Remember Your Roots
While I have gone ahead and reviewed this as an IEM, these really are their own category of product, potentially being more earbud than IEM. They sound strikingly unique as well, with this having an open and expensive soundstage laid out before you that really departs themselves from your average in-ear, especially at this more mid tiered price bracket. It absolutely has more in common with a full sized open back can than any of my high end custom earphones. It already starts to justify its lack of isolation giving you an ultra portable full sized product, you can’t pop your HD800 in your pocket can you?!
For the first time in years this is an Audeze product I have heard and got a sense of déjà vu from my very first listen to an LCD-2 years and years ago at a Head-Fi meet. The latest releases like the EL-8 and Sine series just didn’t give me the euphoria of listening to an LCD, this really does and I love it, especially with the form factor and cheaper asking price.
Even though the bass is very flat from it’s reaching sub-bass all the way into the midrange, I still perceive it as warm and spongey, with a wet, softness to its hits. The lack of solid punch does keep it in line nicely but something I can say about the sound overall is that I just find myself wanting to turn the music up to get more impact and dynamic capability. To be honest, while I am someone who is completely about a taught and agile bass response, Audeze fans have always loved something a little plumper and I think this gets close, it just lacks that explosive power that is normally harnessed within. Instead it is much smoother and more controlled.
The midrange carries some warmth and builds into a very present upper midrange, which really accelerates female vocals. Within the larger encompassing soundstage it is the mids and bass that hang close to you. For the most part the midrange is very clean, buttery smooth and very musical from the touch of warmth the bass provides. YES! All very typical Audeze and die hard fans should be excited! It doesn’t have the crystal clear qualities of something like Hidition Viento-R or UERR but is denser and more flowing from note to note. I will say that as we go upwards a slight vagueness that I had to adjust to. After a prominent upper midrange the lower treble seems to fall off the rails a bit, with the highs only showing up again from an 8kHz bump, and I really think this adds a cloud over the sound in this region. It adds an effect where the colouring sometimes ends up just outside the lines. Perhaps not the most technical midrange truth be told, but easily one of the more enjoyable in something I am able to stick in my ear!
The treble is an area that I feel lacks the most with the iSine. By that I mean it quite literally is lacking amount but also in quality. It is distant in the soundstage with no snap or flair, one of the biggest contributing factors in me just wanting to crank the volume up. The desire for more has even left me wanted to start using EQ but if you have followed my reviews you know that is something I generally steer clear from. The reduced treble does really let this sound embrace it’s soothing tonality that just smooths over your music giving you an experience that is fun but perhaps not too honest. Hey ho, I am the first to admit I thoroughly enjoy the sound this emits.
I do want to once again touch over the soundstage of these because it is really one of the most stand-out qualities of this product. Any other IEM I compare it to (in this price range) sounds claustrophobic and shallow, making me have to force myself to adjust or quickly swap back. It all adds up though, every other earphone creator has been trying to make a technology to provide soundstage but Audeze have just made it open, which is tried and tested since the dawn of time. I know its the reason of the soundstage as well as you cover up the housings and the soundstage diminishes and the tonality is tinny and just plain wrong!
Do You Have a Need?
I guess that is the question you need to be answering. I think this does as a better substitute of your favorite home can you want to take around with you than as a replacement for your favorite IEMs. The isolation is just way to lacking for me to even think about using these where I normally would get out my customs. If you look at these and go “boy, do I have a place for you” then jump in, these sound engaging and fun, are comfortable and well built. If not, then perhaps they may end up a bit redundant in your collection. I think it’s great Audeze have gone out on a whim with these and made a new product type and an absolutely lovely product at the same time!