Klipsch Image X10i Review

klipsch image x10i review

Klipsch Image X10i

“A three-button remote and built-in microphone give the Klipsch Image X10i even more utility than their respected predecessors, without sacrificing sound quality.”
  • 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

Introduction

Long before Klipsch brought audio nirvana to the masses with the sub-$100 Image S4, the company was still carving out its headphone reputation for a far more discerning audience with a line of earbuds that tread knee deep into triple digits: the Image X10. Universally lauded for their performance, comfort and small size, the X10 proved that in-ear headphones didn’t need to come from a custom mold or use multiple drivers to produce sound that rivaled open-air cans

More recently, Klipsch updated this top-drawer choice with an array of smartphone-friendly trappings, birthing the X10i. Priced identically to its predecessor at a lofty $350, the X10i unites the same audiophile-grade that powered the X10 with a three-button inline remote and microphone.

Features and Design

Aside from an inch-long blip in the cord for its new array of functions, the X10i exactly resembles its famous predecessors. The 50-inch cord terminates into two of the most miniscule drivers you’ll ever find – aluminum tubes skinnier than a number-two pencil and dressed in all copper, with a bendy rubber ends that droop down and taper to a point, bearing pressure from the cord. Besides being phenomenally small, the drivers are also phenomenally light – you can just barely tell they’re there, dangling at the end of the cord. A sliding collar controls where the wires from each ear join in a Y back into one cord.

Fit

The X10i use the same oval-shaped earbuds we know and love from the S4, which fit our ears to a tee right out of the box. They feel almost surprisingly supple to the touch, as if they wouldn’t exert much grip on the ear, but never came loose, even during extended wear. The lack of weight hanging off them from the practically nonexistent drivers probably has a lot to do with that, as well.

Unlike the Image S4, finding the proper fit with the X10 is intuitive right off the bat. As long as you point the rubbery wire-strain-relief bits downward, which gravity makes a no brainer, there’s no “wrong” way to put them in. When they fit right, you’ll know it. The passive noise isolation is almost good enough to use these headphones as earplugs in the absence of music.

On the off chance the default tips don’t fit your ears as if custom molded, Klipsch includes the same jellyfish-shaped silicon tips in both smaller and larger sizes, as well as large and small baffled tips, which look a little bit like two of the others stacked together.

Accessories

No set of premium-grade earbuds would be complete without protection to keep them from turning into copper spaghetti. Klipsch delivers with a small faux leather box – less than an inch deep and about two inches tall and wide. The logo-embossed lid stays clapped down with magnetic force, then opens to reveal a velvet-lined interior. Inside, you’ll find the aforementioned set of five different ear tips in a resealable plastic baggie and Klipsch’s cleaning tool, which is basically a U-shaped bit of wire on a handle. Klipsch also throws in a ¼-inch stereo adapter to allow the X10i to play nice with full-size stereo systems, and a right-angle adapter for the two-prong jacks in the armrests onboard many planes.

Testing and Performance

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.

Conclusion

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.

Highs:

  • Outstanding bass, treble, clarity and imaging
  • Incredibly lightweight and small
  • Five comfortable ear tips deliver superb fit
  • Built-in mic and three-button remote

Lows:

  • Midrange can sound slightly buried
  • Average mic out of place on high-end headphones

Editors' Recommendations