Sunday, December 7, 2008

Klipsch Custom-1 in-ear headphones review

I bought on impulse the Klipsch Custom-1 from Amazon UK two weeks ago when they reduced the price from £70 to £18. The deal is now over, though Amazon UK has since reduced the price of the slightly better Custom-2 (oh, so tempting - someone better buy one for me from my wishlist!) from £105 to £49.99, which is a great price for a mid-range dual-balanced armature headphones from a reputable company.

The Custom-1 is the headphone that I own that uses balanced armatures drivers instead of dynamic drivers (the Custom-2 has dual-balanced armatures instead of single as the Custom-1). Balanced armatures are said to offer higher resolution, clarity and cleaner sound compared to the 'fun' and 'emotional' sound gained from dynamic drivers. Dynamic drivers are also cheaper to make and tend to require more space to fit inside the headphone enclosure in order to achieve great performance. What you prefer may depend on what you intend to get out of your music and what genre you are into. There are hybrid IEMs with dynamic drivers for bass and balanced armatures for treble, but those are ridiculously expensive. Read here and here for more pros and cons regarding the various headphone technology.

Included in the sales package are five pairs of ear tips (two of which are bi-flange) in various sizes. You also get a vinyl carrying case and an ear wax cleaning pick. The Klipsch Custom-1 itself is powered by a single balanced armature with a low impedance of 30 ohms, so it is great for people like me who wants to avoid carrying a portable amp. Even the relatively low powered Sony Walkman are capable of driving the Custom-1 with no problem (volume around halved). The Custom-1 is well designed and housed in a sturdy and attractive triangular enclosure featuring an over the ear design (which is coated in rubber like material). It is connected via a 50" cloth cable which terminates to a gold plated 3.5mm plug. A memory wire system is used to hook the cable over the ear. This does take some getting used to, and it may take a number of tries to get the correct fit (I eventually settled for the largest single flange tip).

Coming from the CX 95 and Shure e2c, the bass is noticeably less from the Custom-1. In fact it is almost none-existent, due to the narrow frequency response plus the lack of airflow in a closed system. They do exist, but you'll have to work on getting a perfect fit in order to obtain them. On the other hand the clarity is amazing. I have to admit the Custom-1 sucked the fun out of the vast majority of my music library. LCD Soundsystem's 'Get Innocuous!' without bass, sounded not only wrong but fatiguing. Still what I got in return was further enjoyment to my sizeable collection of rock, classical, acoustic and instrumental music. Joe Satriani's 'Love Thing' sparkled with the guitar solo amazingly sharp, clean and refined. Often details that are 'hidden' by dynamic driver headphones due to more emphasis being placed on the bass and treble. Put it simply, the performance on the Custom-1 on the mids is fantastic and will work great on instrumental and acoustic music. Instrumental separation could have been better though.

Considering I paid only £18 for this, I have to say I am reasonably pleased by the Custom-1. You could do a lot worse even with £50 headphones. On the downside the isolation is poorer in comparison to the Shure e2c and Sennheiser CX 95, though it is still much better than say a Sony EX082. It does seal well though. If you are a bass-head or is into bass heavy music (i.e. dance music), I suggest you give the Custom-1 a miss and go for a dynamic driver canalphones like the those made by Sennheiser instead. However if you already have one of those and is keen on trying out an in-ear headphone that emphasise mid-range clarity and resolution, then the Custom-1 (or Custom-2) is a great budget introduction into just that.

+ bargain (at the time)
+ great sonic detail and clarity with excellent mids
+ unique stylish design
+ very comfortable with the right tip
+ fabric cable
- excess packaging (this issue is being addressed by Klipsch)
- lack of bass response
- cumbersome to put on and remove
- microphonics


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Anonymous said...

Nice write up! I hope you'll follow up once you've gotten used to the fit. I think you'll notice better base response.

Jon Choo said...

Most definitely. I am already noticing the slight increase in bass response, which are while low in quantity and pretty damn good in quality.

It is also the most comfortable headphones I can use while lying down on my side.

I also like the fact that I don't have to remove the whole headphone when I need to talk to people.

So when are we UK'ers going to be treated with the same amazing offers you recently had on your website? ;)

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you're liking them even better! Always good to hear.

We'll be able to offer you those great deals when we finally expand our store into the realm of international shipping and billing! It's definitely something that has been on the table, but I do not have a time-line.

Sounds you like you got a great deal on these, anyway! Enjoy!

Jon Choo said...

That's really good news Amy!

Really loving the Custom-1s now that I have gotten used to the fit. At the price it was a great introduction to Klipsch headphones.