Klipsch Image X7i review: Ceramic beauties

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MSRP: $199.99

The Good The comfortable Klipsch Image X7i in-ear headphones have sleek and durable ceramic earpieces, offer good, clean sound with lots of detail, and feature the same tangle-resistant flat cord found on the step-down S4i II model. An integrated Apple-friendly remote/microphone and a nice, compact carrying case are included.

The Bad Bass lovers probably won't be satisfied by the amount of bass; inline-remote features aren't compatible with most non-Apple smartphones.

The Bottom Line While their price is a little too steep, the X7i earphones are slick-looking and comfortable, and deliver clean, detailed sound.

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7.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 7
  • Sound 7
  • Value 6

Over the years, Klipsch's Image S4 line of sub-$100 earphones has received very positive reviews from CNET editors. The newer S4 II, S4i II (for iOS devices), and S4A II (for Android devices) look and sound the same as the original S4 but have a new flat cord that's both tangle-resistant and more durable.

So what about the step-up X7i, which lists for twice as much at $199.99? How much better an earphone experience do you get for that extra dough? And more precisely, is it worth paying for?

The answer to that will most likely depend on how good a deal you can get on the X7i earphones, which come in white or black. I liked them better than the S4i II model -- they have a swankier ceramic design, as well as cleaner, more detailed sound. But they aren't twice as good as the S4i II model, which is why the price is such a factor.

Polished earpieces
I reviewed another pair of ceramic in-ear headphones recently, the Moshi Keramo. The design gives the earpieces a polished, onyxlike look, and both companies claim ceramic is very durable (presumably, it's more durable than plastic).

The ceramic earpieces have a sort of teardrop design. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Klipsch X7i earpieces are a little smaller than the Keramo earpieces and slightly more comfortable to wear. But the $119 Keramos arguably sound as good. Both have more of an audiophile sound profile, as neither model overaccentuates the bass.

In terms of added features, the X7i model incorporates the same new flat, linguine-style cord found in the S4 II line, as well as a three-button Apple-friendly inline remote/microphone that won't fully work with most (if not all) Android mobile devices.

The full assortment of included accessories. Sarah Tew/CNET

The compact protective case you get with the X7i earphones is different from the S4i II case. Both cases are good, though the X7i case has faux microsuede styling and is slightly more luxurious. It actually looks a lot like the case that comes with the Etymotic HF5 earphones, which also feature an audiophile sound profile. That model costs less but doesn't have a microphone for making calls.

One of the keys to what makes Klipsch earphones good is the angle of the earphones' post (what the eartip attaches to) and the conical shape of the silicone eartips, of which four sizes come included. The combination creates a comfortable fit and Klipsch arguably makes the best-designed silicone eartips, giving a tight seal, which is crucial for maximizing bass response.

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