Audeze is on a warpath of innovation right now. To start with they sent me a care package of some of their latest products to review and then just a couple of weeks later they announced their new side venture – Mobius, I just can’t keep up! In early December I had a look at the iSine 20, their first venture into the world of IEMs. I was perplexed and even a little confused at their open back design and interesting choice of application. While I summarized that I loved that Audeze stepped outside their comfort zone and “made a new product type”, I was still very sceptical about whom may have a use for them. It’s funny because in that review I did briefly mention that I used them a bit while sunbathing. Since then my usage of them has skyrocketed as it is so peaceful and quiet on my balcony and way too hot for a full sized can. The iSine’s open and engaging sound is often the easy choice for my sessions in the sun, maybe even helped by the thought that their open design lets my ears “breath” when it is so warm! I can’t be the only one to have found an optimal use for the iSines because between my review and now they have launched an iSine affordable enough for the masses, dubbed the LX. It costs just $199 ($259 with Cipher cable) to the 10s $399 ($349 without Cipher cable) and 20s $599 ($549 without Cipher cable). I won’t just be reviewing the LX though as in the same parcel I got the iSine 10 as well, so today you get two for the price of one.
If It Ain’t Broken… Why Fix It?
For this review, I am going to first refer you to my iSine 20 review.
From a physical perspective, these are very similar products. The 10 comes in identical packaging to the 20 and while the LX may have ever so “slightly” different packaging, accessories are identical. The only small difference I found was that neither included the Earlock by Surefire (still advertised on my 10s packaging) and that the LX pouch now has a little pocket inside, which was a handy little touch. I never used the Earlocks anyway, the Earhooks are certainly a better option.
If you were to look at the bellies of any of the iSine’s next to each other you would not be able to differentiate them. It is only from the tops you can tell the difference and while the 10 and 20 are identical in build except for a palette swap, the LX clearly are a cheaper and dare I say it, tackier aesthetic. You see to get to this cheaper price point, Audeze didn’t want to scrounge on tech and sound, instead, they just found a way to manufacture cheaper. They use a simplified plastic for the grilles alongside an automated process for the inside which is also slightly different. That being said it seems that the actual driver is very much similar and based on that of the 10, both the specs and employees hint at this in show interviews. Both the 10 and LX have a 16-ohm impedance, a single-sided Fluxor magnet assembly, Fazor plug in the sound bore and a 30mm ultra-thin Uniform diaphragm. The only differences in specs are the Maximum SPL being 10dB different (could be down to testing) and the magnet types are listed differently but could well be the same thing as N50 neodymium that the LX uses does indeed translate to a high-grade neodymium. The last hint was that in the DSP settings for Audeze within Roon, the LX and 10 are both one option, with the 20 being a different setting altogether. Even if the drivers were identical the housing differences would be a factor for a different sound and my ears confirm this!
I love what Audeze are doing, they are still performing at the top end (I will go into more detail of this in my review of their LCD-MX4) but they are also bringing their tech to the masses with the likes of the LX and LCD-2C! You take very small compromises with the LX over the more expensive Audeze in-ears such as the Jason mask look but once they are in your ears what does it matter, you won’t be listening to these in front of many people due to their lack of isolation so if their design has saved me two hundred bucks then I am ALL for it!
Since Vincent Brient of totaldac got me in touch with the guys at Roon I have been loving/using it non stop. Roon has managed to integrate into my desktop systems and portable systems alike using products such as totaldac’s d1-server and Cayin’s i5/N5II. Recently I noticed after upgrading Roon there was some Audeze Presets in the DSP menu and I haven’t been able to get them into action now! Here is a little more info….
“Audeze presets apply carefully designed calibration filters specific to the selected Audeze headphone model. The filters were designed to provide an optimal and natural listening experience, similar to a pair of tonally neutral reference monitors in a well-treated room.
The calibration filters were derived through a combination of measurements and critical listening. The calibration filters are FIR filters and are processed through Roon’s convolution engine. Each preset has the calibration filters for all commonly used sample rates 44,1kHz to 768kHz to avoid resampling the calibration filters.”
There are actually two filters to pick from. There is a “Low-Latency option that applies the same effect as their Reveal plug-in and a “Linear” option that is said to provide better transparency and imaging. For their iSine models, Audeze recommend not to use these Roon settings if you are using an iPhone and Cipher cable (which already has a DSP inside) but if you have a separate DAC/Amp that you can use with Roon, this will be optimal. Being an Android user and not having IOS access to use my Cipher cable I fall into the latter camp and have been testing the earphones with my mega rig that utilizes Roon. It consists of Fidelizer Nimitra, totaldac d1-seven, Questyle CMA800R and all cables from Double Helix. I have also tested with DAPs such as my HiSoundAudio S6, AK Kann and Cayin N5II as they are a little more price appropriate. I have of course use the Roon presets via my Cayin and OnePlus Two phone!
So why have I made such a big fuss about these Roon presets? Well, they help the sound HUGELY!!! I have heard a lot of talk about the iSines really coming alive and sounding better with the Cipher cable but I wasn’t sure how much of that was smoke and mirrors. Apparently, they were very legitimate statements and take it from me, I am someone who generally skips EQ or any sort of digital processing, I am a purist! Fortunately using their DSP in one way or another is very accessible, be it via the Cipher cable with IOS devices or using their Reveal plug-in in on any desktop setups. Android is the only brand left a little underrepresented and Roon will be the only way to get the preset there and even that is quite complicated, with the phone version of the app not having DSP options on its interface, meaning you have to apply the settings via a desktop version of the app (but they do work).
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