I’m not angry, just disappointed. This is something I expect to say years in the future to my mischievous, hypothetical child, but I never thought I’d say it about an audio company. The Klipsch S1 True Wireless earbuds seem so promising. A premium brand making an affordable tier of earphones, sign me up! But the earbuds miss the mark and fail to stand out from better, more affordable alternatives.
Who are the Klipsch S1 True Wireless for?
These earbuds are made with the general consumer in mind by bringing an affordable pair of premium earphones to the table. For around $70, the Klipsch S1 strikes me as a great deal. Sure there are some surface-level drawbacks like the microUSB charging input but that can be forgiven as a cost-saving measure.
What’s it like to use the Klipsch S1?
Using the Klipsch S1 earbuds is a fine experience but as someone fond of the Klipsch brand, I was hoping for something better. Plastic housings remain the standard within the sub-$100 category, but not all plastics and their finishes are created equal. These earbuds are unusually slippery and it was a struggle to remove them from the case.
Concave panels catch and absorb light well, making these a photogenic pair of earbuds despite their cheap build. Not only are the panels a nice design touch, they’re also touch-capacitive and allow listeners to make playback controls, answer calls, and power the headset on/off. That’s right, this is a rare variant of true wireless earphone that doesn’t allow for onboard access to your virtual assistant.
A tinted plastic lid is the company’s attempt at making the charging case stylish, yet it ends up looking and feeling cheap. Four LEDs beneath the lid indicate battery levels and increase in 25% increments. Weak hinges feel eager and ready to snap at a moment’s notice. Klipsch includes a wireless charging pad for the case, but I’ve never been a fan of wireless charging and would rather the money go to a slightly better build or aptX support.
Can you workout with the Klipsch S1 earbuds?
Something that caught my attention as I CTRL+F my way through the online manual was how it reads: “DO NOT use this apparatus near water or moisture,” yet the official product page states that it’s IPX4 water-resistant. I reached out to Klipsch and will update the water-resistant status when a formal response returns.
In the meantime, I’d say hold off on exercising with these earbuds—but not because of durability uncertainties. Instead, hold off on working out with them because the fit is unstable and the earbuds have a tendency to come loose with little movement. There are better, even cheaper, options out there for athletes.
How is the connection quality?
It’s unreliable, even within the 10-meter range. The Klipsch S1 earbuds repeatedly disconnected from my Microsoft Surface Book multiple times, and would automatically reconnect within seconds. I had similar disconnects from my Android device, but it was most egregious on my Windows laptop and desktop. This isn’t just an issue with our unit: other users have bemoaned the same issue on Amazon. They also failed to disconnect when I wanted them too: placing the earbuds back in the case didn’t automatically power the ‘buds down.
Related connection problems arose too: multipoint connectivity is supported, but I ran into trouble when pairing the Klipsch S1 with a secondary device. My Samsung Galaxy S10e only paired to the right earbud despite having both ‘buds out and in pairing mode, meaning I had to reset and re-pair the earbuds.
Best true wireless earbuds
You may be thinking, “Eh, not a big deal”—which is true—except that anytime the headset pairs to a new device, it maxes out the device volume levels. The real problem lies in how many music streaming apps automatically resume playback anytime an audio device is connected via Bluetooth or by wire. This resulted in my eardrums being slammed with extremely loud volumes that I didn’t want.
Dubious connection stability and pairing processes aside, there are some redeeming features here, namely Bluetooth 5.0 firmware which facilitates efficient power consumption. Another benefit is AAC support, but it’s really only a perk for iPhone users as AAC’s performance is unpredictable on Android devices. This means audio-visual latency is noticeable when using the Klipsch S1 on Android.
How long does the Klipsch S1 battery last?
Our battery testing is ongoing and will be updated once results are recorded. To give you a good reference point, though, Klipsch lists the S1 earbuds’ battery life at five hours on a single charge with an additional 16 hours of battery life provided by the charging case. It takes 1.2 hours to fully charge the earbuds, and 1.5 hours to fully charge the Qi-compatible microUSB case. The official spec sheet makes no mention of fast charging, which is unfortunate and something we’ve seen included in other affordable headsets.
How do the Klipsch S1 True Wireless sound?
The Klipsch S1 True Wireless earbuds emphasize low-frequency sounds which makes basslines easier to hear. This sound signature complements popular styles of music like pop, rock, and hip-hop. Clarity is lacking, though and the headset doesn’t do a great job of rendering a realistic sense of three-dimensional space. When listening to the Klipsch S1, I got the sense that the band I was listening to was directly in front of me and playing shoulder-to-shoulder.
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Sound quality is heavily dependent on what kind of fit you achieve with the earbuds. When testing, the earbuds created a suction-like seal to our test head’s ear canals, resulting in exaggerated bass with extreme midrange de-emphasis. It’s unlikely you’ll sustain this kind of suction though because the seal broke anytime I wiggled my ears. Sometimes it loosened just enough to be comfortable and other times the earbuds fell out of my ears. When a typical seal was achieved with the earphones, very little external noise was blocked out, which isn’t great for anyone who plans to use these when commuting.
Lows, mids, and highs
The Punch Brother’s song Julep relies heavily on Paul Kowart’s bass playing which masks resonances emanating from the mandolin. This isn’t supposed to happen; no, when I listened with the AKG K371 headset, I heard these instrumental parts distinctly from one another.
Male vocals, vocalist Chris Thile in particular, sound very good though. Jump ahead to 3:44, as Thile resumes singing with the line, “You were just a girl that I should meet.” This is when the song is at its most raucous but Thile remains clear even as he hits a higher note with the word, “beautiful.”
Can I use the microphone for phone calls?
Klipsch’s microphone system is about average for the cost of the headset. Low-frequency de-emphasis mitigates the proximity effect, when bass notes are amplified when the speaker is too close to the microphone. Yet this tuning doesn’t prevent speakers from sounding can make someone sound “muffled,” which may accurately describe the microphone demo below.
Klipsch S1 True Wireless microphone demo:
This microphone is passable for casual use but there are better wireless headsets for conference calls.
How does the Klipsch S1 compare to other true wireless headsets?
Not very well. Perhaps those beholden to the Klipsch brand will be able to justify getting these, but for us free agent listeners, there are far better options within the “under $100” category.
Should you get the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air instead?
The Anker Soundcore Liberty Air earbuds were great when released and remain an ok option in 2020. I have no problem recommending them over the newer Klipsch S1 True Wireless because of their more reliable connection strength, identical Bluetooth firmware and codec support, and because they provide a more secure fit.
The touch controls on the Anker Soundcore earbuds are easy to operate, and prove much better than the company’s cheaper Soundcore Life P2 model. Battery life was recorded at 4 hours, 49 minutes of playtime on a single charge, which is approximately what the Klipsch are rated at. Audio reproduction is a bit more erratic than with the Klipsch S1 true wireless earbuds, though.
If you want an affordable AirPods lookalike, the Anker Soundcore Liberty Air is a great choice.
Are the Jabra Elite 65t better than the Klipsch S1?
A renewed pair of the Jabra Elite 65t runs at ~$70, making it a perfect candidate for comparison. This headset is quite a bit older than the Klipsch S1 but holds its own and proves a solid pick in 2020, despite some of its aged characteristics.
Jabra’s earphones are more durable and IP55 rated, they have better microphone quality, and the same official battery life as the Klipsch S1. You can access your virtual assistant directly from the onboard controls and EQ the sound via Jabra’s free mobile app. Fast charging is supported: 15 minutes yields on hour of playback and the headset uses Bluetooth 5.0 firmware and supports AAC, too.
A renewed pair of Jabra Elite 65t earbuds is a better headset for the price.
The Klipsch S1 True Wireless earbuds are lighter and reproduce sound more accurately than the Jabra Elite 65t, though. Sound quality is only as good as the fit and connection stability though, both of which the Jabra earbuds do better. If you want something a little more premium, check out the updated Jabra Elite Active 75t or Elite 75t instead.
Should you buy the Klipsch S1 True Wireless?
I would recommend getting something else instead of the Klipsch S1 True Wireless earbuds, the connection issues just aren’t worth the hassle, and sound quality is better from the comparably priced Creative Outlier Gold. Again, I wanted so badly to love these earbuds, but they missed some very important marks.