Type: "All weather" in-ear ruggedised earphones
With half the world now caught up with post-Olympics fitness fever, Klipsch update their well-loved Image S4 series with a sporty, all-weather twist for the Image S4i Rugged earphones. Do they manage to deliver both brawny build quality and beautiful sound? Read on to find out!
Klipsch's Image S4 and Image S4i in-ear earphone range have always punched well above their price range when it comes to comfort and sound quality, making them some of our most often-used and well-loved earphones in recent years. Though significantly cheaper now than they were at launch, they're still a little too delicate and a little too expensive for us to feel totally at ease with using when working out however.
Enter the Klipsch Image S4i Rugged earphones. At a penny shy of £90 they're not going to break the bank, nor deliver reference-grade audio quality, but do offer a sturdy, robust build and sound leagues ahead of other sport-focussed earphones.
Available in a range of colours (we grabbed a blue pair, but red, orange and yellow versions are available) Klipsch have put plenty of effort into making the new earphones tough little blighters.
For starters, each bud is given a rubberised coating in order to better protect the inner circuitry from moisture; a good thing for those with sweaty work-out ears, or those travelling to particularly humid climes. Note however that these are not waterproof earphones; dive into a swimming pool wearing these and you might as well chuck your £90 into the deep end too. The buds, using Klipsch's patented elliptical tips, remain comfortable in the ear, fitting more snugly in the ear canal thanks to the shape, and also offer an improved bass response as a result. Four pairs of sound-isolating gel tips of differing sizes are also included in the box to fit most inner ear shapes.
A metre-long cable joins the two ear buds, coated again in a moisture-resistant rubber finish. Slightly slippery, it's less likely to get caught on your clothing when exercising as a result.Around 30cm down the cable you'll find the chunky three-button remote control and mic module. It's well positioned, making it easy to reach in a hurry if you need to answer a call or plough through a playlist. The multi-directional mic is solid too, picking up audio clearly even when bounding around at full pace, though the person you're calling is likely to get the odd rumbling sound as the mic bumps into you during exercise.
The cable ends in a standard 3.5mm jack, meaning the earphones will work well with practically all portable music devices, though you'll ideally be using them with an iPod, iPhone or iPad if you want to make full use of the Apple-certified remote control system.
Perfectly sturdy, that's not to say the Image S4i Ruggeds are perfectly designed though, with the remote giving us the most gripes. We can completely appreciate the appeal of having a large remote on a sport-focussed pair of earphones, allowing you to easily grab the buttons and change tracks or answer calls mid-stride without a pause. However, at over an inch long and a little thinner than your average adult thumb, it's just a little too weighty to hang down off your ears while exercising. A small clothing clip alleviates the problem somewhat, but in this case we'd have rather had the comfort of a smaller remote to begin with.
Thankfully, the audio quality of the earphones more than makes up for any minor quibbles we have with the design. Boasting a frequency response of 10Hz -19kHz, the Image S4i Rugged earphones have slightly aggressively tuned low and high-end frequencies, meaning mid-range subtleties can get lost sometimes in the mix. Designed as sportswear as much as they are audio devices however, you're unlikely to be listening out for audiophile-intricacy when on a marathon jog, and the Image S4i Rugged earphones deliver a punchy, crisp sound that will spur you onward towards the final-stretch of your workout. We found that electro and hip-hop genres fared best with the earphones as a result, where mid-range warmth isn't always so notable.
Though they lack the aural subtlety of previous Image line earphones, Klipsch's latest rugged earphones offer both a sturdy sound and sturdy finish, making them ideal work-out fodder. They'll take more of a beating than your average earphones and, with a sound quality fitting of their £90 pricing, will feel like a marked upgrade on the bargain-bucket earphones you may otherwise chose to face the rigours of your exercise regime. A revised model with a more refined sound and smaller remote would be welcome, but they're small faults in the Image S4i Rugged earphones that otherwise deliver on their promises.