Klipsch's Image X5s came to me almost by accident: at the tail end of my research, I happened across a mention of the Image S4 model in Entertainment Weekly, of all places. After talking to the company, it sent the Image X5 noise isolating model. Klipsch is well known for its stereo speakers, and I was curious to see if Klipsch headphones would be of similar quality.
Fast answer: yes. The Image X5s sound consistently great, in a variety of settings and across a variety of music. High and low notes are equally strong, with nice separation of tones and clear details at low volumes. That's a crucial test for noise-isolating headphones: many of the models being reviewed sound much different, and better, with the volume cranked. The Image X5s provide consistent audio quality regardless of volume level.At $249 suggested retail, the Image X5s are more pricey than the first few headphones we've tested, but they compete in audio quality with the Etymotic's hf2 model. Klipsch's offering is clean and crisp across the audio spectrum. It's not quite as pure as the hf2s, which puts every detail in striking repose. But unlike the hf2, the Image X5s give rock and pop music the vibrancy and depth most listeners expect. Bass notes are more pronounced and drums have more resonance.
The Image X5's only drawback is its minimal noise isolation. They come with a bunch of comfortable white silicone cushions, some with double flanges, but the material doesn't do much muting. On an airplane, the X5s were almost impossible to hear at low levels, and white noise was not drowned out.
But I like these X5s, so I did a little hacking--I took an old pair of Shure foam ear cushions and wrangled them onto the bases of the Image X5s. The process was a bit kludgy, but the end result worked. I wound up with more or less the same audio quality, and added to it the better noise isolation of foam earbuds. When set up like this they were even usable on the plane. (I don't recommend this, but the test did confirm that the shortcoming lies mainly in the material.)
These Klipsch headphones come five pairs of silicone ear cushions. Their case is a small, hard box, covered in leather and felt with a magnetic flap, for which I have an irrational appreciation.
I'm trying to figure out a way to get better across-the-board sound isolation for the Image X5s. When in quiet settings--at work, at home, on the beach--they're uniformly excellent headphones. My personal quest for the perfect product continues, but not without a hearty endorsement for the sound quality and enjoyment of Klipsch's Image X5s.