As DAC/AMP the ESS Sabre Chipset comes in to play and that changes things. Where the sound as an “amp only” partly depends on your source, it here is fully created by the unit itself. The Heritage becomes more energetic, more precise, lively and more dynamic. The ESS Sabre chip in combination with the dual Class-AB TI TPA6120A2 amplifiers works really well. It’s a perfect mix of richness and musicality, with better speed and a higher level of cleanness.
From bass all the way to the treble you get a higher resolution, better extension and better depth/layering. As a DAC/Amp combo the Heritage performs really well. Bass is tighter, faster and reaches down low. Bass has good impact and body. I still wouldn’t say it’s that far from neutral but it’s definitely going to the warmer and smoother side.
The mids are even better than before and I absolutely love these with the new Sennheiser HD660s in example. As a combo the heritage has great dynamics and mids, as well as the bass for that matter, are more layered with better depth. The bass and mids perfectly flow over to each other and bass never overpowers them.
Treble also becomes more energetic, richer, livelier and further extended. Treble perfectly contrasts the dynamic rich mids and the full bodied bass and they give the overall sound extra energy making the sound signature more lively.
As a DAC only we’re only using the ESS Sabre chip inside the Heritage unit. Just flick the switch from Headphone to Line, hook it up to your favorite amp and that’s it. Personally I don’t think a lot of people will be using the combo as a DAC only, but the option is there should you want to do so. I’m a fan of most of the Sabre chips and you can be sure your amp will receive a clear, fast and detailed sound from the Heritage’s Sabre chip and the Line Out.
Price wise this Heritage DAC/Amp is closest to the Chord Electronics Mojo. Yes, Mojo is still more expensive but don’t forget it’s portable. The Mojo and Heritage are very different as the Klipsch is going for musical, smooth and rich, and the Mojo is more about speed, dynamics and detail. Same story more or less goes for the even more expensive Hugo 2, but that one is even more precise, transparent, and wider sounding.
The thing is that if you’re into the typical more neutral and detailed, precise style of sound (like the Chords) you probably weren’t looking at the Klipsch gear in the first place. Those of you who like musicality above all, mixed with great bass and rich mids however, you’ll prefer the Klipsch over the Chord units. They’re just very different and have very different target groups.
The amplification part of the Klipsch Heritage does remind me of the good old Beyerdynamic A20 amplifier. It’s also the warmer and smoother kind of amp with great bass, and like the Heritage, it works great with Sennheiser headphones (see the next chapter). I have recommended to A20 so many reader that were looking for a good HD650 amp, and now I’ll happily add the Klipsch Heritage to this list. If you need a specific comparison to a unit I have in my inventory, I’ll happily compare both in the comments section.
The Focal Utopia, to me anyway, is one of the very best reference headphones out there. You either like or hate its signature, it’s that simple. For the first group of people, the Utopia and Heritage combo (in SE mode) will make the Utopia sound too smooth and maybe even warm. The second group that finds the Utopia too detailed, cold or analytic sounding, will probably love how it performs with the Klipsch Heritage. So it will depend on the type of sound you like to hear, but for me the Heritage somewhat limits the Utopia’s performance by putting a layer of smoothness over it.
Last week when I reviewed the Klipsch HP-3 (Single ended), I already mentioned this Heritage combo works beautifully. You get great bass which is a bit looser because of the HP-3, very rich and dynamic mids and treble that’s just energetic. You get a smooth, very musical and somewhat bass heavy sound, that’s soft at the top but man it’s so nice to just listen to and chill out with.
The original Audeze LCD-2.1 is headphone I have been enjoying and rediscovering lately but the match in Single Ended Mode with the Heritage isn’t the best to my ears. You get a soft, smooth and darker sound and the clarity, speed and energy are just missing. If you know how the LCD-2 can perform then this isn’t really a combo that will bring you that excitement. In balanced mode things improve and you get better clarity and speed. The darker veil is somewhat lifted but this still isn’t the LCD-2.1 I know. Too bad.
Because of this surprising result with the first orthodynamic headphone, I quickly got out the Hifiman HE-1000 V2 but for some reason I get the same result. The magic, clarity, speed and precision just is missing for me. Back to dynamic driver headphones it is! With the awesome Sennheiser HD800 (in SE Mode), you more or less get the same result as with the Utopia: if you hate the HD800 for what is does so very well, this Heritage combo will smooth it down and make it more enjoyable and musical. If you love the HD800 for its typical sound, the Klipsch Heritage will probably not rock your boat. In balanced mode things clear up a lot and the HD800 is back to how it should sound. Fast, very detailed and wide with great separation. Sure the Heritage ads some bass and smoothness but this is a very lovely combination. Viva Balanced Mode!
The new Sennheiser HD660s (SE mode) to me is a headphone that’s right between the smooth, warmer and romantic HD650 and the speedier, snappier and more neutral-fast HD600. It combines best of both worlds and it performs exceptionally well from the Heritage. You get great bass, good detail, speed and all that with a slightly smooth but very musical finish. This combo to me is the best and I’ve enjoyed it four hours and hours without any listening fatigue. My neighbors probably think I’m crazy now as they have seen me head banging, singing, playing air-guitar and dancing all during working hours. But that, my dear readers, is exactly how you know you’ve hit the sweet spot.
The Klipsch Heritage for me works best when used as a DAC/Amp combo. You get great bass, smooth and rich mids and soft yet sparkling treble. It doesn’t stop there, to me the Heritage is one of the prettiest little desktop combos that’s on the market today and Klipsch certainly has an eye for detail. Build quality wise the Heritage is as good as it gets.
For only $499 you get a versatile unit that serves as Amp, DAC or both and it has a good number of in and outputs. The Klipsch Heritage does and has everything a modern audiophile nowadays wishes for. Sound wise this Heritage will especially be up your alley if musicality, smoothness and more elevated bass is to your liking.
I have really enjoyed my time with this stunning unit and to my ears, the Heritage DAC/Amp performs best with dynamically driven headphones. Especially Klipsch’s own reference HP-3 headphone from the Heritage series and the new Sennheiser HD660s sound exceptionally good with it. The Heritage is easy to recommend with dynamic headphones if you’re into a musical, relaxed and rich sound with great bass. And from what I get from my readers, there’s a whole lot of people out there who just want this.
Full features an Specification are on Page Four of this article. HERE