Instead, the Image X10i’s greatest strength may be a desirable quality of effortless coherency; nothing ever sounds forced, strained, or unevenly balanced through these headphones. But that said let me also observe that there are now several headphones, such as the Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Editions and Sennheiser IE8’s, that can equal the coherency of the Klipsches while surpassing them, although not by a terribly large margin, in terms of overall lucidity and detail.
The Klipsch’s tonal balance is smooth and even, but tilted just slightly to the warm or “dark” side of strict neutrality. On the one hand, this balance makes the Image X10i sound unfailingly musical—never overly bright or strident, as can be the case with many lesser in-ear headphones. It also means the Image X10i invariably comes across as having adequate and indeed ample amounts of bass—this in contrast to ‘phones that are too lightly balanced and therefore seem to lack foundational bass weight.
Part of the secret to the Klipsch sound involves, I think, the firm’s patent-pending elliptical eartips. Klipsch claims to have done core research that shows most human ear canals are not circular in cross section, as is commonly supposed, but rather more nearly elliptical in cross section. Accordingly, Klipsch’s eartips are elliptical in shape when viewed end on. Can such a seemingly simple design twist really make a big difference in performance and comfort? In my opinion it can and it does. One of the most striking characteristics of Klipsh Image earphones is that their eartips allow a broad range of users to achieve a good and exceedingly comfortable fit without a lot of tinkering or trial-and-error fitting. Guest listeners have unanimously praised the Klipsches as being not just a little but a lot more comfortable than other in-ear phones, and I think this is at least in part because the Klipsch elliptical eartips seem to seal well without putting excessive of pressure on the sidewalls of your ear canals (many competing eartips feel OK at first, but become naggingly painful after an hour or so).
Although I have sampled some eartips that I think offer better absolute sound quality than the Klipsch elliptical tips do (for example, the Monster Cable double-layer, gel-type Super Tips), none can fully equal the Klipsch design’s elusive combination top notch sound and extreme comfort.
Where does the Klipsch X10i fall in the overall high-end, in-ear headphone pecking order? I'll try to tackle that question in an upcoming full-length review of the Image X10i in Playback. Until then, happy listening.