Klipsch Reference R6i On-Ear - Bang for the Buck

November 12, 2015

Klipsch, the Indianapolis-based company, are a well established audio manufacturer in the in-ear earphones category. Wired on-ear headphones are another matter altogether with a lesser but growing emphasis. Earlier in 2015, we saw the introduction of the Reference On-Ear. 

In late September 2015, Klipsch launched the Reference R6i On-Ear (SGD 199), a wired unit targeted at iOS users that builds on the momentum of its predecessor.

Let's look at the unboxing process.

To get the box open, we cut the transparent seals and lift up the flap at the bottom. Sliding out the cardboard interior reveals the headphones proper and that's basically it.

The very straightforward no-frills packaging contents include:
- Headphones
- Carrying pouch
- Quick start guide

On taking out the Reference R6i On-Ear headphones, we can say that they are featherweight. It clocks in at 160g and is way lighter than other wired on-ears like the Sennheiser MOMENTUM 2.0 On-Ear (190g) we are currently testing and the Master & Dynamic MH30 (260g).

To be absolutely frank, I was a little skeptical before taking out these headphones to test as the 'Reference' label is something that audiophiles take quite seriously. The new Reference R6i On-Ear is debatably as good as its predecessor given its price - more style, more comfort and is actually more affordable. As for sound, more on this below.

While the material used is less premium than its predecessor, Klipsch made good use of what was available. The outer ear cups are made of aluminum-like material and the headband is made of a rubberized matte finish. 

To store the unit, just swivel the ear cups 90 degrees to compact the headphones before stashing it inside the carrying pouch. 

The audio cables hang on both the left and right ear cups and link up at the Y-connector where the in-line remote resides. We're not sure why they chose non-removable cables and why there are two points of cabled contact with the ear cups where usually one is more convenient as it reduces cable tangle. When you move your head around, you may hear the some plastic rustling, which is actually the rather loose cable point of contact with the ear cups. 

At the other end of the audio cable, the vertical 3.5mm jack will connect to your audio device. However, the connection feels rather loose and may disconnect intermittently, a rather big niggling point if you are on the move very often.

The in-line remote contains the usual 3 buttons for playback - two for volume adjustment and the center for multi-function purposes. Oh, and they are configured for iOS users (sorry Android folks). 

The ear cups are replaceable. However, they are not for sale but if they are defective, they can be exchanged if the unit is still under warranty.

Update (22 Nov 2015)
Tat Chuan Acoustic informed that the ear cups are actually available at SGD 40 for a pair.

This is probably one of the most comfortable on-ear headphones I've tested. The elliptical shape of the cups provides a decent breathing space for your ears and comes very close to being a full over-ears design. It also helps that the underlying material is made of memory foam.

On to audio quality. John Murphy's signature In the House-In A Heartbeat was delightfully ominous with the bass buildup. On the other hand, Tove Lo's vocals in her angsty Moments were somewhat squeezed out by the power of the underlying bass. 

The 'Reference' label may not be so appropriate for this unit as it implies a very neutral sound that neither overemphasizes the treble or the bass. I felt this was a very bass-tuned pair of headphones. The clarity was not at the crystal level of its predecessor, the Reference On-Ear, but the bass delivered a greater depth and punch, providing a pretty satisfying aural experience. 

The noise isolation was tested during a bus commute and the result was unexpectedly poor as ambient sounds could easily heard through the music playback. 

The Klipsch Reference R6i On-Ear is a very good pair of headphones at its price point. Looking beyond the potentially loose point of contact with your source device, all its plus points like the comfort level, light weight, bass level and one year warranty (with one-to-one exchange) make this a very enticing proposition for folks on the move.

Audio Sources
In The House-In A Heartbeat (28 Days Later OST) - John Murphy (Spotify 320kbps MP3) on iPad Air
Moments - Tove Lo (Tidal 1411kbps FLAC) on Samsung Galaxy S4

Credit to Tat Chuan Acoustic for a review unit.

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