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Universal Fit item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Cheap, portable, durable, comfy
Cons - Muddy, treble rolloff, nonexistant sub-bass
If you've never heard anything other than the cheap crappy headphones that come with your ipod, these will still sound amazing. Real bass! Actual detail in treble! I can't recommend them however. I'm not sure there's anything in this price range yet for IEMs that's acceptable. Headphones are getting cheaper and better over time so it could be something better has come along.
My S4's are trusty little things that still work to this day, unlike my X-10's which broke several months after I got them. They also have a better cable. The rubberized sheath doesn't tangle or break easily and travels very nicely.
These are also very comfortable. I loved the earpieces so much, I used them on my Etymotic hf5's. They're smooth and agreeable to listen to for long periods of time.
Now let's do the rundown:
-Sub-bass - not very much, if any
-Upper bass - muddy, boosted, bloated. All the negative adjectives I can think of. But it is there, at least.
-Mids - drowning in the upper bass muddiness
-Treble - subdued, rolling off rapidly above 8000-ish but there's some detail. Key word... some.
Pros - Great comfort and isolation, Sound is a step above consumer competition, Very accessible
Cons - Bass can be too much depending on preference, Upper mids too thick, Treble is harsh, Cable is thin and the straight jack is not durable
I`ve always been a bit of a Klipsch fan. In fact the s4`s on account of Cnet`s glowering reviews, became my first proper earphone. I remember listening to my father`s set for the first time, it was that mind blowing moment for me where I realized just how much difference audio gear actually makes and such a huge step up from the stock earbuds that I`d been using at the time. Whilst I didn`t possess the audio vocabulary to describe the sound or the experience to judge it`s characteristics, I still found myself enjoying my music so much more. These earphones drove me to buy the higher model x10`s which I still own and enjoy and then a set of Phonak PFE232`s all that way to the brilliant Sennheiser ie800`s that I`ve been using for the past three years.
The packaging is typical of early 2000`s Klipsch models; A small, thin cardboard box with a clear window displaying the earphones. It`s similar to the x10`s, but less luxurious. One side is perforated for easy un-packaging but it also lets you know if the earphones have been tampered with as it`s not possible to reseal.
The earphones are coiled on a plastic tray that also contains a fabric pouch pouch for the remote “i” models or a much more robust metal tin for standard models. Some models also have a zipper style fabric case but all function well except the pouch which doesn`t provide an awful lot of protection. The earphones also come with a shirt clip and 3 pairs of Klipsch`s excellent oval tips (two medium pre-installed). For their $170 AUD RRP, this is not nearly adequate, but at their current $40-50 price the amount and quality of the accessories is fine.
Utilizing the typical cable down earphone fitment, the s4`s are very easy to use and quite comfortable. The housing is well styled with a premium silver and gloss black finish. They are slightly angled making differentiating between sides easy but they also have markings on the earpieces.
The nozzles are quite long, but the tips have especially short stems so fitment depth is limited. As a result of the relatively shallow-medium depth fitment, I use the largest tip size even though I use medium on pretty much any other earphone. For people with especially large ears this may be a problem.
I did notice that the housings stick out quite a bit from the ear making wind noise quite prevalent, you also won`t be able to wear them whilst sleeping. The earphones are, however, light weight and their long soundtubes mean that the sharply styled housings rarely contact the ear for optimal ergonomics. If they do contact the ear, the edges on the housings can cause discomfort which is why a larger than usual tips size is recommended. Speaking of which, the Klipsch oval tips produce a strong seal and passive isolation is very good for a regular earphone, in between a normal consumer earphone such as the cx300`s and a fully sealed over ear iem such as Shures or Westones. I believe that there are some small vents on the housings as foam tips do not produce much stronger isolation, but I can not see any clear features.
Despite the strong seal the earphones are not completely stable in the ear for prolonged listening and will need adjustment after some time. This is because Klipsch have employed a similar tactic as the x10`s to reduce microphonics; Klipsch utilize the shallow fitment to pull the cable further from the face and reduce cable contact, they don`t have as strong a seal and the fitment isn`t nearly as deep as that on the x10`s however, leading to instability after some time. Still, the strong seal means that they will stay put fine when sitting and even walking, but running is off the table.
The cable is similar to the x10`s in that it is very soft and supple with a great texture that resists snagging and that cheap tacky feel. It is similarly thin yet the housings on the s4`s are noticeably bigger which can produce stress when untangling. They are not fabric reinforced and the cables are quite prone to tangling, but they are especially easy to untangle when this happens. They are decently relieved at the earpiece and remote, but the jack is inadequate and a common point of failure.
Hopefully Klipsch will switch to a right angle jack in the their future lower end models as even the S4 II model uses a straight jack. The “i” model has a remote at the y-split as opposed to a molded case that is functional and very easy to use.
The buttons are well spaced and although they are all shaped exactly the same, they are easy to identify. There is a small mic opening on the back, it works well, but it is a little low (position can be blocked easily) for super clear audio. The remote is optimized for IOS though the multi-function button works on android devices. The earphones are decently microphonic but not distractingly so, they are actually quite good for a cable down earphone. The included chin slider helps with this if you don`t have a shirt clip on hand.
Sound – The s4`s have a clearly v-shaped signature that is quite raw, trading smoothness for detail. They have great end to end extension for a consumer earphone, and the sound is above average overall. The sound quality is at the level where you won`t feel like you`re missing out on parts of the audio spectrum, it doesn`t have effortless detail or immense clarity, nor is it even remotely refined, but the earphones do retrieve plenty of information. They have an emphasis on mid-bass and sub-bass is also moderately boosted, they are in essence, a less refined x10. Overall the midrange sounds quite scooped, the lower-mids have good body but they get a bit peaky and female vocals can sound too thick for my liking. Treble is decently extended and detailed but it is also thin, very grainy and can be fatiguing. There is not too much soundstage and what is there is mainly focused upon width whilst depth is below average. Despite this, imaging is surprisingly good. The sound is warm and still more balanced than regular consumer earphones. They have an extra layer of detail and intricacy that puts them above low end Sennheisers and far above Skull Candy and Sol Republic models.
A big plus for the s4 is that they are very easy to drive and will reach very high levels from any decent smartphone. They aren`t sensitive to output impedance and don`t require amping at all. They sound fine from even my iPod Nano 7g and 3rd gen Shuffle. They don`t pick up hiss too easily, but there is always an underlying hiss on every source I have, even my dead silent Fiio Q1.
The bass has above average extension, sub-bass rolls off and isn`t too boosted, but bass comes on strongly after that producing great rumble and slam. Mid-bass is boosted to near bass-head levels with great body. It isn`t super fast nor punchy, and doesn`t resolve high amounts of detail, though it is decently textured. The bass is flabby and full, but not overdone for what it is, the midrange is still decently clear on account of a dip in the upper-bass which is only moderately elevated. The bass is much more neutral than the Sol Republic Jax and also of greater quality. Compared to the Xiaomi Piston 3`s, the s4 has similar sub-bass and much stronger mid-bass combined with slightly better extension. The Piston`s are a bit tighter and more balanced but still quite bassy. The s4`s would benefit from less mid-bass, but the quality is more than sufficient for most pop and hip-hop tracks. You do get the blurring of fast/complex bass-lines, and the Piston`s fare much better here, but the extra rumble and slam offered by the s4`s can be attractive.
The mids are tastefully warm and sound great for a consumer earphone. Over sculpting in the lower-mids produces a veiled upper-midrange, limiting clarity.In comparison to the more balanced Pistons, the s4`s sound thicker and more recessed. The s4`s have especially good detail retrieval in their price class and have a more raw sounding midrange than the overly veiled and cloudy mids of other consumer buds like the SR Jax. They retrieve more details than even the Piston 3`s but the thickness of the sound might disturb some. The added warmth sounds great with pop but the upper midrange limits versatility. For example rock music can sound overbearing whilst jazz is lacking refinement with too much sibilance. The midrange is recessed but both male and female vocals remain perfectly distinguishable and the s4`s powerful sound is great for films. Overall, the mids are coherent but often get overwhelmed by the bass and even treble at times, male vocals sound good but female vocals are missing crispness and sound truncated. The higher model x10`s are much smoother and refined in the midrange and female vocals are much better whilst retaining the warmth and richness of the s4`s.
The treble on the s4`s is quite extended and excited. It`s not airy, the Carbo Tenores are much better in the treble, but the s4 carries similar amounts of detail, it is just lacking smoothness. The treble is generally grainy and boosted in quantity. It is unrefined like the upper mids and a bit thin for me. Texturing is off and the treble produces sibilance in many tracks. They can be harsh at times but are a big step up from most consumer buds which have either no treble response at all, or one that is very rolled off, at least the s4`s portray this spectrum with some faithfulness.
In the consumer space I would say that it`s remarkable what you get for $50 USD with the s4`s. But on the internet you get an awful lot for that money or in the Piston`s case, a third of that. When the s4`s were released in 2009 they were a great choice, but in 2016 they are certainly no longer the best one you can make. The aforementioned Xiaomi Piston 3`s for example produce almost the same level of performance at an astounding $15-20 USD whilst the Zero Audio Carbo Tenore`s are quite a bit better at around the same $30-40 USD price. What the Klipsch provide in return for that extra money is better packaging, isolation and ergonomics although the build is not particularly standout, even in this price range. If you are particularly adverse to shopping online and prefer the safety of a local retailer, then you could do a lot worse than the Klipsch s4`s, they are a great place to start and fakes are very abundant online.
Accessories – 6/10 for fabric pouch, 8/10 with the tin, The s4`s come with great silicone tips but Klipsch would be wise to include dual flanges for more stability. The fabric pouch provides minimal protection whilst the tin is very good, I`m not sure why there is so much variation.
Design – 7/10, The s4`s are attractive and premium looking, but quite poorly built. The cable is far too thin and lack adequate reinforcement. The straight jack is not well relieved and the housings are sharp. They are still very comfortable, but the right tip size is essential. The fit is plenty stable during normal use and microphonics are good for a cable down earphone. Isolation is also good and the s4`s work well when travelling.
Bass – 6/10, Powerful and full, the bass is of above average quality but is too much quantity wise. Warms and can overwhelm the mids. Great impact and slam are well suited to some music and some listeners. They are more balanced than consumer earphones.
Mids – 5.25/10, Quite detailed but lacking refinement. Full but upper mids are veiled and truncated. Deficient in smoothness and clarity but a step up from most earphones at this price. The Xiaomi Piston 3`s provide a more balanced listen for quite a bit less.
Treble – 5.25/10, Decently extended but too thin and harsh.
Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 5/10, Not too much soundstage. Decent width but limited depth. Imaging is quite good and seperation is above average. They sound congested at times but soundstage is also a notch above the competition.
Overall – 7/10, You`re probably thinking that this end score is quite high for an earphone with no standout scores. The simple charm of the s4`s is that the isolation and fit, even purely due to the Klipsch oval gel tips, is so much better than all other cheap iems that it becomes hard to use other brands. Combine that with a sound that is a step above the consumer competition, and close to the more audiophile conscious brands out there, and the s4 is a solid choice for beginners. I would personally recommend spending $40 more for the more comfortable, better built and much better sounding x10`s, but the shallow sealing, V-shaped s4`s are probably more orthodox for the average listener. The s4`s are special because they are so accessible, mixing a very typical consumer sound with just a touch of refinement that makes one wonder what more is to come. They are a great gateway into the hobby and not a bad earphone to keep around for media.
Pros - Bass, high quality, carry case, (comfort, isolation)
Cons - Mids, highs, comfort, isolation
Brought these way back in 2011 for what seems like a total rip off today of $80 or so.
Good: Bass, I think the bass is too dominant with these, it makes the mids sound bad and the highs are just absolute crap. Build quality is good, my right one's cable was not very securely attached to the stress relief but still held up no problem over the years. Stock tips didn't work the best for me, my ears and IEM's hate each other. I brought triple flange tips and the isolation is improved, as well as comfort and no changes to sound quality.
Bad: Stock tips not for me. Mids sometimes taken hostage by the bass. Highs were shot long before, they didn't stand a chance!
Pros - Sounds half decent, bass not too woolly and treble not too harsh
Cons - Cable will fail you, even if you treat it like it an angel. Cost doesn't reflect quality.
I've had a very bad experience with these headphones and as such will personally not be buying Klipsch again. I'm now on my third pair of the the S4A (II)'s - the version specifically for Android smartphones. All three developed the same issue, losing sound in one channel. There appears to be a significant design flaw in the cable as in all three cases I was wither walking along with the phone in pocket or doing another everyday activity like mowing the lawn and the channel just cut out to such a degree I was never able to determine the location of the break by manipulating the cable, plug or joints.
The local Klipsch local distributor replaced the first and second pair (begrudgingly), but now says Klipsch have told him that they won't replace any more devices purchased outside of New Zealand - (these were a gift from my father in law from Amazon UK). That's understandable I guess though, so I will try going back directly to Amazon and claim they aren't fit for purpose, but they are outside the 1 year warranty now of course. I have to say that I am really disappointed that the product appears to have not been tested to cope with normal use - it's not as if I was jogging or doing cartwheels or yanking the plug out of my phone sideways etc - just walking or mowing! It is especially annoying, as after the first replacement I have been ridiculously careful with the cables knowing how fragile they are, yet they still failed after only 3-6 months each!
I am happy enough with the sound quality, it's certainly a significant jump up from bundled headphones, but they weren't mind-blowing in any particular regard. OK bass and mids, treble a bit muted but I prefer that to shrillness. Isolation was very good, with the oval tips fitting my ears well, and they're comfortable over moderate periods. One unwelcome thing I noticed however was that when making calls, there is no feedback from the mic to your ears, meaning with the isolation you can't tell how loud the environment around you is, nor hear your own voice well and therefore can talk too loud - it's a bit disconcerting at first. Things are actually better if you pull the tips out to reduce the isolation. FYI the mic appears to work OK in quiet environments, not very well in noisy places, and is located not hanging in mid-air underneath your right ear like Apple, but rubbing on your centre of your shirt, Also, the lazy blanking of the Apple remote buttons to leave one available for Android means the controls are unnecessarily oversized and heavy.
OK, enough ranting. Get these only if you see them cheap, say US$30, otherwise buyer very beware!
Pros - exciting sound, comfortable and light weight, excellent design and quality, shiny!
Cons - straight plug? for some people
To clarify: I have the normal s4, not the inline mic/remote edition (these http://www.bestbuy.com/site/image-s4-stereo-earphone/9422369.p?id=1218105502820&skuId=9422369&st=klipsch s4&cp=1&lp=3) I picked these up the other day just for the heck of it and because of their legendary status as excellent budget iems. I really wasn't expecting jaw dropping sound, especially since I was currently pricing some iems several price brackets above these. I am however very pleased with my purchase. Here's my short review
Reasons the s4 have made such a positive impression on me: comfort, quality and excellent design. The driver housings fit neatly in my ear and get a nice deep seal (I've had issues with getting a comfortable seal on other iems). The s4 are light weight and compact; I was even able to sleep with them in! (not that it was particularly comfy, but I forgot my earplugs and I've never been able to do that with other iems :3). The nozzles are angled and tips are oval shaped for a more ergonomic fit, and work especially well over ear. I really like the flat cable; it is an adequate length, has a nice texture, and low microphonics. While I wish klipsch had used an angled jack, the straight plug is well made and compact enough to use with my picky iphone case. They come with a nice little zipper pouch and easily coil up to fit in it. Overall very compact, portable and convenient.
For it's price category, the s4 definitley sound good. They have a v shaped sound signature that emphasises punchy bass and treble. It's worth noting this signature does not bring out the best in all genres and might not be suited to midrange heavy music. The sound stage is pretty good to boot! Overall an exciting sound, although not super detailed. I think the MSRP is a little high for the s4, but that's true for most headphones. At street price I think they are a stealer deal. They might not be the best sounding iems in the category, but the overall package is definetly impressive.
Even though I purchased the s4 on a whim, already they've become my go to portable headphone. I might even start using them for sports and exercising instead of my yurbud focus. In summary, I believe the klipsch s4 live up to their reputation as one of the best budget iems.
Pros - Good overall sound quality, nice aesthetic design, one of the better "consumer" headphones you can buy at retail
Cons - Poor fit and durability, harsh sibilance
These were the first IEMs I bought that were over 50$ after reading good reviews on it. Unfortunately I don't think they live up to the hype. They are definitely better than some of the other consumer-oriented brands such as Beats, Bose, etc. but they are not worth 70 or 80$.
Note: I do not have my fully functioning S4 anymore because I recently lost it. (long story) The one I mention in this review comes in the blue CNET box (no cleaning tool, straight plug).
The sound quality is a V-shape signature with an emphasis on the highs. The bass is rather boomy but it does not overpower everything else and quite detailed still. The mids are a bit recessed when you first get these but they sound better after burn-in and using the bi-flanges clears them up while reducing sibilance. At first I found the highs to be rather metallic though this settled after burn-in, but the sibilance is still there. Overall, the highs are crisp but not very detailed. The soundstage is pretty good in size for an IEM. As these only go up to 19 kHz, they are a bit forgiving of lower bitrates. For my ears it is a bit harder to tell 128kbps from 320kbps compared to some other headphones. They also seem to amplify any sort of hiss.
Fit and comfort
This is probably one of the more disappointing aspects of the S4. Although I found the regular and large tips to be quite comfortable, the medium ones fall from my ears easily and moving them slightly off will kill the bass. Both cause the harsh sibilance I noted earlier. The "small" biflanges, on the other hand, take away this sibilance but take a while getting used to.They do take off a bit of detail from the highs unless you absolutely stuff them into your ears and keep it in that position (which I do not recommend because it has got stuck in my ear once). At the same time, they also bring out the mids and bass quite a bit more. Because the biflanges are small size, the noise isolation isn't as good as the large tips, although they still do isolate sound nicely. Like the medium eartips, they are hard to fit for optimum sound. Just moving them slightly off kills the bass.
Another problem is durability. The strain reliefs are especially weak and mine ripped within 3 weeks of use. That said, this isn't much of a problem as the cords still hold very well from the cans, and Klipsch has improved upon it in their latest version in addition to flatter cables. The cables in my version feel flimsy and do tangle when scrunched into your pocket, though they are springy so it's a bit easier to untie them. The straight plug on the other hand is poorly built. Putting these in my bag it somehow got bent to the extent that the center channel was removed like a karaoke. Fortunately, Klipsch sent me a free replacement (though I just recently lost this pair). It seems rather normal the plug is very slightly bent and not perfectly straight out of the box.
If they were under 40$ (which you may find on the internet) this would be a decent pair of cans. Unfortunately, durability and fit are the two main problems the S4 faces. That said, it's still one of the better consumer-level headphones you can easily buy at retail stores like Best Buy or RadioShack, stores that don't always sell the best type of headphones. if you are still interested, get the S4 II because of its better build quality (and watch out for the prices as it is often more expensive if they sell the original S4).
Pros - ...
Cons - Everything for a headphone that's not free
I bought the klipsch s4i along with the iPhone4 on iPhone4's launching day cause I thought my new phone deserves a good earbuds. Boy was I wrong. klipsch s4i is nothing more than a piece of sh*t! Please excuse my language or if I offended any klipsch fans, but im just trying to speak of my mind. The sound will break when the note is too high and there is absolutely no bass. I really thought the old model earbuds made by Apple that came with the iPhone4 is better than the klipsch s4i.
Pros - great bass, just right highs and treble
Cons - casing loosens after a while
You will always remember your first, and these earphones are probably the best first's i could ever get at that time. For someone who had never used anything besides apple earphones and equivalent quality earphones, so the s4's where a huge jump in terms of audio quality. It was great for most types of music that i listen to, anything from fall out boy to Andre Bocelli, so I'd say its a great starter for anyone looking for a cheap and good pair of entry level earphones. It has a really nice and mellow tones, especially in the mids where Andre Bocelli's ringing voice completely envelops you.
the build is great mostly, really nice design and the cable is thin but not fragile. only thing is that after a while the casing gets a bit loose,but not really enough that you would notice unless you really go and wobble the casing. Overall a great buy for anyone looking for something nice and simple that won't burn a hole in your pocket.
Pros - cheaper than Ethiopian dirt, good construction, glorious bass, perfect fit.
Cons - no in-line volume controls, or remote/mic.
This was the first pair of headphones that I truly fell in love with. I remember it like it was yesterday, I asked my roommate of I could borrow his headphones while I studied for my upcoming computer science midterm. He handed me a tangled mess of black rubber wire, and said "here, they suck but they're the only ones I have". Laughing, I put them in my ears, and was surprised at the immediate ease of insertion. Hmm, I put on some Deadmau5, Sofie Needs a Ladder, and then it happened... WHAARRRGLARBLE Is this what music sounds like!? How have I gone my whole life listening to this skullcandy crap!? I could hear ever note, the vocals were like someone was standing right next to me! I experienced the "3D" effect for the first time, and the Bass rumbled deep within my eardrums.
Weeks later my love for headphones grew. Over the years I purchased pair after pair, looking for an improvement, but I have found none. Note ever headphones in the $100-$200 price range can complete with the Klipsch Image S4's. If you have never heard these, you need to go on ebay right now, and get yourself a used pair in the $20 dollar range. God speed my friend.
Pros - Decent SQ
Cons - booming bass
Audio quality-pretty good. Bass can be overbearing.
Design-it is comfortable. Sticks out at an odd angle if you don't swap ears, and then the stereo is reversed.
Comfort-As above. Don't notice it in my ear with the Comply TX-100s I added. With silicone it can be annoying.
Isolation-Pretty good with silicone. Awesome with Comply.