Disappointed w/ Klipsch Heresy III. Now what?

I'd be very grateful for some help with a quandary.

I recently replaced my Ohm Walsh 1000 speakers with Heresy III speakers, running two-channel from a Rega Brio. I was pretty excited about the Heresy IIIs based on reviews — they were efficient, so my 35-watt amp would get the job done; they were supposed to have real punch in the low mid-range, so I could hear the upright bass clearly; they reportedly had excellent imaging; and best of all, they were supposed to sound great at low volumes. They are also indisputably beautiful, which was an important factor for my wife. (The Ohms are elegant, but you have to be an audio lover to see their beauty.)

I set them up, and . . . not so bad, pretty good. Especially loud. In fact the louder the better. Crank them up and they sing. But loud is not really an option with a new baby. So how do they sound quiet? They sound like the band is trapped in shoe box. Really in two shoe boxes because the L and R don't merge that well. The sound stage is tiny. All the detail is gone, the joy is gone. They are no fun at all. Music just seems like a bunch of noise.

But I want to believe! I want to make these speakers work. So I am faced with a quandary. I could:

1. Buy stands, a subwoofer and a tube amp, all of which people in various forums have recommended to improve the various failings I hear now.

2. Replace the Rega with something much more powerful and pull the Ohms out of the closet. (Suboptimal because it will make my wife sad because of the aforementioned perceived ugliness.)

3. Just start all over again. Different amp, different speakers.

I'd kind of prefer number 1. But I don't want to end up with a bunch of stuff designed to solve a problem and then not have that problem solved! (And I'd also just as soon avoid getting a subwoofer.)

Final note. Positioning is an intractable nightmare. It is the one thing that I can't really change, because of how our living room is layed out. It is obviously a big problem though. The living room is a big rectangle, 18 x 40 feet, and the speakers are near the corners of the 18-foot ends, on either side of a couch. I can move them around — closer or further from the couch, closer or further from the wall. But I can't raise them above the height of the couch or move them out in front or over to another wall. That discussion went nowhere!

What should I do?


@brooklynluke ...

First - are they properly broken in? - that could take upwards of 200 hours - or more.

Second - what cables are you using?

FYI: An acquaintance has speakers with a mid-range horn and he was using Mogami speaker cables
- he upgraded to KLE Innovations gZero2 speaker cables and is now extremely happy.
- he didn't realize how much was missing until he upgraded

Cheers - Steve
Based on your current circumstances and listening environment, if you want a speaker based system for background music, allow more break-in time for your speakers and hope things improve at lower volumes.

For audiophile/serious listening, research then buy a nice headphone amp and set of cans.  No concerns with environment and the baby can sleep like, well...a _ _ _ _.
Thanks for tips! Alas, the cables are in the walls — again for WAF — run with standard Monoprice 2747 12 gauge. I don't think I can change them. No argument about headphones! But the ideal scenario is that we are all hanging out together, listening to music, talking about things, watching the baby etc. A shared experience!
Oh, and as for break-in, I'm at maybe 100 hours? That seems like it should be enough to get a sense of where things are headed no?
Don’t waste anymore money until you replace those speakers. Horn type high efficient speakers are not for everyone including me! There are many other types to choose from!

"Oh, and as for break-in, I'm at maybe 100 hours? That seems like it should be enough to get a sense of where things are headed no?"

No. The Heritage Series of Klipsch needs a lot of time to break in. I'm thinking 200 hours is not nearly enough, and you should leave them playing as much as possible, even when you're not at home.

Are you using the risers with them? If not, then you should. Also, position them slightly in front of the couch, or at least even with it.

Yogiboy, good point about horn speakers. All of the descriptions of how they sound *seem* like a sound I would like! And when they are loud, I like them quite a lot! It's just hard to know.

tls49, good tips! On risers: I was thinking about getting some stands made that raise them up about 8 inches. (Any higher and we run into the aforementioned WAF challenge.) That would decouple them from the floor, which would lead to less bass but — so I understand — would also clear up the congested mid range and help with imaging. I was thinking of trying the experiment by raising them up with 8 inch stacks of coffee table books, though that may not be a comparable situation to a stand.

I will bring them closer to the front of the couch as soon as I get home! And it sounds like no matter what I should spend a little time with them just to see how things go. What do you think about getting a subwoofer or tube amp? Assuming each was properly matched and of high quality, which would do the most to improve things?
That was a big change in regards to speaker design and sound!

You should expect to have to tweak further whenever a major change is made.

I would probably want to use a tube amp with Klipsch Heritage speakers including Heresy.

Whereas with the original OHMs the key would be throw power and current at them for best results. Class D amps are a natural for those.

Klipsch and OHM are about as different as can be. No other single gear is likely to sound optimal with both.

You need to decide where to start and then be prepared to optimize around that accordingly. You can start with the right speakers (gotta make the wife happy), which is a very practical approach, or the amp, if you gravitate towards particular kinds for example tube or SET amps. End results will be radically different in each case for best results.

It may take some time to get everything just right. Buy and sell used if you can so as not to be able to experiment and take a few chances with minimal financial hit. Do not assume more cost = better results. BEst results are obtained by choosing good gear that works well together and sounds right in your room to you.

First step with the Heresy's would definitely be a tube amp, maybe a SET.   Then go from there.    Or try a good quality Class D amp, 100w/ch or more with the OHMs.   Or set up both concurrently and compare and then sell off the losing gear.

You don't need stands to decouple from the floor. Just put a cone shaped spike under each corner of the riser.

Also, the book idea will not decouple from the floor.

Traditionally, speakers like the Heresy did best with tubes. Its easy to imagine it being a bit harsh with a transistor amplifier. You don't need a powerful amplifier so you have lots of options. I would recommend something with at least 15 watts per channel. Our smallest amp drives that speaker with ease.

As I recall that speaker is fairly deep. So I would back them up so that the back of the speaker is only a few inches from the wall. That will help with the bass and due to the depth of the speaker, will not mess with the imaging.

I would also check the phase; simply reverse the red for black on one speaker only and listen to the result. If the speakers are out of phase with each other I can see the system acting very much like you describe!

Keep your speaker cables short. High end speakers do not deserve to have the cables in the wall! This will help regardless of the speaker.
What you should do is accept the fact that you cannot buy a speaker based on reviews or sometimes even an in-store demo, unless you are prepared to accept the possibility that the speakers just don't work well in your room.  In the typical domestic environment, IMO, without a home demo, it is a total crapshoot.  I've had small speakers in my room that sounded twice the size of large ones because of the way they interact with the room.  Anyway - I totally agree you should wait for the speakers to break in before changing anything.  Also, as said above, move them closer to the wall, which could make a big difference.  Best of luck. 

Atmasphere, please correct me if I am wrong. There is a couch in between the speakers. If he pushes the speakers closer to the wall, that means more of the couch is in front of the speaker. Will that not mess with the imaging? I was suggesting to position the speaker just slightly in front of the couch.

Just to experiment, try temporarily moving them one third, or as close as possible to it, then adjust your seating for best sound. This may sound heretical (no pun intended), but it may show what's possible with your Heresy III's, or at least what you're missing. This works for me in my similar sized living/listening room.

Class D can sound spectacular with horn speakers, and can be done on a small budget. In my system, I switch between an SET 300B, and Class D Audio, which is kit-built, and sounds much better than it has any right to, considering its modest price.

At any rate, I don't believe you are getting anywhere near what the Heresy's are capable of, whether it be break-in, room placement, or whatever else it may be.

Best of luck, hope you can get them to work out to your satisfaction. Regards,

Most of what I am going to say you have already heard.  Don't buy speakers without auditioning them, preferably in your system.   I've done that twice, and been disappointed both times.   Reviews are almost irrelevant, unless the review is done by someone you trust based on prior experience.   Now, as to the Heresys.  I haven't heard them.   The closest I come is my first audition of a CD player back in about 82 or 83.  The monitors were Cornwalls.  I had never, ever, heard such poor mid to low frequency reproduction.  I walked away from the demo, concluding that digital was the culprit.  Later, I was told by a friend who had recently been an employee of the salon, that, "yes, that is how the Cornwalls sound."  The point is that you like the Klipsch sound or you don't.  It is not for me, and perhaps it is not for you.  There are many other options out there for high efficiency tube friendly speakers.    But audition what you buy.  Speakers that excel at low volume are out there, and if that is a requirement, start your search with those and be prepared to build your system around them.   

Speakers that don't sound good at low volume are not speakers. Good speakers sound good at any reasonable volume given the proper amplification, source, cables and decent wall current.
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Atmasphere, this very helpful! "Harsh" is definitely the right word. On placement, my options are limited. The couch is flat against the back wall, so it creates basically two cubbyholes, one on each side. The couch is about 9 feet wide and 2.5 feet deep centered on an 18 foot wall. That means the cubbyholes are 2.5 feet deep and 4.5 feet wide (and, for the record, 30 inches high). Right now the speakers are positioned about a foot away from the couch on each side — that is, ten feet apart — and back about six inches from the front of the couch, and toed in significantly, so I can see down the horns from my listening chair, which is maybe 8 feet from the front of the couch. I've moved them around with some improvements, but nothing major. Would an even wider spread help?

Also, I am thinking about having some stands made by Deer Creek Audio that would raise the speakers by eight inches. (So their height is equal to the height of the couch.) Any higher and I run into WAF. Worth the bother?

Islandman, when you say "moving them one third" which direction do you have in mind. I will try it! Also, on amps, one reason I got the Heresys is that I love the way old systems sound. There is a kind of jukebox heft and authority to them. The music, especially the bass, is thick, tactile but there is also a clear sense of fine detail and depth. Is class D worth considering from that perspective?

Brownsfan, you may well be right. I had thought (from the descriptions) that horns were just the ticket, but I don't have any special allegiance to them other than that I now I own a beautiful pair of horn speakers! Experimenting sure is a lot of hassle though. Sigh.

Also, and I know this is a whole different kettle of fish, but: What would be the right tube amp? This is for dedicated two-channel — though I am also open to a subwoofer — listening to jazz, classic rock, acoustic music, country, indie, etc. but mostly jazz. I personally would like to get a vintage integrated, so I could have tone controls, plus I just love them from when I was a kid. But I'd be just as happy to get a Chinese tube amp if it sounds great. Trying to keep it under $2,000 and cheaper is even better.

Oh, and . . . what about that subwoofer?

I am grateful for suggestions from all!

. . . and Dweller, I wish I had known about the Forte IIIs when I got the Heresys! But trading — selling, shipping, etc. — is a big project that I definitely want to avoid if I can.

I am definitely interested in getting McIntosh. What model would you recommend? The Quicksilver Horn Monos look very interesting.

"Right now the speakers are positioned about a foot away from the couch on each side — that is, ten feet apart — and back about six inches from the front of the couch, and toed in significantly, so I can see down the horns from my listening chair, which is maybe 8 feet from the front of the couch."

Brooklynluke have you tried positioning the speakers slightly in front of the couch? Considering the dispersion pattern of the speaker in the above position, sound must be hitting the front edge of the couch. Sound from the tweeter may not be affected, but no doubt, sound from the woofer is affected.

tls49, you put your finger exactly on my nightmare. The situation is just as you describe, but moving the speakers in front of the couch is not an option, for aforementioned WAF reasons. One advantage of the Ohms was that the tweeters were up high. But of course that height is exactly what got them banished to the closet! The tall grass gets cut first.  
One-third out into the room, or from the front wall as it's referred to, is where my speakers have been situated for the last 7-8 years, since I put them together (they being custom-built Tannoy HPD's,12" Dual Concentric). Class D, for me, has worked out incredibly well. I use them for about 98% of my listening. They are two amp modules run in bridged mono, for 500 Wpc. Many think I'm nuts using that much power, when they can be powered quite nicely by 9 Wpc SET power.

If you heard them with that much power, you would understand why. Last weekend, I had my first audio-oriented visitor in years, a person that is well-respected here, and has an exceptional system of his own, was very favorably impressed by what he heard. When I told him the cost of the amp (around $450), he just shook his head in wonder. It's an option that is affordable, and although there are many naysayers, until you try it yourself, you won't know what you may be potentially missing.

Dan, good idea about trying them without regard to WAF, just to see if they can ever be made to work. Will do. As for class D, I love the idea of it —especially the complicity and low cost — but what about that ineffable sense of aliveness? Do they have it? Also, which ones do you like? And do you use preamp? What kind? Thanks again!
Luke are the speakers at least level with the front of the couch? Meaning not recessed at all. Also I would very much concur with others these speakers really want tubes is there any chance to borrow a tube amp to try out? Did you buy the Heresy's from a dealer? You live in Brooklyn, at least I assume you do, so lots of good dealers relative to other parts of the country.
Bad choice for your application. Horns all have a narrow dispersion pattern compared to other designs and especially Ohm designs. This means there is a sweet spot that is tightly defined. 

Think of your room and your family. You want pleasant sound at low volumes from a multitude of positions. Similarly you want even lighting in the room. The Klipsch horns behave like a spotlight. They do not evenly light up the room and this is very noticeable at low levels. Jack up the light intensity and the room will start to have more even lighting from reflections of the spotlight on the far wall. This is why it sounds better when you jack up the volume. 

You need wide dispersion speakers which are like a regular light bulb - they evenly light up the room!!! Sorry but there is nothing you can do. A spotlight behaves very differently from a regular bulb and there is nothing you can do to get enough even light in the room except to jack up the volume.
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Sorry about your less than happy experience with your HIII's.  I have never owned or even heard HIII's but do own HI's and HII's and have been more than pleased with their performance.  I have tried many different receivers, integrated amps, pre-amp/amps with both pairs and have been totally amazed how amplifier friendly they are in my rooms.  From 200w/ch Acurus amps to an NAD AVR to a Luxman R-117 to a Cambridge Audio 640A V2 integrated.  All combos had their strengths and weaknesses but all were very listenable and all volume levels with spot on imaging and fast punchy midbass/upper bass.

My suggestion is to experiment with placement, toe-in, and amplification.

Luke, My amps are from Class D Audio, I have five channels worth, a three channel I made for center and surrounds, and the two channel for my front speakers. I use two preamps, a Primare SP-31 preamp-processor that I love the sound of, and a Transcendent Sounds Grounded Grid preamp, which is also a kit build, with a few upgrades in caps, wire, remote volume control, and NOS 12AU7 Amperex tubes. This little pre is another exceptional value, it is on a par, or better than, many other very good preamps I have had.

Have fun, and hope you get where you want/need to be.

I would probably want to use a tube amp with Klipsch Heritage speakers including Heresy.

Whereas with the original OHMs the key would be throw power and current at them for best results. Class D amps are a natural for those.

I purchased a pair of Cornwall IIIs a few years ago. I used a PrimaLuna One Integrated with them and thought the two worked well together.

I had them in a dedicated room so I could play them loud enough to sound good.  My room was a lot smaller than yours; I had them placed in the corners toed into my listening chair.      I tried a Bel Canto class D with them and the bass was a ton better but I found the sound too dry and sterile.  The PrimLuna integrated was very nice for the $$ and dead quiet.

I only purchased the CWIII because I had a pair of Forte IIs and was hoping they would be a big step up in sound.   Based on the cost, I much preferred the Fortes and the CWIIIs were just too big for my room anyway.   The Forte III might be a much better choice for you assuming you do like the Klipsch Heritage sound (e.g. stands not needed, better bass, great looks, ...).

Good Luck...
I danced with Heresy for a bit and did the following to bring out the best in them. However, I should qualify that these mods were with the 1.5's. But, you should consider some if not most of them.

1) tube amp
2) place the speakers on stands that brings the tweeters up to ear level
3) place some mic foam wind screen in the throats of the mid horn
4) upgrade the crossover Crites
5) upgrade internal wires
6) upgrade binding post
7) damp internal cabinet
8) add sub woofer
9) aim them straight forward not at the listening position. Or only slightly toed in.

this changes the stock speaker to a bit different design but, IMO, greatly improves a speaker that has many short comings to one that is enjoyable.
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Has been a great match with Kilpsch for years.
Klipsch has sent many customers in for the Quicksilvers
Audio Connection continues offering them for over 27 years

@brooklynluke, your speakers are 10 feet apart, you are 8 feet away, you need more toe-in, they need to be pointed right at you based on the Klipsch I have owned. Honestly, you might have problems with other speakers as well. The Heresy iii are not the best behaved of the heritage line for sure but your problem seems to be your set-up not being ideal particularly for horns.  My suggestion would be to try something else.
Modern horn loaded drivers have "phase plugs" that mostly obviate the "narrow dispersion window" issues of older horn designs, so don't let that worry you…if anything you might have a bit less room reflection from horns.
Put that 9 foot couch at the other end of your room! Keep the space between the speakers as clear as possible! A wide, medium-height equipment rack against the wall would be acceptable. You can put your components on it and run shorter lengths of cable to the Klipschs. Get rid of that in-the-wall wire! Buy some good speaker cable (like AntiCables). Ditto for your component IC's. Forget about tube amps (too fussy and expensive for long term use)! Try the Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated (100 watts Class D with phono stage). Excellent clear sound (well-reviewed by Stereophile) and quite affordable! With the couch out of the way you can now get some proper stands and raise the K's up about 12 inches. I prefer my pair this way so I can sit farther back. This is YOUR audio system - DON'T let wife dictate how it's setup! Be a MAN!
IMHO, if you new speakers did not put a smile on your face the moment you first heard them, i say move on an try something new, i doubt any amount of brake in, cables, or placement, will transform your experience. I recommend that you listen to the new patented Tekton line of speakers. I respectfully suggest to forget the WAF and enjoy your hobby.
As others have stated break-in is extreamly important!
Don't make any decissions until you have at least 500 hours on the Heresy III.
Here is an idea that has worked for me in the past. You said that moving the speakers out is not an option due to the WAF. Now, when nobody is looking move them about an inch, see if she notices it. About a week later, move them another inch, see what happens. Continue to move them  incrementally and see if that helps your problem.
I agree with those above who recommended you get rid of them rather than changing your whole system around in hopes of getting them to work. Big mistake. If you insist on keeping them, I think your best hope is an equalizer or an integrated amp with tone controls so you can contour the sound more to your liking. But this is how we learn. I had an expensive CD player and wasn’t crazy about the sound, but I spent a lot of money on an expensive platform for it. Tried to convince myself it was better, but it really wasn’t. 
Atmasphere, please correct me if I am wrong. There is a couch in between the speakers. If he pushes the speakers closer to the wall, that means more of the couch is in front of the speaker. Will that not mess with the imaging?
You'd have to try it but there's a good chance it won't hurt at all and may even help.

That is assuming that the couch is soft. If so, it can reduce diffraction issues between the speakers, and since the high frequency drivers are horns, this should work out quite well.

IOW its worth a shot to simply push the speakers back.
I would try an inexpensive EQ. If you like the results get a better one. I had Chorus IIs for a while and they were really dynamic and a whole lotta fun. They definitely needed EQ! I used the Parametric EQ in Amarra. Maybe try a MiniDSP. 

I speak from experience when I say if you do not like the sound of your speakers, no amount of break in, changing cables or components are going to help.  8 years ago, I bought a very highly regarded pair of expensive speakers.  They sounded God awful from the get go.  I replaced everything in the system from amp to front end components, cables, power conditioning, etc.  At the end of the day, I had a much more expensive system that still sucked!

I was too adamant to believe that the highly reviewed speakers that everyone raved about could be the culprit.  Finally I saw the light and dumped the speakers for a big loss and went back to my older speakers.  Never, ever again.

Atmasphere, the couch is soft. So far closer to me seems better than close to the walls, but I am finding that listening for prolonged periods changes my sense of these things! The differences are subtle, but in all positions the sound is fatiguing.

Mofojo, I have Roon — which I love — so I tried my hand at EQ. I can remove some of the congestion with a notch, but the overall lack of cohesion remains.

Chayro and Jmontoya21, I know, I know! But selling these and buying new ones is a pretty big project, and I still have the question of the amp. Also, and I know this is lame, but these speakers look terrific. That is a big help in maintaining my fledgling audio hobby! Tektons just aren't in the cards alas. Maybe Harbeths!

stereo5, what speakers are you talking about?

Brooklynluke, what are you using for a source, turntable, CD, streaming to a dac?

tls49, I'm using a Dragonfly red connected to a Macbook on Ethernet with a Roon server. The mini phone connection is obviously a major weak point, but my HRT Streamer with RCA connections sounds even worse. (The Dragonfly is a great little DAC.) But you raise a good point. The sound is so boxy that it is possible that I am just doing something wrong. The phase is right. (I switched and it sounded much worse, so switched back.) Maybe there is some kind of power load problem, like the Rega Brio is confused by speakers that are that efficient? (It's usually somewhere between 8 o'clock and 9 o'clock on the volume knob.)
I'm still thinking that speaker break in is definitely a problem. I worked in the audio/video industry for over 25 years and have experienced speaker break in with many brands, Klipsch being one of them. Most will say 200 hours for break in and that will hold true for many speakers, however some will take much longer, 400-600 hours, and as I previously said, the Klipsch Heritage Series falls into this category. Before break in, a speaker will sound tight and congested. Try to be patient, and play the system as much as possible, even when you're away from home.

2nd the Harbeths . Completely satisfied 1 yr now with Compact 7ES-3s . Still love the traditional look. I had Fortes in the late 80s- good looking but harsh sound with state of CD/digital back then.
You never did mention that I saw what kind of music you listen to? Some people say a good speaker should play equally well everything but frankly I find that to be pipe dream. you wouldn't buy Sonus Faber to listen to metal for instance. 
Nor do you buy Klipsch to listen to opera, I guess. Speakers don't play equally well everything, what "some people say" is puzzling.
Don't know guys... I haven't found any genre of music that don't sound good on my current system and my tastes are quite eclectic.  Your system either reproduces the signal you feed it or it doesn't.

Would I like the sound of rap?  No because I find no musical value in it.  But...well recorded Rap might "sound" just fine.