Klipsch is no stranger to the world of audio with their diverse selection of speakers and in-ear headphones crafted by decades-long honed engineering and one clear mission statement, “No BS sound”. With the release of their latest reference headphone series Klipsch has finally brought their honed craft to a new series of over-ear headphones.
This isn’t Klipsch’s first foray into the realm of over-ear headphones, but most older models have been discontinued, aside from the R6, and swept to the side by the company. This latest series seems to be one very true to the Klipsch name in sound quality and design. Most likely this will be the series that Klipsch will stick with long into the future.
Klipsch Reference Over-Ear Review
The Klipsch Reference has a very simple and streamlined build to it. The headphone is very comfortable and pretty lightweight. The headband is made of a very soft foam and black leather wrap. It is also collapsible and easily stored in the hard shell case that come with the headphones. The earcups are deep and not too wide so medium and smaller ears fit well, while larger ears might have to bend around the inside of the cups. The earpads are a removable soft leather memory foam which should stand up pretty well over time. The headphone features a removable 2.5mm cable with microphone and iOS controls capitalizing on the portability aspect. And no surprise the headphones come in black and white.
The Klipsch Reference Over-Ear has it’s sonic identity called out from the beginning. Klipsch has been working on making this a reference sound quality headphone. It’s a difficult build to make closed-back reference headphones made run off your phone. In this price range different models have had differing amounts of success at honing down a neutral frequency response.
The Klipsch Reference errs on the side of caution with their representation of bass content. While Klipsch has never been a bass heavy brand the Reference Over-Ear has deep extension but the headphone keeps it’s power under strict control. This gives tracks a tighter more detailed approach to their response. The headphone is fully capable of recreating low sub-bass content, but with the bass controlled in the way it is it can be overlooked when listening. The headphone comes off a little anemic, i.e. cold, the bass lives behind the mix and loses a little bit of presence because of this.
With no bleed from the low end transitions smoothly into the mid range. The mid range comes off full and forward because of the lack of low end energy. The lower mid range has a good amount of presence with a revealing nature to it. This trend continues into the upper mid-range. Vocal content comes through unabridged and in full detail, without coloration altering the quality. The upper mid-range gets a little hotter than the rest of the mids in response. This causes some snares and pitched drums to come off a little sharp and aggressive.
The high end is pretty well tuned and comes off forward because of the energy transferring over from the upper mid-range. The high end has a good extension into upper end content and comes off with the right amount of airiness while not proceeding to become too sharp or brittle. The sonic signature ends up being more bright than neutral. Higher register strings and brass sound full and well shaped. Reverb has a large amount of room to take shape and breath.
The soundstage is one of the weaker points of the headphone. The quality of the soundstage is a little below average. The soundstage is in a smaller more intimate setting with some decent imaging and separation, but there is a narrow depth of field. One thing that hurts the soundstage is the lack of low end energy that makes a lot of sound sources lose their presence in a mix.
The Klipsch Reference is a pretty great headphone all around. The design and comfort are top notch, in addition the removable cables, folding design, and replaceable earpads all add life-time into the headphone. The sound quality is fair in it’s neutral design, but in the end it winds up having a more brighter sound signature. A headphone like this sounds wonderful when listening to classical, piano, and jazz but translates well into all genres because of the more or less balanced signature.
The Klipsch Reference does a good job standing out among many other headphones in this price range that claim to be of reference quality. The sonic balance reminds me of the Listen by Focal because both headphones have a brighter frequency response, also they are priced the same.
For a more musical sounding headphone that has stronger bass and more energy in the low end you could check out Sennheiser’s Momemtum Over-Ear or Audio-Technica’s MSR7 around the same price range.