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.
Despite the forward, ultrathumping low-end, the Image S4 earphones do not fail to deliver an excellent amount of clarity and detail throughout the high-end. This set will surely appeal to a wide variety of listeners, from those who demand massive low-end response to those who prefer a bright overall response. The balance offered by the S4 is truly exceptional, with warm, buttery mids that stay right where they should.
We tested the earphones across a variety of genres and were never disappointed. LCD Soundsystem's "Something Great" sounded spectacular, with an encompassing bass line that came nowhere near overshadowing the tinkling digital triangle notes or the mellow richness of the vocals. Similarly, Outkast's super fast dance track "Hey Ya" came through firing on all cylinders, with not a single sound lost in the shuffle. Even classical music sounds great, with the rich violins and bright trumpets from the London Symphony Orchestra underscored perfectly by the deep cellos.
In all honesty, we have trouble believing that the Image S4 earphones only cost $80. Klipsch somehow managed to create an exceptional sound space for very little money, and we'd be very surprised if anyone was not impressed by what these have to offer for the money. Despite potential durability issues, we recommend these heads above competitors in the price range.