A Potent On-Ear Headphone for iPodders
July 11th, 2011 -- by Chris Martens
Klipsch’s elegant-looking Image One ($149.99) is the firm’s first-ever on-ear headphone/headset, whereas all of Klipsch’s other Image-series headphones are in-ear models. Why would Klipsch strike out in a new direction when it is already on a roll with its in-ear ‘phones? The answer, I suspect, is that some percentage of avid music lovers find it difficult, for whatever reason, to embrace in-ear ‘phones. Looking to reach that segment of the market, Klipsch’s Image One is geared for those who prefer music delivered on their ears, rather than in their ear canals. What’s interesting, though, is that Klipsch has made strong efforts to give the Image One some of the very same signature qualities that have made its Image-family earphones so popular—among them, high sensitivity, terrific wearer comfort, iPhone-compatible headset functionality and, of course, the famous, vibrant Klipsch sound.
- The Image One is an on-ear design that features small-to-mid-size closed-back ear cups finished in gloss black and trimmed with simulated leather endcaps that bear the Klipsch logo and a thin strip of chrome trim. Overall, ear cups tend to give the Image One a tasteful and almost formal “black tie”-like appearance.
- The Image One’s ear cups come fitted with cushy “memory foam” ear pads that are covered in soft, glove-like leather. The fit and feel of the ear pads is wonderfully comfortable and Klipsch says the ear cup/pad design goes a long way toward giving the ‘phones good isolation from external noise. Our experience was that noise isolation was very good as on-ear ‘phones go, but not up to the levels of the best circumaural (around the ear) and in-ear designs we have tried.
- Importantly, the Image One’s ear cups are designed to swivel and to give a very wide range of adjustment. This not only means that ear cups can be folded flat to minimize space requirements when traveling, but that they can accommodate most any head shape and do so with terrific comfort.
- Also adding to the Image One's comfort equation are an easy-to-adjust headband and a soft, leather-clad headband pad.
- The Image One, like many other Klipsch headphone models, features a three-button mic/remote control module that is compatible with a very wide range of Apple devices. As is typical with such controls, older-generation Apple units can use only a subset of the module’s available functions, while newer generation Apple products can take advantage of them all—including voice activated control on some Apple products. (Visit www.klipsch.com for a detailed Apple-compatibility chart for the Image One).
- The Image One sports 40mm moving coil-type drivers designed to provide an easy-to-drive, low impedance (32 Ohm) load. In practice, and in sharp contrast to many other competing products, the Image One can be driven to completely satisfying volume levels by an iPod, iPhone, etc.—and without requiring use of an outboard amplifier. Sensitivity is rated at a relatively high 110 dB.
- Klipsch has fitted the One with an extra beefy signal cord with molded-in in plug ends. This construction detail signals—pardon the pun—Klipsch’s clear-cut understanding that listeners on the go will occasionally give their headphones rough-and-tumble use.
- Accessories include a fabric-covered hard shell carrying case, an airline adapter, and a mini-jack to ¼-inch phone jack adapter.
Perhaps inevitably, I found myself wanting to compare the sound of the Image One to that of Klipsch’s Image-series earphones, which I have reviewed favorably in past issues of Playback. What I found was interesting. Let’s start by looking at the sound of Klipsch’s top-of-the-line Image X10i earphone as a comparison standard.
In a nutshell, the Image X10i offers an exceedingly pure, highly articulate sound, with near neutral tonal balance that is, arguably, shaded just slightly toward the warmth end of the spectrum (“warmth” implying a touch of extra bass and, perhaps, lower midrange richness with highs that are never aggressive or overly forward-sounding). Noise isolation is extremely good, and comfort is the best of any in-ear headphone Playback has tested thus far.