A New Clas­sic

PRICE $1,199

Sound & Vision - - HANDS ON - By Steve Gut­ten­berg

THE HER­ITAGE HP-3 IS A clean break from all of Klip­sch’s pre­vi­ous full-sized head­phones. Al­though Klip­sch’s pre­vi­ous head­phones were de­cent, I never felt they put the same pas­sion into their head­phones as their speak­ers. Maybe that’s why the HP-3 feels like a new beginning. Klip­sch is fi­nally go­ing up against the big boys in the high-end au­dio head­phone biz.

This bit in the HP-3 press re­lease set me reel­ing: “The Her­itage HP-3 was in­spired by founder Paul W. Klip­sch (PWK). Long be­fore stereo ex­isted, PWK’S first au­dio ex­per­i­men­ta­tion was with a pair of head­phones that he mod­i­fied for stereo re­pro­duc­tion in 1919.” Klip­sch re­ally was a for­ward­think­ing man!

As for the HP-3S, even be­fore you pop them on your nog­gin, you can’t help but no­tice the build qual­ity in their die-cast steel, hand­sanded and -pol­ished wood, sheep­skin (for the earpads), and ma­chined alu­minum mate- ri­als. Klip­sch of­fers the HP-3S in three solid-wood fin­ishes—wal­nut, ebony, and oak. Klip­sch-o-philes take note: The earcup grilles are the same

ma­te­rial used in the com­pany’s 70th an­niver­sary Klip­schorn, Corn­wall, and Heresy speak­ers.

The HP-3S’ 52mm Bio­dy­namic (a.k.a. bio­cel­lu­lose) driver comes from CM Foster in Ja­pan. It’s a “free-edge” de­sign that uses a roll sur­round, sim­i­lar to the sort you see on speaker midranges and woofers. Most head­phone driv­ers don’t have sur­rounds; in­stead, their thin film di­aphragms ad­here di­rectly to the driver frame. Klip­sch en­gi­neers col­lab­o­rated with CM Foster to fine-tune the sound with a se­ries of ra­dial slots in the driver’s baf­fle.

HP-3S are as­sem­bled in China.

The gen­uine hand-stitched cowhide head­band looks cool, but I wish it had more pad­ding. Same for the ear cush­ions, which didn’t seal all that well. The HP-3S’ com­fort over long listening ses­sions was good but nowhere near as comfy as, say, the Bey­er­dy­namic T1 or Sennheiser HD 800S head­phones.

To get ac­quainted with the HP-3S’ sound, I checked out ex- Top Gear hosts Jeremy Clark­son, Richard Ham­mond, and James May’s new se­ries, The Grand Tour, with the boys driv­ing a V12 As­ton Martin DB11, a su­per­charged V8

Dodge Chal­lenger SRT Hell­cat, and a twin turbo V12 Rolls-royce Dawn across Italy. The sounds of those ex­quis­ite rides mas­saged my eardrums to a fare-thee-well. The HP-3 was in all its glory.

As for mu­sic, the HP-3S sound sweet, and the clar­ity is there, it just doesn’t shout de­tail or sound lean. In­deed, the sound flat­ters both male and fe­male singers, who sound more full-bod­ied than they do on a lot of head­phones. The bass de­serves spe­cial praise for its dex­ter­ity—it doesn’t suf­fer from any thick­ness or flab, and dy­nam­ics are given their full due. Sound­stage width and fo­cus are quite nice.

The HP-3S are very Amer­i­can­sound­ing head­phones, by which I mean they’re big and bold. In that sense, they sound like a big Klip­sch tower speaker.

The HP-3S’ looks re­mind me of the $1,190 Enig­ma­cous­tics Dharma D1000 hy­brid elec­tro­static/dy­namic head­phones I re­viewed for Sound & Vi­sion back in 2015. I still have the Dhar­mas on hand, so I was ea­ger to com­pare the two mod­els. Of course, there’s a huge dif­fer­ence in the tech, and the D1000s’ elec­tro­static tweeter def­i­nitely sup­plied more top-end air and clar­ity than the HP-3. Lee Ann Womack’s The Lonely, the Lone­some & the Gone al­bum’s tear-stained tunes had more soul over the HP-3S, while the D1000s’ sound was clearer and more hi-res. The two head­phones of­fer two very dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives on the mu­sic, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the HP-3 for their more or­ganic tone.

The Her­itage HP-3S aren’t the first Klip­sch head­phones, but they’re the com­pany’s first ’phones that’ll tempt audiophiles. I’m sure they won’t be the last.


Type: Semi-open back, over-theear • Driver: 52mm bio­dy­namic driv­ers • Impedance: 25 ohms

• Sen­si­tiv­ity: 98 db • Weight (Ounces): 15.9

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