Klipsch Heritage HP-3 headphones review

Class act: Klipsch's Heritage HP-3 sound like speakers, look like a time machine

So swank they belong in a humidor, Klipsch's HP-3 bring both serious style and substance.
So swank they belong in a humidor, Klipsch's HP-3 bring both serious style and substance.
So swank they belong in a humidor, Klipsch's HP-3 bring both serious style and substance.

Highs

  • Gorgeous design and packaging
  • Robust build quality
  • Clear and brilliantly detailed treble
  • Full, heady bass response
  • Custom stand packed in

Lows

  • Upper bass occasionally overpowering
  • Lively sound signature may not be for all
  • No hard case

Klipsch’s Heritage series, which encompasses everything from audiophile floor speakers to wireless audio devices, is all about evoking nostalgic joy for the brand’s long-standing foothold in the audio lexicon. Perhaps nothing among Klipsch’s product line better exemplifies this design philosophy than the striking new Heritage HP-3 over-ear headphones.

Constructed from high-end components like leather, wood, and steel, the HP-3 are an audiophile collectible with a price point ($1,200 MSRP) to match. There’s even a custom stand rolled into the package, ensuring these cans will look as gorgeous on the shelf as anything in your collection. But appearances aside, if you’re looking for something a little outside the norm, it’s the HP-3’s striking, lively sound signature that could make them a worthy addition to your listening gear.

Break glass for emergencies

We’ve opened so many headphones over the years that, eventually, all those magnetically sealed boxes layered in heaps of thick foam start to run together into a blur. But we can honestly say without hesitation that the Heritage HP-3 are the most memorable pair of cans we’ve ever cracked open. The wooden headphones arrive in a matching wood box, mounted behind glass like a luxury-laden fire axe — in case of sonic emergency, break glass.

Klipsch Heritage HP-3
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

A glittering copper seal must be cut before you can slide away a leather-handled top panel, revealing a pair of boxes inside with indented finger holes to pull them free of the wooden case. The HP-3 sit in the front-side box, fastened with rugged leather rivets. Accessories are stored in a back box, including a pair of removable braided cables, as well as a chrome pole and weighted base which snap together into a slick headphone stand. The cables are long at 4.5 feet and 6 feet, and include quarter-inch jacks with plastic inserts, making it appear at first glance that the adapters are permanently attached. Perhaps the only surprising omission here is a carrying case, which we’d like to see at this price point.

Styling cans

It’s easy to admire the HP-3 long before you remove them from their fancy case, but pulling the headphones free offers even more to drool over. Layered in rich cowhide and sheepskin along the band and earpads respectively, the cans are a smooth mix of luxury and style, with sterling points of detail to admire like solid wood earcup chambers secured with gleaming copper rivets. The design is reminiscent of other wood-crafted cans like Thinksound’s On2, but the presentation here is (obviously) more refined, in accordance with the price. Our pair came in ebony brown, but there are also two lighter wooden color combos, including walnut and oak.

The HP-3 are a smooth mix of luxury and style, with sterling points of detail.

The headphones feel incredibly sturdy in your hands, as does the solid steel stand. The HP-3’s acoustic design is semi-open via triple-vented openings on the earcups. Pulling away oversized magnetic pads reveals unique 52mm drivers beneath. Designed more like ear speakers than traditional headphone drivers, the HP-3’s free-edge “biodynamic” drivers are set in rubber surrounds and composed of a mix of biocellulose and synthetic fiber for an impressive claimed frequency response of 5Hz to 45kHz.

The drivers’ speaker-like design extends to the sound signature, as the HP-3 are built to emulate the sound of Klipsch loudspeakers, meaning (for better or worse, depending on your taste preferences) they’ve got plenty of color, plenty of power, and never sound dull or flat. With 25-ohm impedance, the headphones are easily driven by your smartphone, though we recommend a quality headphone amplifier to illicit the best performance.

As for comfort, we could have used a bit more cushion on the earcups, but the HP-3 are relatively comfortable and generally well balanced, and we also expect them to break in over time.

Fire up the throttle

As we alluded to above, the HP-3 offer a sound signature bursting with color and character, and for the most part, that’s a good thing. Like Klipsch’s loudspeakers, the cans are inherently zippy and brassy up top, while the lower register is loaded with power and presence that mostly stays shy of going overboard in the vein of other bass bumpers that have made their way into the audiophile segment, like Bowers & Wilkins’ EDM-approved P9 .

The lively sound signature assures there’s never a dull moment with the HP-3, and it’s possible that long listening sessions could result in a bit of ear fatigue over time. That being said, there are some gorgeous things happening within those wooden chambers, best expressed on the far sides of the frequency spectrum. Lightning-fast treble response assures heady detail at vocal and instrumental attacks, which also helps lead to brilliant instrumental separation and wide sonic spacing.

Acoustic instruments like guitar and violin tend to have a little extra jangle to the string resonance than you’ll get from flatter headphones, and moving back and forth between our more affordable Audeze EL-8 planar magnetic cans made the latter sound almost dull in comparison. That’s saying something, as the EL-8 are anything but dull. But the HP-3’s fizzy upper register offers more than just lively flavor — it also digs up serious clarity, definition and intense attention to detail. Perhaps our favorite example came when we auditioned Nickel Creek’s Reasons Why, which is layered in soft-spoken string clicks and swipes at the end. The HP-3 exposed every pick hit, every string tweak, and every fluttering breath in sterling detail, offering impressive spacing and depth here that we’ve seldom heard matched.

Gorgeous things happen within those wooden chambers

On the other side of the spectrum, the HP-3’s bass response is heady, full, and powerful enough to satisfy today’s bass-loving electro-pop addicts, without blowing out the ears of aging studio vets like yours truly. While it’s plenty beefy, rarely does the bass overtake the upper registers, and even bass-heavy tunes like Gucci Mane/The Weeknd’s Curve are delivered with a clean, authoritative push without distortion or masking in the treble. In fact, the cymbals are so unceasingly rigid and clear here, they may well be our favorite part of the track.

That said, versatility is a major factor when assessing high-end cans, and here the HP-3’s flavorful sound loses a few points. With so many frequencies flying around — especially in the upper bass register — the headphones can and do mask other frequencies. The prime example came when we auditioned Ahmad Jamal’s songs Back to the Future and Seven and a Half. In the former track, the mix of crashing cymbals and overriding string bass leaves little room for the cacophony of hand drums that rolls around the middle frequencies, resulting in a wanting for detail and definition there. A similar issue is exposed in Seven and a Half, but this time it’s more prominent, as an overriding frequency in the upper bass seems to take over — there’s simply more resonance here than there should be, resulting in one of the few moments the HP-3 got too heavy down low.

Still, for the most part, the HP-3’s excitable sound in the bass and unflinching definition in the upper register won us over. Those looking for a pair of high-definition headphones that bring the party alongside the detail will no doubt want to give the HP-3 a serious look.

Warranty

Klipsch steps up its standard one-year warranty to two years for the Heritage HP-3. You can find out more about Klipsch’s warranty process at the company’s website by scrolling down to the digital manual.

Our Take

Klipsch’s Heritage HP-3 headphones are an exciting new entry in the growing audiophile segment, offering striking sound, robust build quality, and stylish design rolled into a package that will rekindle those Christmas morning feels for audio nuts.

Is there a better alternative?

The closest competitor in this high-dollar segment would be the aforementioned Bowers & Wilkins P9, which offer heftier bass but similar attention to detail and definition in the upper registers. Both headphones offer a striking alternative to more typical, linear audio devices at their lofty price point, though we prefer the HP-3’s more toned-down bass response.

How long will it last?

Built from high-end components for a robust and solid design, we expect the Klipsch HP-3 to last as long as you’d like them to. The lambskin earpads are removable (and therefore replaceable) and, according to Klipsch, are even designed to “distress” gracefully over time.

Should you buy it?

If you love the bulbous bass and sizzle-y treble of Klipsch’s best loudspeakers — and you’ve got some serious padding in your audio budget — you’ll fall in love with the Klipsch HP-3.

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