Klipsch S4i Rugged in-ear headphones review: Popular Klipsch earphones get sporty

The remote has bigger buttons and looks a little like those TV remotes with jumbo buttons that are marketed to seniors. It's not quite that big, but Klipsch refers to it as an "extra-large three-button remote for easy control during outdoor activity."

While the remote is fairly lightweight, it does dangle a little when you run, so it's best to use the small clip accessory to attach the headphone cord to your clothing to minimize movement of the cord and remote. I'm not sure the remote's design is the best for runners, but it is easy to operate by feel. I'll give it that.

As for additional accessories, the S4i Ruggeds come with a nice, compact carrying case. It's the same one that ships with the S4i II earphones and it's one of the better earphone cases out there because it's lightweight and compact, yet protective.

We've always liked Klipsch's included carrying case for its S4i models. Sarah Tew/CNET

Performance
In the past, we've rated the S4i headphones very highly for sound quality. Since Klipsch hasn't changed the sound profile, this model gets high marks, too, but it's worth discussing why a lot of people end up liking this line as much as they do. With earphones, one of the biggest keys to sound quality is the fit of the earphones, and the S4i models fit exceptionally well. Again, that's partially due to the angle of the earpiece stem and the shape of the oval eartips, all of which allows you to get a very tight seal comfortably.

Listening to the S4i Rugged in-ear headphones, I can't say the sound is really that much better than you get from competing models. But the sound is nicely balanced, with good detail and ample bass. They just sound pleasant and the bass response is helped by the tight seal and very good noise isolation. In other words, there are other $100 earphone models out there that have the potential to sound as good as the Klipsch S4 and S4i, but they don't necessarily reach their potential due to their fit. The Klipsch earphones do; you really get the most out of the performance they offer. (I also had no problem making calls with them on an iPhone).

The S4i cord has a straight plug. L-shaped plugs tend to be more durable. Sarah Tew/CNET

Are there better sports earphones out there? I'd say the Monster iSports offer a little bit more in the way of bass and their wing design ensures a more secure fit. However, the Klipsch Ruggeds are arguably slightly more comfortable. Of course, every ear is different, so some of you may not think these are supercomfortable or sound that much better than competing models. And you might also not like the fit of the Monster iSport.

Conclusion
The original Klipsch S4 and S4i earphones have received high marks for their sound quality and comfort level. The one strike against them was that their cord was pretty thin and we heard complaints about them not holding up that well over time.

The S4i Rugged earphones endeavor to do better in that department, and in the few weeks that I used them for sporting activities, as well as my daily commutes on the subway, they held up just fine, and I think they're a reasonable value at $100. For someone who doesn't like the feeling of having an eartip jammed in your ear, Bose now makes the SIE2 earphones, which offer some wiggle room while giving you a secure fit. But the SIE2s are more expensive, at $149.95 for the SEI2i model, which has a microphone and remote.

Monster's iSport line is another good alternative to take a look at. And so, too, is the Klipsch S4i II design, which is sturdier than the original and has a flat, tangle-resistant cord. That model should work fine for lighter workouts and everyday use. But if you really are planning to hit the gym or the road a lot, the S4i Rugged in-ear headphones are probably the better choice because of their sweat-resistant design.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Color red
  • Additional Features weatherproof
  • Type headset
  • Headphones Form Factor in-ear
  • Connector Type mini-phone 3.5 mm 4-pole