Review: Klipsch Heritage DAC/AMP

DAC/AMP

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.

DAC

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.

Comparisons

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.

Headphones   

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.

Klipsch HP-3

Klipsch HP-3

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.

Conclusion

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.

Beautiful!

Full features an Specification are on Page Four of this article. HERE

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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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