Klipsch might be most well-known for its stellar loudspeakers but, if you've never seen them, the audio-loving company also makes a seriously great line of headphones that shouldn't be ignored.
Klipsch recently refreshed its aforementioned line of in-ear headphones, including its top-of-the-line Reference range, which includes four models ranging from the $179 / £165 / AU$399 X6i to the extravagant, $549 (about £375 / AU$999) Klipsch X20i.
Today we'll be looking at the most affordable member of the Klipsch Reference range, the X6i. (The "i" at the end of its name, in case you're wondering, denotes the audio controls and mic found attached to the left earbud.)
After spending a week with these in-ear headphones, I find them to be one of the best values for in-ear headphones under $200. Here's why.
Features and design
I usually never talk about packaging but Klipsch deserves praise for its presentation of the Reference X6i. The earbuds are suspended in a clear plastic box and look like flower buds with the cable neatly tucked away in a plastic base – a subtle touch that goes a long way in assuring you that you're buying a premium product.
The X6i feature an excellent build with a thick cable and die-cast zinc driver housings. The headphones feature Klipsch's patented oval earbuds, which are supremely comfortable.
Its combination of lightweight and oval ear tips make the X6i one of the most comfortable in-ear headphones I've ever worn, especially for extended periods. You can have these in your ears for an intercontinental flight and never feel fatigued by them.
To ensure the headphones fit comfortably and seal well, Klipsch includes five sets of ear tips for you to try, including a set of double flange tips. There's also an included cable clip, which you'll need to fight cable noise – I found I could hear my heartbeat and breathing while listening to music softly, but it's not an issue with music at normal volumes.
The attached mic and remote control work well for iPhones and iPads, but not so well for Android devices. The controls can be used to play/pause, skip tracks, change volume and activate Siri on the iPhone, but Android users won't be able to skip back to a previous track with a triple-click, which is a minor annoyance.
On the other hand, sound quality using the mic is good, with friends and family telling me I was loud and clear without having to hold the mic close to my mouth.
The Klipsch Reference X6i are beautifully balanced and work for all genres of music, from classical to EDM. Its lush mids and sparkling highs stand out to me the most, and make listening to vocals a pleasure.
The X6i have wonderfully balanced bass, but lack the impact that bass lovers will be looking for. I recommend bass lovers look at the Klipsch Reference X8i Hybrid in-ear headphones, which include a dedicated bass driver for those deep, skull-rattling low notes.
Music sounds effortless with the X6i though, admittedly, it lacks the detail of more expensive headphones. But while most in-ear headphones suffer from stuffy sound concentrated inside your head, the Klipsch X6i cast a wide sound that lets listeners hear exactly where each instrument is playing.
What's impressive about the X6i is that it manages to sound so good with a single balanced armature driver in each earpiece. Most companies rely on cramming in two or more of these drivers in each earbud to get rich, balanced sound, so it's impressive that Klipsch managed the same feat with a single driver.
The X6i are extremely comfortable and hold their seal very well to keep out noise. Commuters will be happy with them, as they block out most ambient noises without the need for active noise cancellation and the bulky battery pack that comes along with it.
While the Klipsch X6i are meant to be played directly from your mobile device, I tried plugging them through a dedicated digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and amp to see if they would sound even better. Having a powerful amp did help bring some sparkle to the highs and slightly more impact to the bass, but most people will be perfectly happy listening directly from their phones.
The Klipsch Reference X6i are a wonderful-sounding package. Their comfort, build quality, sound quality and features make it great value for money too, at $179.
Competitors like the Etymotic ER-4P offer a bit more resolution, but they also cost $120 more. Audiophiles on a budget should check out the Shure SE215 ($99) and bass lovers should look at the Sennheiser Momentum In-Ears.
If you're looking for balanced sounding in-ear headphones for around $200, though, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Klipsch Reference X6i. Stated simply, they're supremely comfortable audiophile-level in-ear headphones for an affordable price.