Editors' note: As of August 2012, the Klipsch Image S4s reviewed here have been replaced by the Klipsch Image S4 IIs.
There's nothing like good, old competition to keep tech prices in check. Case in point: earphones. The headphone market is heavily saturated, and we can all thank that fact for the existence of many worthy earbud contenders in the sub-$100 price range. Still, despite having come across plenty of decent earbuds with reasonable pricing, nothing prepared us for the Klipsch Image S4. These supercomfy noise-isolating earphones offer shockingly stellar sound quality, certainly much better than their $80 price tag suggests. If you've been on the market for a headphone replacement for your MP3 player, look no further. (Curious about competitors to the Klipsh Image S4? We've rounded up several in the collection below.)
The Klipsch Image S4 earpieces do not feel as high-end as those of its sibling, the X5, but then the S4 only costs one-third as much, so we won't knock them for that. More important is the fact that the 'buds are ultrasmall and offer a tapered, bent shape that fit our ears perfectly. This combined with the soft, oval eartips gave us a supercomfortable fit that sealed out external noise. Klipsch includes two sizes of standard tips and one double-flanged model, but all of them are on the small side, so those with larger ears may have some fit issues. The package also contains a metal box for storing the earphones and an earwax cleaning tool.
Our only real design concern about the Image S4 earphones is the cable. It's very thin, from the Y section descending from each earpiece to the gold-plated 3.5mm plug at the end. This raises some concern for durability, though this is allayed slightly by Klipsch's inclusion of a two-year warranty. Also, the reinforced L-plug should help prevent breakage that typically happens where the wire connects to the plug. The thinness also makes the cable quite tangle prone, though a slider at the Y helps this a bit.