The original Klipsch X10 managed to rack up volumes of glowing reviews for sound quality, so we won’t belabor the point, but let it be said: These headphones still rock. Klipsch manages to reaffirm its reputation for crisp, bright highs without treading too far and becoming overly abrasive or shrill, and the deep bass that made the Image S4 such a fan with rock and hip-hop fans is just as pronounced – but perhaps more refined – here.
That said, we’ve heard stronger midrange on some competitors, and even our benchmark Grado SR60s. The Klipsch are far from a total disappointment in the midrange department, but certain instruments tend to sound somewhat distant. For instance, the grinding guitars in Muse’s Starlight seemed to take a clear back seat to vocals, piano, and shimmering electronic effects.
Compared to the S4, the X10i possess a whole new level of clarity and especially imaging, which is quite the achievement, considering how well the S4 already perform in those departments. The S4 might actually possess even more bass grunt than the X10i, but to us, the X10i sounded more accurate, while the S4 might tread a bit too far.
As we’ve experienced with most canalphones, the noise of the cable bouncing against things transmitted to the ear, a phenomenon known as microphonics, can sometimes be irritating with the X10i. A movable lapel clip on the cable can help eliminate the worst of it, but it isn’t perfect.
The inline microphone works, but that’s all that can be said of it. Callers complained that we sounded a bit shrill and distant while speaking through the pinhole-sized mic, and much preferred when we switched back to the standard iPhone mic. As with all in-ear headphones, the hum of your own voice in your ears as you talk also becomes an issue for any longer conversation, and we couldn’t tolerate talking for more than five minutes with the X10i in before switching to a regular phone.
The three-button remote is simple enough to use: Use the dedicated volume buttons to make music louder or softer, and click the center control button once to play or pause, twice to skip the next song and three times to go backwards. However, keep in mind that it only works on a handful of iPods and some Blackberrys, so carefully read the list to make sure yours is compatible. Even the iPhone 3G is unsupported.
We already knew Klipsch could build an outstanding pair of speakers, but the X10i prove that the company’s expertise carries over to headphones, too. Despite getting just a bit watery in the midrange, the X10i join the upper echelon of the best-sounding headphones we’ve reviewed, with remarkable bass, overall clarity and imaging. As a value, the $350 X10i are still a hard sell beside the S4, which get you 80 percent of the way there for a fraction of the price, but true audiophiles shouldn’t have an issue laying down the extra Benjamins for some of the finest iPod-friendly earphones on the market today.
- Outstanding bass, treble, clarity and imaging
- Incredibly lightweight and small
- Five comfortable ear tips deliver superb fit
- Built-in mic and three-button remote
- Midrange can sound slightly buried
- Average mic out of place on high-end headphones