Audeze iSine 10: Weird Looks With a Wow Sound
Let’s face it; the vast majority of open-backed planar-magnetic headphones are far from portable. They’re huge, (most vaguely resemble Princess Leia’s hairdo) weigh so much that you can’t comfortably keep them in place while walking at a brisk pace, and usually require an amp. But what if you like going outside, and don’t have a Sherpa to assist you with a ton of audio gear? Audeze says they have the answer with the iSine10. They are … wait for it… in-ear open planar magnetic headphones. I know. I was skeptical too.
Before we discuss sound quality, I need to state the obvious: while the iSine 10 are far smaller and more lightweight than anything Audeze has offered previously, they are still much bigger than pretty much any in-ear I’ve ever seen. The outer portion has a spider-web-looking plastic case that will cover the vast majority of your outer ear. The iSine 10 cover about as much outer-ear real estate as the foam on-ears of 80s walkman fame.
The chassis is supported by thin plastic over-ear hooks or rubberized wings that grip inside the antihelix of the ear. Personally, I found the hook more comfortable, but glasses-wearers may gravitate towards the wings. Either way, these are not subtle earbuds, and the weight of the build can feel fatiguing to those with more sensitive ear canals. If that form factor is a deterrent, you wouldn’t be blamed for your hesitation, but you would miss out on some incredible sound quality.
With Fluxor N50 magnets and 30mm uniforce diaphragm, the iSine 10 have remarkable clarity, especially when used with the included CIPHER lightning cable. (A standard 3.5mm cable is also included). Audeze claims the iSine 10 have less than .1% full spectrum distortion at 100dB, and the proof is really in the listening. Remarkably spacious sounding, the iSine 10 deliver everything you love about your favorite entry-level over-ear open-backed PM headphones in a weird-looking but wonderfully mobile package.
High frequencies are nimble and crisp, with not a hint of sibilance or that 9-10kHz spiked intensity that many headphone manufacturers employ in an attempt to mimic clarity. The lows are deep and full, able to handle thumping hip hop to double bass with equal dexterity, even down to 20Hz.The attack and decay of bass notes is impressive, allowing you to have intense lows that neither muddy nor overwhelm the rest of the frequency range. Overall, the entire sound is smooth and even from the lowest lows to the highest highs. Audeze claims a frequency range of 10Hz-50kHz, so fans of the inaudible psychoacoustic range will have a lot to subconsciously enjoy.
Overall, the listening experience is extraordinary for a device so small and affordable. The MSRP is $399.99, which to non-enthusiasts may sound lofty, but any headphone nerd will know is just about the price range where you start to get into the seriously good stuff. And the iSine 10 only has 16 ohms impedance, but can handle a full 3W of power, so whether you are using an iPhone or a portable DAC, you’ll have no trouble powering them. In fact, using my iPhone 7, I was only able to push the volume up to about 30% before they began to get too loud for my comfort.
The iSine10’s CIPHER cable has a three-button Apple remote and mic for taking calls, voice commands, and track/volume controls. The standard 3.5mm cable has no controls, but is perfect for use with your favorite hi-rez music player or your laptop at work. Just remember that your results may be limited by the DAC on your device. When compared Apple to Apple (you like what I did there?) on my Macbook Pro via 3.5mm vs my iPhone7 via CIPHER cable, there was a noticeable shift in sound quality. The Macbook pro sounded slightly more veiled and lost some of the sparkle and refined detail that the CIPER cable provided. Keep that in mind, and you’ll be able to get the most out of your listening experience.
The Audeze iSine 10 comes with a soft sided carry case and foam-lined hard-sided insert so you can keep the delicate diaphragms safe on your journeys. The case, like the iSine themselves, is larger than usual for in-ears, but at a little bigger than a bar of bath soap, it’s still massively more space conscious than over-ears of any type.Maybe you find most open backed planar magnetic headphones unwieldy, or want a high quality listening experience when you travel, or just don’t want to muss up your hair with a headband. Whatever your reason, the iSine 10 are a fantastic buy, and a worthy addition (or start!) to your high-end headphone collection.