Klipsch Custom 3 Review

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Klipsch Custom 3
Reviewed May 2010

Details: Dual-armature flagship of Klipsch’s Custom line, recently discontinued and plummeting rapidly in street price
MSRP: $399.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $265 / discontinued
Specs: Driver: Dual BA | Imp: 32 Ω | Sens: 115 dB | Freq: 8-19k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ L-plug
Nozzle Size:3.5mm | Preferred tips: Shure Olives
Wear Style: Over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Silicone single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange (2 sizes) tips, cleaning tool, airplane adapter, 6.3mm adapter, and oversize hard carrying case
Build Quality (2.5/5) – The housings are rubber-covered plastic and quite well-made. The memory wire acts as a strain relief and the y-split and L-plug are both very impressive. The nylon cabling, however, is atrocious. It kinks and tangles endlessly, ruining an otherwise very competent build
Isolation (3.5/5) – The long, steeply angled nozzles allow for deep insertion, resulting in impressive isolation
Microphonics (2.5/5) – Unpleasant despite these being worn over-the-ear and having a ‘memory wire’ configuration
Comfort (4/5) – Can’t fault the Customs here – they fit in the ear rather snugly and unobtrusively, not unlike the JVC AirCushions. Persons with smaller ears may find them harder to wear

Sound (8.7/10) – Unlike the Custom 2, which uses two identical armatures with no crossover, the Custom 3 has a separate woofer and tweeter with a crossover around 1500Hz. The extended frequency response shows, with the Custom 3 having very reasonable reach both down low and up high. Though they don’t have the bottom-end extension of the MTPG or even the e-Q7, the Customs can easily match IEMs like the RE0 and Ety ER4. Bass is impactful and articulate, with impressive texturing for a BA-based earphone and moderate decay times. The Custom 3s are far from bass-heavy but they have a more immediate punch than the CK10/ER4/RE252 crowd. Aside from dropping off steeply past 35Hz or so, the bass is fairly linear and transitions smoothly to the midrange. While slightly warm, the Custom 3s aren’t quite as toasty as the Custom 2s but not as cool as the Custom 1s, either. The happy medium in tonality works with the thick-sounding midrange to create an accurate and balanced sound. Compared to more analytical IEMs, however, the Customs sacrifice some detail in the midrange and treble for fullness. There is a bit of weight placed on the lower mids but overall the midrange is fairly flat all the way up. The treble is clean and smooth, slightly laid back compared to the bass and mids but far from recessed. It doesn’t sparkle and isn’t quite as crisp as that of the high-end Audio-Technicas or as extended as that of the RE0. More than anything, it reminds me of the Ortofon e-Q7 – neither bright nor harsh nor fatiguing – just perfectly complimentary to the thick and lush midrange.

The presentation of the Custom 3 seems well-suited for their balanced nature. Soundstage width and depth are both above average, resulting in a rather spacious sound. Instrumental separation is hindered slightly by the somewhat thick sound, making it more difficult to pick out and place individual instruments but the sense of space is unhindered. Overall the Custom 3 boasts a very balanced and rather accurate overall sound, though they are a bit heavier-sounding than I would consider natural. Still, the signature is very versatile and makes the Custom 3 a great all-rounder and unlikely to disappoint either the casual listener or the seasoned audiophile.

Value (7/10) – The Klipsch Custom 3 is a very capable earphone with one colossal caveat – the cabling. Personally, I could not live with these cables if the Custom 3 was my primary IEM. It’s possible that I’ve simply been so spoiled by the Audio-Technica earphones when it comes to cabling but my gut says otherwise. In fact, my gut gives me murderous urges when I think of the engineer who designed the cords used across Klipsch’s custom line. Is the sound worthy of homicide? At the $300 MSRP, not exactly. At the significantly lower street price, I would say yes. The C3s are punchy and thick but still very balanced and energetic. Best of all, the sound of the Custom 3 is much less of an acquired taste than either of the two lower end Klipsch Custom models. If Klipsch were to bring the C3 back with a different cord and a lower MSRP, they would become a head-fi mainstay. As it stands, they’re a great-sounding set with a skeleton in the closet.

Pros: Comfortable, well-isolating, wonderfully balanced and very enjoyable sound
Cons: Downright awful cabling, excessive microphonics


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About Author

Living in the fast-paced city of Los Angeles, ljokerl has been using portable audio gear to deal with lengthy commutes for the better part of a decade. He spends much of his time listening to music and occasionally writes portable audio reviews across several enthusiast sites, focusing mostly on in-ear earphones.

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