Klipsch Image S4 headphones

Most people's reaction on first opening the Klipsch Image S4s is probably "is that it?" and the manufacturer doesn't seem to have a problem with that. There is little of the pomp and ceremony of the Custom series or any other company's headphones for that matter.

They come in a fairly standard box - the type you might have picked off the shelf at an airport Dixons because you left yours at home - and even the pencil case tin carrier seems like a bit of an afterthought.

In fact, it doesn't get much better when you look at the 'phones themselves. It's not that they look shoddy or cheap but just a little on the unexciting side. The buds are around the size of a one penny piece. They're made of a sturdy enough, black and silver painted plastic and they sit dangling on the end of a metre of so of some dangerously thin looking cable. And that's about the size of them in the aesthetics department.

However, what becomes apparent the minute you plug them into your head is that the looks and trinkets are not where your money has gone. It's hard to go into raptures about the quality of sound you get from a set of sub-£100 headphones but, that said, the S4s are really quite impressive.

They're touted by Klipsch as having enhanced bass but to buy too much into that would do the midrange a disservice. The bottom notes are soft and rounded with just enough punch, there's a good tingle in the middle and certainly enough in the heights to keep you occupied. Granted, you won't hear the angels weep but they still run rings around in-the-box-with-your-MP3 player offerings and teach the likes of the overpriced Shure SE115s a much needed lesson in value.

The S4s are helped in no small way by their fit. The buds are nicely angled forward to sit naturally deep in your ears forming a good seal between you and the outside world. They come with three sets of plastic moldings with one criticism that two of them are just far too small. Mercifully, the others do the job giving enough peace and quiet for you to sit in your own world in most environments but don't expect to win any wars against screaming babies, the noise of the Tube and the like. Comfort-wise, your ears will love you and there's little danger of the buds dropping out even while exercising.

That only really leaves concern of durability. Those cables are thin, there's no getting around it but, in their defence, they're a hell of a lot tougher than you'd think. A good twist and a pull in tests left little damage and, although one might not get 5 years out of them, how long would you expect to use the same set of headphones for?

Verdict

The S4s offer very good audio on a budget. There's other places to look if all you mostly listen to classical music or anything under-produced and top end heavy but, for a good, general purpose, modern genre sound, you'd be pleased you chose them. These Klipsch will offer a true headphones experience, bringing to light those parts of your favourite tracks you never really heard before. Just don't get too jealous when someone lends you a serious pair that only cost an £40 or £50.