Klipsch Reference X12i Review: Comfortable and lightweight

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Klipsch Reference X12i IN-EAR is a comfortable and lightweight in-ear headphones from the famous American company Klipsch. Like all headphones of this brand, these delight you with a thin style and excellent sound quality. Moreover, this model is a direct successor of the acclaimed Klipsch X11i. The developers have not forgotten about the functionality – the Klipsch Reference X12i IN-EAR will become a comfortable headset for iOS devices. One of the lightest hulls in the world.

Klipsch Reference X12i IN-EAR cases are machined by the company’s craftsmen from a special grade of aluminum. The diameter of each earbud is less than 6mm! These are one of the smallest “plugs” in the world, besides, they are incredibly light (despite the metal) and surprisingly strong (thanks to the metal) – the weight of a pair of headphones without a cable is only 15 g. Besides being compact, the model also boasts an ergonomic shape.

The tiny Klipsch Reference X12i IN-EAR uses the original KG-926 Balanced Armature driver with impressive performance. The breadth and “warmth” of the acoustic scene that is reproduced thanks to this 6mm driver is amazing and almost unbelievable for “gags”. As befits an armature driver – special attention in the sound is paid to clean high frequencies and confident, well-developed mids. The manufacturer claims that the Reference X12i IN-EAR sound quality can only be surpassed by multi-armature headphones.

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Stay connected with your favorite music The Klipsch Reference X12i IN-EAR is specially designed for use with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod. The convenient three-button remote has a built-in sensitive microphone (in the Reference X series, the sensitivity is increased compared to previous models of the company). As with the entire line, the X12i has an unusual wire. It is woven from two veins, one of which is placed in a smoky translucent braid – a copper cable “looks through” it. A small nuance, but it also emphasizes the slim style of the device.  Included – in addition to the headphones themselves – 4 pairs of interchangeable ear pads, a clip for clothes, a carrying case.  

As you know, the advantage of horns is to increase the output and reduce the level of nonlinear distortion. In 1946, when the history of the company began, transistors had not yet been invented, and all amplifiers were made exclusively on tubes. Therefore, the problem of increasing the sensitivity of the loudspeakers was extremely acute. Do you want to say that now she is not? Even as it is, only it has moved to another area – portable audio equipment.

The vast majority of music lovers who are used to listening to music on the road use smartphones as a source. A portable device with a supply voltage of 3.7 V and tight limits on the output current needs a light load – sensitive headphones with low intrinsic harmonic distortion. Of course, you can use an external portable amplifier or player with a powerful output. It is clear why this solution did not become widespread: firstly, it is expensive, and secondly, few people want to carry an extra device, albeit small, with them.

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Meanwhile, in addition to high sensitivity, portable headphones require an even higher level of passive sound insulation. It is necessary even for models with active noise cancellation, since all “noise suppressors” operate in a narrow frequency range, usually up to 500 Hz, and everything that is higher must be cut off by passive protection. From this point of view, the best option is in-ear headphones with a significant depth of “immersion” in the ear canal. At the same time, the volume of air between the emitter and the eardrum decreases, which has a beneficial effect on the accuracy of sound.

Of all the possible ways to solve this problem, Klipsch chooses the most elegant and “simple” (in structure, but not technologically): a miniature driver with a balanced armature. The armature, as such a radiator is often called, is characterized by high sensitivity, low distortion and allows the capsule of the headphones to be reduced (less than 6 mm in diameter), so that they can be installed deep enough into the ear canal. That is, “in one fell swoop three kills.”

This is where it’s time to remember the horns. They, too, seemed such a simple all-in-one solution. In reality, everything is much more complicated. Klipsch is one of the few horn speaker manufacturers that has managed to get rid of the specific overtones and other disadvantages inherent in this design. The main disadvantage of armature drivers is their operation in a narrow frequency range. That is why such emitters, which appeared for the first time back in the 20s of the last century, were used for many years only where speech transmission was required and nothing more. Relatively recently, manufacturers began to use multiband designs – it comes to dividing into 8 or even 12 frequency bands (mainly in professional models), although more often they are limited to two, three or four. As a result, the design is very expensive and cumbersome.

Top-end in-ear Klipsch X20i have a two-way design, but the heroes of our current test, the X12i, are broadband. Judging by the range of 5 – 19000 Hz, the main disadvantage of balanced armature drivers has already been overcome. True, we do not know with what tolerance this frequency was measured. It doesn’t matter – listening will dot the i’s. The phones have not yet been unpacked, but the “wow-effect” has already been achieved: the transparent box resembles a display case, in which the headphones flaunt on special supports, like jewelry. The Chinese would certainly have inserted an LED into the base for spectacular illumination, but Klipsch is an American company, so it knows where to stop in pursuit of beauty.

Inside – an intricate box made of thick paper, this is a kind of puzzle: the smartest can open it without tearing it. Attached to it is a plastic platform with interchangeable attachments of four calibers (the fifth one is on the headphones) and a clothespin for a cable for attaching the wire to clothing. Inside the box is a miniature eco-leather wallet, which contains the documentation. In its place, you can then put the headphones themselves. There is also a flat box made of hard plastic, which serves as a pedestal for the supports on which the headphones were reclined. It can also be adapted for something if you figure out how to open it.

The cable is non-removable, in a durable translucent sheath. I don’t know how it will show itself in real life, especially in cold weather, but it seemed to me that it should serve for a long time. The flexible thickening in the place where the cable connects to the headphone housings also allows us to hope for this, most often the cable breaks there. On the left wire – a large remote control with a central button and “swing” volume control. Compatibility with Apple portable equipment is officially declared, but some functions (those associated with the central button) work with Android devices: the remote control allows you to pick up and hang up the phone, stop and restart playback, but does not allow skipping tracks and adjusting the volume.

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First of all, before starting listening, I select the correct attachments for my ears – not only the effectiveness of sound insulation, but also the recoil at low frequencies depends on the density of their fit to the ear canal. Fortunately, the kit includes attachments not only of different calibers, but also of two types – in the form of single and double hemispheres – the latter give a more comfortable fit, put less pressure on the ears and at the same time provide more or less even and well-balanced bass. Fans of powerful blows to the ears can use the regular single head of the maximum size.

Usually for the initial “tuning” I use Bill Wyman’s album “Back To Basics” – the bass when playing it should be slightly excessive, but in moderation. The inserts that will provide such a sound will give even and well-balanced bass on all other discs, which are not the solo creations of famous bass players who allow themselves some excesses in the lower end of the spectrum in their old age. Compatibility with Apple portable equipment is officially announced, but some functions (those related to the center button) work with Android devices.

It must be admitted that the proprietary oval cross-section of the rubber earpieces gives the required degree of sound insulation with less pressure on the ears. This is the case when the solution seems to be quite obvious, but for some reason only Klipsch thought of it. Generally, I do not like in-ear models – precisely because of the feeling of discomfort, but headphones with such ovals, perhaps, could listen for a long time.

We carry out listening in two stages: first, on stationary equipment – this allows us to reveal the qualitative potential of the headphones (as they might sound with an external amplifier or on a serious portable player), then on a smartphone, in order to understand how light a load they are for the weak in every sense path. We listen with the equalizer turned off – in my opinion, good headphones should do without frequency correction in the path. There are two players: Poweramp Pro and Onkyo HF Player. The first has a denser sound, the second a little brighter and more detailed. With the Klipsch X12i, I like the second one better.

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