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Hands-on: Klipsch IMAGE and Custom-2 sound-isolating earphonesBy Matthew Ruiz, 7 November 2007
GALLERY
Klipsch IMAGE
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Klipsch IMAGE
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We got an early look at audio manufacturer Klipsch's newest sound-isolating earphones, one of which was dubbed the "World's Lightest." Were they also the "World's Best," or the "World's Lamest?"

Yesterday we got our first look at two new Klipsch earphones, the IMAGE and the Custom-2. Entering their high-end sound-isolating earphone line at the top, the IMAGE earphones looked fancy, if nothing else. The Klipsch rep we spoke to claimed the IMAGE earphones were the “world’s smallest” and “world’s lightest,” and while we couldn’t verify those claims, they certainly were tiny.

We tested them on an iPhone, listening to tracks from Common’s “Finding Forever” as well as some Bob Marley. On low to medium volume settings, the sound was great, giving us a much more full-sounding experience than we expected. We were initially impressed with the bass response from such a tiny earphone, especially since the clarity of the vocals and the highs remained intact.

But our praise was premature, because when we turned the volume up to the maximum setting on the iPhone, we could hear the driver sputtering, the bass apparently too much for the little speaker. This was incredibly disappointing for a couple reasons: First, we’ve never heard a pair of high-end (Read: over $150) earphones sputter. Ever. Normally, the impedance is low enough that when listening to a low-amplification device (like an iPhone or any other personal media player), we are able to get to the max volume with full clarity, and still feel like we could go higher if the device was capable. Second, on high-amplification devices, like a computer or a home stereo, we are usually unable to get much farther than 50 percent volume before it becomes too loud for our ears to take. But the clarity remains a constant, something that was not the case with the IMAGE earphones.

That being said, we loved the design, and when they were in our ears, the seal was tight, but we could barely tell they were in. They could also appeal even more to users who are not fans of the popular over-the-ear design, as these hang straight down from the ear canal. The IMAGE retails at $350, and while the Klipsch rep told us they were not yet available for purchase, we found them for sale on Klipsch's web site.

Our experience with the Custom-2’s was less pleasant; we were unable to get any kind of seal in our ears; we even tried (against better judgment) to jam them in farther to get a seal, but progress was stopped by the actual earphone itself (probably a good thing). We also didn’t like the stiff plastic over-the-ear piece; it didn’t fit us properly and was extremely uncomfortable. By holding the phones to our ears with our fingers we were able to get a temporary seal, but we weren’t too impressed with the sound we got. The phones benefited from the noise isolation, but the sound was nowhere near as full as we expect for that price range.

We admit the overall experience (and our initial impression) may have been hampered by the lack of a proper fit. Our final verdict with these phones is far from rendered, however, as we hope a larger-sized earpiece will provide a better fit. Again, like the IMAGE, we were told they were not available for sale, but we found them on Klipsch's site for $200.

Klipsch also has a low-end model, the Custom-1, retailing at $130, and the Custom-3, which, with an MSRP of $300, fits right in between the Custom-2's and the IMAGE.
 
 
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