depth. The Atticus has better width by just a little but the HP-3 soundstage is wonderfully deep. It has excellent layering and effortless separation, especially in the treble. So I am going to say it is decent in width but good in depth. The semi open design does allow some airflow and I think it is helping it have the depth I am hearing in the soundstage. There is some air around the music but nothing like a fully open back.
I think that the HP-3 really excels here. Hearing a snare pop out in the recording as well as finger snaps and conga hits in a recording are engaging. Contrasts of volume between instruments are very easy to hear with the HP-3 and almost as easy to hear as in the Focal Clear (review forthcoming). Excellent….but…
I am feeling like I am missing the overall picture of the recordings highest and lowest points of intensity. This is especially in the midrange which sounds compressed to me. I know the balance has something to do with that, as the treble sounds less compressed, but still don’t get that realistic drama my recordings have in them.
I got tricked a couple of times. The leading edges of the attacks are so defined that I assumed the micro dynamics were ahead of most of the headphones I had here. I think it does really well in section but when I was playing “Arcason” by Candido I actually heard my modded 650 give a similar level of nuance. Sure it wasn’t as detailed and crisp as the HP-3 but it sounded as if the smaller drums and fingers on the hand drums lifted from the grey background just as easily. They were just as emboldened if not more so, just less crisp. Red=650, White=HP3.
(The diagram is just to help explain what I here, excuse the rough drawing)
Fairly easy to hear fine details with the HP3. It is no HD800 or Utopia but it is very competitive with similarly priced headphones near 1k. It reminds me a lot of the D7200 in the way that it brings details to the front. I wouldn’t say that the D7200 sounds as pleasant as this headphone does because it’s timbre is less natural but overall resolution I recall being a little better on the D7200 which is not to the shame of the HP3. I could be wrong though, but both of them for sure have sharp transients and good resolution. The short version is that it does very well at showing the details in the recording.
The haze in the midrange holds back the transparency. The treble sounds relatively clear but not as clear as the TH900 or even the Auteur. The background is black enough to not complain but there is a slight grayness to it that is different from what I remember from something like the nighthawk (HP3 otherwise whoops the NH). While my Eikon is more tinted in the treble, it has a more pure and liquid midrange without that haze I hear in front of it. Equalizing the midrange and dropping the bass helps a little but still doesn’t bring it to the level of the aforementioned.
Update 12-17-2017: I still hear a slight haze but mostly on vocals. Not the blackest background yet, but I think that it does really good in clarity. After reading my review, I felt I was a bit too focused on pointing out the flaws I heard here and not taking into account what clarity it has for the price they are charging. With that perspective in mind, the HP3 is a very clear headphone for the price and very competitive. In the above comparisons to the TH900 and Auteur, it is only behind slightly and that is to headphones that cost over 300USD more. I would say that it is just as clear as the Eikon except for in the midrange where I hear that slight haze.
The HP3 is fairly easy to drive. I recommend something full in the midrange with good grip and bass slam. I believe that it will scale very well as my Aficionado opens it up a bit. Just use low impedance sources and you should be good to go because the 32 ohm output of the Mogwai Special Edition makes it sound like it lacks a bit of focus and slam. Now my Mogwai has more slam than the Aficionado but the pairing of the Mogwai kind of makes it lose a bit of grip and dynamics. The opposite happens with my Atticus that really knocks with my Mogwai as well as the HD800 believe it or not.
The HP3 has many impressive things about it. The packaging is the best I have seen so far, the build is really good, the sound quality puts out good performance at the price they are asking, and the tonality is decent. Maybe some bass heads have been looking for a unicorn and maybe this may get them close but it is not mine. The closest I have gotten is the Atticus because it is just as revealing, has better timbre, and the micro-dynamics and resolution is just as good if not better. But at the end of the day I still want a headphone with TH900 bass control and soundstage, but much better tonality and this is not that. At the same time it’s not that far off and I expect to pay way more than Klipsch is charging.
I think I prefer the sound of the Klipsch to the Z1R and it is more affordable. I can’t think of a v-shaped headphone I have heard that is more well rounded. However, the highs are just a little strong for me personally because of my listening levels. One thing is for sure though, the HP3 is great at low levels.
The Klipsch HP3 is a worthy entrance into the market and a very good product that gets an easy recommendation from me for bass lovers who don’t mind some extra treble. Let’s see if it lasts in my stable.