Review: Audeze iSine10 & iSine20 – Revolutionary

Disclaimer: The Audeze iSine10 and iSine20 were sent to us directly from Audeze in exchange for this review. We have to apologize to Audeze for not having published this double review sooner.

 

Audeze

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the last decade, the Californian Audeze no longer needs an introduction. Audeze are experts in the field of orthodynamic headphones and with the LCD-2 they easily conquered the headphone scene. Every single model in their line-up sounds great and all of them received positive reviews from all over the world. Now Audeze is back with a new project: orthodynamic inears!

iSine Discovery

I first listened to the Audeze iSine at the Munich High End show in 2016 when the iSines were still in their prototype/non-production version. The Audeze booth was tucked away in a far ugly corner of the hall but when Sankar let me listen to the iSine and I closed my eyes, it was like listening to the LCD-2 for the very first time: magical.

You can find out all about the iSines on Audeze’s website here:

https://www.audeze.com/products/isine-series/isine10-ear-headphone

https://www.audeze.com/products/isine-series/isine20-ear-headphone

Revolutionary

The iSine in theory is an in-ear monitor or IEM as we like to call them but to me they’re more of mini speakers that hover next to your head/ears, and that’s exactly have they sound too. Of course Audeze is using the planar magnetic technology they’re famous for and the iSine are considered to be the first full planar technology in-ears in the world.

When Audeze showed the iSine to the world everyone was stunned. No one had ever seen an IEM design like this before where the “speaker” is outside of your ears and where the size (for an inear) is considered to be huge. I’m pretty sure the discussion is still going on today somewhere on Head-Fi but I personally – since the beginning – like the concept, looks and most of all the sound of the iSine series. Sure you might find them funny looking but believe me, when you hear how they sound, you really won’t care about looking a little funny. The concept was and still is revolutionary but everyone will get used to it, if they haven’t so already. Nowadays the iSines are fully accepted as IEMs and with the LCD-i4 Audeze even has one of the best IEMs on the market. We’ll get back to the LCD-i4 in a separate dedicated article soon.

On the inside of the iSine- series you’ll find fluxor magnets and large 30mm planar magnetic diaphragms that deliver precise control and fast response times without distortion so music always sounds alive. The low level of distortion is impressive and some will even find it incredible when looking at the measurement results. What Audeze has done simply is very impressive.

The new iSINE Series barely weighs 20 grams, contains all our exclusive patented technology including power enhancing Fluxor Magnets that nearly double the magnetic driving force on our large, ultra-thin diaphragms with patented Uniforce voice-coil technology that delivers the most accurate in-ear headphones experience ever. The distortion (THD) is less than 0.1% overall even at high volumes, an amazing achievement for in-ear headphone designs.

The difference between the iSine10 and iSINE 20 is not only in the looks. The iSine20 is one step up from the iSINE 10 featuring an even longer Uniforce voice-coil that covers the ultra-thin diaphragm to a greater extent, enabling better control and responsiveness for better bass, clarity, and improved imaging.

Another unique thing of both of these models is that they come delivered with Audeze’s unique Cipher lightning cable. The Cipher cable is specially optimized for the iSINE Series and delivers 24-bit digital audio from iPhone/iPad/IPod to the headphones. The Cipher cable contains a high-quality inline amplifier, digital-to-analog converter and DSP, all in one. Of course with the latest iPhone models no longer having a 3.5mm output jack for audio, this is the perfect solution to get great sound from your iDevice.

Customize your sound

On top of that Audeze has developed an app for iOS which lets you customize your sound in real-time. The DSP app features two presets to personalize your music playback and it features a 10-band equalizer that changes EQ in real time. It will in example allow you to refine the bass levels and tamp down the highs on peaky recordings you still love.

Of course you can also use the iSine10 and 20 with a normal 3.5mm cable on all of your other devices, and that’s actually how I used it most being an Android fan.

Packaging & Build Quality

The iSines come in very nice box that folds open and which has a lot of information printed on all sides. The unit and all the accessories are protected by and displayed under a thick plastic, removable cover.

When designing the iSine-series, Audeze worked closely with their strategic partner “Designworks”, a BMW Group Company. Every part of the iSINE is designed to bring the typical Audeze sound to a global market in a smaller, lighter package. Great care has gone into the design of the iSINE series, from the housings that minimize reflections and diffractions to ensuring a comfortable, secure fit. At 20 grams, it is the lightest planar headphone ever made.

I personally really like the look of the iSine-series, and the iSine20 and LCD-i4 in particular. The build quality of the pieces is great and Audeze really has an eye for detail. The cable connectors are strong and even though the earpieces are very light (11g), they can take a beating. The only downside to the whole design are the plastic hooks you use to position the earphone and make it stay in place. As these are plastic they will break depending on hard you handle them. Audeze is aware of that however and you do get an extra set in the box. You can also buy these separately from Audeze and if I’m not mistaking, they go for like $10USD a bundle. The iSine-series are engineered and handcrafted in the California factory.

The cable used is finished in standard 2-pin termination and is user replaceable which is logic seeing you can either use the cipher or analog cable that come with the unit. It also means you can use aftermarket cables from the boutique cable shops.

The review continues on Page Two, after the click HERE or the jump below

Review: Audeze iSine10 & iSine20 – Revolutionary
4.8 (96.83%) 164 vote[s]

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

13 Comments

  • Reply August 22, 2017

    Marius

    Thank you Lieven for another carefully crated review. I was intrigued until I noticed their open-ended design. Personally, I choose IEM when I’m on the road/in a plane and appreciate (require!) isolation (Shure SE846). The iSine in particular seems very iPhone friendly with lightning and built-in DAC but dedicated DACs seem to clearly deliver better results. The only benefit of open ended IEM I see is probably that they can be taken on longer trips for stationary use (in quiet rooms). At home, why would I choose the iSine over the LCD series? Did I miss something?

    • Reply August 22, 2017

      Lieven

      Hi Marius, you make a very valid point. Open IEMs, and especially these, are very hard to use outdoors. And like yourself I normally use full sized headphones at home. I’ve especially enjoyed the iSine series at night in bed though (I like to listen to music before going to sleep and full sized headphones in bed aren’t that handy).

      Not everyone however has full sized headphones or desktop gear and for those people the iSines are a perfect solution to get full sized sound from a small package 🙂

      • Reply August 23, 2017

        Oliver

        This is not just a very valid point. To me this renders this product nearly useless. When I saw the first announcement of the iSine, I immediately thought that this is an answer to a question nobody asked. Outside I don’t want to annoy and I don’t want to be annoyed by my neighbour with music I or them did not want to hear. To me this has something to do with respect. So using this headphone in public would be disrespectful in most situations.

        And inside? Test it against a Stax 700 with the smallest amp and we will see.

        • Reply August 25, 2017

          Alfy

          The question has been nagging me all the while I was reading this – very good – article, and I can see I’m not the only one.
          One case scenario I could see would be for listening to music in a hotel room on business trips, but that would be 1/ a fairly big expense for a most likely limited use (depending on who you are of course), and 2/ I usually have no problems packing proper headphones when needed.
          So then what? People who spend a lot of time in cars and don’t want to get completely shut out but can’t put up with their car’s stereo? People who can’t stand big headphones? These IEMs do seem to target a very limited market.

          • Reply August 26, 2017

            Shreyas

            The same target market as earbuds, I suppose? But mostly for home use or while on travel/ trips, where a full size headphone becomes cumbersome. For me personally, I would use it mostly at home due to the humid climate here in my region (Kerala, India), and also during trips/ holidays.

            Good sound in a small convenient package, for use at home!

            Cheers

          • Reply September 4, 2017

            Sandeep Suresh

            I found these particularly useful in office, where portability is an important factor without compromising the sound feel from over ear headphones. Another very good aspect is that these are semi open, which gives a natural presentation for long term listening.

  • Reply August 22, 2017

    cl

    i auditioned both models as well as the unique melody me.1 and found UM’s take on the planar iem to be superior on all fronts, from ergonomics to how it is voiced, which, while not the most detailed or extended, it sounded “big” (as in how the sound “loads” your ear) closer to the lcd2.2 than the isine, without the need for the cipher cable to sound its best.

  • Reply August 23, 2017

    Brandon

    I am really on the fence with the iSine20 because I keep wondering about the LCD-i4, I have been planning on an IEM and have been asking myself, if I am to pay 2500USD for an IEM, there are quite a few top of the line IEM that are 2700-3600 out there and how does it compare and is substantial? So for right now I will just keep waiting I guess.

  • Reply August 23, 2017

    Shreyas Muralidharan

    Well written review Lieven. I’ve been a headfonia follower for a few years now, and always look forward to reading you guys’ thoughts before purchasing any new gear.

    Now I have a query regarding the iSine20:
    I’ll be using the Mojo as source, run via coaxial out of a FiiO X3 1st Gen.
    Do you feel there is a significant difference when running the Mojo out of the A&Ultima DAP like you described? Or will I be getting more or less the same quality out of my rig? Just curious to know your thoughts on this.

    Thanks!

    • Reply September 4, 2017

      Sandeep Suresh

      Hi Shreyas,
      Just my two cents, although Lieven would be a better person to validate. As long as you feed coaxial to mojo, and the source sends coaxial output, the DAP should not make a difference (as its a digital signal through coaxial). However I did notice better instrument separation when i changed my fiio coaxial cable (L21) to moon audio black dragon coaxial, From x7 to mojo and to beyerdynamic T1 2nd gen.

  • Reply September 4, 2017

    Sandeep Suresh

    Hi, Great detailed review Lieven. After lot of options, this is the best set up I found for isine20. Actually cable replacement made a significant difference. Setup: Fiio X7 – AM2A – silver dragon cable(moon audio) – isine20. This setup was very natural

  • Reply May 24, 2018

    DoctorDave

    For me these are perfect for the beach and fishing with my bald head not getting a wide white band from my full size headphones, and hiking. The sound leakage is enough for me to be aware of animals and other people and cars, but not enough to be distracted from my music. The music from 10 feet away cannot be heard at all, and at a beach I presume 4 feet away or less and I listen fairly loudly. They are a match for the highest end headphones Ive heard. No deep bass like my closed Sony MDR-Z1R’s, but they are different animals for different purposes. But even my closed Sonys leak enough that laying in bed at night next to my wife in a quiet room disturbs her, so thats not even a solution for that problem. Anyhow, I used it with my Denon portable DAC amp DA-10 and an ipod and it sounded absolutely stellar. Then I used it with the cipher cable and my iphone X and was very disappointed….until I donwloaded their HQ EQ app. I dont know why it made such a monumental difference, but a nice v curve for rock music did the trick and was nearly as equivalent as using it with my Denon portable amp. They were less uncomfortable then I thought once I settled into them they did truly start to disappear. I was saving up to buy some FOcal Clear’s but realized I had no REAL NEED for them, I needed something I could use in the sun with my bald head, and something open for situations so I am not standing in front of a bear and its cubs in the woods again (obviously that ended without any drama but rather not be surprised like that again). So hearing a little of the outside world to me is good. I also walk along roads and like to hear what’s going on, it’s safer. I have never liked ear buds or IEMs, but with this sound, and this increased comfort, I can start to enjoy this section of headphones. At this point they are new so I have no comment on durability.

  • Reply June 27, 2019

    John

    I’m hoping to use them on daily bike commutes where I need better situational awareness for passing cars. Sound quality will suffer outside, but I hope they still sound good enough and then can also be enjoyed indoors either at the office or home. I can’t afford so much gear and prefer to listen to my speakers at home, but these could be a nice score for evenings when the family is asleep.
    Also, I scored the iSine10 for $170 on Crutchfield outlet.

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