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Klipsch Reference XR8i Review: Emotional, open, bright and utterly frank

The Klipsch Reference Series is renowned for its home theater sound, and now Klipsch is bringing that sound to headphones.
These crumbs have a built-in subwoofer for stunning low frequencies, while the armature drivers add clarity and definition to the sound. The Klipsch XR8i hybrid case is constructed from two parts: die-cast zinc and elastomer.

The design is carefully balanced to stay in the ear canal despite differences in body materials. The dual elastomer construction provides a comfortable, adaptive fit without sacrificing form rigidity.

Custom-made by Klipsch, the KG-723 full-range balanced armature driver delivers clear, natural-sounding vocals and highs that can only be achieved with armature technology.

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The XR8i uses dual-magnetic dynamic drivers to deliver low, confident bass. The XR8i’s bass-focused driver coil enables high quality recordings to be played back without noise. 

The so-called “uncompromising”, often proclaimed by the creators of high-end technology, is actually conditional: perhaps the developers themselves did not make compromises, but the owners of the equipment will have to make them – to spend a lot of effort, time and money to create conditions in which the system will be able to realize its quality potential.

This is the path of enthusiasts, to say the least – fanatics who are ready to go to any hardships for the sake of their sound ideal. Hybrid designs, on the other hand, are human-friendly. They allow you to combine the advantages of different technologies, while minimizing their disadvantages. Of course, this is a compromise, but it is only questionable for those who care about the “cleanliness” of solutions, not the quality of work.

As for hybrids from reinforcement and dynamic drivers, they are now in trend. This combination is already used not only in in-ear, but also in full-size headphones, and very expensive ones, that is, the decision is not dictated by the desire to reduce the cost or “condescend” to not the richest music lovers.

However, we are now facing not full-sized, but in-ear headphones – their hybridity leads, at least, to an increase in size and weight. Compared to the X12i, whose cases may seem like only small bumps on the cable, the X8i looks, to put it mildly, large. Although in reality they are not that big, their competent design, combined with good-quality finishing, makes their appearance attractive and even graceful. According to the description, the body is made of die-cast zinc – this metal is ductile (provided there is a small amount of impurities) and effectively dampens vibrations. This is facilitated by the elastomer back of the housing.

It is clear that a dynamic driver operating at low frequencies (unfortunately, the manufacturer does not indicate the crossover section frequency) allows the design to be made cheaper. The mass of the moving system is, of course, greater than that of the reinforcing system, sounding the same part of the range. But if for the high-frequency emitter a smaller mass of the diaphragm is an absolute blessing, then with the bass one it is not so simple.

With an increase in the mass of the moving system, the resonant frequency of the driver decreases, which means it is easier to expand the frequency downward. Of course, a balanced armature emitter has better transient response, and from a theoretical point of view, this is an important advantage. But how noticeable is it on sound? Perhaps it’s time to move on to listening.

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Headphone testing is always highly subjective, since they form a single resonant system with the head. And everyone’s heads are different. We face a similar problem when installing acoustics in a living room, but there we are free to change the location of the speakers and even perform acoustic treatment of the room.

With headphones, everything is more complicated – we cannot upholster our skull from the inside with felt, put a rug there, or install any structures that eliminate resonances. All that is available to us with full-size headphones is the choice of a model with an optimal “curvature” of the frequency for us, which compensates for the resonances of the skull.

In-channel models give great freedom in this sense: by changing the diameter of the inserts, you can greatly influence the tonal balance. And surprisingly, few people know about this. In any case, this feeling arises after reading the forums, where people complain about the lack of bass, although in most cases it is easily eliminated by increasing the diameter of the nozzle. Conversely, decreasing it not only “presses” the lows, but also stretches the highs.

As I wrote earlier, all Klipsch in-ear headphones are supplied with a standard proprietary set of 4 pairs of additional tips, including a pair with double domes – they are good in that they allow you to get the desired bass level without undue pressure on the ear canal. In addition, they have a signature oval cross-section, which also contributes to comfort.

First of all, in the powerful bass response and depth. And no monotony, porridge, bubnezhki – flawless articulation. Tall – typical for multi-strip rebar: transparent, detailed, without the slightest tint or veil. Broadband balanced armature models often have some upper range limitation, but not here. The sound is solid, does not stratify up and down, as is the case with cheap Chinese hybrids. If you do not know that two different types of drivers are used, you will not guess by the sound.

Last time, when we tested the Reference On Ear, I noticed that the characters of their sound and those of the previously listened Klipsch reinforcing bars are very similar, which speaks of a purposefully delivered corporate “voice”. XR8i Hybrid stands out from this family tradition. His brothers sound extremely even, clean, intelligent, they do not emphasize the shortcomings of the source and the recording – they are well-bred boys from a respectable family.

Their hybrid close relative shows a different character: emotional, open, bright and utterly frank. Not surprisingly, their packaging says the XR8i Hybrid is the official headphone of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.


Although they do not show any genre preferences. If the recording was made in the expectation of mediocre equipment, you will certainly hear it – they honestly convey hypertrophied bass, enhanced highs and compressed dynamic range. But the dignity of the material, especially its emotional charge, will also be enhanced. Within the framework of good taste, of course. With typical Klipsch clarity and naturalness.

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