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

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The Good The Klipsch S4i Rugged in-ear headphones have the same impressive sound and fit as the original S4i model but they're more durable and have a sweat-resistant design. There's an integrated Apple-friendly remote/microphone and they come with a nice, compact carrying case.

The Bad While the larger remote is easier to operate by feel, it does dangle and knock around a bit when you're running; the inline remote isn't compatible with many Android smartphones.

The Bottom Line While serious runners may find that the S4i Rugged in-ear headphones won't stay in their ears that securely, they're an excellent pair for gym and everyday use.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Combining a comfortable fit with excellent sound for the money, Klipsch's original Image S4 and S4i earphones have long been among our favorites here at CNET. That said, I've seen some complaints about them not being durable enough, especially for sporting activities.

Well, Klipsch has apparently heard those criticisms and smartly made a tougher version that's simply called the Image S4i Rugged.

Like the original S4is, the S4i Rugged earphones, which come in blue, orange, yellow, and red, have an MSRP of $99.99, and, according to Klipsch, sound exactly the same. They also have the same Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone that probably won't fully work with many Android mobile devices. I hope Klipsch will do a non-Apple version of this product in the future.

Design changes
As you can see from the pictures, the S4i Ruggeds have a sportier look than the original S4i earphones and have been toughened up with a sturdier cable, thicker rubber moldings, and a sweat-resistant design. Klipsch says the "all-weather design resists moisture and functions through extreme elements," which presumably means very hot and cold weather. Since I've only been able to use the earphones in milder weather, I can't vouch for how they'll hold up for skiing or just walking around the streets in the dead of winter in Minnesota (or New York for that matter), but I did take them on a few runs and wore them on the treadmill at the gym.

The S4i Rugged earphones have the same sound as the standard S4i model but are sweat-resistant. Sarah Tew/CNET

The key to what makes the S4i Rugged earphones and their predecessors so good is the angle of the earphones' post (what the eartip attaches to) and the oval shape of the silicone eartips, of which three sizes come included. The combination creates a comfortable fit and Klipsch arguably makes the best-designed silicone eartips, giving a tight seal.

What you get in the package. Sarah Tew/CNET

As for how securely these earphones fit, for sporting use that will depend on a variety of factors. The way you're supposed to wear them is, once the tips are in your ears, to wrap the cord over and around your ear from front to back. I never particularly liked wearing earphones like this but in theory it helps create a more secure fit and helps stabilize the cord. However, a lot of folks will simply wear them with the cord dangling down from their ears.

I'd say they work well for treadmill and elliptical use at the gym, but I think a model such as the Monster iSport earphones offers a more secure fit for running outdoors, thanks to the little wings that keep the earphones in place. In fact, I can't say there's a significant difference in fit between this model and the new S4i II headphones, which Klipsch has redesigned with a flat cord. Rather, the differences here are the sweat-resistant design and tougher rubber moldings encasing the earpieces. That, and the inline remote/microphone.

The remote/mic has oversize buttons. Sarah Tew/CNET

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."

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