Sitting on the entry-level throne in the Klipsch Custom series of sound-isolating earphones are the Custom 1s. At around £60, they're single-armature earphones, unlike the Custom 2s and Custom 3s, which are dual-armature models.
We've been taking the Custom 1s for a spin for the last week. Should you settle with these, or is it worth coughing up more cash to get the next model up?
Like the Custom 2s and Custom 3s, the Custom 1s have a triangular design. From each earphone protrudes the 'memory wire' that gives the series its 'Custom' name. This roughly 76mm (3-inch) wire can be flexed like a pipe cleaner, and will remain in the shape best-suited for the wearer's ear.
It takes a fair amount of time to get the Custom 1s comfortable. But perseverance pays off with a snug fit that remains comfortable after hours of wearing, and is suitable for use while jogging or at the gym.
We found that, despite being ergonomically designed, the sound-isolating tips provided in the box gave us some fitting and comfort issues. It's worth bearing in mind that the Custom 1s are compatible with sound-isolating tips from competitor Shure's SE range of earphones. We fitted a pair and enjoyed the fit much more. We appreciate, however, that this issue is only going to affect a small fraction of wearers.
Inside each enclosure is a single armature that handles all frequencies -- low to high. This is the only model in the Custom series that features just a single driver -- the rest have two. It's connected to a fairly thin cloth-encased audio cable that terminates in a gold-plated 3.5mm plug.
A complete range of effective sound-isolating silicone tips are included in the bundled hard-backed carry case, ranging from small to large silicone sleeves, along with small and large double-flanged tips.
We weren't surprised to hear the tried and tested Klipsch voice present in the Custom 1s. They have a very balanced, flat tone -- neither lows, mids or highs are favoured over one another.
We pumped Feist's emotive and folksy album The Reminder through them to begin with. The piano and guitar-backed songs are well-suited to these Klipsch earphones. The Custom 1s are especially suited to Feist's piercing voice.
Listening to the country-inspired Jenny Owen Youngs, the Custom 1s again showed they're well-suited to handling vocals, and the jazzy double bass and heavily strummed acoustic guitars sounded sweet and warm.
What you don't get is a deep low-end or shimmering highs. We tried some melodic metal from Canada's Protest The Hero and noted that the Custom 1s aren't particularly suited to this sort of music. The overdriven guitars and thrashing cymbals sound better with a deeper bass and brighter treble, rather than a prominently warm mid-range.
The same can be said for all-electronic music, such as that of Aphex Twin. There was nothing wrong with the Custom 1s' delivery of this complex assault of samples and synthesisers, but it just didn't sound right. Imagine hearing an acoustic guitar being amplified to play thrash metal -- it would just sound unusual, and not in the ideal way. The same is true here. That kind of music needs smooth, warm mid-tones much less than Eva Cassidy or The Beatles.
With the Custom 2s, you get a slightly deeper bass, a more open sound stage, an even smoother mid-range and a little extra definition in the upper mid- and high-end. Frankly, the difference is worth the extra money, but the Custom 1s are an excellent choice if you're on a tight budget.
The Klipsch Custom 1s are a great pair of earphones. The question isn't really whether they're good, but what they're good for. Simply put, that's anything that can be played live without electricity: acoustic stuff, folk rock, country, jazz, soul, and perhaps, at a push, even light rock.
Edited by Charles Kloet