I will review these earphones via the Audeze Presets in Roon but before I go any further in doing so, I will go ahead and say that without these the earphones are brighter, not as controlled or refined and not quite as impactful in the bass. I found the LX quite strident and I was reminded of the original EL-8 that I never really gelled with. It was open and clear but the upper mids pushed on a bit too much and the treble was quite raw and in my face. On top of that, the bass just didn’t seem to have any addictive qualities which are the exact opposite of all my favourite Audezes. The 10s were already a much warmer earphone with more solid bass and a thicker body. It was the LX that improved the most while the 10 are already a much more fleshed out and impressive earphone beforehand, the LX really rely on the DSP a little too much….
I can just tell a lot of people want to know how these two earphones compare and I am happy to cut to the chase. The iSine 10 are the better earphones and rightly so, they are double the price. I wanted to get that out the way and quash any rumours that they use the same drivers and sound the same. In terms of technical qualities, I would say that without the DSP the LX is 65% of the 10 but boosts up to 85% when both are under digital changes. I mean that’s my best way to quantify something as finicky and arbitrary as that. I am not usually one for using numbers when it comes to sound but sometimes you have to break a personal rule. I guess while we are going over my subjective takes on how the iSine stack up versus one another I may as well clarify that the iSine 20 is a suitable step up from both of the two I am reviewing today, easily justifying its $200 price increase from the 10. I think Audeze have done a terrific job in justifying each and every iSine’s price tag while maintaining the right value for money with each one. So often companies fail at that, asking more for earphones just because it has more drivers but actually sounds objectively worse than their cheaper models, Apollo Audio Labs were the worst offender of that but not the only one. They are also spread out enough in prices to not compete with each other too hard.
Both the LX and 10 follow the 20s lead in sound, both pushing themselves to be the standard they are. By that I mean they are both deliciously open sounding, if you are going to invest in some of these prepare yourself for just how open an earphone can sound, trust me. The LX, in particular, surprised me, maybe the different construction changed something in this regard but these seem even more open, affecting the sound signature and why with a regular source these sound so airy and up front in the presence region and through to the treble. Talking about the treble and that would be the biggest presentation difference with the iSines. In their bare forms I said the 20 is lacking, the 10 would be just right and the LX would have too much. Fortunately, the LX gets it helping of control from the DSP preset. Maybe that pairs hand in hand with the layering and texture, which increases from the thin and lean LX to the dense yet dryer 10 and finally the rich, thick and bold 20.
The bass of the 10 is very linear akin to the 20. It is dead flat from a present sub bass to a bouncy, fun mid-bass, even supplying a helping of that warmth to the top of the midrange. Even though the bass is linear, it still has some boosting and enough decay to make it juicy enough to want a bite. Very Audeze styled and fans of their OG cans will feel right at home. The midrange has the right amount of warmth and the right amount of air to balance it out and make it feel both wholesome and realistic. It nails both male and female vocals with solid timbre and instruments just get such a clean background and amount of space to play with that they are perfectly isolated and easy to focus attention or to really pick up the finer details. The treble as I already mentioned really was the “just right” porridge of the iSines in terms of quantity, moving on gently from the upper mids containing loads of air and just enough body to not come across as sharp.
The LX starts off with less bass than its big bros, but that’s not to say that it can’t be coaxed out with the ribbed tips and the low latency DSP preset. That being said when it does become a little more present, it is a touch slower than the others and notes aren’t as defined or realistic. I guess it then comes down to your preferences, has it a bit lighter with better speed, or let it bloat out a bit. I shouldn’t be too critical, as do remember the price difference of those I am comparing it with. The midrange is heavily about presence, air and female vocals. It favours the upper midrange and lower treble and it does make for epic clarity but can make male vocals a little nasally. The treble does have extra strength, but like the midrange is a little thinner, not with that same texture. That does make them tonally a little weaker. While it may look harsh in direct comparison, these are a $199 which are more open than most TOTL custom IEMs, pretty darn balanced and versatile across genres and I am actually rather positive about them in general!
iPhone Users Jump Aboard
Without any intention from me, this quickly become almost more about Roon and Audeze’s DSP than the earphones itself, I have never heard such an overwhelming POSITIVE change from any sort of digital filter in my life, which is maybe why I got so affixed. Overall I am very happy with the entire iSine line, the 20 is clearly the most superior (excluding the i4, I have heard these at a show and they are vastly better) but the 10 certainly has its own reasons for existence and the LX lets you enter a world of space and soundstage at a much more affordable price. In summary, I would go ahead and give the LX a glowing recommendation with a big BUT. I am sure you can guess the but at this point and that is if you are going to have access to the DSP settings. If you plan on using these with a computer and Roon then you are at no extra cost but the other two methods will start to add up. The Cipher cable will help aid the sound if you’re an iPhone fanatic but will ask an extra $60 from you and Roon is $500 for a one-off license, so not going to be feasible if simply for this task, although if you already own then it may be a big decider!
The 10 a very slightly less stellar recommendation but gets a more general nod of approval if this sort of product floats your boat. Fortunately, the 10 can shine a lot better with a simple analogue cable and its RRP actually includes the Cipher cable (although if you are an Android user you actually can just go analogue and save $50). I think the price still jumps over entry level and into the realms above so while if you want an open back IEM you will just be debating whether it’s this you want or the 20, at this point there will just not be any other relevant options between $300-$600.
With all things said and done I am going to give the iSine LX our Great Value award because I love what Audeze have gone and done with these in-ears (yes I know it has really grown on me) and when I have had them sounding their best, they are seriously impressive earphones!