Pound for lb, the Klipsch X10i are some of the most expensive headphones out there. At the time of writing you’re looking at £195 for a product which weighs 10.5g, so that’s around £18.50/gram which, for the record, makes it less valuable a commodity than gold only by £10/gram. Maths and precious metal lessons to one side, the bottom line is whether these in-ear headphones are worth that kind of cash and we’re pleased to say that the answer is a whole-hearted and beautifully resonating yes.
Let’s start with the important stuff. They sound terrific. In fact, find us any other in-ear headphones for sale at the moment that are acoustically better and we’ll, um, well, there aren’t any. At their tiny size, the Klipsch X10i simply have no business sounding as good as they do. We have no idea what kind of black magic was involved in getting such rich bass from such minuscule buds but these things are encroaching upon that “angels weeping” category of audio enjoyment.
While three quarters of that is down to the full range drivers housed in beautifully sculpted aluminium bodies, the other 25 per cent is all because of the sound isolation as provided by the patented oval shaped, soft rubber ear tips. So long as you take the time to pick the right size (five included) it’s possible to get nearly as good a seal on your ear canals as you would with custom molded sleeves. Combine that with the incredibly light weight of these things and they not only fit your aural canals like a pair of aural gloves but are also as comfy to wear as a set of silk undies.
We tested them out on the Tube and around town for hours at a time. They never once caused even the slightest twinge of discomfort and managed to block out about 90 per cent as much sound as custom molds such as those available from ACS and Etymotics. So far so good.
The Klipsch X10i headphones are more than just a set of buds and a cable, though. If they were just that, they’d be the slightly cheaper Klipsch X10. The missing “i” in this case stands for iPhone or iPod or presumably iPad as well and that’s because there’s both a mini Apple chip on the inside and a remote control on the outside. The remote itself is nicely integrated and features just three buttons - two of which are the volume up and down respectively but don’t let that fool you into thinking that the middle button just has the one function. No sir. Press it once to pause/play the track, twice to skip to the next song, three times to go back one song and hold it down to activate your pocket iOS device’s voice control mode which you can talk to via the Klipsch X10i’s 360-degree microphone, again, housed on the remote.
Naturally, this means that your headphones double as a mobile phone headset and the good news is that they double as such very well. The 360 nature of the mic is true to its name. There’s no need to hold the thing up to your mouth in order for it to work and the person at the other end will be none the wiser that you’re using a hands free. What’s more, the “echo cancellation” (read noise-cancellation) does its job as best you might expect. You’re not going to be heard at a gig but a noisy restaurant is no problem at all.
Possibly the only downside to the whole set up is that which comes as a result of the top notch noise isolation from the ear buds. Because you can barely hear the sound of your own voice, making a call does give you that feeling like you’ve got your head underwater. By the same token, it does mean that you can hear vibrations - your feet on the pavement, the headphones cable rubbing against your clothing - all too well. It shouldn’t get in the way of what is otherwise a fantastic experience but if you focus on it, it could bug you forever. That’s just the trade off you make with noise isolation but one which most people consider worthwhile.
The build is probably the only place one would level serious complaint against the X10i headphones. It’s not that the quality isn’t good. It clearly is. The buds are fantastic, the remote attractive, discrete and ergonomic and the PVC cabling strong enough but, so thin and delicate are the parts that, even though you know there’s clearly been a lot of work to reinforce them, that one day they are going to come apart before you’re ready to spend another £200 on some new ones. And, when they cost that much, it’s going to be heart breaking. You’ll probably cry, maybe even drop to you knees on the street in the pouring rain as you look to the heavens and scream “why?” as uncaring people pass you by. It’s going to be the place where the buds meet the cables that it’s going to happen and there’s nothing you can do about it.
If you can live with the Sword of Damocles above your head that is the X10i’s ultimate demise and you can afford the price tag, then these headphones are a big old pile of yes. The sound is balanced, detailed and nigh on divine - as good as you can get from the in-ear kind. Throw into the mix a reinforced, leatherette carry case and quarter-inch and airplane adapters and you’ve got a very well thought out, beautifully designed, swish looking, smooth talking, easy listening set of buds. Buy them now.