Editors' note: As of August 2012, the Klipsch Image S4s reviewed here have been replaced by the
There's nothing like good, old competition to keep tech prices in check. Case in point: earphones. The headphone market is heavily saturated, and we can all thank that fact for the existence of many worthy earbud contenders in the sub-$100 price range. Still, despite having come across plenty of decent earbuds with reasonable pricing, nothing prepared us for the Klipsch Image S4. These supercomfy noise-isolating earphones offer shockingly stellar sound quality, certainly much better than their $80 price tag suggests. If you've been on the market for a headphone replacement for your MP3 player, look no further. (Curious about competitors to the Klipsh Image S4? We've rounded up several in the collection below.)
The Klipsch Image S4 earpieces do not feel as high-end as those of its sibling, the X5, but then the S4 only costs one-third as much, so we won't knock them for that. More important is the fact that the 'buds are ultrasmall and offer a tapered, bent shape that fit our ears perfectly. This combined with the soft, oval eartips gave us a supercomfortable fit that sealed out external noise. Klipsch includes two sizes of standard tips and one double-flanged model, but all of them are on the small side, so those with larger ears may have some fit issues. The package also contains a metal box for storing the earphones and an earwax cleaning tool.
Our only real design concern about the Image S4 earphones is the cable. It's very thin, from the Y section descending from each earpiece to the gold-plated 3.5mm plug at the end. This raises some concern for durability, though this is allayed slightly by Klipsch's inclusion of a two-year warranty. Also, the reinforced L-plug should help prevent breakage that typically happens where the wire connects to the plug. The thinness also makes the cable quite tangle prone, though a slider at the Y helps this a bit.
Truly, the Klipsch Image S4 headphones inspire little complaint, especially when it comes to sound quality. Straight up: these earphones sound stellar. Each earpiece contains a set of dual-magnet microspeakers, and although one would not suspect it given the price point and specs, our ears had trouble telling the difference between these 'buds and Shure's $250 SE310s. In fact, we'd go so far as to say we prefer the sound from the Image S4, thanks to its boomier but still not overpowering bass. Certainly, the S4 earphones are the best we've heard in their price range.