Klipsch first entered the headphone market roughly three years ago and the very first model I tried was the firm’s original, flagship Image in-ear headphone. When the review samples arrived, the tiny ‘phones seemed almost impossibly small and light, but I soon discovered that they delivered a big, well-focused sound and were amazingly comfortable. I was so impressed by the performance of the Images that I nominated them for a Golden Ear award in our sister publication, The Absolute Sound. In the years since, that original Image model has been renamed as the Image X10 and it has given rise to an entire Klipsch product family of lower-priced Image models.
Now, however, Klipsch has updated the Image X10 model by giving it a tiny, inline remote control/microphone module geared to address the needs of iPod and iPhone owners, thus creating the new Klipsch Image X10i. Interestingly, despite its newfound iPod/iPhone-compatible features, the X10i carries the exact same list price as its predecessors: $349.99.
As was the case with the original Image and Image X10, the X10i uses a single, full-range “balanced micro driver” (i.e., a balanced armature-type driver)—a design approach that the X10i shares in common with other high performance in-ear headphones such as the Etymotic Research ER-4P and the Monster Cable Turbine Pro Copper Edition. I wanted to try the Image X10i, partly to see how its sound compared with the original 2007 Image model as well as with other modern day competitors. I also wanted to check out the X10i’s 3-button remote control/mic system, which is based on an Apple chip and promises a wide array of functions—especially when used with the iPhone 3GS/4 or the latest generation iPod nano, classic, iPod touch or iPad.
Consider this combination headset/earphone if: you want a headset that offers the desirable combination of a rich, full-bodied sound with a good measure of top-to-bottom clarity, nuance, and sonic purity. Especially consider the X10i if you want one of the lightest, smallest, and most comfortable in-ear headphones on the planet (qualities enhanced by Klipsch’s signature, patent pending oval eartips). Note, too, that the X10i’s 3-button remote/microphone module works exactly as advertised, making this a good choice for iPhone/iPod owners.
Look further if: you seek the Nth degree of resolution, clarity, and focus. While the X10i is extremely good in these areas, the world has moved forward so that a few of today’s best in-ear models (one example would be the Monster Turbine Pro Copper Editions) have raised the performance bar higher still (though they do not, as yet, offer the X10i’s iPod/iPhone-friendly features).
• Tonal Balance: 9
• Clarity: 9
• Dynamics: 9
• Comfort/Fit: 10
• Sensitivity: 8
• Value: 9
• Single full-range “balanced micro driver” (balanced armature motor assembly)
• In-line microphone module provides a multifunction Play/Pause control button (which doubles as a Send/End button when handling phone calls). Music automatically mutes and pauses for an incoming call.
• Inbound calls: When an inbound call is received, pressing the Play/Pause button once allows the listener to answer the call. Pressing the button again disconnects the call and allows music to resume.
• Listening to music on a modern iPod/iPhone: When listening to music, pressing the Play/Pause button once causes music playback to pause. Pressing the button again allows music playback to resume. Pressing the button twice in rapid succession causes the iPhone or iPod touch to skip forward to the next track. Pressing the button three times in rapid succession causes the iPhone or iPod touch to skip backward to the previous track.
• According to Klipsch the Image X10i is “fully compatible with the Apple VoiceOver feature on the third generation iPod shuffle, which allows you to hear the name of the playlist, song or artist with just the press of a button.”
• Accessories: the X10i comes with an extensive set of accessories, as listed under the COMFORT FACTOR/ACCESSORIES section, below.
• Headset/remote control compatibility factors: According to Klipsch, “the remote and mic are supported only by iPhone 3GS/4, iPod nano (4th and 5th generation), iPod Classic (120 GB), and iPod touch (2nd generation), MacBook, MacBook Pro and Mac Pro (2009 models).” A Klipsch representative pointed out that the X10i is also compatible with the iPad. In turn, Klipsch adds that, “the remote is supported by iPod shuffle (3rd generation). Requires latest iPod software. Audio is supported by all iPod models. Mic and call/music button control features (are) functional with 1st generation iPhones and iPhone 3G. Volume Controls are not compatible with 1st generation iPhone 3G. Also compatible with VOIP, Skype, iChat, and audio recording applications.”
• Comes with Klipsch’s patent-pending oval eartips, which are said to “naturally fit the contours—or mimic the shape—of your ear canals.”
• Arguably the lightest, smallest, most comfortable in-ear headphone that money can buy.