Published on September 10th, 2017 | by Greg0
Audeze iSINE20: Planar Magnetic & 24-Bit Lightning Earphones
Personal audio gear comes in a million styles, flavors, colors, and form factors. The most common are the humble pair of earbuds, which can boast a classic single driver in each ear and cost as little as a dollar or so, all the way up to high-end sets with gold-plated cables, multiple drivers, sturdier build. There are Bluetooth sets galore, and of course on-ear and over-ear headphones which can offer noise cancelation or simply superior isolation. But there are few sets on the market that offer planar magnetic technology, and almost none that are light enough to carry anywhere.
That’s the promise of the hybrid Audeze iSINE20 In-Ear Headphone- ultra-transparent, super lightweight and completely unlike anything you’ve tried. At first glance, they seem fairly large, but they look bigger than they feel and only weigh about 20 grams. And they sound even larger than they look, thanks to their miracle of miniaturization, compressing a lot of electronics in to a tiny package. Audiophiles will recognize planar-magnetic drivers, often used in some of the most expensive and highest-performing sets. Instead of traditional cones, wafer-thin magnets produce the sound- it’s a delicate, difficult piece of tech and pretty impressive on it’s own.
But the innovations don’t stop there. Two different cables are available, including a standard 3.5mm minijack, but more interesting is the Lightning cable version for iOS devices. They suggest that it’s the “world’s first 24-bit Lightning cable for higher-resolution sound”, and it builds in a separate in-line digital-to-analog converter and amplifier for a cleaner audio signal. Unless you’re using high-bitrate lossless files and listening to really detailed music, you might not notice much of a difference in the cable itself. But it’s a step in the right direction, and this is definitely one of the few sets that can benefit from the advantages.
We tried out the Audeze iSINE10s earlier this year, but these upgraded versions improve on just about every aspect, including the aesthetics- the overall shape is obviously similar but we liked the gold mesh sides which made them visually seem a little bit more worth their price tag. The accessories are the same- several sets of silicone tips, a shirt clip, a cleaning tool, and some plastic stabilizers- and with identical downsides that these aren’t really built for running around or exercise and the plastic clips can be uncomfortable or awkward over lengthier listening sessions. They are also semi-open, so leak sound and are not ideal for use in, say, a bus or train. But they’re truly outstanding in other metrics that matter more, specifically their sound quality, leading just about every other mid-weight or smaller set we’ve tried in acoustics- clear, and with a sound stage that is unparalleled. There’s a free app, with easy EQ adjustments, and the iSINE20s lived up to the manufacturer’s claim of zero distortion, in our tests pumping out crystal clean sound no matter what tracks we tried, at what volumes.
Available now online and in stores for $599, the Audeze iSINE20s definitely are at the top end of the spectrum- but they’re certainly worth the cost, and their sister model is available if you’re looking to save a bit of money. You’ll love the details, escaping into your own personal private world, listening to your music anew, without noticing the bulk of over-ears or