I found that my s3's needed burn-in before they sounded amazing. I let music play through them for like about 30hrs and saw a big difference between when I first got them and after the burn-in. I have my iPod's eq setting on bass booster currently and I don't have any complaints with it.
Honestly, it can be difficult to find even a halfway decent pair of in-ear headphones. I may not be an audiophile, but I love music and appreciate quality sound; plus, headphones are crucial to my existence, as I incorporate them extensively into pretty much every aspect of my life.
One of those aspects--my gym habit--is particularly important to cater to. After breaking one pair of no-name brand in-ears that were of "acceptable" quality and going through several earbud style designs with poor noise isolation, I decided to venture forth and get a quality pair of in-ears.
My requirements were as follows:
- Excellent noise isolation (I want to hear my music, not the paleolithic grunting of over-tattooed guys like this)
- Snug fit that makes it difficult for the bud to "pop out" while working out
- Rich bass and midrange (I mostly listen to heavy metal and industrial music when exercising)
- Under $50 if possible
After wading through dozens of options, I was attracted to the Klipsch line of headphones primarily due to the excellent price and the novel ear tip design, which promises a better fit--something I have always had issues with when it comes to in-ear 'phones. Are they up to the task?
Disclaimer: I am not an audiophile, just a regular guy who loves music, gaming, and audio in general. Therefore, you aren't going to see any frequency response curves or technical terms here, just my view of what these headphones are like for daily use.
Features and Build Quality
When I unboxed the Klipsch Image S3's, I was impressed by the look and feel of the headphones. They are light, which is important for exercise use, but not cheap feeling. Aside from the shiny "Rebel Red" color I chose, they are relatively unassuming. There's no fancy volume controls on the headphones, no funky attachments, just a simple pair of in-ears.
Upon closer inspection, the design does stand out a little bit. The body of the headphone is angled from the tip, unlike most other in-ears I've tried. In addition to this, the rubber tips (of which you are provided with three varying sizes) are more of a cone-ish shape, or as Klipsch refers to them, "patended oval ear-tips."
In my case, these made an absolute WORLD of difference, no joke. Where other in-ears failed to lodge themselves properly in my auditory canal, these babies form a tight, comfortable seal. Apparently, they're supposed to contour to the natural shape of your ear-hole--I've always been convinced mine was mutated. Perhaps not, according to Klipsch.
How do the Klipsch Image S3's Sound?
At first, I was unhappy with them. I discovered that some knowledge of tweaking equalizers, or at least picking the right one, is the only way to maximize the enjoyment you will get from these headphones.
The first device I tried them on was also the most important--my Sansa Clip, which accompanies me to every workout session. With the stock "Rock" EQ setting in Rockbox, the headphones were harsh, almost shrill and harpy-like on the treble, and sounded rather awful.
However, after making some basic adjustments (read: turn the treble way down, and turn the bass up a bit) the sound of these in-ears transformed completely, enabling me to get a more honest taste of what they had in store.
With a properly tuned audio source, using primarily 192 kbps encoded MP3 files, I was able to achieve a wonderful sound with the S3's. Death metal blast beats are reproduced with power and clarity, driving midrange rock guitars sound rich and full, cymbals and vocals sound clear and crisp without becoming too overpowering. I've listened to everything from Rammstein to Nelly to Diana Krall to Royksopp to the Steep Canyon Rangers on these things, and it all sounds great. Plus, the noise isolation is excellent even at very low volumes.
The most notable character of the sound of the S3's is the incredible bass. These produce ear-melting amounts of low end, which is perfect for the hard hitting music I choose for my exercise sessions. Note that, of course, you will need to have a good seal with the ear tips to achieve this.
Are the Klipsch Image S3's right for you? I think it depends largely on what you are looking for in an in-ear headphone, and how willing you are to tinker with your audio source to get it to sound right.
Out of the box on most stock EQ's (I have tested two Android phones, an iPad, and a Sansa Clip) these headphones (to my ears) sounded terribly shrill and not very good at all. If your taste is anything like mine, you will have to tune the equalizer on your device to get a balanced sound.
After you do that, though, these headphones sound great. Plus, they provide an excellent fit due to the unique ear-tips as well as solid noise-isolation, and you get a decent free case to boot.
My verdict is that for the sub-$50 price range, these headphones are hard to beat for a combination of value, sound quality, and real-world usability. Even in the gym!