[caption id="attachment_1506" align="alignleft" width="260"]S4i Reference close up Detail view of the S4i Reference capsule I am using today[/caption]
Over the course of the last two years I have used over a dozen different headphones and earbuds with my iPhone 4 and now with my iPhone 4s.

My first set was the included white earbuds by Apple. My first upgraded set was some über-cheap in-ear earbuds from CanadaComputers. The price was right and at $8 I decided to buy 2 pair. A month later I got another three, as my first 2 stopped producing sound out of one side and the connection became weakened beyond use (this results in static in the earphones when moving about). After spending $40 on cheap in-ear headphones I went back to the original Apple for a few weeks, and also used an assortment of monitoring headphones.

Next I (misguidedly) purchased a $30 pair of SkullCandy headphones from The Source. This time I also purchased a warranty that entitled me to 3 free replacements. Big mistake, this turned out to be a waste of money. This warranty just means The Source knows these $2 headphones will break 4 times, in some amount of time. They'll give you $8 of headphones and run to the bank laughing. The Employee at The Source would not corroborate my cynical views of their warranty system. Essentially its a total rip-off. In the past a warranty used to mean "this product is good" but apparently in this millennium it means "we have a half million of these pieces of crap in a warehouse, why don't you take 1 for way too much money?"

One consumer unimpressed right here!

I'm leaving out a half dozen others that I can't specifically recall, but let me get to my review of the Klipsch S4i's
[caption id="attachment_1499" align="alignright" width="300"]S4i earbud capsule close up Close-up of the worn and scratched S4i capsule after a few months of use[/caption]
Enter the Apple store. My logic for choosing Apple for headphones was that there are probably hundreds of reviews online. I also rule out compatibility issues (which I experienced with the SkullCandy remote). I've noticed the often the main product page on apple.com doesn't generally ever show bad reviews. I was able to drill down and read the negative reviews to discover pretty quickly which ones worked well for folks, and which ones broke and disintegrated like Sugar Cubes in water.

After investigating a few of the different in ear products I settled for the S4i, which are basically the same as the S4 earbuds, except with an iPhone remote and microphone. My decision was essentially price based. I already had been through many cheaper quality ear buds (i.e. SkullCandy) and I was looking for a durable purchase.

But I also had a few other requirements. I wanted a relatively good looking earbud that wouldn't quit out after a month, had deep bass handling for the music I make and listen to (You can check out my record label here.) Finally I didn't want to spend a fortune (in case I lost them, which knock on wood, I haven't yet). The S4i's seemed uniquely suited to my needs.
[caption id="attachment_1503" align="alignright" width="225"]close up of broken plastic on S4i headphone Detail view of the left capsule's strain relief plastic cracked around the cable[/caption]
Eventually I purchased the S4i which covered two of my criteria, great bass and appropriate price. The annoying thing is that they still broke! I had exactly the same type of damage as I experienced with the cheap $8 earbuds and the more expensive SkullCandy model. You can see the wear in the close up shot.

At the time of purchase I made sure to look into the warranty, which was one year. I contacted the company by email and they quickly offered to replace them with the S4i Reference model.

I am now into my third week of using the S4i Reference and I am infinitely more impressed than I was with the non-Reference version. Features of the Reference include a more solid strain relief around the ear buds and more durable cabling. One thing that initially bothered me was the way the Reference's seem to coil up, but now its less of an issue.

In the decision to buy either model I can certainly recommend the Reference model which already feels like its holding up a bit better than the S4i.