Earlier this month, Audeze, a California-based hi-fi audio equipment maker, revealed their first in-ear headphones: the iSINE 10 and iSINE 20, both of which feature technology that, up until now, has only been available in studio-grade over-ear headphones. At a press event in NYC last week, we had a chance to test out Audeze’s groundbreaking new headphones, as well as have a quick chat with Audeze CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram.
The audio technology that distinguishes iSINE 10 and 20 from other in-ear headphones is called planar magnetic audio, and only a handful of hi-fi audio companies produce it. Basically, planar magnetic headphones use a system of magnets, a thin-film “diaphragm” and a uniquely positioned voice coil to produce audio with unrivaled bass, better responsiveness and minimized distortion. Condensing this technology into over-ear headphones — let alone an in-ear headphone slightly bigger than a coat button — was no easy feat: at one point in my conversation with Mr. Thiagasamudram, he pointed to a nearby door, and explained that the most advanced planar audio systems used to be “that big.”
I tested the iSINE 10. (The premium version, the iSINE 20, was not yet available for testing). In short: the iSINE 10 hardly sounds like an in-ear headphone at all. It sounds more like a studio-grade over-ear headphone, and that’s exactly the point of planar magnetic audio; Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker the Berry” sounded incredibly spacious and bass-heavy, like I was there in the studio with him. Of course, since they’re in-ear headphones, the background couldn’t be entirely wiped out, but that’s to be expected. (These are not noise-canceling in-ear headphones, and they’re not trying to be.) And at 20 grams, they’re light enough to feel sturdy in your ear, but not so much that they feel cheap or breakable.
The cable, which connects via 24-bit Lightning port (ready for all you iPhone 7 users), had a robustness that made it feel impervious to tangles and snaps (though it also made moving around feel a bit cumbersome). The cable amplifier/controller worked great, too. My only concern was the size of the rubber ear inserts. My ear canals are smaller than most, so squeezing the iSINE 10 into my ear took a bit of work. Then again, my big-eared colleague had no trouble finding a good fit.
The iSINE 10 ($399) and iSINE 20 ($599) are available now for preorder, and will begin shipping early November.