Headphone drivers are responsible for how your headset it sounds, and the technology that goes into it has its own set of positives and limitations. While planar magnetic driver technology is widely considered to be significantly superior to standard dynamic drivers, limitations due to driver size and the power requirements means that in-ear headphones must use either dynamic or balanced armature drivers in order to stick to a convenient size.
Enter Audeze, a young headphone manufacturing company that has quickly risen in reputation to be considered one of the leading makers of premium headphones in the world. Pioneering the planar magnetic technology, Audeze’s products are usually large and need external amplification to drive. But of late, the company has successfully brought the technology to smaller products that can be driven by even your smartphone.
One such product is the Audeze iSine 10. Priced from Rs 26,900, the iSine 10 is the world’s first in-ear headset to feature planar magnetic drivers, which is a significant engineering feat. With the convenience of size and the capabilities of planar magnetic technology, the Audeze iSine 10 promises a lot. Does it live up to the price and expectations? Find out in our review.
Audeze iSine 10 Design and Specifications
Considering that planar magnetic drivers are known for being large, it’s a marvel that the iSine 10 even exists. However, although this is undoubtedly a pair of in-ear headphones, it’s a rather large and awkward looking set at that. Although the stalk and tips fit snugly in your ears, the casings that hold the drivers are significantly larger. This means that you’ll need the included ear-hooks to keep the headphones in place, which might be a bit uncomfortable for some. ALSO READ: V-MODA Crossfade 2 Wireless Review
And as is also the case with most planar magnetic headphones, the Audeze iSine 10 is open-backed, which means that people around you will be able to hear what you’re listening to, and to some extent you can also hear what is going on around you, so don’t expect superior sonic isolation. In order to keep the overall weight of the ear casings low, the construction is plastic, with metal used only for the logo and the protective grille. This is a bit disappointing, but does indeed make it a bit more comfortable to wear. The detachable ear hooks are also made of plastic and are available in two color options, both in the box.
The cables that run from the ear casings to the 3.5mm plug or Apple-compatible Lightning port are detachable, and you can choose which to buy depending on the device you intend to use the headphones with. With the dropping of the 3.5mm jack on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the CIPHER cable might be a better bet if you have one of those phones, but this also bumps up the price to Rs 29,900. If you use any other phone or portable media player as a source device, you’ll want the regular 3.5mm cable.
The headphones have a frequency response range of 10-50,000Hz, along with a peak sensitivity of over 120dB. Impedance measures at 16Ohms, which means that you don’t need additional amplification and the Audeze iSine 10 can be driven by even the built-in amplifier on your phone. The CIPHER cable includes an on-board DAC and amplifier, and plugs into the Lightning port on Apple devices.
Audeze iSine 10 Performance
Despite the complaints that people may have with the way the Audeze iSine looks, feels and fits, the performance is, without a doubt, the best you can possibly get from a pair of in-ear headphones. I used my OnePlus 5 as a source device, with Tuxedo’s So Good, Led Zeppelin’s Stairway To Heaven and an operatic version of Sting’s Walking On The Moon as focus tracks.
Starting with the lively and exciting So Good, it’s clear that the Audeze iSine 10 allows for practically no sonic bias. Despite the bass-heavy nature of the track, there is a sense of calculation and sophistication to the bass. What you get is a sonic signature that sticks to the audiophile agenda, thanks to an emphasis on neutrality. Vocals, beats and highs all get their due attention, thanks to the width of the soundstage and generally driven nature of the sound. The openness is unmatched by any in-ear headphones I’ve used to date.
With Stairway To Heaven, the wide and incredibly varied range of sonic elements in the track itself showcases the tonal superiority of the Audeze iSine 10. Instrumentals are crisp, detailed and incredibly sharp, while vocals retain every element of emotion that Jimmy Page wanted to portray back when the track was first released back in 1971. The tonal elegance is particularly distinct with busier tracks, and within the busier parts of tracks. Towards the latter part of the track, I particularly enjoyed the ability of the headphones to pick up every element even when the track itself had a lot going on. ALSO READ: Audeze Sine On-Ear Headphones Review
The Audeze iSine 10 has a high sensitivity rating, and therefore can be safely expected to go loud. With Walking On The Moon, that’s exactly what I experienced, along with the aforementioned tonal superiority. While the track starts soft and gentle, it eventually progresses into a loud collection of instrumentals, all of which are distinctly audible and have the sharpness that keeps you on your toes all throughout the track. It’s safe to say that this is the absolute best you can get in terms of sonic performance on in-ear headphones in this price range.
Audeze’s reputation as a maker of quality planar magnetic headphones is well established, and its first in-ear product more than lives up to that reputation. With tonally solid sound, a truly neutral sonic signature and the ability to hold its own even at high volumes, the iSine 10 is a fantastic headset when it comes to performance.
Although it’s large, not always comfortable and not built as well as you would expect from headphones that cost Rs 26,900, the Audeze iSine 10 more than makes up for its shortcomings with its sound. This is among the better portable options available if you’re looking to own a good pair of planar magnetic headphones.