Review: Klipsch Heritage DAC/AMP

Build Quality, Layout, Price, Looks & Accessories

 

Like the HP-3 headphone, the Klipsch designers did an excellent job with the DAC/Amp unit. Encased in formed aluminum with genuine walnut veneer, the Heritage breathes quality. All switches, knobs, and controls are weighted and anodized aluminum for great feel and tactile response. All the analog switches operate through relays for the cleanest signal while maintaining a vintage feel.

I actually expected the unit to be bigger in size as it’s a desktop unit but it actually only weighs 770g and it measures only 2.28” (58mm) in height, 7.87” (200mm) in width and 5.7” (145mm) in depth.

I really love the Heritage design and the unit actually perfectly matches my Auris Headonia amplifier with the wooden top/bottom and the black aluminum in between. The gold/copper colored details, switches and buttons make this a beautiful piece of gear that I’ll happily put on my desk for everyone to see. Great build quality, to the smallest detail.

On the front, you from left to right have: the 4-pin XLR balanced output, the 6.3mm Single Ended output, the sample rate indicator, the line out/headphone switch, the gain boost and finally the power and volume control. Flicking the switches and turning the dials is always smooth and easy. It’s not only a pleasure to look at but it works perfectly as well.

On the back of the unit you from left to right have: the USB-input, a service port, the optical input, the coaxial input, the RCA line input, the RCA line output, the variable/fixed output selector and the power connector. It’s almost a miracle that Klipsch managed to put all these connectors, buttons, outputs and inputs in such a little case.

The Klipsch Heritage is selling for only $499 and it comes with a 2.0m USB Type-B Cable, a universal power supply and US, EU, UK, and AU Plugs. I really expected the unit to be more expensive seeing it’s part of the Heritage series with a headphone that costs over $1K, but Klipsch clearly chose to made the unit available for a large public. And $499 just isn’t a lot of money at all for a beautiful, well working, perfectly built and good sounding unit.

Sound

The Klipsch DAC/AMP unit can be used in three different ways:

  • as an amplifier only using the RCA line input
  • as a DAC only using a digital input and the line-out
  • as a DAC/AMP combo

Amplifier

By bypassing the ESS Sabre DAC inside the Heritage we get to test the amplifier only part of the unit. The source used for this is the original Astell&Kern AK70 using AK Connect to stream from my NAS drives, so take this into mind. As headphone output we’re using the single ended output. The balanced output will be discussed in the headphones section. As a solid state amplifier the Heritage is dead silent and it has a nice black, clean back ground.

I wouldn’t call the amplifier’s sound signature neutral as it is a bit smoother and warmer, but it is only so to a small degree. As we already mentioned in the HP-3 review, the Heritage series is all about musicality and we also find this in the amplifier. It’s musicality over analytic detail retrieval and smoothness over absolute precision. The amplifier part is a pleasure to listen to and it is very easy on the ear with a soft tone from bottom to top. The L/R balance and positioning is good.

It’s not the absolute fasted or most precise amplifier but the sound is clean and romantic. This amplifier reminds me a lot of the Beyerdynamic A20 amplifier, as they share the same full bodied sound with a warmer sound signature and a high musicality factor. (see later)

I honestly expected the bass to have bigger body but bass actually is rather civilized when you combine the Heritage with a series of dynamic and orthodynamic headphone (more on this later). So bass body as well as the impact for me is moderate. Bass isn’t loose but it isn’t the absolute tightest either. Bass speed, depending on the quality of your source, is quite nice though. Basically bass is fairly neutral regarding warmth and impact. With a good quality source, bass can go fairly low but the layering of the lower spectrum will never be the Heritage’s strongest point. That’s also something we concluded last week with the HP-3 review.

The mids are nicely rich and musical and to me the Heritage’s mids are the nicest and richest part of the amplifier. I do find the quality of the source (file) to be very important though. The Heritage is not the amp that covers up bad recordings, but feed it with good quality and the mids will absolutely shine. The treble section is energetic and musical but it isn’t the most extended. It’s soft and easy to like. For me it could be a little edgier and more extended, but it’s not this Heritage under-performs either.

Even more on SOUND can be found on Page Three of the review, click HERE or below

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

26 Comments

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Eduardo

    How does this amp / dac behave with the HD650 in SE mode?
    You missed this comparison, as usual you always compare the product to the 650.
    To use with the PC, is it just to connect the USB output of the amp / DAC on the pc?
    Can you use both outputs at the same time (balanced and Unbalanced )?

    • Reply February 1, 2018

      Lieven

      The King is dead. Long live the King. People want to hear about the HD660s now ????

      Plug it in and install the driver. That’s it.

      I didn’t try both outputs at the same time though. Sorry but the unit has been returned.

      • Reply May 24, 2019

        Adam

        How do you know if you are running the klipsch as an amp, dac or both? I have one and am running it off of deezer hifi from an HP Envy with sennheiser hd800s. Any recommendations any one can give to run it the best? I’m currently running it with a audio quest rca to 3.5 from the headset jack of the HP to the line in on the klipsch

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Eduardo

    in your personal opinion, do you prefer 660 now? What are the distinctive headphones (600/50/60)?
    does it even replace the 650?

    • Reply February 1, 2018

      Lieven

      Dedicated comparative review soon. The HD650 can’t be replaced, it’s iconic. The HD660s is there for those wanting something in between of the 600 and 650 imo

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Eduardo

    Edited*
    in your personal opinion, do you prefer 660 now? does it even replace the 650?
    or are they different headphones (600/50/60)?

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Eduardo

    I bought the HD650 in December.
    AHHHHH! because when you said that the King was dead, you almost killed me !! Because in December before buying one of the two (50/60) I asked you the difference between them, and according to the answer, I preferred the soft and romantic sound of the 650, and from this I bought the 650. I hope I have done the right choice: D

    • Reply February 1, 2018

      Lieven

      Oh you did if you like smooth

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Eduardo

    You recommend the A20 because it is an amp that fits very well with the sennheiser, but it is just an amplifier and this already requires finding a dac that is compatible. It would be better for me to go for an AMP / DAC together. Would this match well with my headphones?

  • Reply February 1, 2018

    Steve

    I have a Parasound Z-dac V1 that I use for headphones now . I only stream from my laptop Deezer in high rez service. Been thinking about a upgrade under a grand,I do like smooth over bright extreme detailed. Any thoughts on comparison . I too like the look of this dac/amp

  • Reply February 2, 2018

    Mike I

    Intresting review as usual, Lieven, thank you.
    However:
    1) in Europe, this DAC/amp is much more expensive (699 Euros),
    2) with old ES9018K2M ESS, the DAC-technology is no longer up to date,
    3) for the eyes, the “kitsch” of Klipsch will not be the taste of everyone.

    • Reply February 3, 2018

      Eduardo

      for this amount in euros, but worth going to the A20 + DF?

      • Reply April 4, 2018

        Mike I

        Have a look at the Pro-Ject Audio Pre Box S2 Digital (345 Euro); the DAC is really fantastic and if you need or want more power for your headphone(s), add an Arcam rHead or a Nuforce HA200 (their price is only about 250 Euro now).

  • Reply February 19, 2018

    Chris Baker

    I’m currently using a Music Streamer II+ dac and a Schit Asgard amp with my HD598’s. I’ve been looking to save some desktop space and upgrade my amplification (headphone upgrade will come later). Do you have any experience with those products and how they compare to this Klipsch Dac/amp combo?

  • Reply March 10, 2018

    Dave Hutchinson

    Did you ever get a chance to hear this compared to the Fostex HP-A4BL? They have very similar features and size and I’ve now heard both being described as very ‘musical’ amp/dacs.
    This one has the advantage of analogue inputs and extra power over the Fostex.
    Also, personally I love the look of it!

    • Reply March 12, 2018

      Lieven

      I have not had the opportunity, sorry.

  • Reply March 23, 2018

    Dan

    trying to decide between this and the marantz hd-dac1. does anyone have a view?

    • Reply March 25, 2018

      Lieven

      I’m sorry but I don”t have that one

  • Reply April 12, 2018

    Aaron

    I just ordered the Heritage set of Amp and HP 3 headphones and was considering having a custom balanced cable made for the setup. Did you have a chance to listen to the pair with a balanced cable in the mix and if so what was your take on the differences and value of the upgrade. I had some United air miles not getting used and this duo seemed as relaxing as any place I may visit on a trip. Thanks for any info on this.

  • Reply May 4, 2018

    Daniel

    Greetings Lieven,

    When you mentioned that the front panel indicators show white for PCM and blue for DSD, did you actually have success with DSD playback?

    I have this amp and cannot get DSD to play via Audirvana+ or Amarra Luxe …

    Thanks for any information!

  • Reply May 7, 2018

    Matt

    Hi there,

    I’d only imagine that you of course did not try this specific setup, but what would your thoughts be on this paired with the Philips Fidelio X2? I’d suspect and hope that the sound would be warm, smooth, and musical? Which would be the sound I am going for…

    Thanks for any info!

  • Reply August 8, 2018

    bunkbail

    I own a pair of HD660S’ and I’ve been looking for the best DAC/amp for it that doesn’t cost a fortune. I’m currently pairing it with a R2R-11, while I like the combination, it doesn’t hurt to seek for a better sound, isn’t it? In your opinion, would the Heritage headamp be an upgrade to the R2R-11/NFB-11? Thanks

  • Reply October 1, 2018

    Carl A

    I’ve never heard my T90 (Jubilee version) sound as good as they do from this amp.

  • Reply October 5, 2018

    DC

    as compared to A20 and LP 109?

  • Reply October 9, 2018

    plouplou

    I posted a comment on the HP3 review.I am very satisfied with this amp associated with HP3. As mentioned in the test, this amp has many connectors. It is connected to a Node 2 in RCA and an oppo 203 in toslink. It allows me to have a volume to listen very loudly with a DAC of better quality than the Q1 ii that I own and with which I used the HP3 until now. It respects the other sound signal V of the helmet and allows me to prolong the pleasure.

    Finally, to finish, except its audio qualities that suit me perfectly, it’s just a beautiful object. Buttons with wood used, with this amp is worth the money.

  • Reply January 18, 2020

    Pedro Miguel Dias Gonçalves

    Hi!
    I want to buy my first set of high end headphones.
    I have a creative soundblaster x7 dac/amp, but i really live Hermitage amo design.
    What should i do? Should i get focal elear and connect them with soundblaster x7 or should i choose klipsch heritage hp-3 + heritage amp?

    Thanks

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