When it comes to portable devices, audio quality depends just as much on the headphones as it does on the audio specs of the player. So it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that many people spend more on their headphones than they do on their MP3 players. In fact, a good pair of earphones could carry you through several rounds of devices, which is why we're so enamored with the Klipsch Image X5 earphones, despite their $250 price tag. This ultraportable pair offers solid sound and an exceptional fit, but we're a bit wary of the extrathin cable.
Other than the cable, which is tangle-prone and doesn't seem very durable, we're taken with the Klipsch Image X5's design. The ear pieces are among the smallest we've ever seen. They measure about an inch and a half long, but are very narrow, and taper toward the wire. This, combined with the contoured silicone eartips--which are oval rather than round to better fit the ear canal--makes the X5s some of the most secure and comfortable earbuds we've ever stuck in our ears. They're an ideal option for those with small canals, as the smallest tips are truly tiny. That said, these 'phones may not be the best for those with larger ears: although Klipsch includes five sets of tips--three sizes of standard-oval fittings and two double-flanged numbers--even the largest size is not super big.
Descending from the earbuds, which are encased in aluminum and feature silver accenting, is a black Y-cable that has a slider to help prevent some tangling. The cord measures 50 inches long and terminates in a modified L-plug. The plug is flexible, to help reduce the stress on the wires if you tend to wrap your headphones around your player. Klipsch also includes a semi-hard travel/storage pouch, as well as an airplane adapter and an earwax cleaning tool.
Thanks to the well-designed eartips, the Klipsch Image X5 earphones offer great sound isolation--always a good thing in our book, because it lets you listen to your music at lower volumes and preserve your hearing. Since the sleeves aren't round like most, it may take a bit of twisting to get the best fit; if you're having trouble getting a seal, try inserting the 'buds then tugging them out a bit. Once you get a good fit, you'll be rewarded with great overall sound quality. Music sounds exceptionally clear, balanced, and enveloping, with warm mids and tight bass. High-end detail is also good, though we think it could stand to be a bit more sparkly. In general, we found the X5 earphones to be on a par with the Shure SE310s, which are in the same price range.