Usually IEM (In Ear Monitor – in-ear headphones) with 6 – 12 armature drivers are used as professional monitors, that is, where maximum fidelity is important. Which is very difficult to achieve, since phase and linear distortions arise with the division into separate frequency bands, getting rid of which is an expensive pleasure.
However, the limitation of the scope of application is associated not only with the high price, but also with the fact that a large number of emitters (as well as the necessary crossovers) increase the size and weight of devices – they are not very convenient for everyday use, especially on the road. But many people prefer “gags”, forgiving their inherent shortcomings, precisely because they are compact, do not attract attention and have a minimal effect on the appearance. Oddly enough, but not everyone who can easily “pull” such headphones would like to demonstrate their worth to others.
From this point of view, the Klipsch Reference X12i headphones are close to ideal, as they are one of the most compact in the world. The two-lane Reference X20i are only slightly larger, and due to the elliptical cross-section of the body, they are also barely noticeable in the ears. By the way, this visual modesty is combined with very high-quality performance and by no means simple design – when you take them in your hands, you understand that they are made with taste and skill.
However, the feeling of an expensive item arises even earlier – as soon as you see the box: it is made of wood (more precisely, of multi-layer plywood, finished with natural veneer) and with a lid with magnets. Inside we find a case made of genuine leather, in which the headphones themselves lie, in the lower “floor” there are silicone tips of five sizes, of which two pairs are double. And also a clip for attaching the wire to clothing. However, this is a standard set for all Klipsch in-ear headphones, exactly the same was for the X12i.
As befits the portable headsets used most often with smartphones, the X20i has a remote with a microphone and three buttons that are used to answer calls and control playback. The letter “I” at the end of the index means that full compatibility is provided only with Apple mobile devices. On devices running Android, only the microphone and the center button will work – the one that starts and stops playback, and also allows you to answer calls and hang up. By the way, in the younger R6 series there are models for alternative platforms, but in the older one – only for iOS. A few years ago, when Apple smartphones were trendsetters and outnumbered the competition in many ways, it was natural. But now they are gradually sliding into the role of niche products for fans of the brand.
Klipsch understands that the situation on the smartphone market is changing, so they supplied the X20i with a detachable cable. Usually, all kinds of “joints” in portable technology are fraught with problems, but here everything is done at the highest level: coaxial connectors (which made them miniature) and are fixed with threads. It remains only to wait until replacement cables appear. Maybe with a remote control for Android or without it at all. The weight in comparison with the X12i, of course, has increased, but not only due to the doubling of the number of drivers, but also because the X20i cases are made not of aluminum alloy, but of steel – this allowed to make the walls of the case thinner, while maintaining its strength and at the same time reducing the size of the headphones.
The X20i cases are made not of aluminum alloy, but of steel – this made it possible to make the walls of the case thinner, preserving its strength and at the same time reducing the dimensions of the headphones. The drivers are installed in the case one above the other, and the case has an elliptical cross-section, just like silicone inserts. As stated in the description, one driver acts as a supertweeter, the other as a subwoofer. Most likely, the bass module is a reconfigured version of the broadband driver installed in the 12th model – they have the same number designation, only the bass speaker has the letter T added to the number. the upper end of the range, where the X12i might have felt some lack of resolution.
That’s all that is known about the internal structure of the headphones. In general, this type of technique is relatively simple in design, but it is extremely difficult to achieve the required result. All violins are structured roughly the same, but they are played differently. Of course, we have a pretty good idea of who (or what) we are meeting with. It’s just that now is the time to close your eyes, forget about the design, dimensions, workmanship and even more luxurious packaging and just listen to these headphones.
As a portable source, we used an LG V10 smartphone equipped with an advanced audio section based on a mobile version of the ESS Saber 9018 DAC with a headphone amplifier on the Saber 9602 chip. A useful feature of this device for us is the ability to manually switch between a high-quality DAC and a converter integrated into the Qualcomm SOC. that is, we can compare how the headphones play with a “regular” smartphone and with a more serious source.
Armature headphones require a longer preheat than conventional dynamic ones. It took the Klipsch X20i about a day, although most earbuds bounce back in a couple of hours, or even faster. Usually the stiffness and harshness in the sound disappears, but here the tonal balance has changed. Initially, there was a clear excess at the bottom, so it was necessary to switch to smaller inserts, but after the end of the warm-up, the frequency leveled off, and we had to return the larger tips. By the way, I note that Klipsch’s oval inserts are clearly more comfortable than the usual ones – this is also a simple solution, but for some reason everyone continues to make round ones.
Even with a “regular” smartphone, the X20i play surprisingly smoothly and with a solid gain margin, which is not surprising given their very high sensitivity. For portable electronics, this is a light load. There is no need to talk about a realistic scene with in-ear headphones, nevertheless, the sound images are surprisingly large, solid and dense, and the real arrangement of the instruments on the stage is easy to guess. Switching to an advanced DAC leaves a slight roughness at the top – I won’t say that before it was very noticeable, but with a higher-class converter, the sound is cleared and acquires the refinement and “breed” characteristic of elite equipment.
Not a shadow of color, timbres in the entire range are natural and harmonious. The bass is deep and resilient (where necessary). All notes are clearly read, which are played out by bass players even in the fastest and most energetic parts. With the distortion disappearing, the smallest details and details are revealed that may seem insignificant, but in fact it is they who make the sound realistic and exciting.