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Klipsch Image S4A & S4i Review
Though they’re better known for larger speakers and even theater sound systems, Klipsch has also been producing in-ear headphones for the past few years. Though some may have been skeptical at first, the reputation for excellent build and sound quality seems to apply just as much to their earbuds as it does to their other sound equipment.
While the company has much higher-end products on the market, the Klipsch Image S4 series drew the attention of many a consumer for it’s relatively low price. The only problem was that the multiple sets of earbuds make it somewhat confusing for the consumer. For example, the standard Klipsch Image S4 doesn’t have any in-line controls at all. The two sets we’re reviewing today do, but each are specific to a different type of phone: the S4A is meant for Android devices, while the S4i is meant for iOS devices. Aside from the controls, the rest of the specs and features are identical.
Features & Specs
- Included carrying case
- 4 pairs of different sized tips
- Clothing clip for remote + mic
- 2 year warranty
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 19kHz
- Impedance: 18 ohms
- Sensitivity: 110 dB
What’s In The Box?
Opening up the box, the first thing you’ll see are the earbuds themselves, carefully tucked into a plastic display box. The only other thing you’ll find is the included carrying case. To find the rest of the accessories, you’ll need to open the case.
Of course, the rest of the accessories don’t really add up to much. A plastic bag inside the carrying case holds three more pairs of differently sized rubber tips, making a grand total of four, counting the tips already on the earbuds. Finally, there is a small clip, meant to hold the controls and mic to your shirt. This allows for better outgoing sound quality when making calls. Ostensibly it helps the buds do a better job of staying in your ears as well, but we didn’t find it to make much of a difference one way or another.
Build Quality & Design
Unlike Klipsch’s higher-end earbuds, there isn’t anything particularly stunning about the build quality here. Both the S4A and S4i seem solidly constructed, but there isn’t anything about them that seems any more well-built than other, similar earbuds in the same price range. The rubber tips, on the other hand, are a little different than most earbuds, and in my case, I found they seemed to fit very securely in my ear.
The style definitely adds a few more points in favor of these earbuds. The black and silver color scheme is pretty striking, definitely more so than the more common flat single-color designs in a lot of other earbuds. These also seem to sit a little more flush with your ears. You’re not going to be able to lie with your ear on a pillow while using these, but they certainly don’t stick out of your ears as far as a lot of earbuds we’ve seen.
Connectivity & Usability
One minor sticking point with the Klipsch Image S4A set in particular is that the controls probably aren’t going to work with your Android device, even though these were made with Android in mind. Klipsch recommends that you download the Klipsch Control app in the Google Play Store to enable full functionality for the in-line remote, though in my testing the functionality was roughly the same either way. Klipsch Control will show you other apps that could possibly interfere with the controls, but even with these disabled I still had problems.
A single click on the single button is used to either play or pause while playing music, answer a phone call, and to mute and unmute the mic during a call. This worked fine, as did double clicking to skip the currently playing track. Clicking three times to go to the previous track did not though, re-dialing the last call I had made instead. A long press to change the volume didn’t work either. Instead, it opened Google Now. Both of these issues are mentioned on the Play Store page for Klipsch Control, and while the company is working to fix them, it is still a problem at the time of this writing.
Using the Klipsch Image S4A to make calls did work quite well, on the other hand. Incoming sound quality was about as clear as a phone call can be, and the quality of outgoing voice was good as well. This is one area where the included clothing clip is very handy, as it makes the quality of outgoing voice even better.
To test the sound quality of both the Klipsch Image S4A and S4i, I used a few listening methods. The first, to judge overall quality, was through a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 audio interface, using the built-in headphone amp. Second, I listened through a Motorola Moto X, as most people will be using these with either their phone or a similar device. For both tests, I disabled any EQ settings and listened to a variety of music.
Both sets of Klipsch Image earbuds use a fairly high-powered driver, and this delivered very solid low end. These fall more on the accurate end of the spectrum, ie. you hear what is present in the song, and no more. These don’t overemphasize the bass frequencies. Personally, I prefer this, but if you prefer skull-rumbling, super-powerful bass, you might want to look for earbuds that hype the low end more.
Like the low end, the mids on both sets of Klipsch earbuds are solid. The mids aren’t hyped, so there are no “woofy” sounding lower mids or boxy sounding upper mids. As with the lows, these seem to aim for being accurate, so they don’t scoop the mids to emphasize the highs and lows. Again, I prefer this, but you may not.
The highs on the Klipsch Image earbuds are very clear and open sounding. They’re not muddy or muffled at all, but neither are they harsh-sounding or irritating. This is one area where everyone will probably agree that it’s a good thing.
The MSRP on both the Klipsch Image S4A and Image S4i is $99, but they’re commonly found online for closer to $50. At $99, the issues with the Klipsch Control app and the relatively snag-happy cable might be enough to put me off, but at the price they’re currently selling for, it’s much easier to overlook.
The sound quality alone makes these fairly easy to recommend, as they compare very favorably to earbuds you could pick up for a similar place. Unfortunately, given the issues with the remote on the S4A, you might want to look at another set if those features are important to you.
Have you tried the Klipsch Image S4A or the Image S4i? What did you think of them?