Part I: Pictures
Part II: Initial Impressions
Part III: First Listen
Part IV: The highs
Part V: Mid-range
Part VI: The Lows
Part VII: Details/Other features
Part VIII: Summation
I. The earpieces themselves:
They come with a nice case, which apparently can fit an iPod Nano...
But not I guess not a Zune
All the other eartips and wax cleaning loop
Sorry about the poor pictures. I should really get a decent camera sometime, onto the impressions though.
II. Initial impressions:
The packaging is quite nice and well put together. Straight out of the box the case feels quite nice and sturdy, as does the cloth covered cable, which is almost always a plus. Inside the case are the extra eartips which include a medium and large bi-flange, and a pair of small and large regular tips, there is a pair of medium regular tips already on the earpieces.
The earpieces themselves are kind of a rubberized material other than the shiny plastic piece with the Klipsch logo on it, this material seems like it will hold up quite well with wear. Just out of the earpieces is a section of "flex wire", which is a stiff plastic covering around the normal cloth cable, this allows the cable to mold around the back of your ear keeping the earpieces in place and reducing microphonics. The y-split is very minimal, just a rubber separator, there is also a slide above it which allows you to cinch the cable up close if you're wearing them with the wires running behind your head to further reduce microphonics.
All in all the physical aspect of the headphones and their accessories is top notch, though I do wonder how well the cloth covering will hold up. Based on the build alone these are quite good, but a good build does not make good headphones, good sound does.
III. First listen:
I usually wear pretty small earpieces so I just put in what was already on them and wow do these suck. No isolation, sound like earbuds, this has to be a mis-fit. Sure enough the mediums were too small, so I stuck in the large bi-flanges and that cleared everything up pretty well. I've stopped being blown away by anything in this price range a while ago, so these won't really be something totally new no matter what. The first thing I notice is that everything is kind of lumped together though, and the highs aren't immediately apparent. Plus these things are really sensitive, I'm running at 1 on my Zune and it's still loud. On the plus side they are quite comfortable and they disappear in your ears, you can't see them unless you look from the side (or unless your hair is short and you can see the cable). The earpieces seem to make my ears itch though, but that happens with every IEM it seems.
Next thing I notice is the huge amount of separation between notes, and the accuracy of these IEMs, they pick up very subtle nuances quite well and each note is quite distinct from the others. That said there is a serious problem with separation between instruments. While these sound fantastic for just one instrument, things start to get lumped together when you add more. They're all their, just not strongly. I suspect this has something to do with the presence of the treble and bass (or lack thereof) that I will cover later.
My last initial impression is how strong the midrange is, guitars have a great growl on these, but they have no bite like they should, the attack just isn't as strong as it should be, but the mids are fantastic.
IV. The highs:
This is where I have my real problem with these, coming from a Grado listener perhaps these just aren't my cup of tea and they would be better suited for a Sennheiser user or something of the like, but the highs just don't sparkle like they should. It's clear that they can hit the high notes just fine, but they have no gleam to them, they're rather lifeless. Like I said before, the guitars have growl, but no bite. On Rush's 2112, Geddy's vocals sound great, but they don't have the edge to them that should have (if you've heard 2112 you should know what I mean, think The Temples of Syrinx). Perhaps this would be helped in the higher range model with the extra drivers, since only one driver is trying to do everything here, however this didn't seem to be a problem with the iM716 I used to own. The highs are definitely a weak spot for these.
To make up for the highs, these have a great middle. The strength here is unlike any other IEM I've tried. The mids are quite pronounced and strong, which is good since this section is usually overlooked and almost lost in between the bass and the treble. It is kind of surprising how subdued everything sounds when there is a strong mid-range, like everything works together, but it does tend to blend the instruments. The strong mid-range makes these well suited for solo work or single instrument pieces.
VI. The lows:
Not exactly the best news here either. Klipsch seems to make a point out of their bass, but I really don't see why. On the plus side there was some actual impact from the bass, which I haven't really seen from other armature drivers, but on the bad you can barely hear the bass compared to the other frequencies. Not good. It is definitely there, but you have to make a point of it to listen for the bass, even on songs where there is a dominant bass drum or bass guitar. It's almost as if Klipsch thinks that bass is only good for rhythm and confines them to the background where they can do just that. However there is an upside to all of this.
To address the issues above, the problems with the huge sensitivity and quiet bass, an in-line attenuator could probably help. It would give you more control over the bass and make the headphones harder to drive so you could have them at a reasonable volume. This could also be helpful if you're amping, and in the long run could help the highs. Unfortunately I don't have an attenuator or a portable amp like would be used with these to test this idea with. I would love to try it sometime, and I think the attenuator alone could make a big difference.
VII. Details/Other features:
These are incredibly detailed, even compared to the iM716s I notice more detail, of course it has been a while, but I still don't remember them being this good. I have actually been able to clearly hear some parts that I haven't caught all of before (these are parts with only one instrument). I am very impressed with the level of detail brought to the table by these headphones. I am also impressed with the separation between notes with these, which is quite impressive. It is very easy to pick out where notes end and begin, which is quite nice if want to truly critically listen, and could be useful if you were recording a single instrument, therein lies the problem here. They do not do separation between instruments well. They tend to bring everything forward, and when they do everything becomes lumped together. This isn't too pleasant. However, it should be noted that they do have pretty good positioning for IEMs as far as I could tell in spite of all of this.
VIII. So to sum it all up...
-Wonderful for solo
-No Instrument separation
-No treble sparkle
-Weak bass volume
All told these are very promising since they are the low-end single driver headphones from a speaker company. I imagine the multi-driver versions could fix a lot of the problems, I imagine an attenuator could do wonders for these for that matter. They are well built and reasonably priced to compete, and could very well be the lowest profile IEMs on the market, along with being one of the most comfortable.
In price and format alone the Westone UM1s seem to be their closest competitors and they were what was also vying for my money. I chose the Custom-1s so that I could give some others who may be in the same boat some impressions. I think that Klipsch has done very well for their first time in headphones with no experience in this sort of field at all, but they still have some way to go. If I had it to do again knowing what I know now, I'm still not sure I would go with the UM1s since I haven't heard them, but I know they would certainly get more consideration. Klipsch has some room to improve on these, but maybe rock just isn't their niche. I'm going to see if I can't build or buy an attenuator (if anyone wants to donate one to a good cause I would take that too) and try some genres other than rock. For the most part these are fairly initial impressions, but my opinion of headphones doesn't change a whole lot over time.
I will be keeping this thread updated with more impressions as time goes on and I'll be happy to try and answer any questions/requests that anyone has. Congrats if you read all of that in one sitting as well. I didn't notice how long this post had gotten. I type too quick for my own good sometimes.