Review: Audeze iSine10 & iSine20 – Revolutionary

Looks, Comfort & Isolation

 

I think the iSine10 and iSine20 look gorgeous. Yes, like so many of you, I do still link it to Spiderman but at the same time I think they look unique. The grill design is gorgeous and the mesh plate behind it is so sexy, especially the copper mesh from the iSine20. The iSine10 with the black mesh has a full black design which is pretty as well, but I personally like the contrast with the copper color more. The beautiful “A” from the Audeze logo on the faceplate, if I can call it that, is the cherry on the cake. A beautiful design and for me personally Audeze gets the top score in the “looks” category. I actually prefer the looks of the iSine20 over that of the LCD-i4.

Both the iSINE10 and iSINE20 headphones are engineered for superb long-term comfort and deliver an immersive, dynamic music experience.

In the beginning you, comfort wise, really have to get used to the iSines. The “speakers” if I can call them that are floating next to your ear and their long canal stretches out to your ear to make the seal it needs. To keep the iSine in place you have to use the ear hooks and/or earlocks that come delivered with the units. The ear hooks are nothing new and we’ve seen them before in design such as the PortaPro, but for me it was new for what IEMs are concerned. The feeling is a bit weird in the beginning and you need to get used to it, but once you know how to place the iSine and hooks on/over your ear, the system actually becomes very comfortable. Seeing the iSines weigh almost nothing (11g/piece), it’s easy to keep them in place and the cable (and gravity) doesn’t pull down the earpieces. You can also opt to use the earlocks which also make the iSine stay in to place. The locks however are not over your ear, but inside your ear. These are typical locks people use with earbuds and while they work, I personally prefer the over ear hooks. So in the beginning the iSines might feel a bit weird but once you’ve gotten used to the hooks and found the ideal placement for your ears, they become very comfortable. It’s also important to note that you don’t really have to shove the tips in your ear canal. You can set them against your ear, as long as the seal is there. The canals are fairly big as well, so I probably couldn’t even manage to shove them up my ears.

The iSines come with a series of silicone tips which fit my ears perfectly. You’re of course free to user different brands of tips although Audeze doesn’t recommend using (Comply) foam tips: they will fit, but Audeze prefers you do not use them, as they will reduce some midrange response and make the iSINEs sound a little darker.

The iSine design is fully open, meaning they have an open-back design. The advantage of that is that you get a lovely sound stage with an open presentation and clarity but it also means sound will leak outside. The guy next to you on the train will be able to enjoy your music free of charge and you in return will hear every outside noise as if you weren’t using IEMs. Isolation is almost non-existing but it does benefit the sound quality.

Price & Accessories

iSine 10 : $349 – $399 (Cipher cable)

iSine 20:  $549 – $599 (Cipher cable)

Personally I find the price really fair, especially looking at the unique design and the sound quality you’re getting from these IEMs. On top of that you get a nice box and carrying case with a good number of free accessories:

  • Certificate of authenticity
  • User guide and warranty
  • 1.5m audio cable, 1/8” stereo plug input to 2-pin plug output
  • 1.5m Cipher cable, Lightning plug input to 2-pin plug output
  • Selection of hooks and earlocks
  • Range of silicone tips
  • Shirt clip
  • Cleaning brush
  • Fabric/leather pouch

Specifications

Style                                             In-ear, universal fit

Transducer type                        Planar magnetic, semi-open

Magnetic structure                    Fluxor

Magnet type                                High-grade neodymium

Diaphragm type                         Ultra-thin Uniforce

Transducer size                          30mm

Maximum power handling        3W

Maximum SPL                           >120dB

Frequency response                  10Hz – 50kHz

THD                                             <0.1% @ 100dB

Impedance                                  iSine 10 = 16 ohms / iSine 20 = 24 ohms

Cable type                                    non-microphonic

Dimension                                  31mm x 35mm

Weight                                         11g (per side)

 

Sound

While the iSines on paper are easy to drive, I had to up the volume quite a lot coming from the Noble Kaiser Encore. The iSine10 is easier to drive than the iSine20 as the numbers show, that’s easily audible.

Audeze’s innovative planar magnetic technology delivers astonishingly clear and accurate sound wherever you go.

The difference in sound between the iSINE 10 and iSINE 20? Because Audeze kept getting this question, they put up the following statement in their FAQ: Because the impedance of the 10 is 16 ohms, and the 20 is 24 ohms, then technically, the iSINE 20 should have a little more resolution.Customers have told us they think the 20 has a little smoother midrange. The bass response (below about 600Hz down to 10Hz) is identical.

I’ve had a very long time to listen to both the 10 and the 20 but for me, the 20 easily is the best one. I thinks it’s an underestimation of Audeze when they state the iSine20 technically should have a little more resolution, I myself find the difference very obvious. The iSine20 clearly shows better extension, richness with improved timbre and layering. My ears easily and quickly chose the iSine20 as my favorite and I have to admit I’ve been using the iSine20 ever since I compared both in the beginning.

In general I think it’s safe to say that the iSine in all categories is good, but the iSine is better and more impressive. In example the sound stage: both sound very open and clear but the 20 sounds wider, more spacious and deeper with better layering. Resolution: while the iSine10 is good, the 20 adds a layer of detail with better decay and precision. Simply put the iSine20 is the improved iSine 10. It’s not that their sound signature is any different, it’s just that the 20 is the better performer in well, everything.

My focus will mainly be on the iSine 20, simply because it’s the best of both and because the difference in price between both is limited (+$200USD). If you are planning on buying an iSine and you can afford the $200 extra, I fully recommend going for the iSine20 as it’s just so much better. I do agree with Audeze that the iSine20 in example doesn’t have more bass of mid body than the iSine 10 has, it’s more a fact of better quality, not quantity.

More on sound can be found on page Three of this review. click HERE or below

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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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