When it comes to high­end in­-ear reference headphones, the landscape can seem pretty stark. Of course, you have the Sennheisers, the Shures, and the AKGs. But unless you want to spend upwards of $800, you're usually confronted with a host of simply-­adequate to downright­ sub­par earphones. Until now. Until the Klipsch X20i reference earphone.

At a whopping $549, this in­ear monitor isn't for the busters or anyone who guards their purse strings. Instead, it is best described as a premium in­-ear monitor with a premium price tag. Certainly it is nothing to scoff at, even if it is squarely outside your price range.

For one thing, there's the quality of the Klipsch X20i, which comes nestled in a leather wallet­like pouch that is itself stored in a wooden box. Made of actual wood. The earpieces themselves have a slim profile that fits perfectly in the ear, and follows the contours perfectly, hanging down in such a nonchalant way that I have to look sideways into a mirror and think "damn".

The earphones utilize a Klipsch­-patented oval shape, and there's a wealth of the little suckers in the box, including double­flange silicon tips. The cable is long, comes with an iOS-compatible remote, and is semi­removable: from where the cable attaches to the bud, there are about six inches of wire, before you come to two metal screw­in connectors. So if you were to experience an issue with the cable, you could remove the bulk of it and replace it with a new one (and keep your old earbuds, along with the five or six inches of wire that hangs down from the buds.)

This particular feature seems a little ill­executed (why not make the screw­-in connection at the buds themselves?), but it's still hardly a deal breaker. Because putting these earphones in and listening to music with them is a divine revelation. So clear, so crisp, so detailed, and so freaking even, there's little reason for you to not adore these gems.

There's a little bass in there ­when I first listened to them, it seemed like it might be a little too much on some tracks. However, after giving them some time and some different tracks, I came to see the bass as damn near spot­-on as a pair of in­-ear headphones can get. The clarity and detail on the X20i steal the show, though. These things are just so revealing. Compared to the $400 Q­Jays (which I'm personally a fan of), I was hearing stuff I'd never heard before; little things like softly sampled clips in the background of hip-hop tracks, or lilting obscurities in Einaudi compositions.

Mids and highs are excellently rendered, retaining fine detail without adding any piercing highs. These earphones showed a slight improvement in sound when paired with an amplifier, due to a 50ohm impedance. It works well with a smartphone, a computer, or a portable hi-­res music player (.wav files for the win, people).

This ease ­o f­use with portable players, coupled with its iOS remote and the snazzy carrying pouch lend it especially to those who want reference ­quality on-­th-e­go, but these features also shouldn't exclude it from those who are in need of an in­ear headphone that sound amazing.

Is this the earphone for you? If you're looking for a great set of in­ear monitors/reference earphones, and you can afford the $549 they cost, hell yes. But to be honest, even if you can't afford them, consider saving up for them. While there are other in-­ear reference models out there at cheaper prices (including the Klipsch X12i and S4i), nothing compares to this.

Carroll Moore is a Tech lover and audiophile headphone enthusiast, photographer and writer for the likes of Audio46.