Audeze are in my opinion, one of the two big pioneers of planar magnetic technology in headphones along with HiFiMAN. Planar drivers are now far from the rarity they once were and are available from a haul of brands and at much more affordable prices. While in full sized headphones and even superaural cans you won’t have a hard job finding a variety of options that demonstrate how good planars can sound, until recently this technology was yet to be miniaturised. Audeze were the first to bring something to fruition (UM followed shortly after but that’s for another day) with their iSine series, consisting of two models. Today we will look at the more expensive iSine, the 20 iteration which in the UK I have found as cheap as £457 or £499 with the additional lightning cable. This is from Audio Sanctuary, from every other store I found the price to be about £599.
Fluxor & Cipher
With planar magnetic drivers generally being bigger than dynamics and a technology that has never been shrunk down I am sure Audeze had their work cut out getting this done. They also had the job of actually making it sound good and justifying the need for this technology in an in-ear, saying you have done it is one thing, making it compete with an already brimming market is another. Both of the iSine’s have ultra thin diaphragms with the 20 having a longer uniforce voice coil to offer fuller coverage across the diaphragm. At only 20 grams they have at the very least achieved a planar product that is VERY light.
You have probably already clocked that these are a weird form factor for an earphone and not like your standard £500 in-ear monitor. Firstly they are open back, going against potentially the most valuable feature of an IEM… isolation. They are also big, with the housing covering almost your entire ear. At the brunt of it though they do still have a long sound bore which is peaked by a small silicone tip, you push that into your ear to achieve a seal. That makes them an earphone! It also makes them very comfortable. A combination of incredible weightlessness and a mix of accessories that prop the earphone on your ear to offer support see that to be the case.
We may as well float straight into talking more about these accessories and the two methods they include to help stabilise the iSine in your ear. You have the plastic EarHook and the silicone EarLock. The hooks go over the top of your ear while the locks fit to the contours of your ear to “lock” in. I end up using the hooks because as I have already mentioned they take the 20 grams of weight and make it nonexistent. Also included is a nice but sizable storage pouch, a snazzy USB drive with user guide installed and some more standard stuff like a shirt clip and wax loop. I should quickly talk about the tips as well, because they are a departure from the usual type and seem flimsier and longer. On first look I thought they would be trash and not seal but Audeze obviously did their research and they work effective for this model.
Audeze opted for an all plastic build for this, likely to preserve as much weight as possible. Regardless, they are clearly a well built product with great attention to detail. The Audeze ‘A’ stands bold in the middle of a pattern of grills venting the driver inside. The sound bore is long and while wider than most, it is a thin plastic and this could be the only risk I could think of, and that’s a small one. Cables are removable with the standard 2-pin seen for years in earphones and I like that, mainly because it means I can replace the linguine flat stock cable. It isn’t horrendous but it is the only thing I would change of the original package, I just have something against flat cables, maybe because I have got the likes of this one on so many cheap, tacky IEMs.
As one can tell from a quick observation, and as I have previously mentioned these are open backed IEMs. Even though you probably knew this coming into the review it is worth iterating that these have ZERO isolation. They seriously don’t keen anything out and you need to know this going into purchasing these or any other Audeze IEMs. It just means these are a no go for commuting and because they leak noise maybe even not for the office. I personally am a little puzzled as to when and where suits them. If I am stationery in my apartment or at my computer I opt for my full sized HD800s, the only time I have optionally gone for these outside reviewing is when I was sunbathing on the balcony where it was quiet. But maybe I just lack some imagination, I am sure people have already thought of some great operations for these. I should probably mention there is a iSine VR, specific for virtual reality headsets and I think that is spot on!
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