Fitness fanatics everywhere understand the value of motivational music when it comes time to get the blood pumping. Luckily, so do headphone manufacturers, who have been churning out rugged, water-resistant sports models for years now. The key is finding the set that's best suited to your activity, and if that happens to be skiing or snowboarding, the Klipsch Image S5i Rugged headphones are right up your alley. These $130 earphones are compact, durable, and designed with outdoor sports in mind.
In fact, the design of the Image S5i earphones isn't a sharp departure from the popular S4i earphones. The earpieces are supercompact and angled ever so slightly, though the S5i's earpieces are coated in a texturized rubber rather than shiny plastic. The cables are similarly thin but the S5i's is reinforced and water-resistant. In fact, everything from the plug housing to the earpieces to the remote module is designed to withstand a reasonable amount of moisture, a statement we found true when testing the earbuds in the snow.
The other marked design features of the Image S5i Rugged earphones are the in-line mic and remote module. While the mic is the standard pinhole variety, the remote is noticeably different from those found on other models. In addition to being water-resistant, it features large, rubberized buttons that are usable even if you're wearing gloves. The module features volume controls as well as a Play/Pause button (which also serves to skip through tracks if you're using an iOS device). The one downside here is that the module adds some weight, and while there is a removable shirt clip in the package, detachable ear loops would have been a welcome addition.
Another unique feature offered by the Image S5i is the case. It too is ultradurable and sports a removable clip for attaching the unit to your person. More importantly, it offers an integrated LED flashlight, which can be used in either steady or strobe mode. This particular extra could come in handy if you find yourself off the beaten track.
Most importantly, though, the Image S5i earphones live up to the sound quality we've come to expect from Klipsch. That said, the audio from these 'buds isn't as clear and balanced as the S4i's audio, so the appeal won't be as universal. Rather, the S5i offers a massive amount of bass. The low end is so forward that we actually felt as if our ears were vibrating at times. The good news is that there's no distortion and the mids are still very rich. If anything suffers, it's the high-end detail, which won't be sparkly enough for some.
That being said, these earphones are clearly aimed at extreme sports enthusiasts, who tend to listen to heavier music during activity. And for that purpose, the Image S5i earphones are practically perfect.