Companies such as Shure and Etymotic have found success with high-end earbuds, and now Klipsch--best known for its loudspeakers--is taking a stab at the market with its line of supercompact Image in-ear headphones. The Image headphones reviewed here are not only the tiniest of the lot, but they sit at the top of the Klipsch headphone line and carry a rather hefty price tag of $350. Yes, that may be more than you paid for your iPod, but if you're looking for an ultracomfortable, great sounding set of earbud-style headphones, these guys don't disappoint.
Klipsch's oval-shaped "Contour Ear Gels" are largely responsible for the exceptional fit; they produce a tight seal to block outside noise and help the Image headphones produce unusually powerful bass. Since everybody's ear canals are different, the Image comes with five sizes and types of Contour Ear Gels.
Achieving a snug fit is obviously subject to the vagaries of your particular ear canal, but we never had to experiment with the different gels; the ones that came on the Image earpieces fit perfectly. That's a first for us!
After inserting the earpieces into your ears, you'll want to tug lightly on the wires to make sure the Contour Ear Gels are providing a complete seal against outside noise (the included "double flange" ear gels are said to provide more isolation from outside noise, though we didn't find that was the case with our ears). We never had a problem with the Image earpieces accidentally falling out of our ears.
By sealing off your ear, in-ear headphones offer a form of passive noise-cancellation. The Image headphones exhibited average ability to block external noise (the roar of the New York City subway is our own personal torture test for these things) compared to other in-ear headphones, which are more or less on a par with battery powered noise-canceling headphones. That said, we think noise-isolating headphones such as the Image sound better, clearer, and more accurate than active noise-canceling headphones, and without exhibiting the pressure on your eardrums that some folks experience when using the latter variety.