Details: Younger, less elegant sibling of the popular Image S4
MSRP: $49.99 (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $34 from amazon.com
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 18Ω | Sens: 106 dB | Freq: 12-18k Hz | Cable: 4.2′ I-plug
Nozzle Size: 4.5mm | Preferred tips: Klipsch gels
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear
Accessories (3.5/5) – Single-flange (2 sizes) and bi-flange silicone tips; compact zippered carrying case
Build Quality (3.5/5) – Housings are plastic but sturdy and well-relieved on cable entry. No nozzle filter is present and the cable is thin and lacks a cinch
Isolation (3/5) – Above average for a dynamic-driver earphone
Microphonics (4/5) – Very low with over-the-ear wear; tolerable otherwise
Comfort (3.5/5) – The angled-nozzle housings are lightweight and unobtrusive, though slightly larger than those of the S4. They also have sharper front edges, which can become uncomfortable for extended wear
Sound (5.9/10) – The Image S3 is reminiscent of the pricier S4 not only cosmetically, but also sonically. Like the design, which is a simplified, cheaper-looking, and less ear-friendly take on the S4, the sound borrows both the positive and not-so-positive traits of the higher-end model.
The S3 is v-shaped in signature, with strong bass and treble. As with the S4, the low end is rarely boomy considering the enhanced bass quantity but lacks some rumble in the sub-bass region. Both the Soundmagic E10 and MEElectronics M9 extend better at the bottom. The cheaper M9 sounds a bit loose next to the S3 but those looking purely for bass ‘slam’ will still be better off with an M9 or Sony XB-series earphone. For quick and punchy bass, the S3 performs rather well.
Bass bleed is minimal but as with the S4 the midrange is somewhat recessed compared to the bass and treble. Clarity is quite above average for the price but note presentation is on the thin side – the Soundmagic E10 sounds significantly fuller and more realistic with its warmer, smoother sound signature. The S3 comes across cold and harsh, in large part due to the peaky treble. As with the S4, the top end can be downright unpleasant at times, with occasional bouts of sibilance and a tendency make drums and snares sound unnecessarily sharp and edgy.
Soundstaging is also average at best – the S3 has a typical in-the-head budget in-ear presentation and lacks depth. The Soundmagic E10 sounds much more spacious and ambient, portraying both width and depth better than the Image S3. Even next to the MEElectronics M9 the S3 sounds a bit compressed and congested, though it is helped along by better resolution and clarity as well as slightly better treble extension.
Value (7/10) – The Klipsch Image S3 boasts good clarity and punchy bass but is let down by the hot treble and mediocre presentation. Like the S4, it is a decent earphone for those looking to stay with a name brand but far from the best-sounding set for the price. In the world outside of retail stores, this “S4 light” has some very stiff competition.
Pros: Good clarity and bass; very low cable noise with cable-up wear; 2-yr warranty
Cons: Treble quality lacking; can be uncomfortable due to sharp housing edges