Something you probably didn’t know about me was that for many years I’ve been somewhat of an audiophile. I’m one of those people who greatly enjoy accurately reproduced music and I’m willing to pay a reasonable amount for high quality audio products. What sets me apart from the traditional audiophile is my personal requirement of “reasonable” cost. I won’t tell you it’s silly to spend as much for an earphone set as you might for a new car, but I will take the position that relatively few will do so.
Unrestricted audiophiles will spent an extreme amount of money to have the very best performance/experience. More power to them. They want 100% of the possible performance and cost be damned. Normal consumers want to pay 1% of the cost for 50% of the performance. Because I love music and because like most people I live on a budget, it makes far more sense, to me, to spend 5% of the cost for a product that gives you 99% of the performance. This I’m willing to do.
Headphones or speakers are the final interface to your ears, so this would be the place to spend a bit extra if the reward is a much greater listening experience.
While I do enjoy MP3 music players I’m not of “the Ipod generation.” But my 18 year old son is. MP3 players have been affordable most of his young life and as such he’s developed a keen appreciation for Apple Ipods, and then his Apple Itouch, and quality headphones go hand in hand with a quality MP3 player.
Knowing he appreciates such quality I purchased a pair of Klipsch S4 Image In Ear Headphones for his birthday several years ago. I’d researched what was available, read a ton of reviews, and because they weren’t available locally I finally made the decision to order them via Amazon. Unfortunately he left his Ipod and S4 headphones in the seatback of a 747 shortly thereafter. Since that time he’s mentioned several times how great these headphones were and how much he misses them. He’s had 7-8 different headphones since, but the Klipsch Image S4’s are always mentioned as a superior sound.
Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones
Something strange happened. While the product cycle of most headphones can be measured in months, the legend of the Klipsch Image S4’s continued to bloom. CNET and other reviewers are on record citing the S4’s as the “headphone value of the decade” and they’re raved about across the web. During the two years since they first came on the market they’ve become even more popular and even a standard. I went back on Amazon and ordered him a second set for this last Christmas.
All this talk about the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones had peaked my interest so I asked my son to borrow them for an evaluation. I have a set of reference Shure headphones and a drawer full of other headphones which have come with other devices, and I wanted to compare them.
The first thing you notice is the smooth piano black finish with the silver “Klipsch” name and the oval shaped clear silicone ‘tip’ that goes in your ear. The cable is very thin. I have mixed feelings about such a thin cord. On one hand my son tells me a thin cable is ideal for jogging and other active use, but on the other I worry the longevity would be on the short side. My Shure Reference headphones have much more sturdy cables.
The ‘tips’ are oval shaped and come in three sizes to ensure a high level of sound isolation. They’re also washable. The thin cable is advertised as “anti-tangle.” Overall they’re an attractive headphone providing a feeling of quality.
The Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones are billed as a high performance headphone with superior noise isolation, a high level of accuracy, and an enhanced base suitable for modern music. They’ve even attached an “audiophile” tag which Klipsch doesn’t use lightly.
Armed with a Generation 4 Ipod with a wide selection of music tracks ranging from classical, pop, hip hop, country, and R&B I waited for an uninterrupted and quiet time and then settled in for my listening experience.
Frankly I expected to spend some time evaluating the sound of the S4’s and I didn’t expect them to approach the quality sound of my Shure Reference Headphones. Yet, the difference between the two was so profound I found it very easy to pick out their high and low points with ease. Still, I made notes and cycled through the different tracks with each headphone making my comparisons as meaningful as possible. I will admit the “drawer full” of other headphones of the like of stock Apple Ipod headphones, Sony, etc, etc, were so obviously inferior I didn’t spend more than a few minutes with each.
Quantifying sound, or rather putting music to words, is difficult to say the least, but I’ll give it my best try. The Shure Reference headphones are well known for two things. Price and accuracy. At over $300 a pair they’re expensive. And boy are they accurate. By accurate I mean they reproduce the musical tones as intended without “color” or enhancements of any type. I’ve used these for years and many long enjoyable sessions and have never found them anything but enjoyable.
So imagine my surprise when I almost immediately began enjoying the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones more! These do color the music though enhanced bass providing a rich full sound the Shure Reference Headphones can’t reproduce.
Here’s the thing. I prefer accurate headphones because every other “enhanced” headphone I’ve tried are not enhanced the way I enjoy. With my home stereo 7.1 setup I often enjoy enhanced sound fields such as a jazz hall, blues club, or a live concert hall depending on the music I’m enjoying. I can fine tune these sound fields to my satisfaction, so I’ll enjoy them as appropriate. Headphones you can’t really adjust other than to select a pre-made sound field from the Ipod menu.
From the moment I listened to the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones I thought “these are enhanced the way I would enhance them!” I love the full rich sound and tight but controlled bass. And I can’t believe these retail at only $79.99. I could easily live with these as my main set of headphones.
The Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones are a real bargain. When you see the $79 price tag you might think these are lower end performance headphones, but I encourage you to give them a listen. You’ll quickly find that while the price is very reasonable, the performance is first rate and equivalent to what you might expect from a set of headphones costing 3-5 times as much.
One of the three tip sets fit my ear canals perfectly and the thin cables were very comfortable and they even seemed to resist tangling, though I maintain my reservations concerning their longevity. The “tin” they come in work great for storage in a knapsack or suitcase. And the full rich sound speaks for itself.
Now I understand why this product is still on the market an amazing two years after it’s introduction and why the biggest review sites on the net are calling them the best bargain performance combination available. There are better MUCH more expensive headphones, and there are much less expensive headphones and they sound like it, but you’ll need to spend 3-5 times as much to find another headphone with a sound quality anywhere near the Klipsch Image S4 In Ear Headphones.
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