Saturday, 24 December 2011

Klipsch Image X1 / S2 In-ear Headphones

After extensive research I decided to go back to ‘Klipsch’ for my replacement in-ear headphones as my last pair from them, the Custom 1’s were great and lasted just over 12 months which at the time I thought was poor but after the MEElectronics M11+ only lasted for 4 months this year I thought that maybe the 12+ months that the Klipsch Custom 1 in-ear headphones  had lasted wasn't so bad after all.

Additionally, after further reading around the general consensus was that earphones especially when subjected to sweat and the elements i.e. wind/rain/hail during running just don’t last that long as if they are kept warm and dry so I thought I would give Klipsch another go.  
Klipsch Image X1/S2 in-ear headphones
The research seemed to suggest that the Klipsch Image X1/S2 In-ear headphones would suit my needs, they came with a 2 year warranty so this gave me some assurance that they would last longer than my previous Headphones.  They also received generally favourable reviews on the Internet and the price was right (£15 on Amazon, reduced from £40).  I only paid £20 for my Klipsch Custom 1 In-ear headphones on special offer the first time around and these only came with a 1 year warranty so £15 seemed even better value for their replacements.

So, they arrived and after a few days in the office and out about with them they unfortunately have not lived up to the high expectations I had for them and are no where near as good as my old Klipsch Custom 1’s.  I had concerns the first time I tried them out in the office as the isolation just wasn’t as good as my M11+ in-ear headphones as they weren’t blocking out nearby conversations/background noises very well, so I was dubious at how good would they be against the noise experienced outside during running i.e. mainly from cars and the wind!

Unfortunately, I was right; out and about they were very poor at isolating unwanted noise.  I tried all the differently sized ear buds that came with them to try and get an improved fit but it just didn’t work and as a result the external noise was a constant distraction alongside busy roads and as a result I almost ditched them after my first run.  However, I persevered with them in the office and on a further few runs to give them a decent trial.  Following these runs, they proved to be a real mixed bag with unfortunately more emerging negatives then positives!

Firstly, the positives; comfort is definitely one when a good fit is achieved.  They are extremely comfortable to wear for extended periods and I haven’t had any issues in the office when listening to music for several hours at a time; they are so light that sometimes you can’t even feel them in.  The housings are quite large though and I don’t feel I get as good a fit as my others but they are definitely comfortable to wear.  The sound quality is another positive; they are as good as my old Klipsch Custom 1’s and slightly better than the M11+ in-ear headphones  as there is no hiss present when listening to quiet segments of music although the lack of isolation does make it harder to ‘lose’ oneself in the music, both in the office and out running.

Now on to the deal breaking negatives; microphonics i.e. cable noise was poor regardless of the cable arrangements I tried….and believe me I tried them all out!  These arrangements included cable behind the head but this was not comfortable as when the cable became taunt it had the tendency to drag and tried to turn my head which isn’t comfortable.  I tried various methods to restrict cable movement i.e. armband/shirt clip and I also tried running the cable over the ears which normally works very well on other earphones and even though there was some improvement; the cable noise was still too distracting.  This is certainly an area where my previous earphones, the M11+ excelled.  The best arrangement was when worn over the ear however this led to a further negative discovery in that when they fell out on occasion it was extremely difficult, time consuming and distracting to re-establish and maintain their position as there is no memory character in the cable so they don’t ‘remember’ the position that they are normally in too well.  

Finally, as alluded to earlier, the external noise isolation is very poor even when the best fit is established.  Perhaps when out running it is good that isolation isn’t very good when running alongside traffic although I feel I am very road/traffic aware when out and about but above all else I prefer trying to get lost in music to help me get into a ‘zone’ when running and the poor isolation on these make that extremely difficult.  I also know that it can be just as dangerous running without any form of music as a colleague of mine was hit from behind.

To conclude, after an extremely good 2nd run with them (What makes a good run?), I was almost at the point where I could put up with them despite their flaws.  However, a further ‘normal’ run raised further concerns with maintaining the ‘fit’ when worn over the ear as highlighted earlier.  I gave them one more chance on a long run (6 miles+) to help me make my mind up as to whether to continue using them for running or not and I still struggled with them and they didn’t perform as I expect from running headphones so I’ve decided to keep them solely for office use and its back to the drawing board for finding a suitable running in-ear headphones replacement… 

For a more detailed audiophile review on these in-ear headphones, check out the Head-Fi forum thread which reviews in-ear earphones (Ref. 3A24 refers to these in-ear headphones).

Last blog before Christmas Day, so thanks for reading and I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!  Check back in a few days to find out what in-ear headphones I have bought and used since dispensing with these.

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