Planar magnetic headphones have long been considered some of the best sounding personal listening devices on the market. Many audiophiles swear by the big, natural, and open sound this technology can produce. However, until now, planar magnetics were limited only to big, on-ear cans. Now, Audeze has managed to squeeze the planar magnetic tech down to a lightweight in-ear headphone, so you can take excellent sound anywhere.
The Audeze iSINE 10 headphones aim to provide the sound quality of planar magnetics in a compact package, from exceptional frequency response to minimal distortion, and on this they deliver. Frequency response is rated at an impressive 10Hz up to an inaudible 50kHz, less than 0.01% full spectrum total harmonic distortion @ 100dB, and a maximum SPL of greater than 120dB.
Reminiscent of tiny TIE fighter wings, the earphones themselves are certainly bigger than typical earphones, but that’s a necessity for the large planar magnetic drivers to work their magic. Because of their size, I definitely recommend using one of the included earhooks to keep them from falling out of your ears. They come packaged nicely, with a nylon travel pouch for holding the headphones and their accessories, which include a variety of ear tips, and ear hooks, along with both 3.5mm audio and Apple Lightning cables so you can connect them directly to the latest iPhones which have no headphone jack.
This special cable has a built in digital-to-analog converter that lets you listen to the purest possible sound, and works with a companion app which lets you program custom equalization settings. I found that overall sound quality on my iPhone 7 plus was incredibly clean and crisp via Lightning, and the EQ app worked exactly as expected.
Overall sound quality is very good, offering the widest and most open soundstage I’ve ever heard from in-ear headphones. Distortion is imperceptible, sound is bright and natural, and they can push out a tremendous amount of volume. They also do a surprisingly good job blocking out external sound, though their semi-open back design means that if you’re sitting next to someone on bus, they might be treated to a little bit of your music – especially at higher volume levels. My only complaint that due to their odd shape, I wasn’t able to seat the earplugs as deeply in my ear canal as I’m used to doing with other in-ear headphones.
I usually find that this improves low-end response, and I can’t help but wonder if I might be missing out on some bass with the iSINEs because of this design limitation. That said, they still offer up a good amount of punch in the low-mid range, if not the beefiest of bass. I found that they were exceptionally good at reproducing vocals, strings, piano, synthesizers, and brass instruments.
Audeze has done an impressive job shrinking down planar magnetic tech into an in-ear headphone, and I think audiophiles will be pleased with their overall sound quality. The iSINE 10 headphones are available now, and sell for $399 (USD) over on the Audeze website. You can trim $50 off the price if you don’t need the Lightning cable.