Klipsch Reference S4i vs. Sony XBA-1iP Earphones - Balanced Armature vs. Dynamic Drivers


Making The Call

The Verdict

After the technical inspection and the listening tests, the question is which technology should the consumer go for? Should you choose Balanced Armature or Dynamic driver equipped earphones?

From the perspective of those looking for a good pair of entry level, all-purpose earphones, it would seem like spending your money on a Dynamic driver based earphones is a good bet. The Klipsch Reference S4i we tried out had good performance across the whole range of tests we threw at it. The Sony XBA-1iP surpassed it when it came to reproducing trebles and details, with greater clarity and fidelity. However, the Klipsch S4i was able to claw its way back into contention due to its bass performance, an aspect where the Sony XBA-1iP was found somewhat lacking. If you often listen to songs from the top 40s or whatever is trendy at the moment, these tunes almost unavoidably have a heavy dose of the lower frequency range. As such, you may be disappointed with the performance of Balanced Armature unit based earphones such as the Sony XBA-1iP.

But if you have a taste for classical music and orchestral tracks, the greater crispness and attention to detail that Balanced Armature 'drivers' offer might be exactly what you need. It is interesting to note that due to the small size of Balanced Armature units, it is possible to fit more than one of them in a single pair of earphones. Scouring the higher-end offerings you will find earphones with three balanced armature units or more driving sound. Each unit can be tuned to handle tweeter or woofer duties as the situation demands. This helps them overcome the deficiencies of performance exhibited by the Sony XBA-1iP. Unfortunately though, these triple balanced armature units equipped earphones do tend to cost a bomb.

Overall Score Sheet for Earphones
Criteria Klipsch Reference S4i Sony XBA-1iP
Design  8.0 8.5
Performance  8.0 7.5
Value  8.0 8.0
Overall   8.0  8.0

At the risk of sounding politically correct, we have to say that both technologies have their merits and demerits. As always, when deciding between two pieces of hardware, you must first clearly define your own objectives and expectation. Budgetary constraints, personal listening preferences and intended use should all factor in when deciding which earphones to purchase, be it Balanced Armature unit or Dynamic Driver based. 

Final Ratings