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Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Klipsch Image S4 Review

The packaging is pretty standard, and the product looks great, including that tin case that comes with it. The only thing I have a problem with, is that you need to tear open a perforated side of the box to open it. Once it is open, you cannot close the box back again.

The specs say 10hz to 19khz frequency response.

I listened to the sound quality and was instantly disappointed. For my purposes, I could tell that this was not a pair of flat-response earphones. The bass frequencies were amazingly well defined, but they were boosted in levels. The mid range frequencies are pretty alright. However, I had the impression that it is boosted at the higher vocal range, maybe at the 6khz region. From there, to the higher frequencies, the levels take a drastic dip. The highs rolled off maybe in the region of 14khz. 

In other words, it is a very solid bottom, boosted high-mids and lacking in highs. The resulting sound gives the feeling of a hollow 800hz-1khz region and muffled highs. I would describe the sound as plastic-like. If it was missing the low frequency regions, I would place it in the same league as £8 regular earphones, not in-ear ones. It reminds me of the days when I was still listening to cassette tapes with songs recorded off radio broadcasts.

This led me to wonder why Klipsch spec-ed the product to have an excess of 10hz in the lows so as to have an amazing bass when the highest frequency achieved is only 19khz.

It's the end of the day today and I have pretty much made up my mind to try and sell it off as a pre-owned item, and buy another earphone/headphone that is better than my Klipsch Pro-media earphones. My Klipsch Pro-Media earphones (costing about £80) are actually much better and balanced in terms of frequency response. YC said it was a bit too bright on the highs, but I find it almost unnoticeable.

Come to think of it now, I can't find any article that said this was a set of flat-frequency-response earphones. I can't remember where I got the impression that the Image S4 was made for monitoring purposes. There was even a post in http://www.head-fi.org that says that the Klipsch Image S4 has a very convex frequency response curve.

Looks like I really can't get sub-£60 earphones/headphones for sound monitoring purposes. Big regret!

I am running white/pink noise and frequency sweeps through the set now, hopefully I can see some improvement on the performance. I know it needs a lot of time before I can notice improvement in performance. But somehow I don't think it will be a very huge difference. 

YC, like many articles and forum posts, pointed out that it is almost impossible for in-ear earphones to match the sound accuracy and frequency response of reference/monitor headphones. I've just visited http://www.etymotic.com/, which is one of the top quality in-ear reference monitor makers. Even their in-ear phones are only achieving 16khz at their £299 product range. For that kind of money I can get a good pair of monitor headphones. If it really comes down to having to choose between in-ear phones and headphones, I will choose the latter.

Oh well, we'll wait and see how everything turns out.