The Klipsch Image X10i headphones are the best looking, most comfortable wearing, and best-sounding ear buds I have ever used, including some that were molded to my ears. As I learned at this year’s CanJam, there are many more high-end phones than I ever dreamed. So, I in no way claim to have heard anywhere near what’s available. I should also admit that most of my knowledge of headphones come from the traditional over-the-ear type, specifically models from Sennheiser, Stax, and Grado. Well, with that off my chest, let’s get on to the review.
For the X10i earbuds, Klipsch uses an exclusive full-range armature micro-speaker with a tuned bass-reflex system. A lot of the more high-end headphone, even earbuds, use multi-drivers. Klipsch states the frequency response is from 5Hz to 19kHz. I wish I could find a single driver speaker with specs like that.
Klipsch also states that these are the world’s smallest and lightest full-range in-ear-headphones. That should equate to long use comfort and it does. In fact, these are the most comfortable headphones of any kind I have ever worn. A well designed in-ear-headphone should do two things well. First, it should reproduce music accurately and beautifully, second they need to have adequate noise isolation – this they do maybe too well. I can’t hear a thing but the music, which means if the telephone rings I won’t hear it. The phone needs to have a light that blinks or something so I can answer it when I’m sitting at the desk while working and listening to the Klipsch. Now, of course if they are plugged directly into my iPhone that’s not a problem; but as you will see below that is not how I’ve been listening to them at home.
Let’s talk about the comfort again, because it is so wonderful. It was the first thing I noticed. One of the reasons for the comfort is that the X10i’s weigh only 10 grams. They also have tiny dimensions, which equates to real comfort. To achieve the low weight, Klipsch uses an aluminum body, nicely finished with copper anodization. Klipsch say the black sections at the end serve as an acoustic damper, further cutting noise, and reducing stress on the cable. They also use patent-pending bullet-shape ear tips, which are the most comfortable in-ear tips I’ve used. They have five choices of silicone earbuds, in oval shapes instead of a circle. They come packaged with an airplane adapter, a quarter-inch adapter, a cleaning tool, and a very convenient hard-sided case with a magnetic closure.
Each Image X10i earpiece has an ultra thin black cable that is attached to the copper earbuds in such a way that they fit down in your ears comfortably, and the cables lay perfectly in the groves of one’s ears. The wire is very flexible and Klipsch says they use a proprietary method to make them durable. It is also easier than with most earbuds to pull them out of your ears without pulling on the cable. I should also point out that Klipsch offers a two-year warranty and fantastic customer support. I know this from past experience with their less expensive Image S-4 earbuds.
One of the things I like about all the “i” (iPhone) versions of the Klipsch earbuds is that they use a Y-cable configuration with the integrated mic, volume controls, and a call answer button, all dead in the center of the Y. I find this configuration works better than the ones that place the mic and buttons on the side, supposedly nearer to your mouth. A clip is provided that can be attached below the module for affixing the mic closer to your mouth if needed. The cord is a little less than 48 inches long and terminates in a reinforced, gold-plated straight-plug. There is a quarter-inch adapter provided.
Everything about the looks of the X10i screams high-end build quality. Their sleek, intimate fit in my ears was glove-like. There are a number of high-quality rivals out there from big-name brands that are more impressive looking compared to Klipsch’s intentionally minimalistic look. Still, to me up close, it’s easy to see their build quality. The build quality and look of the Klipsch are the best I’ve seen at anywhere near the price.
They offer exceptionally clear and balanced sound, with good bass response and an unbelievable amount of sound isolation. I think it’s safe to say that most audiophiles don’t feel any in-ear-headphone is going to cut it. This gives companies like Klipsch a challenge to make something like the Image X10i. You should also be warned that these are going to let you easily hear the weakness of any sound files less than lossless.
I was shocked how good my iPhone could sound right out of the headphone outlet with the X10i phones. These earphones have far better bass than the Klipsch S4is that I had been using mostly for their comfort while listening to books, and also better bass than the Grado SR225 over-the-ear headphones I got my son for Christmas. The X10i’s are very balanced, not nearly as exaggerated as the bass I heard from the Monsters I tried. They are very efficient and will go louder than I ever expected straight from the iPhone without an amp. This efficiency also allows you to play them at low volumes without sacrificing bass or treble.
Speaking of treble, the top-end is simply beautiful and the midrange is crystal clear and nicely detailed. Vocals have to be the most important thing with in-ear-headphones, because of how much time I spend listening to books, NPR as well as music. The X10i phones do vocals better than I ever expected. The sound was more natural and quite more believable than I had ever hear from an iPhone.
Still, as good as they are just plugged into an iPhone with lossless files, they can do so much more. So, I used them with two different amps that both have built-in USB DACS. First, I tried them with the Peachtree Audio Deco integrated amp, which, by the way, can now be purchased rebuilt from the factory for $500 only! This was a major step up, but the real revelation came from the 47 Labs 4733 Midnight Blue, Headphone/Pre-Amplifier. At nearly $2,000 this is beginning to be a quite a serious stereo setup, but the sound is incredible.
In this system, the sound is beautifully transparent and pure with great musical flow. They never had any strain or edge to the sound. Compared to the sound coming out of the iPhone’s headphone output, the sound of the Klipsch when used with the 4733 reminded me of moving from an inexpensive moving magnet phono cartridge to a world-class moving coil.
If you’re in the market for a high-end musical sound from a pair of in-ear-phones, you have to hear these. Even if you never thought you would like anything but headphones you should try these – you won’t believe how good they sound and how comfortable they are.
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