Price: £198.27 from www.amazon.co.uk
Pros: Sound quality, comfort
Cons: Only guaranteed to work correctly with iPhone and iPod touch.
Recently I had the pleasure of trying out the Klipsh S4i headphones and found them to be a fantastic sounding and comfortable to wear pair of earphones. For around £85, they are certainly one of the best you can buy. So can Klipsh really justify charging around £200 for its X10i headphones? It does seem slightly odd that there’s no pair filling in the price gap between the two sets, so can these really worth the huge step up in price?
In a nutshell, they are. And how. Let’s get right down to it- the Klipsch X10i headphones are fantastic. The X10i’s are an update of the X10 that have been around for a year or so, but add an inline three button remote and integrated microphone, making them a perfect match for the iPhone, enabling users to answer and end calls with a press of the centre Play button and skip between tracks. It will also work with Voiceover, as used on the 3rd Gen iPod shuffle. The other distinguishing aspect of these top-of-the-range earphones is that they are incredibly small and light, weighing just 10.5g and making them less fatiguing to wear for long period.
The set feels special as in the box you get a faux leather case to carry them, a 3.5mm to phono plug connector, and an airplane adaptor. Most crucially though, Klipsch includes a selection of ear tips to ensure you get the perfect seal. This is important to ensure that you get an airtight seal thus providing you with real sound isolation which means you can play your music at lower volumes. You’ll also get a fuller and truer bass response from the headphones, which will have a massive impact on sound quality.
Klipsch provides five sets of ear tips, two with ‘double flange’ tips that it claims will give the tightest fit and best sound isolation. However, I knew straight away that these would not fit my ear canals, and though I gave it a go I was proved right. Fortunately, the smallest ear tip provided me with a snug fit, ensuring great sound isolation and tight bass. Klipsch suggest you push the headphones in and then pull them out slightly to get the snuggest fit possible.
Klipsch is the only manufacturer to offer oval shaped earbuds, which it claims more naturally matches the shape of the ear canal to ensure a more comfortable fit. It seems to work too, as I found I could wear the X10i’s for a hours at a stretch without it proving uncomfortable. Considering you’re sticking something in your ear, that’s impressive.
As soon as I got hold of them, I was very keen to give them a try. I unboxed them, released them from their impressive packaging and plugged into my ears using those small ear tips, and went straight to my goto track for bass, rhythm and vocal clarity – Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, encoded using Apple Lossless. The X10i’s delivered, and in spades – the slap of the drums, the movement of the bass, the hi-hats, the vocals – the sheer drama of the track is all there, plugged directly into your skull.
With all types of music the X10i’s are fantastic monitors of the sound, to the extent that if you’re using low bit-rate material you’re going to come a cropper as the X10i’s will ruthlessly reveal any flaws in your source material. As such, I was glad that I’ve most of my CDs have been ripped at a minimum of 192Kbps AAC, and have recently moved to 320Kbps AAC – probably overkill, but I’m happy to have the overhead and it produces smaller file sizes then encoding losslessly.
While I had no issues with the very good S4i’s, listening the X10i’s is like wiping your glasses and being able to see clearly – like moving from a good quality SD picture to HD. What’s impressive is that there’s a balance to the sound, with no one aspect being neglected or becoming overpowering. The mid-range is finely detailed, the bass is full, and the top end is precise and clear. It’s all good.
What’s surprising is that Klipsch only uses a single driver, whereas competitors in this area use three or more. This helps keep the size of the earphones down and enables them to be as tiny as they are.
The only areas I did find of concern is that as with the S4i’s the connector for the earphones plugs in vertically rather than at a right angle. This means that if I have my iPhone on the desk in front of me the right way so that I can see the album artwork the X10i cable has to be bent round at an angle, putting pressure on the cable, which isn’t ideal. Additionally, when you come to pull the earphones out of your iPhone you must be careful to do it at the base as otherwise you could easily pull the cable out. When you spend this much on a set of headphones, that’s not something you want to do.
Another issue I encountered was when I tried to use them with another phone – a Android powered Samsung Galaxy S. While I wasn’t expected the in-line remote to work with the Galaxy S, I was expected the earphones side of things to work – but sadly I was disappointed. The output sounds as if the headphones are not plugged in properly making them unusable. It’s clearly connected to the Apple chip inside as strangely pressing the play button makes the headphones work as normal. Clearly, you’re not going to hold the button the entire time, so sadly the X10i’s are completely unusable with the Galaxy S.
If you’ve just got the iPhone 3GS or iPhone 4 , or a recent iPod however, the X10i’s are simply an outstanding choice. If you really want to hear every detail in your music, answer phone calls with a press of the button and have a comfortable listening experience then the X10i’s really deliver.