Back in March, we reviewed the Klipsch Image X10 headphones -- a minute set of in-ear noisemakers that impressed us with their combination of comfort and sound quality. Now we're confronted with the Klipsch Image X10i headphones. They cost an extra £30, totalling around £220, so what exactly does that 'i' in the title get you?
What indeed. We're sure you can guess -- the X10is are specially designed for iPod and iPhone devices. The optimisation boils down to a remote part way down the cable. There are two volume control buttons and a central button, which you can tap to play and pause the music, or double-tap to skip the track. There's also a microphone on the back of the remote, so if you're using an iPhone and you receive a call, you can take the call (using the central button) and merrily converse without having to fish your iPhone out of your pocket. More on the remote later, though. First, let's go over the design.
Klipsch deserve credit for creating such slender high-end headphones. The earbud design hasn't changed from the X10s, but that's not a bad thing -- these buds are small and very comfortable to wear. Unlike some noise-isolating headphones, you won't have to play a game of cat's cradle trying to get the wire over and around the top of your ear -- they just poke straight into your lugs.
Once inserted, they're pretty sturdy. We didn't notice them dislodging at all, or slipping out during our giddy ramblings about town. They're discreet enough that we pretty much forgot about them once they were in.
There are a few problems with the design. First and foremost, the cabling used to hold the X10is together is worryingly thin and flimsy. We're a little concerned that, with prolonged use, these would wear through and snap. Or, if we happened to catch them on a fellow commuter's backpack, it might prove fatal for these pricey headphones.
In terms of sound quality, the X10is can best be described as... accurate. Listening to old favourites such as Streetlight Manifesto's Down Down Down to Mephisto's Café, we noticed tingling on the hi-hats we hadn't previously detected, and were dead impressed with the spot-on reproduction the X10is managed across the board. If you want to hear every single detail, every saliva-drenched vocalist lip-smack with razor-sharp clarity, these headphones deliver, and then some.
That said, if you like your music with punch, there are other headphones out there that do much better. When we listened to Genesis by Justice, a song that should be pummelling our brain with synapse-loosening bass, we were underwhelmed. Yes, we heard every detail, but in terms of really feeling the sound, the X10is fell a little flat. To put it in weapons terminology, these earbuds are more like a high-powered laser-sighted sniper rifle than a great big bazooka.
We're not saying the low end is rubbish -- kick drums always sounded crisp and wandering basslines were always present in the mix. While perfectly audible, in terms of laying the smack down, we've heard other headphones with more oomph. There's a choice to be made then. If you prefer clarity and faithful reproduction, we can definitely recommend these buds. On the other hand, if you prefer headphones with a little extra clout in the low-end, look elsewhere.
Finally, we found these headphones handled admirably at high volumes, keeping all elements of the track nicely in check.
As for that remote, does it work? Yes, and it's nicely built too. Whether it's worth the premium price is another question -- this remote only works with Apple products, so if you're using a non-supported device, it's essentially dead weight. If you do use an iPod or iPhone for your music playback and are terribly plagued by the need to retrieve your device from the depths of your pockets to control your tunes, this will help.
They won't please every type of music fan, but if you like things to be kept as clean and precise as possible, The Klipsch Image X10is deliver. If you use an iPod or iPhone and can afford the premium price, the cable remote works well. Otherwise, we'd recommend the cheaper, remote-free Klipsch Image X10s.
If you demand boomier bass for your buck, check out the Sennheiser IE 8s, available for around £160.