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We recently looked at the highest-end model in the Klipsch Custom series -- the Custom-3s. At £150 these might be a little out of your range, so Klipsch has introduced the more affordable Custom-2s.
The Custom-2s are on sale for around £100 and sit in the middle of the Custom earphone range.
Consistent with the entire line of these new Klipsch earphones, the Custom-2s conform to the pseudo-triangular design we saw in the Custom-3s. Their lightweight enclosures are very well built and play host to the feature that gives the earphones their 'Custom' name: memory wire.
This wire can be bent like a pipe cleaner, and it stays rigid in whatever shape it's bent into, allowing you you twist it over the back of your ear to ensure a comfortable and 'custom' fit. It's not a feature we're particularly fond of, but some people will, particularly if you intend on moving around or taking exercise while wearing the 'phones.
In the box is a range of silicone tips, both tradition sound-isolating sleeves and double-flanged versions. Experimentation is the key to getting the right fit, and we found them, like the Custom-3s, to be the earphones we struggled with most to get a comfortable seal. When you achieve it, however, they're pretty comfy and offer excellent sound-isolation.
Interestingly, we found sound-isolating tips from competing manufacturer Shure fit the Custom-2 perfectly, and offered improved fit. Not everyone will experience this -- your ears may vary -- but if you discover yourself having trouble, it's worth trying tips from Shure.
Inside each enclosure are dual armatures, similar in design, but with one incorporating an acoustic low pass filter to help smooth the mid-range. What this means to the layman is that two tiny speakers inside each earpiece are driving sound into your ears.
Sending audio to these armatures is a fairly thin, cloth-encased cabling, connected to a gold-plated 3.5mm plug. Sadly, there's no 6.3mm adaptor in the sturdy bundled carry case, but there is an airline adaptor for use on planes. Oh, and an earwax removal tool!
Aside from armature configuration, there is another physical difference between the Custom-2 and Custom-3s: impedance. The Custom-2s have a lower impedance (16 ohms), meaning they require less power to be driven. This is ideal if you're going to be using a battery-powered portable device such as an iPod. Conversely, the Custom-3s have an impedance of 32 ohms, so require a slightly more high-powered input.
With regards to volume and power, however, the difference between the two models is negligible, suggesting the other variable affecting volume -- sensitivity -- is the same across the Custom-2 and Custom-3. The Custom-2s provide a pretty high volume limit, helped in part by excellent sound-isolation that blocks out noisy environments.
Performance-wise they're quite similar to Shure's SE420s, in that no one part of the audible spectrum gets too much attention. The focus of Klipsch appears to be in solidifying a good mid-range, backed up by just enough bass and just enough treble. The result is an earphone geared up for vocal-driven music.
It truly is a balanced sound, but it exemplifies the Klipsch voice we've heard before, in that the clarity of high-end frequencies isn't great -- cymbals don't sparkle much, steel-stringed guitars sound a little dull and tightly skinned snare drums don't crack with the same cutting quality. If a bright treble is crucial to you, these may not be your earphones.
This lack of high-end presence does of course reduce musical transparency. Music doesn't quite sound as spacious as it should, not quite as open -- you can 'see' into the recording studio, but it's through ever-so-slightly frosted glass.
Where they really shine, as hinted at earlier, is with vocally driven music. Eva Cassidy's beautiful voice was so natural-sounding, the smooth jazz vocals of Jeanne Newhall were just a delight, and the contemporary band behind her was perfectly enjoyable for an earphone at this price -- you're parctically at the smoky jazz club with them.
The Custom-2s are clearly great sub-£100 earphones for jazz, soul and vocal genre lovers. If it's music that can be performed live without any amplification, electronics or mixing desks, it's probably suitable for the Custom-2s, making them enjoyable earphones despite their weaker high-end performance.
An obvious alternative, if you can afford it, are the Custom-3s. They rectify every sonic 'problem' mentioned in this review, and add a whopping bass and treble extension. Also consider the Denon AH-C751s for an almost opposite sound quality, or the Etymotic ER-6is for decent balance without the lack of brightness.
Edited by Nick Hide