The Waiting Game…
The wait is finally over. And let me assure you, the wait was 100% worth it. For more than a decade I’ve wanted to listen to Klipsch’s Heritage series speakers. The Klipsch Forte III ended my long-standing anticipation. And they were everything I had hoped for and more.
I grew up in a house back in Detroit that is completely outfitted with Klipsch speakers. To make a long story short, Klipsch speakers have always held a special place in my audiophile heart. When I made the move across the pond over ten years ago, to my dismay I quickly found it wasn’t easy to get a hold of Klipsch’s Heritage speakers.
Within a year of settling in Edinburgh I was working for the oldest established hi-fi shop in Scotland, Hi-Fi Corner, as a sales specialist. Though I never gave up on the Klipsch Heritage series and annoyingly talked about them constantly, my listening preferences adapted to what I had available. With my love for everything vintage and retro – retro in the sense that traditional style and aesthetics are combined with modern technology to advance function and performance – I was drawn to Harbeth speakers, especially the Super HL5 model. But my love for Klipsch speakers never faded.
Fast forward ten years…
I’ve left the retail side of the hi-fi industry; my link now is through writing and reviewing kit, and as a hobbyist who loves kit that can portray music like the artists and producers intended. My system is a hodgepodge of new and old kit that despite the odds, recreates music better than it should. I use a Quad VA-One valve amplifier to drive a set of fully refurbished 1980s Quad ESL 63 electrostatic speakers. I utilise the VA-one’s DAC to use with my desktop PC as my digital source. My analogue front end is an early 1970’s Garrard 401 turntable with an SME 3009 Series II Improved tonearm and an Ortofon 2M Black cartridge going into a Quad QC24P phono stage. Connecting this system is Townshend’s DCT interconnects and Isolda speaker cables.
I visit my friends at Hi-Fi Corner most Saturdays. So, when the managing director had a cheeky smile on his face one morning, I knew something was up.
I looked at him and said, ‘What’s up?’
He couldn’t contain himself knowing how I would react and he called out, ‘I’ve just become the exclusive Klipsch Heritage dealer in Scotland.’
I literally jumped from where I’d been listening to a beautiful pair of 1970s Stax headphones via a Naim Atom and bounced around like an idiot around the shop floor. Thinking about it, I look like an idiot when I dance. So, I guess retrospectively I danced for joy upon hearing the news.
He then asked me if I’d like to have a set at home to review. Without thought, I blurted out, ‘Yes.’ He asked me what model I would like to have, and I knew from my constant never-ending research, I wanted to hear the new Forte III.
The Klipsch Forte III…
Klipsch speakers have a long history which can be traced right back to 1945 when Paul Klipsch created his first set of the iconic and legendary Klispchorn. By 1946 he had a small manufacturing shop in Hope, Arkansas where the Heritage series is still manufactured to this day. Paul was active in his company for nearly sixty years when he finally retired in 2000. Eighteen years after his retirement, the company still follows Paul’s four guiding principles in the production and design of their speakers;
High Efficiency: Klipsch utilizes horn-loaded technology in each of its speaker categories, minus headphones and subwoofers, because the horn shape results in accurate and dynamic sound transmission.
Low Distortion: Klipsch horn technology reproduces the softest sounds with remarkable clarity and detail and the loudest sounds with no harshness or distortion.
Controlled Directivity: Klipsch horn technology assists in accurately directing sound, which, in turn, creates a more lifelike soundstage.
Flat Frequency Response: Our stunningly accurate speakers offer no unnatural highs, mids or lows, delivering sound as the artist intended.
These four principles hold true in the Forte III.
With a newly designed K-703-M horn using a newly designed a K-70 44.5mm titanium diaphragm compression driver for the midrange, and the use of the K-79T horn using a K-100 TI 25.4mm titanium diaphragm compression driver for the high frequencies, these speakers have a sensitivity rating of 99dB. To help ensure they maintained an ease of drive without losing taunt and quick low frequency response the 304.8mm fibre-composite woofer, rated down to 38Hz response, has larger voice coils than its predecessors and is matched with a rear firing 381mm passive radiator driver. When positioned correctly in your listening room (more on this later) the steep-filter passive crossover works perfectly with all drivers preforming seamlessly.
The Forte III aren’t an exceptionally large speaker, but by no means are they small; standing 914mm tall, 419mm wide, and 330mm deep. I’ve heard larger speakers sound more compressed and with less dynamic range than Forte produces. They’ll work in medium to large listening rooms. You may struggle if you have a smaller listening room, but saying that, these speakers never lose their musical presence even at lower volumes – making late night listening sessions very enjoyable.
As you can see from the pictures, the Forte III are a traditional looking floorstanding box speaker. Literally, they look like they came right out of the 1970s. I had the pleasure of having the distressed oak finish in my house, though I must admit as beautiful as they were, I still prefer the walnut finish – but whichever finish you choose, you can assure that each speaker has book-matched veneers and will look beautiful. I cannot fault their build quality one bit. They seem sturdy and solid – a speaker that should last their happy owner for many years, if not a lifetime. Within a few days of being in my home, they felt like they had been there for years, and I believe this perception comes from the quality of their finish. Visually speaking; their finish gives them the presence of furniture rather than a speaker.
Care In Setting Up…
The Forte III set up can be a bit time consuming, it took me about two hours to get it just right, but it’s not difficult and the results will be worth every minute spent on it. First, due to Paul Klipsch’s third principle of controlled directivity, the stereo image will greatly depend on your listening preferences. Like most speakers, you can achieve a narrow image or a wide image, depending on how you place them in your room. Personally, I like a wide stereo image, so that is what I did. I spread them a far as I could out in my listening room, where they weren’t fighting with the walls or stuck in the corners. After I like what I heard, I worked on getting the passive radiator driver and woofer in sync.
Start with the speakers close to the walls, you may hear an overwhelming boominess in the bass. This is due to the woofer “fighting” with the passive radiator driver. Put simply the two drivers are not in sync and working against one another. As you move the speakers forward (do this in small increments) the boominess will give way and the upper and lower bass will blend and the two drivers will stop fighting against one another. You’ll know when you found the correct distance in your listening room, as the low frequencies with be fast, taunt, and the speaker will disappear. Every listening room will be different, you may find the speaker works best right close to the wall or out towards the listening area. But no matter, you’ll know when you have it.
Lastly, is the toe-in. Take time with this. If you toe-in too much, having horns, the Forte III will shout at you and sound harsh. If not enough toe-in, then they will sound lifeless. When you got it, the music will engulf you as it washes over you like a fresh breeze with all the delicacies and minute details aplenty and where the human voice sounds life-like.
To get the very best of the high frequency driver, make sure the speakers’ tweeters are at ear level. For me, my couch sits low and the speakers were at perfect height. But for those who have taller sitting areas, a short speaker stand or platform will be needed. Though this is not essential and can be done later, the extra cost, like the time it takes to get them setup properly, will be worth it in the long run.
The set-up is not much different than most speakers but taking the extra time with the Forte III will pay off and the speakers will virtually disappear and all you’ll hear is the music you love as the artist intended for you to hear it.
It’s no secret that Klipsch speakers don’t have a massive following here in the UK. Unlike in other countries, especially their home country, the US, they have die-hard fans. Though they are picking up some momentum here, there continues to be this held perception by audiophiles and hi-fi enthusiasts that Klipsch speakers are bright and brittle in the top end and that they tend to “shout” at the listener. From What I’ve heard in the Klipsch Forte III, these discernments hold no truth at all.
The Klipsch Forte III reveal the characteristics of the source and amplification more than many speakers I’ve listened to. Meaning, if you feed them garbage then they will sound like garbage; or, on the other hand, if you feed them beauty then they will reproduce beauty. If anything, the Forte III have an ever-so-slight warmth to them that invites the listener into a foot tapping and body grooving listening session each time they reproduce music.
It’s understandable why the above stigmas have been attached to Klipsch speakers. Most likely there are two reasons for this perception. First and foremost, if these speakers sound harsh to you, then they have most likely been set up wrong (properly wrong toe-in amount). Second, it could be due to the massive dynamic range the Forte have, as do the rest of the Heritage series. The Forte can play very soft and loud without losing any sense of presence. This can be a challenge for speakers that are less efficient and due to this they can gloss over the dynamic swings the musician and producers intended the listener to experience.
I’m not going to go into the details of each song I listened to through these speakers like how most reviews are written. To put it simply, there isn’t a song, album, playlist, or compilation that I’ve listened to through the Forte III that I have not enjoyed. The Klipsch perform much higher than their price suggests they should. I’ve listened to more music with these in the short time I’ve had them (not owning them for the rest of my life is too short a time) than I have in recent years with any system I’ve had in my home. And the reason for this is just as simple. These speakers are fun!!!
It’s rare that a piece of kit can keep impressing and bring the same amount of enjoyment after the “honeymoon” period is over – over time the sense of enjoyment diminishes. This is not the case with the Forte III. They break the conventional norm of the hi-fi sound. They create life-like listening sessions. All the frequency ranges have timbre accuracy, proper transient response, proper decay. The midrange and tweeter are fantastic and give the listener details that seem lost in most speakers. The human voice is so natural, its like the singer is performing in my room. All music works well with these, from modern electronica to classical and everything in between. They are not a studio monitor, and for that I give them praise. I give credit where credit is due and the Forte III are one of the most enjoyable and fun speakers I’ve ever listened to. If you are bored with your system, these speakers might just bring that excitement back to your listening sessions.
Never once has my wife in the eighteen years of knowing her told me that I should buy hi-fi kit. Never! Until I had the Klipsch Forte III at home. This is what she said to me.
‘It’s funny Joe, it’s like the music sounds as it should, you know what I mean? I just feel like dancing every time you’re playing music. We should buy these.’
My jaw almost hit the floor when she said this the first time. And yes, we do plan on buying them, it will take me time to save, but I am hoping to have a set by the new year.
I write this with utmost sincerity - the Forte III etch their way into your heart. It’s such an enjoyable speaker to have in your home. Album after album, song after song, these speakers not once disappointed. There is such a natural ease with these speakers. What makes the Forte III special is they make you want to play music - everything from your historic favorites to your current-day explorations. Even more impressive, the Forte III makes you want to listen to music. Not just your own music, but your friend’s music, your Dad’s music; damn, even your Grandmother’s music.
Speakers are the last stage of the hi-fi chain before the listener hears music. It seems safe to write; speakers, no matter the cost, exemplify the purpose of all hi-fi kit – to convey the emotional expressions, instrumental and/or vocal, the artists intend to show their listeners. Peeling back all hi-fi expectations, with natural tendencies the Forte III easily bring forth the details that always seem to linger in the background with most systems I’ve heard. The Forte III allow me to step into the surreal realm of live music at home. The musicians, singers, song-poets are all right there. And hearing the nuances in the recordings help trick the mind to transport me into studio, stadium, café, concert hall, etc., wherever the music was recorded. And this is an achievement usually reserved for speakers costing three to five times more than the Klipsch Forte III.
I cannot recommend these speakers enough.
For availability on the Forte III's click HERE
For more information on Klipsch click HERE
- Freq Response: (+/- 3dB) 38Hz – 20kHz
- Sensitivity: 99dB @ 2.83V / 1m
- Power Handling (Cont/Peak): 100 / 400W
- Maximum SPL: 116dB Continuous
- Nominal Impedance: 8 ohms Compatible
- Crossover Freq: (HF/MF) 5.2kHz / 650Hz
- HF: K-100-TI 1” on a K-79T horn
- Midrange: K-70 1.75” on a K-703-M horn
- HF/Mid Diaphragm: Titanium
- LF: K-281 12” Fibre-composite cone
- Passive: KD-15 15” Passive cone radiator
- Enclosure Material: 3/4” MDF
- Inputs: Dual binding, bi-wire/amp
- Dimensions (HWD): 91.4 x 41.9 x 33cm
- Weight: 72lbs (32.7kg)