Klipsch’s Image X10 headphones are among our favourite sound-isolating in-ears. They sound spectacular despite their minuscule proportions and are about as comfortable as invasive ear-pluggers get.
So it was with some trepidation that we approached the X5s. These cheaper, slightly bigger (though still barely there) and silver-er headphones had a serious weight of expectation bearing down on them.
Fortunately, our initial impressions were positive. The X5s take on the same tubular aluminium structure as the X10s, their single drivers firing towards a curved, cone-shaped gel that forms an excellent seal with the ear and is barely noticeable when in place (except for the fact that, all of a sudden, you go deaf).
The cables are similarly svelte, though some may worry about such a thin wire’s longevity. We had no problems, but it’s worth treating them with kid gloves just in case.
Because the X5s need to be inserted deep into the ear canal to get the best performance, looking in the mirror when wearing them is somewhat disconcerting. It looks as though you have black cables wired direct to your brain.
Small cans, big sound
The most important aspect of any headphone design though is, of course, sound quality – and this is where the X5s really excel.
Put them head-to-head with contemporaries such as Monster’s Beats Tour and they amaze with their balance and insight. Up against Ultimate Ears’ 700s their crisp bass and dynamic attack really shine.
They’re also suitably insightful, though don’t astound in their ability to pick out instruments as the dual-driver UE 700s do. But that leaves less room for distraction as you’re not constantly worrying about the lute in the background.
If there’s any problem for the X5s, it’s that the X10s don’t cost very much more than them. Though they’re very similar in most respects, the X10’s more organic-sounding treble response leaves the X5s sounding ever so slightly abrupt. It’s not something you pick up on until you hear superior cans, but it just proves you get what you pay for.