Highs are energetic enough, and there is enough contrast between top and bottom, plus stereo separation and speed enough to to project one of the largest, most coherent sound stages I’ve heard to date. It isn’t just wide, it is full, and gloriously 3D in the best sense of the cliché. Instruments don’t merely jump out from the blackness, or interact in aloof staccato. They blend perfectly with one another, but do so retaining complete control of individual space. Z-axis space is excellent, and balanced by glorious width in the X-axis. The Y-axis stretches high, and bends over, and behind your noggin. Assuming that you listen at normal listening levels and not in a metal room, what hits the ears as cohesive as a good concert hall.
This headphone drives such a wide, and round 3D image that certain organic space and ambient albums/artists can get a bit too wispy. Instruments literally hang in the air with the barest of threads between them. It took a bit of time for me to get used to it. But I’ve had a thing for out-of-body experiences. Which, I guess, really is the heart and soul of space music. YMMV.
Let’s talk about what zips all that space together. Basically it’s speed: lots and lots of it. Cymbals crash clean as the driven snow, and decay again with the speed of a Siberian blizzard. Bass hits the eardrum with just slightly more force than is truly reference, but with reference-quality speed. It’s a round bass, with great definition and texture; and like it or hate it, it is slightly flavoured by the material of its driver. It reaches really low, with linear sound pressure all the way down. That sound pressure doesn’t bring out the really low, yawning bass with pressure enough to tickle you in your stereocilia. But it hits low, and, like everything IzoPhones-60, that bass hits with amazing clarity and space.
Highs extend well but lack tizzy in the dizzy heights. Sibilance isn’t a problem at all, but EDM and trance fans whose music is full of chimes may, every one in a while, squint whilst listening to aggressive pop-trance albums like Markuz Schulz’s Progression. I do. But only just. And a bit less than I do when listening to my DT880. The DT880’s highs are nothing but fractionally decorous by comparison.
Mids are detailed, and lush. Basically though, the IzoPhones-60 are so transparent that they just disappear. If not for the crushing pressure at my temples I’d forgive myself for reckoning I was sitting in front of Linda Ronstadt in a swank and super polite lounge. Certain pop music, Rick Astely, for instance, could do with a bit more pressure right there, smack dab in the middle of a rickroll. The IzoPhones-60’s midrange isn’t at all recessed, but vocal sound pressure is certainly less in volume than its DT880/600 analogue. Move onto Vivaldi and I think the IzoPhones-60 has found its sweet spot.
I reckon that it’s the DT880/600 that’s in the wrong. Actually, I reckon so. The DT880’s wolfish tendency toward sibilance in the upper midrange is practically an anthem. The IzoPhones-60’s only harsh bit is its nomenclature. Its mids are so clear that putting on something like a DT880 is like stuffing stuffing cotton in my ears. Of course, that’s not really fair. The DT880/600 now goes for less than 400$ almost everywhere. Of course, it punches above its weight.
Which is great, especially if you like cymbals. And the balance between cymbals and boom boom down below is exquisite. Then there’s the electronic chimes. Holy frack, man, they’re the clearest, more life-like chimes I’ve heard through a pair of headphones since the LCD-3.
As for amps, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I have enjoyed the IzoPhones-60 from an iPod nano to a AudioEngine D1 to MyST’s own DAC/headphone amp (review forthcoming), all of which drove the phones to comfortable, good-sounding levels. If you want to make sure you sidestep distortion issues, and add a bit of warmth in there, I highly recommend the AudioEngine D1 or D3. MyST’s PortaDAC 1866 really is the sweet spot, as is the biggie mentioned above.
I reckon that the IzoPhones-60 is an even more prototypically the unwieldy top-tier planar magnetic than the LCD-3. The LCD-3 may have the sweeter midrange, but the IzoPhones-60 may have it beat in the top. And, it will fly faster through more layers of glass when you’ve lost your house keys.
Honestly, 1300$ seems a bunch to pay for what probably broke off Sputnik. But IzoPhones-60 sounds out every penny of those thirteen hundred bones as few headphones do. Polished it is not. But beautiful it is. Just make sure to see a specialist.