Klipsch has consistently churned out premium quality earphones and its forerunner for an innovative ceramic design is the Klipsch X7i. Employing balanced armature drivers, it promises clean, lifelike sound that purists would salivate for. At $195, it joins the crowded realm of $175 – $225 earphones, already with gems most audiophiles can’t overlook. Can it secure a spot along with them, or will it be pushed out by its competitors?
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Design and Comfort
Plenty of earphones in the market utilize plastic for the housing, among others the $250 Sennheiser IE 60. The X7i is not cut from the same material, so to speak, as Klipsch went – for the first time – with ceramic. The advantage of ceramic is that it is non-resonant, which theoretically increase clarity. One of the smallest pairs around, the teardrop-shaped X7i is pleasant to look at in black and white.
Apart from its lustrous appearance, it doesn’t disappoint in regards to fit either. The patented oval ear sleeves can stay in your ears much longer than the usual roundish ones – they are extremely comfortable – and ear fatigue is delayed as well. Once inside, the sleeves create a great seal to contain the music with. Four more pairs of sleeves are supplied with the set, with one pair incredibly tiny. You’d wonder if anyone has ear canals that small, but kudos to Klipsch for the variety.
The cable is flat – not unlike Beats Tour – and it doesn’t tangle. It is however, made of a rubbery material that is prone to snagging; things don’t just slide off. This causes it to tug at the earphones whenever it catches something, which could seriously damage the internal wiring. The X7i is not meant to be worn over the ear, so you do have to be extra careful. Also in the box are a shirt clip, an airline headphone jack adapter, and a decent carrying case.
The X7i is furnished with a 3-button remote and microphone, which is compatible with most Apple products. Because it has an Apple chip, full functionality with Android, Blackberry or Windows phones is not guaranteed. It’s a shame, but a standard in the market. The remote works perfectly; no fancy maneuvers necessary. The microphone, too, provides good call clarity. However, the cable thump is quite bothersome, owing to the cable’s flatness. It’s something you can remedy with the shirt clip, but mars the X7i’s image somewhat.
Tonal balance is unerringly precise through all octaves. The flat response that audiophiles seek is there, but normal listeners won’t be put off either. Aided by the exceptionally natural soundstage, you end up feeling like you’re at a live performance, and that the musician is right in front of you. Lifelike sound is defined yet again.
Distortion is not quite a problem even at unsafe listening levels. The deep bass pulse is balanced by the sculpted high-mids and highs, rendering a defined sound that other earphones would have given up on. Once you revert back to a less ear-splitting volume, music is faithfully reproduced once more.
You’ll take practically no time at all to conclude that acoustic music is where the X7i shines best. The low notes are depicted precisely – with a pulsating beat that is a joy to anticipate – but they don’t knock you off your feet. Sometimes a little drop of warmth can bring out the rockin’ quality of the bass, but the X7i is as clean as a whistle. Bowers & Wilkin’s C5 has more thump, but in the end the X7i’s bass is nothing you can’t boost with an equalizer.
Vocals are amazingly detailed – your miming could win you awards – and each delivery is brought to the top layer even during complicated and frantic parts. Together with zero sibilance, this pair of earphones will submerge you in a heavenly bath of vocals from which you never want to emerge. Isolation-wise, the seal that the proprietary sleeves provide blocks most of ambient noise – good enough to wear on a plane.
Even at the upper tiers, the X7i is a worthwhile investment even if you’re not a purist. The cable design could use a little more work, and the bass is a hand short of outstanding, but the way it handles other frequencies makes you quite happy to turn a blind eye to this. Comfort is also one of its best points because the ear sleeves do what it promises to do very, very well. Sure, there are cheaper alternatives out there, but none achieving the exact same level of audio delivery. You’ll find that you won’t want to scrimp once you have a taste.