I recently got fed up with how much noise my headphone cable was making whenever it touched my collar. It’s such a small thing, really, but once you start to think about those kind of things, they only get more annoying by the second, like the sound of air whistling its way into your HVAC intake vents, or that otherwise nice friend you have who talks with a wet mouth.
Klipsch’s Image One is the first Bluetooth headphone I’ve had the chance to really play with for any amount of time, and if nothing else, it’s a wonderful cure for those annoyingly microphonic headphone cables. The Image One is an on-ear headphone, so it might not be quite as portable or convenient as a good in-ear monitor when you’re on the go, but on the flip side, it’s really freeing to have headphones on and no cord getting in the way while I’m typing. I can get up and throw something in the trash or even walk over to the copy machine at work without having to unplug.
The sound is fine if you’re into bass, as is the style of the times. You’re not going to get the crispest sound, but you get a warm engulfing audio experience. Klipsch also deals nicely with the limits of Bluetooth audio by including aptX compatibility — more on that in a bit.
Bluetooth headphones are about convenience and comfort, so the first thing to cover is the look and feel. I like the glossy finish and the details around the earpieces, which reminds me of the detailing on a classic black car. The foam ear cups are comfortable, but they are on-ear and press your ears back to create the noise-isolating seal, so after a while you’ll probably want to take them off and air out. They do swivel nicely so you can position them at the best possible angle for you. There isn’t much padding on the headband at all, but the headphones are lightweight, so it doesn’t really matter. They really fold up nicely and the travel case is thin, yet sturdy and nicely lined with soft felt.
The box also comes with a direct-connect audio cable, but when you use that, the on-headphone controls — play/pause, skip forward/backward, and volume up/down — are disabled. You may want to keep the cable around just in case your battery goes dead, but one charge should give ten hours of music and talk time.
For calls, there is a directional mic on the right earcup. To the caller on the other end, it sounds like you’re on a speakerphone, but at least there’s no microphone in your face, which would completely defeat the point of using wireless Bluetooth headphones. For control, the power/pairing button can mute calls, or can be held to transfer audio between the headphones and the phone. The play/pause button answers or ends calls, and can be held to reject a call.
A small LED light on the bottom of the left earcup lets you know the status of charging with red and green light; red is charging, green is full. There is another small LED in the middle of the right earcup that keeps you informed as to the status of the connection to your audio source. Also, with that LED, blue light indicates that the headphones are on. Red indicates the headphones are off. When pairing, the light is flashing red.
Pairing simply involves holding the power button down for five seconds and then finding the headphone on your device. The Image One will remember up to eight paired devices and will automatically connect to the one most recently used. You can even clear remembered devices by holding the power/pairing and volume down buttons together for eight seconds. You probably won’t remember that random button combination, but chances are you won’t need to use it often. It’s the thought that counts.
Speaking of thoughts that counts, Klipsch has also equipped the Image One with aptX compatibility, which means you can get CD quality sound with very little latency transmitted over Bluetooth, provided you have an aptX transmitting device. Not every device has aptX built-in — namely, it is not in iPhones, but Apple did start including it in 2012 Macs. You can purchase transmitter dongles if you feel like plain-jane Bluetooth isn’t up to snuff, but if you have a Samsung Galaxy phone or tablet, Motorola RAZR, or one of a variety of HTC or Sharp phones, chances are you have aptX built-in and can rest easy knowing you have the best that Bluetooth is capable of.
The amount of time between LED blinks can actually tell you whether you’re connected via vanilla Bluetooth or aptX, so I spent some time listening to music off of different sources. Honestly, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the AAC connection and the aptX connection, but aptX is at the very least the most advanced Bluetooth audio codec, and its inclusion does no harm, even if you don’t have any music in your collection that would reveal the slight differences in fidelity.
Anyway, it drove me to take a refresher on codecs: A2DP stands for Advanced Audio Distribution Profile, and allows wireless transmission of stereo audio. It also enables the track and volume to be controlled from the headphones. The first setting with the SBC codec is the Low Complexity Subband Coding, which is what you get with most Bluetooth devices: standard audio quality at medium bitrates. It sounds fairly flat with a pumped up bass. The second setting, AAC, is Advanced Audio Coding, and is what you’ll get with many smartphones. This is probably the quality you are used to hearing through your headphones. aptX is the final codec, giving you that extra edge for playing audio that is less compressed.
So there’s a little something for everybody with these headphones. If you’re into heavy bass and are looking for an alternative to the ever present Beats, the Klipsch Image One Bluetooth Headphones are less expensive at $249.99, and more compact. If you’re a hardcore audiophile, you’ll be able to use the aptX functionality.
Despite the fact that aptX didn’t reveal much if any improvement with my music library, though, I am absolutely sold on the experience of Bluetooth headphones, and having to open up the Bluetooth menu each time you want to switch devices is worth it, if it means getting rid of the cords tangling up our lives.