As the Image X5 earphones maintain the X10s reputation on the comfort front, so too do they on the listening front. Pick the right set of silicone tips for your ear from the three sizes of single- and two of double-flanged options available and the level of sound isolation is impressive. Well, apart from with the smallest tips which basically mean the Images are pressed right onto the eardrum itself. Foam will still give a better seal, but I was able to remain blissfully unaware of the goings on in a train carriage during a trip into town - which is about as good as any earphones need to be, surely?
Once fitted, the sound produced by the X5s is similar to that of the X10s by being surprisingly good - a compliment I assure you. Again, the Images managed to produce an uncannily pleasant sound from such small drivers. However, there is a difference between the X5s and X10s aurally and despite common convention telling me that bigger is better when it comes to speaker technology, if I had to decide, I'd say the X10s sound a little better.
Don't for a second think I'm suggesting the X5s don't sound good, because they do. The eminently catchy electronic beats and Imogen Heap's beautiful lyrics on Frou Frou's Let Go are reproduced with surprising punch from what are, let us not forget, tiny earphones. However, the same track on the X10s seems just that little bit fuller with a smidgeon more accuracy in the low end, not to mention a bit more bass that rounds out the sound nicely.
A few plays through Paramore's Decode and ICaught Myself from the soundtrack to the recently released Twilight showed a similar story. While both earphones reproduced the Apple Lossless tracks I was feeding them as faithfully as could be hoped, the X10s just managed to take the edge, again, simply by giving a fuller sound.
With a couple of lossy tracks, namely the entirety of AFI's decemberunderground album and Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad (call it a guilty pleasure if you must), the gap was definitely closed, by shear dint of there being less detail in the files for the Image X5s and X10s to work with. And away from a quiet comparative environment the gap becomes non-existent.
Having used the Image X5s as my day-to-day earphones for the best part of a month now, I can't say there was any point that I found myself wishing I had the X10s with me instead. Add in the £30 price difference between the two pairs of earphones and it's not hard to decide which I would recommend to a friend. Especially as, unlike the X10s, the X5s aren't in the price range of a large number of significantly better sounding, if much less comfortable, alternatives.
Klipsch made something special with the Image X10s, but their benefits came at a slight premium. While a couple of sacrifices have been made to hit the lower price point of the X5s, they're far from crippling. Ultimately the Image X5s sound almost as good as the X10s for around 80 per cent of the price and that's what matters in my book.