A recent debut from Klipsch is its flagship X11i. Promising Klipsch’s award winning sound signature, the Klipsch X11i boasts of the smallest drivers in the market and patented ear sleeves. At $349, does all this translate to an extraordinary experience, or will the X11i join the ranks of overpriced but underachieving in-ear monitors?
Design and Comfort
Klipsch seems to be hanging on tight to the slim, elongated design that is completely distinctive from other earphones in the market. The X10, X10i and X11i are all identical but for the smallest details, like color and cable design. It’s something you can’t fault the company with, seeing as the design is extremely intuitive and provides nonpareil comfort. Weighing just 10 grams, the anodized aluminium ear pieces are among the most lightweight designs out there. It’s easy to forget having them in, if not for the music reverberating in your ears.
The ear sleeves that Klipsch has patented are oval-shaped rather than round – which should fit very well in the archetypal oval-shaped ear canals. The seal is omnipresent, but not uncomfortably so. Ear fatigue is notably not a problem. A total of 5 pairs are included in the set, which range from incredibly tiny to not very large, even though they are not classified as such. If you are equipped with ear canals that are larger than usual, the largest sleeves provided would probably fit you just right.
A recurring problem with the X10 and X10i is the cable breakage. Klipsch decided to remedy this by reinforcing it with Kevlar for extra robustness, and changing the shape from round to flat. The result is a sturdier piece with reduced tangling, although that is accompanied by a minor issue of cable thump. Securing it to your shirt with the provided shirt clip should help. Apart from that, you’ll also get an airline adapter, a quarter-inch adapter, and a protective pouch.
The Klipsch X11i comes furnished with a 3-button remote and microphone, which is compatible with most Apple products. Because it is an ‘i’ version and has an Apple chip, functionality is limited for Android, Blackberry or Windows phones. So far, only some of Klipsch earphones have ‘A’ versions, which work with all Android devices. The remote works perfectly; with no need for further configuration. You can also expect good call clarity from the microphone. The cable thumps can be heard in quieter moments, but it’s something you can live with.
While a burn-in period is required for most earphones, the X11i sound exceptional right out of the box. Like its cheaper relative the X7i, unerring accuracy is its strongest point. These earphones reproduce all the details in the music so faithfully, that you’d do well to use only lossless files. The initial conclusion upon putting them on is that you had just bought front-row tickets to a concert. That’s just a way of saying that an incredibly realistic soundstage is guaranteed.
The low end is faultlessly present. All the fine points are there, but after some time you’ll find yourself pining for more oomph, especially for bass-heavy genres. Flat response is all nice and well, but some tracks just need more warmth than what the X11i can give. A more accommodating alternative is Sennheiser’s IE 80 – apart from its adjustable bass dial, the unmodified delivery manages to pump more than enough blood into your brain. It is slightly more expensive at $395 though.
Where Klipsch consistently excels in is the midrange. You come for the overall balance – the highs are great – but you stay for the midrange. The buttery notes transport you to musical heaven – crystal clear and dynamic. Transitions between one attack and another are sharp and snappy, with clean, efficient decay. The vocals will also engross you so much that you can’t help but sing along, perhaps to the detriment of public peace. All this without needing to turn up the volume to the maximum.
An added bonus is that the X11i offers decent isolation due to its intuitive fit. It may not be as good as Shure SE425 with its olive tips, but your music will be sufficiently protected from most ambient noise. If isolation is a point you want to check, then Sennheiser IE 80, although possessing a more superior bass, has to be crossed out.
The Klipsch X11i is the most expensive in the X series at $349, but the price is not unjustifiable. It has retained the sleek and comfortable design that the X10 and X10i were known for, and exhibits the improvements to previously recurring problems. You won’t mind paying this much for fantastic sound, not when it satisfies the audiophile in you.