But as “Palmyra” unfolds, we also hear Edgar Meyer explore the lower registers of his bass—with musical lines that reach down through and below the range of a cello into territory that only the acoustic bass can explore. When Meyer does so, the voicing characteristics of the Image One become apparent, in that the lower Meyer plays, the louder his instrument sounds. I’ve probably played “Palmyra” dozens of times through all sorts of headphone and loudspeaker based systems, and one thing I’ve noted is that—on the very best systems—the lower midrange and bass-range voice of Meyer’s acoustic bass remains very evenly balanced (in terms of volume level) with the voice of Fleck’s banjo. Or at least that is what is supposed to be the case. But through the Image One’s, the illusion is that—as the pitch of Meyer’s bass drops lower and lower—the microphone seems to move closer to the instrument, making it more prominent (and arguably a bit too prominent) in the mix.
This isn’t a really egregious problem where one would think, “hey, this sounds wrong,” in large part because the clarity and textural refinement of the One’s lower midrange and bass are both quite good. Yet the overall presentation doesn’t sound exactly right either, because of the “lower-it-goes-the-louder-it-sounds” issue. Frankly, this characteristic will bother some listeners not at all, while it may strike others as giving the Ones a somewhat bottom-heavy quality. Again, though, please note that in noisy environments the voicing of the Ones can sound—and often does sound—more naturally balanced if you listen in environments where there is some low-frequency noise present.
Consider this headphone if: you are looking for a viable and extremely comfortable alternative to high-quality in-ear headphones. Consider the Image One in particular if you want a headphone that sounds fine when driven directly by Apple products (meaning that an outboard amp really won’t be necessary, unless you simply want to use one). Also consider the Image One if you like to listen on the go—especially in environments where there may be low frequency noise present (the Image One has sufficient bass/lower midrange “oomph” to overcome many types of noisy environments).
Look further if: you are looking for a headphone that offers strictly neutral tonal balance for purposes of listening in relatively quiet environments. The reason: Again, the Image One offers a touch of bass/lower midrange emphasis that will seem pleasingly euphonic to some tastes, but will strike others as being too prominent.
Ratings (relative to comparably priced headphones):
Tonal Balance: 7.5
Noise Isolation: 8
Klipsch’s Image One is a solid entry into the world of on-ear headphones geared for portable music enthusiasts. It offers good build-quality, a mostly accurate and smooth sound, and sufficient sensitivity and dynamic clout to work beautifully when powered by iPod, iPhones or other portable music devices. It also offers the compelling benefits of a built-in, three-button, Apple device-compatible mic/remote control—making it perfect for use by iPhone owners. The only potential drawback here is slightly yet noticeably elevated bass/lower midrange response—a voicing characteristic some listeners will welcome, but others will not.