Disclaimer: I received both the Audeze EL-8 Open & Closed for this review directly from 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.
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.
|Transducer type||Planar magnetic|
|Magnetic structure||Fluxor magnets|
|Driver Size||100 mm|
|Maximum power handling||15W (for 200ms)|
|Frequency response||10Hz – 50kHz|
|Total harmonic distortion||<0.1% (1kHz, 1mW)|
|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.
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.
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