Cans in a Can
One of my earliest hi-fi “moments” came courtesy of the Klipschorn, and its’ smaller sibling, the rather industrial La Scala. This was 1982. I knew nothing about tube amps at the time, nor did I understand that a half-watt of triode juice would have made these loudspeakers quite happy. And neither did the guys at the old Toronto Hi-Fi on Yonge Street, who used the biggest Yamaha amps they could find, to power these beasts. It was all fun, and plenty loud.
Apart from the use of his iconic surname, the late Paul Klipsch has nothing to do with the earbuds in this review. In fact, Klipsch is now part of the Audiovox empire, though the brand has managed in some ways to stay true to its’ roots, with high-sensitivity domestic speakers being its’ mainstay.
The “i” in the s4i is for iPhone, and yes, as the packaging shows, these are an “official” Made for iDevice product. Only those licensed as such are approved by Apple, given access to the secret code, etc. The Image s4i are nicely made, sound good, and work reliably well. Our man Scott gifted me with a pair of these when I got my iPhone 4S, so I’ve lived with the review samples for well over a year.
These babies have been around for a while, and Klipsch also introduced a sporty-looking “s4i Rugged” version some time back. In the belief that our readers don’t want to spend an hour perusing a review of an earbud that can be found at any Best Buy, and because I don’t get paid by the word, I’m going to be concise. I may even use bullet points!
- The Image s4i are easy to use, and very comfortable. They come packed with several sizes and shapes of the silicone tips, so everyone should be able to find a good fit (this is crucial for good performance).
- They sound quite good – far better than the stock ‘buds that came with your iPhone or iPod. They also offer much better comfort and noise isolation than the ones Apple ships. Toss those things out already.
- They’ve been dead reliable for me. The cable is well-made, with good strain relief – that’s more than can be said for most of the phone chargers on the market today.
- They’re perfect for hands-free phone calls, and in-car usage.
- The tin carrying case is useful and very protective, if somewhat pedestrian.
- Street price is probably decent, if you look around a bit.
- Audiophiles will suffer listening fatigue with these, at some point. If your business trip is a puddle jump across Lake Erie, grab them along. If you’re flying to Singapore, bring something better.
- MSRP of $100 is, in my opinion, a little high for what you get.
- These really are Made for iPhone/iPod/iPad. You’ll find not just the volume control incompatible with other devices, but that the earphones themselves are short-circuited when used even with a normal stereo output. This is a pain, and it’s my biggest beef with the Klipsch s4i. I don’t know all the reasons behind this incompatibility, but the potential buyer has been warned. Since all the “iDevice stuff” happens inside the inline volume box, it makes me wonder how much that little box colours the audio signal, as well.
Summarizing: the Klipsch Image s4i is a well-made, decent-sounding earbud, specifically for the Apple iPhone, iPad & iPod user. They sound good with any genre of music, and have enough resolution to highlight the differences in mp3 bitrates, for example. Don’t expect perfection here, and try not to pay more than $50 for them.