10 October, 2017

Klipsch Heresy, Nagra PL-P

My Ad Hoc Horn System, Iteration I. My regular rig to the rear.

Review: Klipsch Heresy I, Part II Wow!
Review: Nagra PL-P, Part III
Review: Pioneer Subwoofer SW-8, Part II
Review: Elekit 8300, Part II
Letter from NYC (68) 2017 (7)

Klipsch Heresy, Part I
Nagra PL-P, Part I and Part II
Pioneer SW-8, Part I
Elekit 8300 Part I

In NYC, normally I use the master bedroom as my audio den and only have a modest Linn system (Karik/Majik/Kan I) in the living room. However, all of a sudden now I have the apartment to myself for a few days. I like to sit in the living room, and for the last few days sometimes listened to my Linn system, even brought in my humble Audio Technica turntable for vinyl (the old Majik has a very good phonostage). The Linn system sounded very nice but then yesterday I thought, why not an ad hoc horn system? This is a big room after all!

Equipment For this my Klipsch Heresy I's came out of storage (last heard in 2010). I brought the diminutive, but full-function Nagra PL-P out of hibernation (since 2011), and also pressed the Elekit 8300 300B amp into service. Equipment:

CD Player: Linn Karik
Analog: Audio-Technica AT-PL120/Shelter 201
Preamp: Nagra PL-P
Amp: Elekit 8300 300B amp
Loudspeakers: Klipsch Heresy I
Subwoofer: Pioneer SW-8 MkI

As I am to compare the sound in the LR to my main rig, a few words on the gear differences. The main rig has loudspeakers with 15" woofers and so shall always have lower reach and even better bass quality. They are also more efficient (104 db vs 96 db) and driven by a higher powered amp. But, the room is smaller, and that is a distinct disadvantage for horns. Would I love to hear how they sound in the living room!

Heresy I For basic info and details of my previous experience, please read Part I. In looking for the sensitivity of Heresy I (~96 db, significantly less than my regular YL horns), I came across this useful  official literature. The Heresy was designed to be used close to the floor on a small wedge-shaped pedestal so it is tilted towards the listener. From experience I knew it would be light in the bass if placed high and without room reinforcement, so a subwoofer was in order. The II and then the III changed drivers and increased the sensitivities and power handling a little. I can't find the specs for the I, but the current III is spec'ed at 58 Hz, so either floor/wall reinforcement or use of subwoofer is mandatory in my opinion. When Klipsch introduced the III, there were quite a few reviews but in all of them the III were placed on the floor. Only one attempted to raise it a little, and none added a subwoofer.

Pioneer SW-8 MkI Subwoofer
When I wrote Part I, there were no reviews per se on this Andrew Jones design. I tested it only briefly  and was favorably impressed. Since then, it has gone on to MkII iteration, which did receive an interesting review, the author claiming it to rival $1k subwoofers (I believe it). I remember buying it at substantial discount, something like $50 or $75. At that price I should have bought one more (as paired subwoofers are said to improve soundstaging)! At first, as the Nagra has a pair of preamp out's, I used the preamp-in connection, but later I switched to the high level inputs (via amp outputs) as it keeps the preamp signal purer for the amplifier. It is only 1 cubic foot in size, so understandably reaches down only to 38 Hz (if that).

Sonic Impressions

  • WOW! Klipsch Heresy I! Yes, after properly dialing in the subwoofer (which took a while; see below), it was that good! Placed high, I got life-like images that have excellent presence and definition. Duke Ellington's Blues in Orbit was just riveting from start to finish. As the Heresy's were not placed so far apart, soundstage was airy, but deeper than wide, with superb hall sound. The midrange had that alnico purity. This now was an unusual 4-way, with 12" woofers, but an 8" subwoofer. Given the 12" woofer, there was good heft to the sound but adding the sub definitely rolled out the low bass and provided a solid foundation for the full orchestra, mandatory in my opinion for true enjoyment of large orchestral works. The LPs I wrote about in my last article all sounded wonderful: the Klemperer Bruckner 4th probing and grand; the Barbirolli Finlandia fiercely exciting. After playing these familiar LPs for system setup I went on to enjoy many more. I listened to all Rachmaninov Symphony No.1 and No. 2 (LSO/Previn, EMI). Such glorious music that unfortunately don't often get programmed. Bruckner Symphony No. 8 (RCO/Haitink, his second, Philips), grand and what an adagio! etc, you get the idea how immersed I was. Sensitivity While the 300B amp was excellent for the job and never clipped, and while orchestral recordings were beautiful, when I played Led Zeppelin II I had the inkling that even more power would be beneficial. I'd prefer my Wavac 811 amp, but was not about to roll it out. vs My Main Rig Again, a larger room contributes to the feeling of scale and ease, which made the experience in some ways even greater than through my main rig. However, in terms of bass, even the augmented 12" here (the sub only goes down to 38 Hz) cannot quite achieve the awesome deep bass power of the 15" in my main rig.
  • Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer This is a remarkable achievement. For such a low price, it has all the features necessary. Most importantly, it is very musical, with tight, tuneful bass. Adding a sub is basically a trial and error process, and the use of familiar recordings helps. As is my wont, and as the Heresy I doesn't go very low, I crossed over high, at roughly 2 o'clock on the dial (40Hz-150Hz), estimated to be around 110-120 Hz. As for volume, I initially dialled in too little (9 o'clock), but then I played the Led Zeppelin II and came to realize immediately that I needed more - a lot more, ending up at 1 o'clock. This is only an 8" sub after all. During loud and complex passages, sometimes it got just a little unruly, but I never heard the dreaded overhang, not to say mushing out. Pioneer now has a larger SW-10, and would I love to hear it!
  • Nagra PL-P My hifi agenda has a way of rolling itself out, like this current spur of the moment effort. I am so glad to re-discover and re-confirm all the considerable virtues of the Nagra PL-P (see supplied links top of page). It is really amazing that Nagra can pack a truly full-featured preamp in such a small enclosure (even much bigger ones usually don't have a mute button, not to mention a mono button). One ingenious feature is that the dual input level can also be operated in tandem. That is how I usually use it, but in this particular setup I needed a little more on the left side to center the image, so they acted as a balance control. Even more useful were the meters. On one record, I thought the amp was clipping all the time. I went to check and discovered the meters were in the red. I turned down the input level and the overload went away.

Iteration II, The Miracle Continues!

Last night was my last alone, so I had to restore the living room to what it was. More or less. I liked what I have been hearing for the past two days so much that I decided to leave the system in the living room by rearranging the front wall countertop. I moved out the CRT TV, which was not needed. and slotted the Heresy's in, slightly toed in. Out came my Linn system and in went the tubed electronics. Voila!

But, how's the sound, now that the Heresy's are close to the front wall instead of in-room, and much wider apart?

Magnificent! Overall, the sound is a bit smoother, fuller and warmer, and it almost makes the Elekit 300B amp sound sweet. Soundstage is of course wider, but surely not as deep. Images have retained their fleshiness and presence. Most miraculously, the orchestra is fully panned out and there is no center void. Try that wide a distance with lesser loudspeakers! I played the Bruckner and Elgar again. Utter magnificence!

In both iterations, the Heresy sounded stunningly beautiful with classical music. This is in dire contrast to what Art Dudley proclaimed in Stereophile (for Heresy III). Well, none of them have done what I have done, by raising the loudspeakers considerably and mating them with a subwoofer - that is what made ALL the difference in the world, turning a good loudspeaker into a GREAT one.

Although I will not often listen to these (it is the LR after all, and the master bedroom is already mine), I know I shall grab every chance available to listen to this system - it is that good.

On my Equipment list (right sidebar) this will now appear as Reference System IV.


  1. Any chance you'll be getting Elekit's new 300B Single Ended amp for review?


    1. I never "get" anything for review, unless I buy it, and I don't plan to buy this one.

  2. AnonymousJune 10, 2018

    Hi there, whats the better speaker klipsh heresy or the yamaha ns1000, thanks

    1. They are completely different animals. The Heresy needs some reinforcement, like what I did, to sound its best. The Yamaha is complete in itself.

      As is, I'd pick Yamaha.

  3. AnonymousJune 11, 2018

    Oke thanks, nice review !