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.

9 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

  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??

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