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Klipsch Image S4 / S4a / S4i Review

3


Reviewed Nov 2009

Details: Klipsch’s latest mid-range model that has received overwhelmingly positive reviews both here at head-fi and in the mainstream press
MSRP: $79.99 (manufacturer’s page); $99.99 for S4i w/ mic & 3-button remote (manufacturer’s page); $99.99 for S4A w/ mic & 1-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $60 from Amazon.com for S4; $60 from amazon.com for S4i; $60 from amazon.com for S4A; Note: an updated S4-II model has since been released
Specs: Driver: Dynamic | Imp: 18 Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 10-19k Hz | Cable: 4.2’ I-plug (S4i); 4.2’ L-plug (S4)
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Stock Single-flanges
Wear Style: Over-the-ear or straight down

Accessories (3.5/5) – Silicone single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange tips, and metal carrying case (S4i instead includes a velvet carrying pouch and shirt clip)
Build Quality (3.5/5) – Housings are plastic but seem plenty sturdy and have articulated strain reliefs. Cable is a little thin for my liking but very flexible and doesn’t tangle much
Isolation (3/5) – Block out an above-average amount of external noise
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Nonexistent when worn over-the-ear. Noticeable but not too bad otherwise. Included shirt clip helps further
Comfort (4/5) – Easier to insert when worn cord-down. When worn over-the-ear fit is very similar to the JVC HA-FX300

Sound (6.7/10) – Coming from the similarly-priced HiFiMan RE0 these seem colored and very heavy at the low end, lacking in clarity and behind slightly in detail as well. After some solitary time with the S4, I think that they are interesting earphones that deliver heavy bass impact, clean mids, and decent treble. The bass can be too powerful and boomy for my liking, but that’s more of a personal issue – at least they don’t give me bass headaches. It’s not quite as tight as I would like, but can’t really be called bloated either. I can see why this bass has mass appeal – it can easily satisfy the bass junkie without being totally offensive. There is some bleed into the midrange, which is a little thin and recessed. The treble that the S4s put out is the weak point for me – it lacks the smoothness of the RE0 and (even after 200 hours) still sounds somewhat harsh and sibilant. Soundstaging is decent enough but can hardly be called spacious and individual instruments can sometimes be harder to pick out than I would like.

On a final note, I had a small issue with the relatively low impedance and high sensitivity of these – they have a tendency to hiss slightly even with normally dead-silent Sansa Fuze, and the hiss with other devices can be borderline unbearable.

Value (7/10) – With a sound signature that can be appreciated by bass junkie, audiophile, and casual listener alike – and practicality to match – the Klipsch S4 doesn’t lack in any area. However, in terms of sound, the S4 lack the “wow” factor of the RE0, Phonak PFEs, and many others. That said, I still consider these good value for money despite the several issues I have with their sound.

Pros: Competent build, fit, and finish
Cons: Cables don’t inspire confidence, can be too bass heavy for some, hint of harshness/sibilance, prone to hissing


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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.

3 Comments

  1. TK on

    Looking for an upgrade for these. I liked the sound but always wished for more. What do you recommend?

    • TK on

      been considering the shure se215 or rha ma750i. Primary source of music is iPhone 6 and web service apps. Looking for something I can wear in the gym or running and won’t destroy too quickly

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