Klipsch Image X10 / X10i Review

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Klipsch Image X10
Reviewed Mar 2012

Details: Tiny single-BA design from Klipsch
MSRP: $349.99 (manufacturer’s page); $349.99 for X10i with mic & 3-button remote (manufacturer’s page)
Current Price: $110 from amazon.com for X10; $250 for X10i
Specs: Driver: BA | Imp: 50Ω | Sens: 110 dB | Freq: 5-19k Hz | Cable: 4.4′ L-plug
Nozzle Size: 3mm | Preferred tips: Klipsch oval gels (stock), Sony Hybrids
Wear Style: Straight down or over-the-ear

Accessories (4.5/5) – Single-flange (3 sizes) and bi-flange (2 sizes) oval gel tips, cleaning tool, airplane adapter, 6.3mm adapter, and magnetic-clasp carrying pouch
Build Quality (3/5) – Though the tiny housings of the Image One are made out of metal and feel very solid, the molded strain reliefs are designed rather poorly and seem prone to splitting with extended use. The cable is typical Klipsch – thin and plasitcky. The low-profile 3.5mm L-plug is a nice touch
Isolation (4/5) – The slim, long, fully sealed housings allow for great isolation
Microphonics (4.5/5) – Somewhat bothersome when worn cord-down; nearly nonexistent with cable-up wear
Comfort (5/5) – The combination of skinny, lightweight shells and Klipsch’s Oval Gel eartips makes the X10 one of the most comfortable IEMs around. Unlike most Etys, the X10s still sound good with only moderately deep insertion, making them more user-friendly towards IEM newcomers as well

Sound (8.6/10) – Tuned for a mainstream, consumer-friendly sound, the Klipsch Image X10 tends to emphasize the bass and lower midrange – a sharp contrast to its single-armature competitors. The X10 easily beats all other higher-end single-armature earphones I’ve come across when it comes to bass quantity and offers up plenty of quality as well. The low is detailed and extended – the well-textured bass digs deep and offers up the sort of well-measured punch one would normally expect from a multi-armature monitor. The depth and impact of the X10 are actually about on-par with VSonic’s dynamic-driver GR07 monitor, though the mid-bass emphasis is slightly greater. Naturally, the lower-end dynamic-driver Klipsch Image models produce even more bass than the X10 but have none of the poise and precision of a balanced armature, sounding bloated and unrefined next to the flagship.

While the bass depth and punch of the X10 are fairly similar to the VSonic GR07, the two differ greatly in how the midrange is handled. The X10 is warm and full, with a bit of bass bleed resulting in a lack of transparency next to sets such as the GR07, Etymotic HF5, and ACS T15. The GR07 is not only clearer but also more resolving, with more air and openness to its mids and more neutral overall tone. The X10, on the other hand, sounds more forward and intimate, with the prominent midrange putting vocals front-and-center. It is not as forward and aggressive as Fischer Audio’s SBA-03, however, and sounds less like a BA-based earphone with better timbre and a more full-bodied note presentation. The SBA-03, on the other hand, is significantly less colored and more aggressive with presenting detail, so analytical listeners will likely prefer it over the X10s.

The treble of the X10 is much smoother than the uneven, harsh top ends of the Image S3/S4 and the somewhat grainy S2. Most times the top end seems slightly recessed but much to my surprise on a few tracks the X10 managed to be as sibilant as the GR07. Seems that it was tuned to be non-fatiguing but isn’t all that soft – certainly not in the way the dynamic-driver Fischer Tandem or Monster Pro Gold are. Treble detail is decent and the extension is not too bad, but hardly impressive next to an Ety ER4S or JVC FXT90. Clearly the X10 is limited by the single BA setup and was tuned to leave nothing out at the bottom end at the expense of some top-end reach. The treble is low on sparkle and lacks some authority and energy – Klipsch’s now-discontinued Custom 3 is similarly non-fatiguing but appears more balanced overall.

The presentation of the X10 is well-rounded and, like the sound signature, yields no surprises. The soundstage is narrower than those of the CK10, ER4S, and GR07 but has decent width and some height. For a more intimate-sounding earphone, the X10 has a convincing presentation – more so, for example, than the Fischer Audio SBA-03. Instrument separation is decent but no match for the ER4S and 3-D imaging lags noticeably behind the CK10. Dynamics are good, however, and the earphones are efficient enough for portable use without being overly sensitive.

Value (9/10) – The Klipsch Image X10 is a high-end consumer-oriented IEM that combines the unobtrusive look and feel of the slim, lightweight housings with warm, smooth, punchy sound derived from a single balance armature driver. The X10’s greatest strength is its bass – extended, controlled, and unusually powerful for a single BA. Like all things Klipsch, the X10 is not suited for fans of neutral or analytical sound with its somewhat dull top end and colored midrange, but those in search of a warmer sound in a great form factor will be pleased with the $150 X10.

Pros: Good isolation, very small and comfortable, consumer-friendly sound from a single BA
Cons: Perilous construction


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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.

16 Comments

  1. Moo on

    Hi. You have listed out the construction to be a major con. Say I want something that is with good details, good isolation and also bass impact for a very, very portable and extendedly outdoor use – would you recommend this?

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, as one of the few BA earphones out there with enhanced bass, and also one that’s very comfortable and well-isolating, this would be a good choice. If you didn’t need the extra bass I’d recommend Etymotic or the Aurisonics Rockets as a more rugged option, but for what you want the X10/X11/X12 should do well. Just make sure to get it with a warranty and it’ll be fine.

      • Moo on

        Does Amazon’s 2-year protection count? Because I can’t seem to find these with authentic warranty at any of my local stores…

        • ljokerl on

          If you buy something directly from Amazon in new condition it should be covered by the manufacturer’s warranty. And then you can throw some squaretrade-like coverage (like that 2-year protection plan) on top of that if you feel like it.

          • Moo on

            Sorry, can’t help but ask: even with the term “discontinued”?
            Many thanks for your help.

            • ljokerl on

              I would imagine so, as long as it’s still new inventory. But you can always shoot Klipsch an email and ask before buying.

  2. Mike on

    I have the choice of buying the Vsonic gr07,Klipsch x10 and the Klipsch x5. Which of these do you recommend.

    • ljokerl on

      They are pretty different from each other in sound and overall strengths. I would go GR07 if your aim is clear and accurate-sounding earphones and you aren’t overly sensitive in the upper mid/treble region. If your aim is something warm-sounding and with enhanced bass, the X10 would be better.

      • Mike on

        Ok. That’s good to know. I think I’ll pass on the x10 then. As for the gr07 vs the vsd1s is it a huge improvement or very similar sound. Also have you ever heard the klipsch x5?

        • ljokerl on

          No, no experience with the X5.

          The VSD1S is like a bassier, less clear/detailed/accurate version of the GR07. They still share a familiar resemblance so if you don’t like the VSD1S you probably won’t like the GR07. It’s just more of the positive aspects of the VSD1S.

  3. marcookie on

    Hi! Is this a dramatically different signature in comparison with the RE-400? For sure the X10i will have more bass quantity, but are there other main differences? Thank you

    • ljokerl on

      Yes, very different – warmer, darker. The RE-400 is very much focused on the midrange in comparison to these.

  4. qzepteltd on

    How picky are the X10s when it comes to source? When I drive these IEMs out of an iPhone 3GS or a Fiio E07k headphone plug they sound muddy, with the bass over-emphasized and treble recessed. Plug it into a headphone amp connected to the line-out from the FiioE07k acting as a DAC to my laptop and they sound amazing – as a proper flagship IEM should do. I have tested my Fiio E07k headphone plug with my Etymotic ER-4S and Vsonic GR07 Mk II and they sound amazing, which would mean that there’s nothing wrong with the E07k. I own 3 pairs of X10s (due to replacements from the splitting of the rubber connector) and all of them exhibit the same characteristics. Any ideas?

    • ljokerl on

      I didn’t find them to be too picky with my sources – I think the headphone amp you are using might have high output impedance, which would interact with the balanced armature and cause these earphones to lighten up on bass and become brighter up top. With the E07k and iPhone you’re not getting much impedance interaction (assuming the E07k is similar to my older E7 and the 3GS is similar to newer iPhones). Therefore, with the iPhone and Fiio, you are hearing them closer to their “true” (so to speak) tuning while your amp is changing the sound, in this case for the better.

      Just a theory, but it’s the only one I can think of that fits your observations.

      • qzepteltd on

        You’re exactly correct – it actually had to do with the impedance. The headphone amp I was using had a 80ohm output impedance which completely changed the sound signature. I confirmed this by using the Etymotic ER-4P to 4S impedance adapter, which made the X10s sound a whole lot more balanced and clear (to my ears). In fact they sound like the Etys, except with the bass much more present. Try listening to them this way and I think you might really enjoy them!

        • ljokerl on

          Unfortunately the X10 I reviewed was a loan so I don’t have it any more, but I’m glad we could figure out why it’s sounding that way!

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