To say we were impressed with Klipsch's Image X10 earphones when we reviewed them last year is something of an understatement. As Riyad wrote, and we all agreed behind the scenes, their killer combination of being not only among the better sounding single-driver earphones we've had our hands on, but also by far the most comfortable to wear, had us sold from the off. If there was one problem, and I'm clutching at the straw-iest of straws here, it was the price. For £170, there are plenty of better sounding models about, including Shure's SE420s and Klipsch's own Custom-3s.
However, being the clever fellows that they are, Klipsch's engineers came up with a solution. Why not create a set of earphones that are almost as thin as the Image X10s, sound just as good and, crucially, are cheaper to make, enabling them to be sold for less? If you haven't already guessed, the answer to that question surfaced as the Image X5 Noise Isolating earphones and the result is impressive.
On paper, it doesn't sound like Klipsch has sacrificed much in order to cut some £30-40 off the Image X10s in making the X5s. A 2mm increase in diameter sounds like it will be all but unnoticeable, as does a 1.3g weight increase and a shorter frequency response - cut from 5-19Khz to 10-19Khz. The bundle is slightly different, too, as there is no large faux-leather case included with the X5s, but I can't say I've ever thought to myself: "if only these earphones came with a case that could also fit my MP3 player in."
The finish on the Image X5 earphones is also different to that of the X10s. While the X10s sport a lovely copper body, the X5s 'make do' with aluminium. It's purely subjective, but I think the copper is the preferable finish. Actually significant is that 2mm diameter increase, which is noticeable, even if you wouldn't think it.
That said, it's only in our fortunate position of having the X10s to hand that we can call out the X5s as being visibly fatter. These ever-so-slightly-larger Images are still incredibly thin compared to any other set of earphones you could care to name and in the ear the difference is almost unnoticeable. The extra width of the X5s does mean that they push on the lower lobe ever so slightly which the X10s didn't and in a blind test I found myself able to accurately guess which pair of 'phones was which.
But, and this is a big and important but, to call the Image X5s uncomfortable would be doing them a disservice. Yes the extra thickness is visibly there and, indeed, can be gauged on comparison, but the X5s are still wonderfully comfortable.