The tiny Klipsch Image X10 headphones carry a hefty price tag of around £200. That may be more than you paid for your iPod, but, if you're looking for an ultra-comfortable, great-sounding set of earbud-style headphones, these guys won't disappoint.
Snug fit for your canals
Klipsch's oval-shaped 'ear gels' are largely responsible for the exceptional fit -- they produce a tight seal to block out external noise and help the X10s produce unusually powerful bass. Since everybody's ear canals are different, the X10s come with five sizes and types of ear gels.
Achieving a snug fit will depend on the size of your ear canals, but we never had to experiment with the different gels -- the ones that came on the X10 earpieces fit perfectly. That's a first for us.
After inserting the earpieces into your ears, you'll want to tug lightly on the wires to make sure the ear gels are providing a complete seal against outside noise (the included 'double flange' ear gels are said to provide more isolation from outside noise, although we didn't find that was the case with our ears). We never had a problem with the X10s accidentally falling out of our ears.
By sealing off your ear, in-ear headphones offer a form of passive noise-cancellation. The X10s exhibited an average ability to block out external noise compared to other in-ear headphones. We think noise-isolating headphones such as the X10s sound better, clearer and more accurate than active, battery-powered noise-cancelling headphones, and the X10s don't put the pressure on your eardrums that some folks experience when using the latter variety.
As far as accessories, you get a 6.3mm jack adaptor and an aeroplane adaptor; a cleaning tool to remove ear wax that may build up inside the earpieces; a zippered, faux-leather case for storing all of the accessories; and a smaller pouch for storing the headphones in your pocket. Another plus is that the 3.5mm jack is thin enough to work with the iPhone, without the need for an adaptor.
That's all great, but there are some downsides. Part of the reason the headphones are so comfortable to wear is that the X10s' 1.3m-long cable is thinner and more flexible than average. We were rather concerned about how the cord would hold up over time. Also, whenever we stowed the headphones in the carry pouch, we had to bundle up the wires, and then untangle them every time we removed the headphones from the case.
More annoying were the tiny electrostatic-discharge shocks we occasionally received from the X10 earpieces when we were outside in the dry winter months. That's rarely happened to us with other in-ear headphones. And one other small gripe: the 'L' and 'R' labels that identify the left earpiece from the right are hard to read in dimly lit environments.
Punch above their weight
The X10s may be tiny, but they offer the sort of weighty sound we expect from larger headphones. The sweet, laid-back tonal balance flatters most types of music, and the gentle treble response makes even less-than-pristine MP3s sound acceptable.
Comparisons with our reference £170 Etymotic ER-4P MicroPro in-ear headphones confirmed our hunches about the X10s. The ER-4Ps' sound was more detailed, with greater mid-range and treble presence. When we played the orchestral soundtrack to the film Birth, the X10s produced a fulsome sound with the cellos and basses, but the ER-4Ps seemed more transparently clear. In the quieter sections, we could hear the musicians moving in their chairs through the ER-4Ps. The X10s, on the other hand, smoothed over those details.
When it came to rock, we heard the same sort of sound differences. We loved the X10s' punchy bass and lively dynamics, as well as how natural the vocals sounded.
Since most buyers prefer headphones with plenty of bass, we think the Klipsch Image X10s are winners. But, if you want to hear every little detail in your music, the Etymotic ER-4P MicroPro headphones may be the better choice.
Edited by Charles Kloet