Last month I looked at the Klipsch Image earphones, which proved to be the most comfortable in-ear devices I've ever had the pleasure of using. They didn't offer the last word in sound quality, but that was hardly surprising considering just how tiny the single armature drivers had to be in order to make the Images so light. However, I did feel that the extreme comfort and light weight made the Images a better choice than, say, a pair of Shure E500PTHs in certain situations. And that's what Klipsch was shooting for all along with the Images.
Now I have a pair of Klipsch Custom-3 earphones, which differ entirely from the Images, with a far more traditional design. Another major difference is that the Custom-3s employ dual drivers, much like Shure's SE420s, which should mean that the Custom-3s produce superior sound quality to their waif like siblings.
The problem with multi-driver earphones is that you need a great crossover system to keep the sound cohesive. There's nothing worse than having the high and low frequencies sounding completely separated, which is often the case with 2.1-channel desktop speakers. Klipsch claims that it has created an entirely new electro-acoustic crossover, which creates a full and cohesive sound, and I've got to say that the results are very good.
The Custom-3s give you full, deep and strong bass response, but not at the expense of high-end clarity. Whereas the bass can sometimes feel forced, or sound slightly muffled in the Images, there's no such complaints with the Custom-3s. What you have here is a set of earphones that's more concerned with sound quality than comfort, light weight and unobtrusive appearance. Don't get me wrong, I love the Images and I use them regularly, but in pure sound quality terms, they struggle to compare to a set of Shure SE420s. The Custom-3s are clearly here to redress that balance, giving potential buyers who don't want to compromise on sound quality another Klipsch option.
The Klipsch Custom-3s gave a particularly good account of themselves when faced with the Dave Brubeck classic Take Five. Brubeck's subtle, underlying piano is never lost or overpowered by Paul Desmond's haunting saxophone. In fact the Custom-3s create an impressively cohesive sound, despite the fact that each and every instrument demands your attention. Joe Morello's drum solo meanwhile is rendered superbly by the Custom-3s, and despite its power and intricacy, Brubeck's piano continues to make its presence heard, and felt.