In-Ear Headphones Face Off Page 7


Klipsch Image X10

Key Features
• Accessories: 5 pair ear tips, airline adapter, 1/4-in adapter, cleaning tool, small hard case • Impedance/Sensitivity: 50 ohms/110 dB/mW

Like the Audio-Technica ATH-CK10, these topof- the-line Klipsch monitors are so small and light that they seem to defy physics. Each narrow cylindrical plastic/copper earpiece contains a single full-range armature driver. Along with five pairs of ear tips, Klipsch supplies a good number of accessories, including a small hard case and a larger pouch for storing or traveling with the various adapters.


Bass performance on the test tones put the X10 in the middle of the pack, with decent output down to about 30 Hz, some noticeable drop-off by 25 Hz, and nothing much useful at 20 Hz. I also detected three different dips in response on the 20-Hz to 20-kHz sweep as it tracked up - between 1 kHz and 2 kHz, 2.5 kHz and 5 kHz, and 5 kHz to 10 kHz. Most of these 'phones had a modest midrange dip around 2 kHz that was likely engineered in to prevent fatigue over long listening sessions, but I was surprised to observe three, particularly from a single-driver design.

Sonically, I found the X10 to be generally smooth on my test tracks but lacking in that last bit of clarity. The male a cappella voice from the Sound Check disc was a bit muddled and slightly veiled against the best competition, and it sounded a little strained on the dynamic peaks, such as the opening note, where the singer starts with a long and rising "weeeelll."

The Klipsch also failed to follow the dynamic shifts in the middle of the saxophone track, where the sax changes quickly from soft to loud, and from low to high notes. It got louder, but the first note of the transition lacked the initial transient impact I heard with other earphones. The sax itself sounded a little less detailed and natural compared with my reference and the best 'phones tested here, too, and it seemed a little more forward in its presentation. The violin track was smooth and not grating in any way, but not as detailed as on my reference or some other models.

On the Stravinsky recording, instrument placement and the sense of openness and air were very good, although the Klipsch was surpassed on both points by other models. And I found the sound to be a little strained as the orchestra ran up to its final crescendo. Meanwhile, the bass groove on "Wishing Well" was present and accounted for, though it lacked some low-end visceral impact.


Though it dangled a promise with its pure midrange and high-end extension, the ATHCK10 ultimately gave up too much of the music to be serious competition at its $400 price point. Given Klipsch's reputation in this category, the X10's amazingly cool form factor, and its positive buzz, I was disappointed.