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Old 05-21-2009, 12:33 PM
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ka-boom ka-boom is offline
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Smile The Klipsch flagship battle royale - Custom 3 vs. Image X10. The winner is....

Pre-review info
I know neither of these are "new" models, but hopefully this can lend some clarity for those still considering purchasing one (or both) of these IEMs. When shopping around for my initial purchase, I never found a clear comparison between the two top Klipsch models.

When I bought my $300 Custom 3ís about three months ago, I was curious how much better the $349 Image X10 sounded, but I wasnít prepared to shell out an additional 50 bucks to find out. From the reviews online, both sounded good, a lot of people claimed the X10 had more bass but the C3 were more refined, but were they? Read onÖ

I was fortunate to get a super deal on a used pair of Image X10, so I jumped at the chance to get them at a good price and find out for myself how different the sounds are.

On the Custom 3ís
I have touted the praises of the audio quality of the Custom 3ís since I purchased them. You can see my full review of them here: ( http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f103/m...7-days-411549/ ) I regularly recommend them here on with the caveat that the cable is crap. After 3 months of solid, solid listening I still love the sound of these bad boys. Clear, refined, deep, with nice highs. Thereís nothing about that sound that I would change.

The cable, after 3 months, is still absolute garbage. I firmly believe Klipsch did NOT do any testing of this cable before release. I think they just wrapped the cable in a nylon mesh, stood back and proclaimed ĒVoila! This is different! Letís market this as a feature!Ē The bulging at the L-connector hasnít grown at all, and no other bulges have appeared. The cable is still ridiculously stiff after almost daily wear. This is just unacceptable after 90 days of regular use, the Klipsch engineers deserve egg on their heads for this poor effort.

Comfort wise, they are very comfortable. The Custom 3ís go cleanly over the ear and the memory wire is nice and easy to wear. Many have made the claim that the X10 are more comfortable and you often forget you are wearing them. Could this be true?

On the Image X10
Fit and isolation Ė Great! Just great. The fit is easy to put in, the medium double flanged tips provide a super fit and isolation for me. There is nothing I would change about the fit on these. The ďin earĒ part of the IEM is so tiny and fits easily into my ear without sticking out. The cables just come out of my ears and fall down the side of my head. Some people complained the X10 stick out from the side of your hear. Maybe I have deeper canals than most but mine go in far enough without sticking out. Isolation is good, and works as they should.

Cable - Bravo! Klipsch got it right! They came to their collective senses and used a simple rubber/silicone cable. Itís not as thick or seemingly as durable as the Jays cables (see my other reviews), but itís good. No memory, when you un-coil the cables from the case they hang correctly and do not twirl back up. This is such a relief. Stress relief is nice on both models, but the X10 seemingly has something good going with theirs.

Sound Ė This is where things get dicey. Doing simple a/b/a/b/ testing between the Custom 3 and the X10 there is an immediate and clear difference between the two. The X10 have plenty of bass, there is no shortage in the low end and itís a friggin miracle how such deep sounds can come from such a tiny device. The X10ís bass is heavy to me, often too heavy, and very very warm. The entire mid-low end range is warm. The highs are unfortunately recessed, laid back, and not as clearly defined as the Custom 3. The sound isnít bad, itís a fun and engaging sound that I can easily listen to every day and be totally happy with. Itís only when I pick apart the differences that it sounds like I am complaining. Iím not, just to be clear. The X10 sound beautiful with whatever I threw at it; Neil Young, Neurosonic, Sheryl Crow, ATB, just not as beautiful as the Custom 3.

Some artists sound better on the C3 while others sound better on the X10. Amy Winehouse, for example, sounds fabulous on the C3. The smooth jazzy sounds and her gravely vocals come across beautifully, while on the X10 it all sort of runs together. Contrarily, bands like O.A.R sound brilliant on the X10 compared to the C3 (maybe it's the male vocals?).

So hereís what it all boils down to (for me)Ö.

Fit and isolation
Advantage: Image X10
While the fit of the Custom 3 is great, the fit of the X10 is excellent. Despite not having an over the ear memory wire the X10 do NOT pop out. I think the C3 are ideal for mountain biking (or anything equally vigorous) because they CANíT fall out, for everything else the X10 takes the cake. While the C3 slip on/in your ear in about 3 seconds each, the X10 slide in in 1 second. Theyíre just easier to put in because there is no memory wire to loop over. Isolation is the same on both, with maybe a slight advantage going to the C3.

Cable:
Advantage: Image X10
Custom 3 cable = crap.
Image X10 cable = good
The X10 cable is flexible, does not retain twist, and coils up nicely in the case. If I had one complaint, I wish it were 6 inches longer.

Sound:
Advantage: Klipsch Custom 3
The Custom 3 is still the best sounding thing I have ever heard. The first thing I noticed when comparing the two is how front and present the highs are on the C3 compared to the X10. Crisp, clear, and very distinguishable. The highs are just as good as the lows are on the Custom 3ís. The lows are punchy, accurate, and deep. There is ďmoreĒ bass with the X10, but itís not as clear and crisp as the C3. I think the X10 low end often gets lost in the overall warmth sound, if that makes sense.

I can see myself listening to the X10 more than the C3 now strictly because they are so darn comfortable. Considering I do most of my listening at work the X10 are easier to pop in and out of my ear, and easier to wear for an extended amount of time. I also like the little "mini" case that comes with the X10. It's a lot easier to slip that in the pocket than the zipper case they both come with.

In the end, both are incredible pieces of audio equipment but youíll need to decide which is more important to you Ė superior sound quality, comfortable fit, and a terrible cable Ö or Ö.really good sound quality, superior comfort, and a better cable.

(I can add side by side pictures if anyone wants them later on tonight after I get home from work)

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  #2  
Old 05-21-2009, 12:47 PM
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suprman2020 suprman2020 is offline
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Great review!
BTW are the cables on the custom 3 replaceable?
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Old 05-21-2009, 01:06 PM
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ka-boom ka-boom is offline
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Nope, the C3 cables are not replaceable.

You can see pictures of the C3 in that link in the first paragraph. How big they are, how they fit in the ear, etc.
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Old 05-21-2009, 02:43 PM
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Thanks. The cables in the picture looks terrible considering the price.
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