Klipsch Reference X20i - New In-Ear Flagship

December 19, 2015

The Klipsch Reference X20i was launched in mid-November 2015 along with 3 other in-ear products. This unit now replaces its previous flagship earphones, the X11i, as Klipsch's top-of-the-line unit. Boasting a dual-armature design and retailing at SGD 999, we dive in to review the unit.

Let's take a glimpse at the unboxing. The box is a solidly crafted wooden container with a black sleeve that boldly announces the product.

On sliding off the sleeve, we are greeted with a deboss of the Klipsch logo on the wooden front.

Removing the lid unveils a premium looking leather pouch that contains the X20i in-ear monitor (IEM). A closer inspection of the box reveals there are small magnets at the top and bottom that hold the lid firmly shut, a nice touch that gives assurance that its contents won't fall out very easily. 

Once you remove the pouch and underlying user guide, you'll find a tray containing 5 sets of silicon ear tip sizes and a tie bar for clipping to earphones to your shirt.

The full packaging contents are as follows:
- Klipsch Reference X20i
- 6 Super Slim Ear Tips (1 set which is on the earphones)
- Carrying pouch
- Owner's manual

The Klipsch Reference X20i comes in a single color variant - a black finish. At 22g, the chassis is relatively light considering it is forged from 'surgical-grade' stainless steel, promising a certain level of durability. They are designed not to fit perpendicular into your ear hole but to rest at a comfortable incline.

One big plus is the 1.2m cable is tangle-free and it proves to be the case after stashing and taking it out on a few occasions. The cable itself is quite an eye-catcher, with its translucent nature revealing the copper wires concealed within. 

The carrying case is made of genuine leather and resembles a coin pouch, complete with a magnetic clasp, with sufficient space to slot the earphones within.  

The cables of the Reference X20i are interchangeable. What this means is both the left and right sides come with screw-type coaxial SSMCX connectors to allow for a convenient exchange of cables should the need arise through wear and tear over the years. It's worth noting that the Jays q-JAYS implemented similar connectors but were placed right at the base of the ear piece.

Starting from one end of the cable, you get the 3.5mm straight jack which provides a sturdy connection to your music device.

Moving further up, there's the cylindrical Y-connector with the Klipsch logo printed on it. The in-line remote lies on the left cable and comes with a multi-function button meant for playback (single press), track changing (double or triple press), taking calls and is flanked with 2 volume buttons.

You really have to test out each pair of silicon ear tips for the best level of comfort. Klipsch emphasizes that these are super-slim oval ear tips that are more elliptical than previous efforts making for a more comfortable experience. Out of the 4 single- and 2 double-flange tips, I found that the Large double-flange suited best and they did just fine when used in excess of an hour. 

From the audio quality perspective, I was rather underwhelmed initially as the sound delivery appeared muffled somewhat. I decided to put the earphones through the paces with a (meagre) 50 hours of continuous playback to 'break-in' the X20i.

We took them out for a spin after the break-in period. A listen of In The Dark provided a well balanced delivery of Sarah Cracknell's vocals against a dreamy backdrop of acoustic playback. Joe Hisaishi's One Summer's Day piano buildup is never blindingly crisp but the combined orchestration from the 04:00 mark convinces of the X20i's ability to separate instruments. 

I felt that the emphasis was not on the clarity but more on the overall delivery of the sound. While this is a rather flat sounding pair of IEMs, which audiophiles would love, there is a slight hint bass which made the music more engaging and this worked for me. 

Noise isolation is quite decent. When tested on a bus (and when fitted nicely), the X20i is able to block off a reasonable level of ambient sound and engine revs.

The Klipsch Reference X20i is undoubtedly a good pair of in-ears though its price point may cause some concern. If the question is whether other in-ears can deliver a comparable sound, there are definitely cheaper options out there. If the question is whether this is a good IEM to invest in, the well balanced sound, comfortable fit and the nature of the interchangeable cables make this a good choice for the long haul. 

Where To Buy

If you like what you have read on the product, do feel free to support me by buying from Amazon via this affiliate link. The price start from USD 439 and is bundled with some additional goodies!

Audio Sources
One Summer's Day (Spirited Away OST) - Joe Hisaishi (Tidal 1411kbps FLAC) on iPhone 6S
In The Dark - Sarah Cracknell (960kbps FLAC) on Sony NW-ZX100 Walkman

Credit to Tat Chuan Acoustic for an evaluation unit.

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