A high end headphone deserves a high end DAP, so we’ll just be looking at the following three DAPs.
The warmer and full bodied Sony NW-WMZ1 makes the HP-3 very rich from top to bottom. I really like how this combination does vocals as well as they’re very natural. The treble here is soft and there’s no sibilance to be found at all. Bass body is reasonably in control – of course it’s bigger than neutral – but I actually expected this combo to produce more bass. The mids are rich and natural and it’s just a very nice and easy to listen to combination. If you don’t have the Heritage DAC/Amp, then this setup is your ideal relaxation combo. Your volume dial will go up quite a bit though.
From the Astell&Kern SP1000 you get a snappier, faster sound that’s more energetic. You get a more dynamic upper mid and treble part, but the voices don’t sound as sexy as with the Sony. Bass is a lot more in control here and it’s lighter in body. This goes for the mid body as well (even more so) and that brings us back to the more v-shaped sound we’ve talked about so much now. I expected the treble harshness as well here but with the same songs I couldn’t reproduce it. (which of course is good). Like with the WM1Z, the volume went up quite a bit.
The Luxury & Precision L6 is all about delivering the best possible sound and those of you that have read my last reviews now know I described its sound as a mix of the two above DAPs. The result again is a very rich sound, with one of the best layering so far. The L6 has great L/R balance and it makes the HP-3’s bass really punchy and in control. The V-shaped signature is very obvious but the treble just is so well done. The result is a tight, musical, very rich sound with the snappiness of the SP1000 and the smoothness of the Sony. The perfect DAP for the HP-3? Possibly so.
After listening to all these different amps and sources and the effect they had on the HP-3’s sound, I really was curious to hook it up directly to my Samsung S6. After all, Klipsch did state the HP-3 can be driven by anything. Personally I don’t think that the majority of people buying a $1K full sized headphone will use it straight out of their phone, but there’s always the possibility. I was actually pleasantly surprised with how the HP-3 performed. Yes I almost had to turn the volume up all the way but the result was quite nice. Bass: big but loose, voices: smooth and natural, mids: rich and spacious, treble soft and musical with no harshness. For me it’s good to know it can be done with a more than just satisfactory result, but I’ll take the HP-3 with an amp anytime.
The only other dynamic headphones in my collection I want to compare the HP-3 to are the Focal Utopia, the Sennheiser HD800 and the Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO.
The Senn and the Utopia have a far more audiophile tuning than the HP-3 has. They are cleaner, wider, deeper, faster more precise and more in control. They both extend better and have a linear approach compared to the v-shape of the HP-3. The Klipsch couldn’t be any more different and if one of these two headphones has the ideal sound for you, you really won’t like the HP-3’s tuning. At the same time I can say that the HP-3 is very complementary to these two headphones as it’s very musical, smooth and it has a warm sound. Something that can’t be said of the Senn and the Focal.
The Beyerdynamic DT1990PRO has much lighter bass body wise but it’s more qualitative with more detail and better layering. The Beyer for sure also has a more v-shaped sound but where the HP-3 is a fun, smooth and warm headphone, the DT1990PRO was developed for studio use. It’s more precise, faster and thinner with a neutral approach to sound. Again a very different headphone.
The Klipsch HP-3 is a unique headphone. You usually don’t come across a flagship with this specific tuning. The HP-3 has more than average bass, a v-shaped signature and energetic treble, and I’m putting that mildly. The musical enjoyment level is very high and that combined with the richness it produces make the HP-3 a pure joy to listen to.
The HP-3 is liquidly smooth and warm, and it’s made to enjoy your music and not analyze it. Bass is really big for a TOTL model and that’s something I didn’t expect even though Klipsch is kind of known for it.
I really enjoyed my non critical listening with the HP-3. On top of that it’s gorgeous, perfectly build and it comes in a great box. If you have the cash, want a high end phone and you prefer musicality and bass over neutrality and precision, than the Klipsch HP-3 probably is the right headphone for you.
Beautiful, just beautiful. Thank you again BELHiFi for the sample!