A couple of weeks ago, Audeze surprised audiophiles and stuck huge planar magnetic drivers into its new alien-looking iSine series. I was able to try out the ‘entry-level’ model, the $400 iSine 10, for about 30 minutes. In short: they sound like no IEMs (in-ear monitors) I’ve heard before.
That’s probably because they’re designed like no IEM before; the earphones are basically just funnels to direct sound from the nearly-full-size 20mm drivers directly into your ears.
For reference, IEMs normally use drivers 10mm or smaller, and while bigger isn’t always better, it works in Audeze’s favor here. Moreover, they’re planar magnetic drivers, which is supposed to translate into greater clarity and less distortion over standard ‘dynamic’ drivers (you can read a longer explanation of the tech here).
Most of the headphones remain outside of you ear, with the included earhooks keeping them in place. Despite their size, they’re deceptively light. I found them completely comfortable in about half an hour of listening, though you’re mileage may vary.
To keep the headphones light and the drivers properly vented, the iSine 10 forgo anything like a traditional in-ear headphone design for a webbed pattern seemingly designed by peter parker. I thought they press images looked pretty ridiculous, but they definitely look much better while worn in person.
Back to the sound: they best way to describe them is that they sound like something in between a high quality headphone and IEM. The iSine 10 have that clarity and intimacy you expect from good IEMs, but seemed to be able to throw sound as far out as smaller headphones that sit outside the ear.
They have that typical easy-to-listen-to Audeze frequency response with refined, but impactful bass. There was ample of treble presence – perhaps bordering on sibilant for some, but mostly just bright with good sparkle.
On the other hand, bass had some of the most ‘kick’ I’ve heard from IEMs, perhaps because of a combination of driver size and venting. The kick drums in Paramore’s Ain’t it Fun were realistically assertive, and true to Audeze’s claims, I didn’t notice any distortion even at the highest volumes.
They were easy to drive out of the LG V20 I’m in the process of reviewing, as well as out of the lightning cable I tried it with, although I couldn’t tell a difference in the time I spent trying. Perhaps it would be more apparent with a less audiophile-oriented phone (I noticed a difference when reviewing the on-ear Audeze Sine).
Though my time listening to them was short, I came away impressed. That’s not always easy for expensive audio products, which you often need to spend several hours or days listening to before you can really acclimate to them and appreciate their sound, but the iSine’s technology is so different from anything out there that the benefits become pretty obvious.
When much of the world is focusing on wireless audio and software-based enhancements, it’s nice to see you can still innovate with sheer sound quality too. Stay tuned for a full review when we get final units.