Klipsch Image S4i hands-on and impressions

Earlier this year, we had the chance to take a listen at Klipsch's Image S4 in-ear headphones. Even earlier this year, we heard that the same company was looking to push out a set of VoiceOver-compatible 'buds that were significantly easier to listen to than Apple's stock alternative. That very device is the Klipsch Image S4i, which is nothing more than an Image S4 with an in-line microphone and 3-button remote. As of now, there still aren't a smorgasbord of options for those on the hunt for a VoiceOver-friendly set of headphones that actually sound decent, so head on past the break for a mostly predictable take on the little guys shown above (and below, for that matter).

As for audio quality, you can have a peek back at our Image S4 writeup for our take on that. Nothing has audibly changed from those to these, with the oval tips fitting snugly and comfortably into our ears and the overall sound being pretty remarkable. As stated before, the highs were somewhat fatiguing after a few hours of listening, but the crisp mids and deep lows were more than satisfying. The real reason you're here, however, is to find out just how well the two main additions function. In short, the in-line microphone and remote are only fully functional on an iPhone 3GS, so iPhone and iPhone 3G owners will definitely want to think twice before committing.

You see, the remote packs a trio of buttons: a play / pause button that can also answer calls, along with volume up and a volume down buttons. The latter two only work with the iPhone 3GS, so iPhone 3G users will be stuck reaching for the volume rocker on the side of their phone to adjust the output. A true bummer, indeed. We found the buttons to work perfectly well in all aspects on the 3GS, but the inability to control volume on older iPhones was really disappointing. Also of note, the built-in mic is on the rear of the remote, so it's actually pretty far down on the cabling rops. As such, you'll be forced to speak fairly loudly if you expect anyone to hear you, or you could manually reach down and raise the mic to your lips, in turn destroying the whole point of having the mic in a handsfree position.

Furthermore, the actual cable heading to your iPhone is surprisingly short. We get that these are designed for use with phones and portable media players, but a bundled extension line for at-home use would've been much appreciated. Heck, even Sony's $35 MDR-EX71 earbuds include that. Anywho, we certainly can't grumble too much about the Image S4i's sound quality, but for $99, we can really only recommend these to iPhone 3GS owners who are absolutely sure they'll take advantage of an in-line remote and microphone. Even then, the built-in mic isn't incredibly useful due to its location and the fact that it does nothing to cancel wind noise and the like. If you're an iPhone 3GS owner and you were already considering the $79 Image S4s, you can probably spend the extra Jackson here and not feel too bad; for everyone else, don't waste your time on a product that's only partially functional on your device.

Update: It should also be noted that the 3-button remote is fully functional on the 2nd generation iPod touch, the new iPod shuffle and the 120GB / 160GB iPod classic (along with the iPhone 3GS). Furthermore, a bundled clothing clip is being shipped with retail units that does a remarkable job (yeah, we heard it with our own ears) of cutting out wind and clothing noise. Our test unit did not ship with this clip, but those considering a purchase can rest assured that the one they pick up will.