Klipsch Image S4 impressions

Klipsch has never really been a company to cater to the low-end, but there's likely never been a time in the outfit's history to better introduce a lower-end pair of earbuds than right now. The Image headphone line, which started in August of 2007 when the X10s launched at $349, has grown a few members since. Today, we're talking a look -- er, a listen, actually -- at the $79 Image S4 in-ear headphones, and while these are far from "cheap," they're definitely in the realm of feasibility for anyone considering a set of 'buds that are marginally more awesome than the stock ones bundled with PMPs these days. Head on past the break for a few impressions.

For starters, we can't help but remark that these are small -- really small. The original Image earbuds were called the planet's smallest by Klipsch (much to the chagrin of JAYS), and these certainly follow in that lineage. For $79, you get the earbuds, an ear tip cleaning tool, three sets of different-sized ear gels and a swank aluminum case to carry them to and fro. Compared to the $49 Image S2, the S4 has angled nozzles and larger housings, while the S2 has straight nozzles and smaller housings. The 3.5 millimeter input jack is connected to a rubberized, grip-resistant cable that's around three feet long, with an even left / right cable split hanging around a foot beneath the tips.

For $79, these are definitely well built. From the durable cable to the massively comfortable ear gels, each component screams mid-range despite the price tag. Unlike most earbuds, these boast oval gels -- compared to the perfectly round ones elsewhere -- and we must say, we dig the difference. The seal on these buds were perfect for us, even mitigating surrounding noise quite well. We were able to listen for a few hours straight with no discomfort to speak of, and generally speaking, we were stoked with the quality of sound. Furthermore, gym rats and runners alike will adore the fit here; unlike most rounded gels, these managed to stay put regardless of activity / sweat. In the past, we've found ourselves readjusting the fit every ten minutes or so while jogging, but the Image S4s sat in place during extended motion. Kudos, Klipsch.

The tight seal ensured that bass response was magnificent without being overly punchy, and the heralded "Klipsch sound" is definitely captured here. Of course, that does mean that some of you won't appreciate the occasionally fatiguing highs, but there's always (er, sometimes) an equalizer to compensate, right? The bottom line? These are leaps and bound better than the stock earbuds that are tossed in with any portable media player these days, and we'd argue that these are superior to other 'buds in the $80 to $100 range. So, should you snap a pair of these up when they start shipping en masse this month? If you've already set aside $79 for a set of some kind, absolutely. If you're looking to stay in the $40 to $60 range, we'd still argue that the unique oval gels and fantastic overall sound warrant at least a look. For those with $150 or more waiting for a set of Ultimate Ears, don't bother laughing as you pass these by, cool?