My Hands Were Shaking- 1978 Klipsch Heresy Loudspeakers

In the June 2018 issue of Stereophile Magazine, writer Ken Micallef reviewed the Klipsch Heresy III loudspeakers, and had some rather interesting things to say about them. He called them “fat little floorstanders” and “party speakers.” Moreover, he stated that these were not audiophile speakers. I really enjoyed his article, as I usually do with his writings, but after I read this, I just sort of reflected for a moment… and then went and fired up my own beloved set of fat lil’ Heresys.

My set of Heresys’ story goes back about 10 years ago when I was at a garage sale one morning (I love garage sales, and should really hit them more often than I do). At this particular one, I wasn’t finding much… lots of pots and pans, pottery, knick knacks- silly yard sale fare. But, I walked further back into the garage area, and I could’ve almost missed them… under a rack of clothes… on the floor… there they were- a pair of 1978 Klipsch Heresys. There was a piece of masking tape with the price of $15 on them. I immediately found the woman running the sale and purchased them. My hands were shaking as I pulled the money from my wallet. I was in such a rush to get these into my car that I nearly tripped on the sidewalk and fell on my face with the first speaker. Careful, Michael!

I got them home, set them up in my guest room with my Pioneer SX-780 (which they have been paired with ever since), and fired them up. The cabinets were just a little rough, but every driver came to life perfectly. I had truly scored!

I have enjoyed them ever since. There really is no other speaker quite like the Heresy. So, to the earlier point- are they or aren’t they an audiophile speaker? Are they just a party speaker? I think this boils down to what kind of an audiophile you really are. The thing about the Heresys, as pointed out in the Stereophile article, is that they are fast speakers. Now, does fast equal accurate? Not necessarily. Every speaker has a flavor, regardless of what anyone will tell you, and these definitely have a flavor. Maybe their flavor is “party flavor” after all, but if that’s the case, this is one hell of a party.

The voice (flavor) of the Heresy is absolutely a very forward one. There is no mistaking the horn-loaded sound. Yet, the acoustic suspension (some have argued infinite baffle) design does make the bass a bit more subtle and tight than other Klipsch products. For that reason, many Heresy owners choose to couple them with a subwoofer. I do. I’ve experimented with several. Currently, I’m using them with a passive sub, and am quite happy. They don’t need much help in the low end, just a little. Their 99dB sensitivity rating means they really make the most out of the 50 watts per channel that the Pioneer sends them. Yes, these really will get loud. Party loud.

Back to the Heresys not being audiophile speakers… how do we define what an audiophile product is? The Heresys will bring out things in recordings you just won’t hear with other speakers. There are details, subtleties, and elements that they bring out in the soundstage that are unique to only them. How is that not an audiophile product? Speaking of soundstage, when properly placed, they have amazing imaging that is very tough to duplicate. Now, for me, I choose to elevate them on stands about 24” and fire them straight at me. Many people choose to keep them on the floor and use angled risers. Your choice.

The simple fact that these speakers have been in production continuously since 1957 speaks volumes about what they are, and their place in our audiophile history. Yes, they’ve been revised a couple times, and that’s a great thing, but I’m quite thrilled with my originals. They never disappoint me, no matter what I listen to on them. As I started writing this, I was listening to Tom Petty’s “Damn the Torpedoes” album and enjoying the speed and immediacy in all the instruments. I’ve now switched over to the self-titled album by Them Crooked Vultures just to immerse myself in the lushness of this album. There are lots of those little details in this record like I mentioned, perfect for the Heresys to bring out front. The dynamics on this album also makes every track an absolute playground for these speakers.

The history of the Klipsch Heresy is rich. It was originally introduced in ’57 as a center channel speaker to go between two Klipschorns in larger rooms. When Paul Klipsch came up with the idea and the design, people told him he couldn’t do it, that it was acoustic heresy. “The hell I can’t,” he said, “and that’s exactly what I’m going to call it.”  The resulting Heresy was a 3-way, acoustic suspension (sealed) design with a horn tweeter, horn midrange, and a 12” accordion surround woofer. The design has remained largely intact ever since, which has been wonderful to see. Current specs list frequency response as 58-20,000hz, and I’m pretty sure my originals are very similar, even though the woofer is what has been revised in the newer design.

No matter what other set of speakers you run, these are always great speakers to have in any room. A rec room, perhaps. Wait, does that make them party speakers?  Did I just agree? To a certain extent, I guess I did. Can we have a new term- party audiophile? I think both worlds can co-exist in wonderful harmony. Happy hunting.

20 thoughts on “My Hands Were Shaking- 1978 Klipsch Heresy Loudspeakers”

  1. Well said. Though I paid much more than the $15 there has never been ANY buyers remorse on my part. I also use sub-woofers with mine and the result is wonderful. Super efficient, clean and strong are the best words to describe the Heresy.

  2. I updated mine with new titanium tweeters and midranges and rebuilt the crossovers. Much improved sound and imaging!

  3. Bought my Klipsch Heresy speakers in 1978 and they have been a delight ever since. Party loud. The best product of any kind I ever bought, considering quality, longevity and price for that matter. What else has lasted me 40 years ?
    Hah!

  4. I bought my Heresy speakers in 78’. I love them and will probably have them buried with me!! No my son will have something to say about that. From Miles to Petty to the Stones and all musical ports in between my babies just keep crankin’ beautiful sound.

  5. I have a pair of Heresy IIIs and it’s annoying to constantly read about these being “party speakers”, “in your face”, “muscle car equivalent”, etc. Right now I’m streaming jazz from Pandora at a fairly low level (55dB) and I hear lots of detail. Sure, they rock plenty loud, but I listen to classical, jazz, and rock at all levels and to me they work well with all of them.

  6. Purchased a pair of Heresy II’s in 1988 while stationed in Germany and then a pair of Chorus II’s a couple years later, and carted them all over the world with me. Both still enjoyed as my primary speakers, both recently refreshed with new crossovers and diaphragms. To my point, these fat little Heresy’s were built damn near as their own packing crate, so finding them a little beat but fully operational is not uncommon. I see them well priced in pawn shops, antique stores and on Craig’s List on occasion and I always get a little excited, but then I calm down, remembering I’m already set. HiFi? hell yeah! Audiophile? who gives a shit?

  7. Hi, I have purchased a pair of Heresey 1 original, in great shape. Original parts. I have found some have changed the crossover and tweeter? I would like to know when one would know if this was necessary and what changes would I expect.

    1. Adrian,
      There are a couple people that make some upgrades for Klipsch speakers, including Bob Crites. People speak very highly of his parts. I’ve talked to Bob, and he’s a very nice fellow. Personally, I’ve yet to try to upgrades myself, but many people have. As far as what you can expect, I guess that depends on the part you’re swapping out. I would recommend a call to Crites if you’re really interested in doing this, and they can go over what each upgrade will do for your Heresy. Keep the original parts, though, in case you ever want to sell the speakers. Someone may want to have the option of returning them to original spec. Hope this helps.

      Michael

    2. Speak with Crites speakers Michael. I replaced the crossovers on my brothers 74’s as they say caps at least degrade after 20 years. I also replaced tweeters and have new woofers on the floor here to change tomorrow. Once the mid is back in stock will do as well. New paint and grill cloth are in and look new!

  8. I was trembling when I placed my order on local Amazon (then called Souq.com) in the UAE (Dubai). Place in the cart, delete, place, delete and so on for nearly a month. . I had no chance to hear them as the brick and mortar store for Klipsch had folded up in the UAE. No chance to return if I didn’t like the sound and was coughing up about $2700 for a pair of limited edition HIII in California Walnut with lamb’s wool grill. Then I boldly placed the order just based on reviews I read.

    They arrived home one Saturday morning and my wifey fell in love with them the moment she saw them out of the boxes. She always despised the black ash Jamo E855 I used to have as they were spoiling the decor. Fired the Hereseys with my 8W tube amp and whoa, even with no break-in they sounded so good. The bass was a bit lacking compared to twin 5.5 inch midbass and ported Jamos but felt the bass like never before. No muddiness of vocals, absolute clarity of highs. Heard many sounds we never heard before. Now nearly 3 years and they sing on. No regrets.

    Maybe I should have gotten the Fortes for another $1350 more??

  9. I was always curious how horn loaded speakers sounded like. Fortunately, my friend had bought a pair of heresy 2 from eBay. He played the heresy for me to listen and I was very impressed. After buying a pair of heresy 1, I just loved the clarity and depth of the vocals and instruments. Henceforth I bought 2 more pairs. One for each of my sons.

    1. Awesome! I myself now have both Heresy 1 and Heresy 2 (KP-201). They’re addicting speakers. Thanks for reading!

      Michael

  10. The Heresy defined audiophile in 1978. Mine date to then, although they were in storage for 20 years, while I lived overseas (until 10 years ago). When I bought them, I was a kid with $$$ (they were costly then) from mowing lawns and delivering newspapers. And I spent it very wisely.

  11. Bought a couple of Heresy 1 speakers in the mid 90’s. They are still rocking today. They sound amazing. Blew out a woofer but Klipsch was happy to sell me a replacement woofer. Other than that, no other repairs ever. Klipsch is the only speaker to buy. You will never be sorry.

  12. I bought my Heresys in 1976. They have gone with me everywhere. Withstood being stored for 6 years and survived my nephew who blew the midrange. I was happy he was using them the way they should be used. I called Klipsch and they sent me a replacement right away. Put them back into service like nothing happened. One of my fondest life memories was listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon then Wish You Were Here albums in the same night and was blown away. Like someone wrote earlier these babies will be buried with me.
    Currently they are in my man cave hooked up to Rotel receiver. They crank like the first day I bought them. Hail Heresy!

  13. Bought my Hersey’s off Craig’s list and after a few years replaced the Crossovers with Crites. They are our main speakers in the family room and run the TV and Stereo with a mid grade newer Onkyo Avr with turntable….love it and now looking to get some sort of integrated amp or at least a phono stage to bring more out. After an initial objection as they were much larger than my RB 35’s (kicked over to my son with a nice Yamaha receiver) the wife loves them too. They truly seem as if they will last a LONG time and sound great too. Hard to justify getting the IV’s. I did hear them at my local audio store (pushed by a McIntosh amp…. way out of my league) that sounded great….to me you can’t go wrong with them!

  14. so, i just picked up a set of 1984 series 1 , i assume, off of FB marketplace. like so many others, i’ve always wanted a pair, but have gone the route of other floorstanding units. i got them from the original owner, who had purchased them from a Px in greece back in the 80’s. i have yet to hook them up because i already have 3 sets of speakers in my room! as far as i’m concerned , they were bargin priced , so i can’t go wrong!

  15. I sold Klipsch in an “Audio Salon” in the early to mid 70s.
    Horn speakers are good with caveats. I like them. I have original era Klipsch LaScalas and Cornwalls, as well as Newer Choruses. Horns can be like sonic Lasers.
    I gave up, years ago, wrestling with that danged beaming directionality. I face my LaSacalas to the side walls. The following can pretty much apply to a pair of Heresies.
    “We found that if you have LaScalas in corners, facing outward, to the sidewalls, about 10-21” away FROM the sidewalls, they perform exactly like Khorns. ( this is with side walls that are reasonably sound-reflective ) More or less distance from the sidewalls, and the bass falls off. We mic-ed and scoped them, and those figures are according to my notes I recently found. As with any other speakers, we monkeyed with the equalizer a tad…just a little…for personal taste of sound balance. Since this set-up eliminates a direct shot from the tweeters to the ears, the most common adjustment was to boost the high end a little…but not always.
    The next preference is to slap them right into those corners, with them facing toward each other.
    Facing inward OR outward, the mid range horns lose that blaring, highly directional and somewhat obnoxious, beamy-ness and the highs do not suffer. Either way, the stereo imaging is still 100% and you lose that “hot spot” in the center of the listening area. Placed as most folks might place them, when you stand up or move left or right a bit, one channel drops off enough to notice. (This would happen with The KHorns, also) We used to refer to LaScalas as “audio laser beams”. They really ARE designed to project “from here… to WAY over there”, as in a theater or stage usage. Dispersion at close range is NOT a big feature of horn speakers.
    I would never listen to them directed toward me in a close, home environment.
    When guests first come in and hear our set-up, they can’t figure out where the heck the speakers are by just listening.”

  16. Seems like lots of people here have 1978 Heresy speakers. I’ve got a pair of H1s from 1967 (all original) and love them. Placement is finicky, sure… But when placed right, and you sitting in the right place, they are great. I use them for music and movies. I’ve stopped using my DCM center channel, as the horn teeter in that isn’t as clear. I’ve got Queen’s somebody to love playing now… Freddy mercury sounds great!

  17. I bought some new Klipsch RP160M speakers a while ago which introduced me to the Klipsch brand and soon the Klipsch Heresy caught my attention as the object of my desire! So one day, I got lucky and was able to purchase a set of original 1972 Heresy speakers, they came from Germany, most likely left behind by some American soldier when he went back home. Both speakers had some plant pot rings on their veneer so I took care of that, but other than that, they were in fine condition, cosmetically and internally. Later, I recapped the crossover but kept the original capacitors – you never know.
    For me this was the start of finding an amplifier that suits these fine speakers. I first tried modern amps like Marantz and Denon, but to my taste, they are not up to the task of driving these speakers, especially in the low frequencies. Three years onwards, I now own two amplifiers up to this task: a vintage (1976) Harman Kardon 430 (solid state) and a ‘barebone’ Leben Hifi CS300 (12 watt, EL84 tubes). Both amps provide a well balanced sound and I don’t require a sub. This setup is for me my ‘reference system’: I use it to play analogue sources (vinyl) and digital (CDs and streaming), Streaming is great for exploring music, but for high resolution listening, I prefer CDs and vinyl.
    If you stumble upon a Heresy original somewhere, don’t hesitate and buy!

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