Klipsch HP3

klipsch

#1

I’m trying to find reviews on this headphone on google but finding it difficult to do so.
Not many talk about them, does anyone here have them, or tried them or can someone direct me to any reviews.
I’ll thank you in advance for any help.


#2

It’s not a “review” as such, but the thread here is probably the most comprehensive set of impressions and thoughts about the Klipsch HP3 around at the moment.

You’ll want to read it all, or start at the end of the thread and work backwards, as there’s a shift in how it’s regarded as things like price/value become more apparent (and change due to different initial pricing intent vs. actual retail pricing).


#3

Tyll wrote a tiny bit about it here but I wish he could have expanded further. He did take measurements to back up his claims though.


#4

Thank you.


#5

Thanks, they seem to be interesting


#6

One of my favorite reviewers, grizzlybeast, wrote a very detailed review of it on his website. As @Torq mentioned, that headphone has sort of had a sordid history around it (read that SBAF thread) and the outcome left a bad taste in the mouth for many people in the community, which I believe has resulted in it getting less exposure than you would expect. I haven’t heard it myself, but many people that own it do really like it.


#7

Thanks, I’ve also bookmarked that site, good reviewer.


#8

Earphiles.org probably has the most complete headphone reviews I’ve found so far and this includes the review for the HP3. If you can’t find the information your looking for there, it hasn’t been written yet. You almost get to much info from this site, but it gives you a good foundation to start your research on your next purchase. Let’s face it, equipment is not getting any cheaper and if your like me, you like to get the most bang for your buck. So I take advantage of all the hard info that I can get my hands on and let my ears, not my eyes make the final decision.
Good luck and I hope this helps.


#9

I got one on loan from a friend:

They’re super fun. They aren’t neutral by any means, but that isn’t Klipsch’s style anyway. They’re pretty V-shaped, imagine a Fidelio X2 leveled up to almost TH900 level. There are some spikes in the low treble and mid treble so they can get sibilant and fatiguing, and the bass is much too elevated for a lot of non-electronic music, but they’re really fun for pop/EDM music. $1,200 is definitely a lot of money for this kind of sound, which I kind of hear as a fancier TH-X00 with less 1k shout and more ~4kHz coloration, but if you have an HD800 or some other reference headphone and want…the opposite of that, I can see the appeal of this.


#10

That’s a fantastic photo!


#12

Necroing this topic since I figure people who’ve decided to keep these on and actually enjoy them (with caveats…) might as well shill them as hard as they can, or otherwise warn people away from getting these, haha.

Also, apologies for the absolute crap ton of photos. Sonic qualities aside, I’m quite smitten by how these look. Believe it or not I’m actually showing some restraint because these are far from the only photos I’ve taken :stuck_out_tongue:

So, by way of disclaimer I’m somewhat more tolerant of elevated treble than others, having come off a Beyerdynamic DT880 [250ohm] and a Grado RS1 (the buttonless, pre-i transitional version), but thankfully not to the point that I can listen to unmodded TH900s for any extended amount of time. The fact that I seem to be growing fonder of bassier headphones nowadays and that I paid significantly less than MSRP for these should also be taken into consideration when reading this evaluation.

Also, while I understand the importance of having a neutral reference at hand I can’t really be bothered to care about whether my transducers measure perfectly flat so long as they do nothing egregiously wrong. I’m something of a low-level listener to boot, with peaks in music at normal listening levels reaching 75~80dB, maybe 85dB max if I’m cranking it up, with average SPL of about 76dBA. This may go a long way towards understanding my sonic preferences.

I wrote initial impressions after a day or so of listening to em here, which may be of interest.

Now, let’s see where things stand now that the honeymoon period’s long over:

After a few months of ownership, I’m comfortable saying that I’m very likely keeping the Klipsches around until I find something that wears a v-shaped signature as well as these, provided it’s within my means to purchase them. While the bass can be absolutely overwhelming at times and mask some nuances on subtler recordings like acoustic guitar, small jazz ensembles, or string quartets, the HP-3s do modern pop exceedingly well, as @Ishcabible mentioned above. Rock, which is the one genre I absolutely need a headphone to do well, is something of a tossup; the recession in the middle frequencies does take some of the edge off electronic guitars, while the spikes in the treble make cymbal crashes painful, though not nearly to the same extent as the TH900, say. Still the overall presentation of the HP-3s can be summarized as being aggressive without sacrificing technical competence, so despite the caveats I can still enjoy listening to Steve Vai, Led Zeppelin, Green Day, and all the others without complaint. By that same token though, listening to Stevie Wonder’s harmonica on Mark Ronson’s Uptown’s First Finale is much less fatiguing than on, say, an Anax-and-SDR-modded HD800 or the TH-X00EB, which is to its benefit.

Bass extension on the HP-3s is great but is more focused on the lower-midbass than sub-bass, as the TH-X00 is. This gives percussion an unapologetically punchy sound and makes the horns in the opening of Danish folk music trio Heilung’s Krigsgaldr sound like they’re being played by long-dead warriors straight from the depths of the Nordic underworld. On some tracks, though, as London Grammar’s Oh Woman, Oh Man or the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Give It Away, the lower registers can sometimes overshadow vocals and make it seem like Kiedis and Hannah Reid are Lilliputians singing with full-sized instruments accompanying. Most female vocalists and older pop vocal recordings like select Beatles and Beach Boys tracks, among others, do come off as being pushed too far back into the mix, as if they’re in line with the instruments instead of in front, but this is something that I acclimated to in a couple days. No mean feat coming off the TH-X00EB’s midrange-forward signature. Less aggressive tracks like Simon and Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair/Canticle medley make for an interesting play on the Klipsches— the harpsichord (at least I think that’s a harpsichord) has a beautiful, shimmering tone to it that tugs at the heartstrings and provides perfect counterpoint to the duo’s iconic, near-ethereal vocals.

The way the lower midrange on these swoops in smoothly from the bass play to male vocalists’ strengths quite well; Sinatra’s In the Wee Small Hours and Only the Lonely are an absolute pleasure to listen to. The slight warmth adds body to instruments as well, though overtones may sound somewhat muted due to the middle-and-upper midrange’s heavy downward slope; this is something I feel contributes to the veiled, strained sound other reviews have alluded to. While certainly bassy as all get-out, I’d say it’s no warmer a headphone than a stock HD650, which is a good thing as that might’ve resulted in it becoming another AudioQuest Nighthawk.

Briefly, I’m not the biggest fan of the Nighthawk.

Kick drums on some recordings somehow contrive to be both boomy and sharp, likely owing to how these cans are voiced. A good example would be at the 1:10 mark of Jinjer’s Pisces, in itself a hell of a song that may be worth checking out solely for how beautifully crisp the instruments sound and an… impressive vocal performance. I’ll not spoil the surprise if you’ve not seen this yet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQNtGoM3FVU. Either way, I’ll concede a great part of why I feel these don’t do exceptionally well with rock may be due to how they render percussion, which may be a dealbreaker for a good many people.

Speaking of sharp, that brings me to my one genuine complaint with the HP-3s— they’ve got an unfortunate amount of treble that, while not nearly as grating on the ears as the Fostex TH900, is a fair bit more fatiguing than my TH-X00EB; apart from an unfortunate blip at ~11kHz I actually find the X00EB quite sedate, relaxed-sounding almost. It frightens me that I’ve grown somewhat acclimated to the treble on these because of the implications that’d have for my hearing, but I still can’t comfortably watch anime on these at moderate volumes without cringing at the sibilant vocals so there may be hope for me yet. I said as much in my initial impressions, but on some tracks it does still feel like (a-hem) these fuckers are trying to shank my ears with mustard-coated, rusty ice picks.

There’s a great sense of air above 10kHz that puts most of the Fostex kids, and many other headphones I’ve had the pleasure of listening to, to shame. Granted, a large part of that is the accented treble, but as far as my twenty-something year-old ears can determine the extension is great all the way into mosquito tone territory. The initial moment after cymbal hits (as in Signe off Eric Clapton Unplugged) can get painful at higher SPLs, but unlike the hot sizzle you’d get on the TH900 it comes across as more of a sharp tic. Depending on how your music is mastered this could either add some pizzazz and sparkle or be extremely obnoxious— I sometimes engage a -6dB high-shelf filter on everything above 6.5kHz for stuff like Emilie Autumn or Foo Fighters (or anime soundtracks, but we don’t talk about those).

Timbre is something I’m still learning to qualify, and all I have down at the moment is that if something sounds as it would in real life, production quality of the recording notwithstanding, then it’s got natural timbre; anything other than that is the transducer colouring the presentation. That said, nothing sounds outright wrong on these save for how the upper registers on vocals might come across as a bit nasally and strained at times relative to something like the much-loved HD650. The fact that the middle frequencies sound like they’re obscured by grey film hasn’t changed from my initial impressions and I can see how this alone might put people off purchasing these (in point of fact, I know of at least one person who did exactly that), so it’s worth keeping in mind that these are emphatically not for people who love lush midrange presentations.

Soundstage width is competent without being particularly inspiring, but the depth I’d say is impressive, comparable even to the venerable HD800. Going off measurements on InnerFidelity and SBAF I’m inclined to think that the trough between 1-5kHz is to thank for that; I’m having trouble tracking down the literature at the moment but it might have been Siegfried Linkwitz who mentioned that dips in the “presence” region of music (i.e. 4-6kHz) gives the illusion of added depth to recordings. Regardless of whether it’s this dip or the fact that the pads are shaped in such a way as to position the drivers at an angle that’s the cause of this (and I’m not entirely sure that the dip in FR isn’t caused by how the drivers are positioned, I know too little about acoustic design to say for certain), the bottom line is that the HP-3s push the soundstage further forward than intended by production. This is fine for most tracks, but when playing recordings where vocalists or recorders are already deep in the mix, it can sound jarringly disengaged or detached.

Positional cues are almost ridiculously good on these, enough so that I’ve spent a great deal of time swapping cables and reversing channels via DSP to make sure that my ears aren’t to blame for vocalists being slightly off-centre. I’d say that it beats the HD800 quite handily here, but that’s hardly a fair comparison considering how wide and diffuse the soundscape on the Sennheisers is. Detail retrieval is also surprising in spite of the bass response masking some upper-midrange nuances. I’ve actually started at a few occasions when I’d hear something completely new in tracks I consider myself fairly familiar with during passive listening sessions. It’s not all good, though. If anything, I’d liken it to an aggressive sharpening filter that tries to shove details in my face instead of allowing it to come naturally, as in the closing seconds of Postmodern Jukebox’s cover of Viva La Vida. The heavy breathing at the start of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal remain uncannily real to me, enough so that I still get nervous shivers listening to it.

The headphones are well-crafted and as durable as you would hope something costing $1200 SRP should be, but there’s a lot of fine detail that shows wear quite easily, as I learned from using these as transportables to and from school (I’ve said it once and I’ll say it as many times as I need to, I’ve got issues with IEMs). It is what it is, but thankfully the rugged steampunk aesthetic carries the wabi-sabi aesthetic well. The connectors are standard 3.5mm mono which should make sourcing aftermarket cables for these pretty easy. The cables are among the prettier stock ones I’ve seen, though, and I’m inclined to keep using these for as long as they last. The heavy weight at the y-split is a bit cumbersome to wear, though I’m far more concerned by the svelte cables running from the earcups than anything else.

The HP-3s come with two cables, both in the same beautiful style. One’s a desktop-and-portable-perfect 1.32m long sans plugs, while the other’s around a more conventional 2m. Both cables terminate in a gold-plated 3.5mm TRS plug, but the headphones come bundled with a (gold-plated) 3.5mm>6.35mm adapter in the same style as the cable. There’s some conflict here, sources online say you have to share the one adapter between both cables but I’ve got two— definitely not complaining, though.

Comfort is a mixed bag. I live in the Philippines where it gets extremely hot and humid at various points in the year, even moreso now that global warming is kicking us in the collective butt, and wearing actual sheepskin pads (not perforated) can take its toll on my ears if I’m without air conditioning. I’ve also heard some discontented murmurings about the Klipsches’ weight, but if it’s any consolation they’re quite comfortable regardless on account of how well-balanced they are on my head. The pads were uncomfortably stiff at first, but a thorough scrubbing with a soft cloth dipped in warm water and a dab of mink oil went a long way towards softening these up to the point that they conformed to the shape of my head without needing literal warm-up time.

To compare against some other cans I’m familiar with, the HD800 and TH900 both have more pronounced trailing decays after initial attacks, and larger soundstages to boot. The treble on both in stock form is less to my liking than on the Klipsches, though, and the Fostex has pronounced cup reverb that muddles the presentation despite it’s having much greater clarity than the HP-3.

The bass of the HP-3 is about as well-textured as on the HD800, though the TH900 pulls ahead of both here and isn’t the least bit subtle about it. The Klipsches are also categorically better than both the HD650 and TH-X00EB on my middling system, though others have asserted that the HD650 does a better job of eking out subtleties than the HP-3 given sufficiently competent upstream gear.

The HD800 pulls ahead for larger orchestral works, being both immersive and having a soundscape that envelops the listener; skewed tonal balance aside the HP-3 is competent at classical, though the soundscape stops short of enveloping me; where the modded HD800s (plural, not HD800S) have a marvellous sense of space that goes to the sides of my head, the HP-3 stops short of that, pushing things towards the front. Heck, if anything the HP-3 almost sounds to me like I’m carrying a personal 2-channel system around in my head at times, though of course it would fall short of a proper hi-fi in a well-treated room in soundstage and detail retrieval. Again, this is based off anecdotal reports, I can’t quite justify a 2ch just yet, haha.

In summary, the HP-3s are a great flavour can, though whether one can use them as a primary set will depend largely on their upstream gear, treble sensitivity, and/or willingness to use EQ. I don’t really listen to these in stock form, strictly speaking— there’s a well-known, quick-n-dirty mod where one places strips of dense foam under the pads to attenuate the bass a bit. It’s subtle but noticeable, and I actually find myself preferring this configuration to stock. That exacerbates the treble issues somewhat, though, making tubes and laid-back DACs an easy recommendation for these—I listen to these out of a Schiit Bifrost Multibit and a Fostex HP-V1 porta-tube hybrid amp with plans to upgrade to a “proper” tube amp some time down the line.

Where many headphones try to convince people that they’re listening to live performances, the Klipsch HP-3 is instead unapologetic about letting you know you’re listening to transducers. Still, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time.


#13

Beautiful pictures and a very comprehensive write up. I can see the amount of work you’ve put in. Thanks I enjoyed reading it.


#14

Thanks for the kind words! I’m usually among the last to get new toys in the audio space owing to geographical (and financial) realities, so I figure I might as well do what I can to post interesting content about things I’m familiar with, haha.


#15

Yes most definately. It was a great write up. You should do more. Your photos are especially good. I don’t have any TOTL Amp’s or Dac’s so have to read up on what they are like. Some members have some fantastic gear and it’s nice to see how the pair with the gear I own or aspire to. I guess I shall have to start saving if I want a new Amp or Dac. Once you qualify for the core team you might be eligible for the Community Review Program. This way you may be able to review some higher end gear.


#16

Ahh, I’m flattered but this is very likely where geographical realities come to poop on the fun, haha. Philippine post isn’t exactly safe; I’ve lost 5 CDs and a pair of headphones these last few months alone, among other things, and shipping with a third-party courier is going to be prohibitively expensive, so even if I do qualify (fingers crossed!) I’ll have to opt out of all but loaners I’m dead set on demoing, and even then I’ll ask to be on the tail end because things here move slowly XD


#17

I live in the UK so I shan’t be participating either but it will be fun to read how the different members get on with the gear. We will enjoy what we’ve got. I am lucky to own some nice gear but I would always want to try everything. That’s just in my nature. But still I must count my blessings I am as lucky as I am to own what I have.