Some years ago, when Klipsch first entered the headphone market, I took the opportunity to review the original flagship Image in-ear headphones, and I came to consider them—then and even now—a revelation in several key respects. First off, the Images were almost inconceivably small and light, enough so that they seemed almost toy-like at first, though it took only a few minutes of critical listening to grasp that the little ‘phones were in fact dead serious about sound quality. The Images, much like the iconic Etymotic Research ER4-P in-ear ‘phones, feature a single, full-range, balanced armature driver, which gives the Images (again, like the ER4-P’s) qualities of sonic purity and a desirable kind of “cut-from-whole-cloth” sonic integrity or coherency. Second, the Images became—for me and for many other guest listeners—an all-time benchmark for comfort. No other in-ear headphone I’ve experience before or since has proven as easy to wear for long periods of time, and no other eartips seem to seal as effectively or effortless as Klipsch’s patent-pending elliptical eartips do. Put these qualities together and you have an immensely likable, albeit costly, in-ear headphone design.
Over time, Klipsch decided it wanted to use the Image name not just for its top model but for all of its in-ear headphones, and accordingly the top model was renamed as the “Image X10,” soon to be joined by “Image X5,” “Image S4i,” “Image S4,” “Image S2M,” and “Image S2” models with prices ranging from $49.99 on up to $349.99. More recently, Klipsch has seen fit to acknowledge the overwhelming popularity of Apple’s iPhone by releasing versions of its headphones that incorporate an in-line microphone/3-button remote control module designed specifically for use with new generation iPods and iPhones. This brings us, of course, to Klipsch’s new top-of-the-line model, the “Image X10i,” which will be the subject of an upcoming Playback review.
The Klipsch Image X10i headset/headphone comes with three sets of single-flange elliptical eartips, two sets of double-flange elliptical eartips, a ¼” jack adapter, an airline adapter, a garment clip, and a small rectangular carry case with a magnetic closure hasp.
For me, trying out the Image X10i has been, in many respects, like reconnecting with an old friend. It has been a while since I listened to the original Images, and sampling the Image X10i reminded me just how compact the flagship Image model really is, how comfortable and cleverly-shaped its eartips are, and of how smooth and pure its sound can be. Of course part of the appeal of this latest Image model is that it also provides the added convenience of headset functionality and the ability to control certain iPod/iPhone functions directly from the yoke-mounted remote control module.
But sound quality is always the first priority with any headphone, and the Image X10i seems to have lost none of the qualities that made the original Image so appealing. I’ve said above that the headphone provides a smooth and pure sound, but I should also let you know that the Image X10i is not a headphone that wears superior sonic resolution or detailing on its sleeve, so to speak. Rather the X10i allows those sonic qualities to unfold in a more understated way. When listening to the Image X10i, as when listening to live music, you typically won’t feel led to remark, “Wow, listen to that transient attack,” or to blurt out, “Man, those high harmonics sound great.” Instead, those kinds of features in the music unfold naturally so that you drink them in and enjoy them, but without being forced to focus on them to the extent that they might become a distraction or detract from the musical whole.