Klipsch made a name for itself by creating some of the best-sounding loudspeakers in the business but, despite its experience in the full-size cabinet space, Klipsch knows how to do small headphone speakers, too.
The company recently revamped its entire line of in-ear headphones, including its Reference series which range from the basic, but still relatively expensive X6i to the premium, feature-rich X20i. None of these headphones are cheap by any means, but all of them offer sound quality that both audiophiles and EDM junkies will love.
The pinnacle of this marriage, for bass-lovers at least, is the Klipsch Reference X8Ri Hybrid in-ear headphones. Although “reference” is in its name, these headphones are far from being reference level as they feature an unabashedly fun bass boost.
The X8Ri slot right above the entry-level X6i but cost an additional $100 – coming in at $279 (£219 or about AU$390). But are they worth the premium?
Design and features
I usually avoid talking about packaging but Klipsch deserves praise for its presentation of the Reference X8Ri Hybrid.
The earbuds are suspended in a clear plastic box and look like flower buds with the cable neatly tucked away in a plastic base – a subtle touch that goes a long way in assuring you that you’re buying a premium product.
The Reference XR8i are built exceptionally well with its zinc earbud housings and thick, black and gold cable. The cabling isn’t replaceable, like it is on the top-of-the-line Klipsch X20i, but the cable should stand up to abuse just fine. Klipsch also includes a wallet case for protecting the headphones on the go, but the case is awkward to use.
The version of the XR8i tested came in black but, if you’re looking for something to match that beige track jacket, the company also offers a white version. I found the design of the Reference XR8i very understated with its brushed metal housings, black rubber surrounds and copper colored accents.
To ensure you get a good seal for maximum bass, Klipsch includes five sets of ear tips for you to experiment with. It’s worth mentioning that Klipsch’s patented oval ear tips are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn. (At one point while testing them, I wore the XR8i for hours straight without needing to take them off.) That said, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones to bring with you on your next intercontinental flight, the XR8i are what you’ve been looking for.
Physically, the XR8i are much bigger than other headphones in Klipsch’s Reference line but they’re still light and comfortable enough to wear for extended periods. Admittedly, they’re a tad heavier than I’d like, and would gradually start to slump out of my ear canals after a while.
Attached to the left earbud is a remote and mic designed for iPhones and iPads, though it will work with Android too. The controls can be used to play/pause, skip tracks, change volume and activate Siri on the iPhone, but Android users won’t be able to skip back to a previous track with a triple-click, which is a minor annoyance.
Call quality is excellent with friends and family saying I sounded loud and clear without the need to hold the mic close to my face.
The Klipsch Reference XR8i Hybrid feature a dedicated bass woofer for truly skull-rattling low notes. While I liked my headphones to sound balanced to work with all genres of music, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the XR8i.
Its bass response is thick, like honey, but it doesn’t drown out the mids or highs too much. The XR8i feature the same balanced armature driver as its cheaper X6i sibling so you’re still getting really good mids and highs, but the bass will dominate music no matter what. Other headphones like the Razer Hammerhead Pro V2 also feature slamming bass, but at the sacrifice of high end clarity and recessed mids.
There’s considerable bass slam, which made it feel like I was standing in front of a loudspeaker at an EDM concert at times. I found myself tapping my foot or bobbing my head to music.
The most amazing thing about the Reference XR8i is that the extreme bass response didn’t fatigue me, though, like it does with other – ahem – music producer-owned headphones. I did find myself returning its neutral sounding X6i brother for classical, jazz and vocal music.
Klipsch’s oval ear tips do a great job of being comfortable and isolating you from the noise, all without the need for active noise cancellation, which requires battery power and bulky circuitry.
The XR8i’s great noise isolation and slamming bass make it a great choice for commuters who want to block out noisy environments.
I usually like my headphones and speakers to have as neutral a sound signature as possible, but that didn’t stop me from loving my time with the Klipsch Reference XR8i Hybrid. Although the headphones don’t work well for every genre, they brought a ton of energy and excitement to EDM, rap and trap music.
While I can’t see myself using the Reference XR8i every day for every genre of music, I can see bass lovers being very happy with them as their only headphone. Its excellent build quality, understated looks, fun sound signature and comfort will make a lot of commuters happy.
For its price, however, the Klipsch Reference XR8i are quite expensive for a headphone that only work well with a handful of music genres. I find its cheaper sibling, the Reference X6i a better all-rounder since it has a very neutral sound signature.
Still, if you love bass but don’t want to sacrifice mids and highs, I can’t think of another in-ear headphone that does bass response better than the Klipsch Reference XR8i.