Released weeks before the X7i, the Klipsch X4i is another addition to the Klipsch X Series after its costlier brethren the X11i. A step down from the celebrated X7i, it utilizes much of the same technology such as the oval tips and tangle-resistant cabling. It’s well within most budgets at $149 but is it good enough to cancel out other $150 players in the field?
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Design and Comfort
Apart from being the cheapest in the series, the X4i is distinct from the other X earphones due to its rather conventional shape. That is not to say that it’s shabby. Constructed from die-cast metal, the copper accents on the housings add to its high end look. In this regard, Klipsch consistently wins over even the most discerning critics. The high quality feel is carried over to its cable and remote – although they’re actually pretty rubbery, instead of glossy as depicted in the pictures.
Designed to resist tangling, the flat cable – much like Beats Tour – does just that. It does, however, snag occasionally, as the rubbery texture prevents stuff from slipping freely from loops. Because it’s not meant to be worn over the ear – there’s no memory wire on the upper portions – that poses a problem, but not a major one at that. Just be extra careful as too much tugging can damage the internal wiring.
In addition to the ones already on the X4i, four other pairs of sleeves are provided in a variety of sizes. These patented oval tips sound good in theory – the shape of the inner ear is more oval than round – but they are even better in practice. You can log in long hours with them and not suffer from ear fatigue even one bit. Provided you try each included pair and find the proper fit, the sleeves offer a great seal which will do well for noise isolation. A carrying case and a shirt clip are included in the box as well.
As the name hints, the X4i comes with a 3-button remote and microphone. The remote is easy to use, but unfortunately full functionality is reserved only for Apple products. It’s a sad case for Android, Blackberry, and Windows phone users out there who would be reluctant to shell out the dollars for something that’s not going to provide convenience. If Klipsch decides to make the cable detachable, that would open up options in the future. The microphone also delivers good call clarity, but that fact is blemished somewhat by the annoying cable thump. The provided shirt clip helps to some extent, but maybe the flat shape of the cable isn’t so brilliant after all.
The laidback bass from the X4i is beginning to feel very characteristic of the X series – in trying for flat response a little bass was sacrificed. If at times it sounded big, it’s because there’s a mid bass hump which unfortunately muddies up the delivery. This should be enough to get purists a trifle excited – it seems as if there will be balanced sound – but the whole package actually results in a somewhat washed out one.
The treble sounded sibilant from time to time, and almost always overpowered by the mids. If the mids have been consistent, the X4i would have scored a couple more points. It so happens that they sound recessed even when amped and EQ’d. Cranking up the volume solves nothing; you still end up straining to hear the details in the music. The clarity expected of a $150 pair of earphones is sorrowfully absent here.
One bright point in the desolate outlook is the noise isolation. The seal achieved once you secure a perfect fit brings about near silence. Most ambient noise is blocked out – it’s good enough to use on the plane. It’s a shame the seal doesn’t help out the bass much.
For something that started out very promising, the X4i is a cause for mourning in audio execution. It isn’t disastrous, but from the $149 point of view you’d be sorely disappointed. The design is as wonderful as the rest of the X series, but as that is its only strong point, there are better substitutes out there. Among them Shure SE215; great design and snappier sound, and $50 cheaper.