Klipsch Heresy: Vintage Ear Candy
I had always heard of the legendary Klipsch "Heritage" speakers as being some of the best from any era: the Klipschorn, La Scala, and Heresy. Each one of these big cabinet speakers was first made in the 1950s, and can still be ordered hand-made from Klipsch's Arkansas foundry. Such is the respect for these designs, that the Klipschorn, La Scala, and Heresy have had little more than cosmetic upgrades over their nearly 60 years in production.
Order a pair of Klipschorns from Klipsch today, and they'll set you back a cool $3,000. The Heresys? When all is said and done, they'll cost you almost $1,400 shipped to your door. And you won't find the prices much lower on eBay or Craigslist. Just as these speakers haven't changed in 60 years, the prices don't change much from new to used, either.
So I was ecstatic when I found a pair on CR for $300. I immediately drove the hour to get them, and I was rewarded with a pair of pristine Heresy I's. They were old enough that their foam woofer surrounds would have rotted away. But Heresys don't have foam surrounds - they have paper surrounds - meaning the cones and surrounds will last pretty much forever.
I demoed the Heresys in the seller's living room, and then again in my living room, paired with a set of CSW SW1 powered subs. Note to my first-time readers: I almost always use a pair of high-quality subwoofers in my setup, even when running 2-channel stereo, and even when using big, full-range speakers such as the Heresys. Why? Because no matter how big your speaker and amp, a powered sub always takes strain off the amp and main speaker, improving the sound.
The Sound: Scintillating
I found the Heresys to have a good, flat response down fairly deep; they do boast a big 12" woofer and huge cabinets, after all. But all along the band, one word describes their sound best: clear.
Yes, the Heresy's pack 2 horn-loaded drivers: a small tweeter and a mid-range horn as well. One of my friends think the metal horns make for harsh sound, but he's letting his knowledge of the speakers' design cloud his reactions. These speakers are not harsh in the slightest. There is not a single bump in their audible response, as far as I could tell. Anybody who hears harsh tones from Hereseys is in a too-small room with no sound damping and too many reflections.
Paired with the CSW SW1 subwoofers, and with all the bass energy below 400 Hz taken away from the Heresey's and my 100 wpc Adcom stereo amplifier, the Heresey's came into an ultra-realistic quality of sound. Further proof that good subs can improve the sound of any speaker.
They sound perfect. However, when compared side-by-side with another high-end speaker in my living room - the McIntosh XR-14 - the Heresy's sounded like they lacked a little mid-range warmth. When I switched back to the Macs, however, they seemed to lack high-end detail and that hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling that the Heresys provide by the bucket. Which one is better? Both!
If you find a good pair of Heresy speakers (I, II, or III) for less than $600, buy them.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Bruce on September 12, 2018:
Someone gave me a single mid-70s Heresy about 15 years ago. I just sat it aside in a closet and didn't do anything with it. About 2 years ago I found a pair of mid-70s Heresys for $300 and bought them immediately. They matched the single speaker I had perfectly (in appearance and sound), so I use them in a 3.1 set up L/C/R and it sounds amazing for regular stereo (with pseudo center channel) and for 5.1 surround.
kirb marriott on February 13, 2016:
played with new lll, for a couple weeks. No perfect imaging here, but great all around sound to rock, jazz, blues.
robert mccann on July 30, 2014:
the Heresy speaker was changed internaly in the crossover was made very much cheaper and they lost their smooth sound and perfect bass that happen in about 1988 0r 1989 so make sure they are made before 1988 or you will be disappointed in your investment witch they were before the dad past on then the corporate machine cut corners sign sad
Marco on October 15, 2012:
If American items would all be as good as the Klipsh heritage series are,there would be not uncertainity in America future.
Quality always wins over quantity
Mike on October 13, 2012:
I bought a pair of used Heresy IIs about 6 months ago for $325, and I am absolutely loving them. A true American classic. Some day I'll get a pair of Klipschorns, but until then, I can't imagine wanting anything more out of my speakers.
tejackso on March 10, 2012:
i bought a pair of heresy's back around 1983. everyy now and then i try to find something that'll be affordable and better, but every time i fail. the damn things are indestructable and produce (with a sub) unbeatable sound, even after almost 30 years.
dan haydon on February 25, 2012:
Nice read with good info! Thanks for that. I bought a pair of 1st gen with unfinished ply in mint condition for 160 at a thrift store and love them.
zinda on November 22, 2010:
just bought a pair of originals with repainted (flat black) cabs and recovered grills for $12, complete. Really rough looking splintered corners looks like the first layer of veneer was sanded too thin and the glue may have been in humid condition, seeing how they were never properly coated with a sealer or oiled. question I have is can I strip off the veneer to the second layer and restainED or is it going to be a plywood surface exposed? The second layer is not splintered at all. Is it good practice to re-veneer this typ of cab or am I asking for tonal disaster in the way of resonance or will it improve dampening quality? I believe that these cabinets are of poor design and could be made to reduce the hollow sound that they have. These are the original cabs remember, with stamps on back side edges; USA on both sides and on top a stamped number sequence;11.1[8 or B].0.9.4 & 1.11.U.0.9.3.
horn guy on May 11, 2010:
heresy's generally need a sub as their isn't much output below about 50 cycles. The heritage model you didn't mention is many klipsch enthusiasts favorite; the cornwall. It's the bigger brother to the heresy and many feel it has an even more dynamic sound with it's huge cabinet and 15" woofer. Welcome to the real world of horn speakers!