Review: Audeze EL-8 Open & Closed

Disclaimer: I received both the Audeze EL-8 Open & Closed for this review directly from Audeze.

Audeze

If you’ve been following the headphone scene for the last few years it isn’t possible you haven’t heard of Audeze. They really don’t need an introduction as all of their headphones have been praised worldwide. It all really got started with the LCD2.1, the LCD2.2, LCD-3, LCD-XC and LCD-X followed, and then I’m not even talking about the Fazor versions. I am an absolute fan of their products and my three favorite Audeze headphones are the 2.1, the X and the XC. Now Audeze has added two new headphones to their product line up and that’s what we’ll be looking at today.

Audeze EL-8

The EL-8 is a more down to earth and down the line orthodynamic headphone using all the latest Audeze technologies. The EL-8 is available in an Open and Closed version and we’ll be covering both of them in this review. The EL-8s were launched a few months ago already and the market price is $699 if you’re buying them from the online Audeze store. By setting the price a few hundred USD below the previous entry model, Audeze reaches a bigger market. Not everyone wanted, or couldn’t pay $1K for a headphone and by lowering the entry level a lot more headphone enthusiasts saw their dream of ever owning an Audeze come true. Hifiman and Mr. Speakers have targeted this group of consumers for a while already, and their headphones are available for even less though.

Specs:

Style Open/closed circumaural
Transducer type Planar magnetic
Magnetic structure Fluxor magnets
Magnet type Neodymium
Driver Size 100 mm
Maximum power handling 15W (for 200ms)
Maximum SPL >130dB
Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
Total harmonic distortion <0.1% (1kHz, 1mW)
Impedance 30 ohms
Efficiency 102/100dB / 1mW
Optimal power requirement 200mW – 4W

 

The EL-8s, contrary to the other LCD’s, don’t come in one of those über cool travel cases. They do come in a very nice card wood box with an adapter and a soft pouch to carry them around. I haven’t looked at the box ever since.

The new headphones don’t look like the Audeze’s you already know and they have their own styling. I look at them as a mix of a Sennheiser and Hifiman design, with a modern twist to it. The EL-8s have actually been designed/styled by BMWDesignWorks USA and they look quite modern. They have the backwards design like the Sennheiser HD700/800 and use veneer just like the Hifiman HE-400i/560 series. Design is something very personal and you like it or you don’t, I personally wouldn’t have gone for veneer (like Hifiman). Audeze is known for its use of wood, especially the 2.1 Rosewood, the LCD3 and the XC. The EL-8 is far away from this though, and the veneer in my opinion makes it look a bit “cheap”. Of course it in reality also is cheaper than the before mentioned headphones, but still I expected a little bit more for the $699 price. General build quality is very good though but it isn’t like the higher end LCD series, these are rather plastic like.

First thing I noticed when I put them on my head was the rather big clamping force. It has gotten only a little bit better over the weeks/months and I can actually feel the vacuum created by the pads as there is a pressure build up I can feel on my eardrums. I’m sure my head just has a weird shape or something as I haven’t heard this complaint before. It’s an annoying feeling but you get used to it. If I forget about this, the EL-8s actually are pretty comfortable. Weight for the open/closed version is 460/480 grams and for an Audeze that’s pretty light. It isn’t light for a headphone in general though and even the orthodynamic Hifimans weigh a lot less (around 370g). Weight has never bothered me before though and I can wear the heaviest XC for hour and hours without any problems. Looking at its size and weight, I don’t see why people would use this on the go but then again I’ve seen people use LCD-3’s on the go as well, so who am I. The angled leather pads, as we’re used to with Audeze, are top quality. My ears do get warm more easily then with the other Audeze headphones though.

I have heard several complaints on the build quality/durability of the EL-8s, as in they break down and have to be sent back, but I haven’t experienced the slightest problem with either my open or closed version. The new proprietary cable system (no more mini xlr) is something I think might produce a lot of complaints though. The connectors are like these small chips you have to insert into the cups and I on several occasions almost broke of these chips in the cup. I am sure I’m not the only one who experienced this. The connectors also come loose pretty easy when pulling the cable and that each time makes me fear one of the drivers died on me.

It’s good to see Audeze uses the new tech (Fazer Technology & Fluxor Magnets) in the “lower end” models. Fluxor magnetic structure transfers more energy on the driver-facing side than the backside. As a result the magnets become more efficient, and therefore easier to drive with low-power sources like a computer or smart phone. I agree and don’t agree at the same time, but keep reading.

Sound

I am a big fan of orthodynamic headphones and have quite a few of them in my collection. I have seen a lot of statements that the EL-8s are a baby LCD-X, XS or LCD2 but I wouldn’t refer to them like that. They have their own sound signature, strengths and weaknesses and aren’t near the level of the others.

Sound continues on Page 2, after the click

Review: Audeze EL-8 Open & Closed
3.6 (72.08%) 149 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. Coming from a musical family he's always been interested in good sound. Unlike his family members the only musical instruments he plays are amps and DACs. He loves playing with old tubes and discovering new products while staying faithful to the good old Sennheiser HD650.

55 Comments

  • Reply August 11, 2015

    Jeff

    Both of these EL8s were a huge disappointment for me.
    Let me break it down:

    1. Build Quality: Oh man I love the build! I love the looks too! These things no longer look like the LCD series which I think look like a piece furniture, not a headphone. Oh wait, let me take a look at the connector… it’s already broken.

    2. Sound: …

    They sound broken. None of the frequencies sound like they should. Bass seems a bit bloated and loose at the same time, mids have a weird tonality that makes vocals sound artificial, and highs also do not sound right. Simply broken. Whoever voiced this thing must have been heavily distracted while doing the job or they simply decided to make a headphone that has a weird, broken tonality. To be fair, the sound was pretty holographic due to the strange treble characteristic but it just didn’t work well overall. Soundstage was strange too like certain AKGs like the K701. Its soundstage is so that there isn’t much soundstage except for sideways.

    3. Value for money: Hmmm… for $250 these would have been okay value imo. Those who are able to appreciate this sort of sound would pay more than that ofc because there are always fans.

    However, all this was judged while the EL8 (both versions) was plugged into an AK120ii so I’ll take my Hugo next time and give them another shot because I like the looks so much.

    Conclusion: Who will buy these? Not me.

    Hope you guys don’t hate me for this and please do take it with an entire sack of salt if you’re finding my finding to be different from your own. Please feel free to comment though. 😀

    Cheers,
    Jeff.

    • Reply January 23, 2016

      E-mann

      I have all the same issues

  • Reply August 11, 2015

    Eli Segal

    I’ve felt the pressure in the ears as well when I tried them, it was surprising to me as it was the open version.
    Other than that I think they sounded pretty good straight from the ak120ii.
    Did you try the balanced cable for the AK players?

    • Reply August 12, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels the pressure, I’m also glad I mentioned it in the review. I have not tried a different cable on the EL-8

  • Reply August 12, 2015

    Tronco

    I agree with Lieven. The EL-8 (does anyone know what this stands for?) is very different than the LCDs. The LCD-2 Fazor to my ears is clearly superior. But it doesn’t look as nice and is more expensive and heavier.
    I am using the EL-8O with a Asgard/Bifrost stack at home and the EL-8C with the iBasso DX50 at work. While the EL-8C sounds ok with the DX50, it is much, much better with the Schiit Stack at home. Same goes for the EL-8O. Again agreeing with Lieven.
    I can’t complain about the EL-8C so far. I’m still comparing with the Alpha Dog and the T70 and haven’t decided which of the three I am going to keep. I only need one closed headphone for work.
    Are the EL-8s worth 700$? Difficult question. Considering the fact that you can get a new HD650 for half the money or a pair of Alpha Dogs for 500$.

    An unrelated question. Has the DX90 really been discontinued? I can’t find the info on the iBasso website.

    • Reply August 12, 2015

      Dave Ulrich

      It has been discontinued, yes. They did just announce a DX80.

      • Reply August 12, 2015

        Headfonia_L.

        what he said 🙂

      • Reply August 12, 2015

        Tronco

        Ok, I see there are already threads about this on head-fi. Anyway, iBasso should take better care of their website.

    • Reply August 12, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      I prefer the Rosewood LCD2 look over the EL-8 look. I don’t think they’re worth $699 though, the 400i is a better bargain. The HD650 is awesome but does need a good amp, the EL-8 is easier in that regard. I did not like the T70 (but do own it), my fav closed headphones are the LCD-XC, the DT770 AE and the H6.

      Yes the DX50/90 were discontinued. iBasso already announced a new DX80.

      And thanks!

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    Rich

    Great review Lieven! How does the EL-8 closed compare to the Oppo PM-3? I had a chance to listen to both at an audio show in my area a few months ago and even though I love my XCs I liked the PM-3s better than the EL-8C so much so I ended up picking up a pair for portable use and traveling.

    • Reply September 30, 2015

      Lieven

      Really did not like the PM-3. XC>EL-8C>PM3

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    Rich

    Great review Lieven! How would you compare the EL-8 closed to the Oppo PM-3? I had a chance to listen to both at an audio show in my area a few months ago and even though I love my XCs I liked the PM-3s better than the EL-8C so much so I ended up picking up a pair for portable use and traveling.

    • Reply August 14, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      Thank you. I won’t be able to hear the PM3 before mid september. THe XC and the Fostex 900 are two of the best high end closed headphones to me, and maybe the Mr. Speakers as well. The EL-8C just doesn’t sound right.

    • Reply August 14, 2015

      Dan

      I prefer the PM-3, because it’s more durable. I’ve returned two pairs of EL-8C due to material tear in the left side (obviously rendering the ortho useless). Word is that Audeze has uncovered this travel stress causing the tear and has corrected it. That said, the PM-3 sounds more intimate and warm with less clarity in the midrange and noticeably less detail voiced in the treble.

      I also own the XC, and paired with the Hugo they are amazing. If you use a hard travel case for the EL-8C and don’t mind a more bloomy mid bass, you may enjoy the EL-8C.

  • Reply August 14, 2015

    Daphen

    So now that you’ve tried both. What do you think about the EL-8 Closed back vs the Oppo PM-3?

    • Reply September 30, 2015

      Lieven

      I listened to the PM-3 last weekend and sorry but it really didn’t sound good. Even worse than the EL-8. So incredibly muffled

  • Reply August 15, 2015

    Nickjan Glas

    Great review with all the pros cons and comparisons. Looking forward to impressions at canjam. Will certainly listen to them and do the suggested comparisons. Especially curious about the differences between he560 and el8o.

  • Reply August 18, 2015

    Berkhan Oğulcan Akçay

    Lieven nice review as always. I guess you haven’t really impressed by EL-8. But last week I gave a listen to them I was really impressed. I’m thinking about changing my old Senn HD650’s now.

    • Reply August 18, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      It’s good we don’t all like the same headphones. If you do want to change from the HD650, try the Fidelio X2 and Hifiman HE400i as well!

      • Reply August 18, 2015

        Berkhan Oğulcan Akçay

        Yes I listened HE400i too. But they’re a bit too bright for my taste. I prefer warm headphones. But I have to admit that Hifiman’s are really fast and detailed headphones. I found the bass is a bit laid back though.

        • Reply August 18, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          HE400I bass depends on the amp used a lot

        • Reply August 30, 2015

          szoze

          I don’t think that bright and warm are eachothers opposites. HE-400i has a warm sound signature with quite open top. It is more of a neutral headphone than bright. HD600 is considered a neutral headphone. I don’t think HE-400i is brighter than HD600.

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    szoze

    Great review Lieven, as always! How are these compared to T90?

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      T90: bigger soundstage, more detail, more depth. Brighter signature, better in every way actually but you need a good amp

      • Reply August 30, 2015

        szoze

        Thanks Lieven. You know I have a good amp. 🙂 I am really enjoying my T90 with X-Can V3. Great match.

      • Reply August 30, 2015

        szoze

        Have you heard Audioquest Nighthawk? (they are also in the same price range) Any thoughts?

        • Reply August 30, 2015

          Headfonia_L.

          Received them last friday. Nigthawk is warmer, smoother but very musical

          • Reply August 30, 2015

            szoze

            Nice to hear! I heard the Nighthawk a couple of days ago. I also thought they sounded warm but musical. The warmth tends to hide some detail. They are quite nice but I prefer T90 nevertheless. 🙂

            • Reply August 31, 2015

              dalethorn

              The odd thing about the NH is how different it is from any other headphone. In my testing I can apply +/- 4 db of EQ and the sound changes radically, where other headphones change just a little. I think the NH fundamentally is slightly warmer and softer in treble than a typical hi-fi headphone, but it can sound *much* warmer on the low end and softer on the high end, depending on how you amp it. The worst case would be with an iPhone or iPod and the Oppo HA-2 DAC/amp. That sounds very dark and dull. A better case would be a computer and mini-DAC. I haven’t used it with anything better than a Dragonfly-1.2, so I don’t know if it would come up to full hi-fi (like a HD650, LCD2, or similar headphone). But anyway, this NH will stay with me for a long, long time.

  • Reply December 25, 2015

    Juan Luis Quiroz Guevara

    Audeze el8 or Hifiman he400i for use with chord mojo? Who pair performs better?

  • Reply January 8, 2016

    theswordofdoom

    This is one of the headphones on my list for a potential travel pair. I am looking for a closed headphone that is not huge and I can get good performance out of with the L5Pro. Any recommendations. Was also thinking about checking out the Beyer T5p Astell & Kern edition. Thanks for your time.

    • Reply January 8, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      I would look elsewhere, not the Closed EL-8. DT770, LcD X etc

      • Reply January 8, 2016

        theswordofdoom

        LCD X is open back and aren’t the LCD XC huge? I would grab the XC if it isn’t massive. Just was curious what kind of recommendations you had. The DT770 is not supposed to be as good as the T5p no?

        • Reply January 8, 2016

          Tronco

          I’m using the regular T5p at work. It is a very good headphone, I like it very much and it’s easy to drive. It’s light and comfy and to me far better than the DT770. But then the price is 5x more.

          • Reply January 11, 2016

            theswordofdoom

            I’m ok with the price point on the T5p. How do you feel it would work for me to travel? Thanks by the way Tronco.

            • Reply January 11, 2016

              dalethorn

              As far as I can see, the T5p is mobile only in the sense of its impedance, and whatever sensitivity it might have. It doesn’t fold, and I suppose the carry case is large like the DT1770 or T70p, etc. So it’s too big for airline carry-on bags, unless you squeeze it in without the case. If traveling by car you could put the case in the trunk (boot), but my favorite carry for portable headphones is around my neck with the earcups pulled all the way down. Unfortunately, the Beyers I have or had don’t carry comfortably that way.

              • Reply January 11, 2016

                theswordofdoom

                Damn. Well, thanks for the reply Dale. What in your opinion is the best travel phones? I will be flying and using them on the plane. I really prefer full sized headphones and I am essentially looking for the absolute best pair I could pull off traveling with.

  • Reply January 16, 2016

    Fastguitars

    I think the reviewer made a critical error in this review by continuing to explore the quality of these headphones by continually comparing them against the other 2x the price Audeze phones.
    This is ridiculous and certainly unfair and completely counterproductive to the review.
    Basically he’s saying the fall short of the other $1800 Audeze phones.
    Oh really?…..Well that just GENIUS.
    Thx.

    • Reply January 16, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Please read again before posting “ridiculous” comments. It’s clear the EL-8s can’t even take on the HD650 or Fidelio X2. And of course they can’t touch the other Audeze’s, but they should have sounded better being Audeze’s. Hifiman is miles ahead as well.

      I suppose you own one and don’t like reading they aren’t the best? Anyway, I won’t comment to this post anymore?

      • Reply January 16, 2016

        dalethorn

        I hadn’t read this review since it was first posted, but the very detailed analysis here couldn’t be better.

        • Reply January 17, 2016

          Headfonia_L.

          Thank you Dale. Some people just don’t like reading their headphone sin’t the best. Actually that doesn’t even matter as long as they like it.

      • Reply February 28, 2016

        Ilias K

        I recently tested both the open and closed versions while looking for an upgrade to my Fidelio X2 and was very surprised by how average these sounded. Not what i was expecting at all. The open version was obviously the better one, but still both sounded worse than X2. LCD-2 won me though and I’m saving for these instead, they are totally worth the money.

  • Reply May 13, 2016

    nish

    Hi and thanks for the review. Given a choice between the el 8C and the Beyer T5p, which one would you pick?

  • Reply June 29, 2016

    BJ

    I don’t think this reviewer actually listened to either one of these headphones for more than a minute. Or maybe he received the prototypes and not the current production models. Because the headphones he’s describing don’t match to the sound quality of the open-back EL-8s I’ve heard. And though I haven’t heard the closed-back model I would assume for this series from Audeze they would sound pretty similar. The build quality on these headphones is modern and superb. As high in quality as the LCD models just done in a different way with a matte finish for a more low profile look. Their is no plastic anywhere on these headphones nor do they feel plastic. So I don’t know what that statement was about? While the sound quality is not at the LCD-3s and the LCD-4s levels. Neither are almost every headphone on the market right now. These are at least in the same realm as the LCD-4s and sound similar to the LCD-2s in my opinion. Which is pretty much what they are. They are portable LCD-2s that can be driven using your cellphone. Which I can see that me be where this reviewer is hearing the discrepancies from the other Audeze, headphones. But you can plug these into a Dac/Amp as well and you will definitely hear the Audeze sound quality that you hear from the LCD models. The EL-8 open back are a neutral sounding headphone that have a wide and clear soundstage. The bass is their but its not over emphasized, it’s more precise with a little punch. The highs are crisp and the mids and vocals are exceptionally clear yet warm. Plain and simple these are a unique and well built pair of headphones for the buyer range Audeze is try to fit them in. They are a little over priced but you already know that going in, if you plan on purchasing an Audeze product.

    • Reply August 16, 2016

      Hector

      I actually purchased the EL8-O based on reviews I’ve read (for the 2016 model). I’m actually happy I did. I owned the HE-400i and Oppo PM-3 at the time. I had not listened to my old 90’s Metal and similar music because I felt that the PM-3 played them too recessed and the 400i was too polite. With the EL8, they were up in my face and exactly how I wanted to hear my Metal music. I was actually happily surprised. I’m more of a Bass, Guitar and vocals kind of person. I felt the EL8 did better in that area (and not by a little) than the 400i or the PM-3. So, I sold those off and kept the EL8. I’m now looking to get a higher Audeze headphone (LCD-X or LCD-3), but will keep the EL8 in my stable. I believe the “ticket” is to get the updated 2016 model.

  • Reply August 17, 2016

    DaveV

    Anyone have any opinion on whether there are any possible adverse health effects from having such a strong magnetic field (some 600 µT at the ear) around your head? Will long periods of use of these headphones be similar to you lying in an MRI machine?

  • Reply December 9, 2016

    Jasper

    Davev,

    I measured the magnetic field, and it’s the same as with dynamic headphones. Absolutely no strong magnetic field. I have only tested the LCD X.

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