Illustration of the powerful magnet and ultra-thin diaphragm found inside the iSINE 10's planar magnetic drivers.
Unique headphone design that delivers the goods
Audeze's iSINE 10 headphones (and their sibling iSINE 20s) feature a break-through design unlike anything we've ever carried. The company shrunk their planar magnetic drivers – which are traditionally found inside their large, bulky over-ear headphones – and fit them into a compact in-ear design.
They've also included a detachable Apple® Lightning cable with its own built-in 24-bit DAC, so you can plug them directly into the newest iPhone® or iPad®. (You'll find a traditional 3.5mm cable, too.) But before I get too far into the innovations, I'd like to focus on what I consider their number one killer feature: the sound.
I heard crystal clear, wide-open sound
I've never been a big fan of in-ear headphones. Maybe I'm biased by bad experiences with the generic earbuds that come in the box with a smartphone. But I immediately recognized that the iSINE 10s are a far-superior breed — and they got better the more I listened. Connected via the Lightning cable to my wife's iPhone, these headphones sounded even more spacious than a lot of the over-ears I've tried. The sound is transparent, with powerful, finely detailed bass and sparkling highs.
“Moonlight Mile” by the Rolling Stones really helped show off these strengths. The opening acoustic guitar licks started only in my right ear, far off in the distance. As the other instruments and soft background vocals picked up, the entire soundstage shifted to front-and-center. Then when the string arrangement and Mick's lead vocal kicked in, the clarity was almost startling. I could picture the percussion, piano, and guitars all coming from different places.
Planar-magnetic drivers: the basics
So how do planar magnetic headphones usually work? A large yet ultra-thin diaphragm is suspended within a magnetic field. It is covered with a flexible circuit. When the circuit receives an audio signal, the diaphragm moves back and forth to create sound. It starts and stops rapidly for clean and accurate sound across a wide frequency range.
How did Audeze fit that technology into an earbud?
The diaphragms used in the iSINE 10s are a fraction of the size used in most planar magnetic 'phones. Still, you can probably tell from the pictures that these headphones are bigger than most in-ear models. You stick the earbuds in your ears while the planar drivers actually sit outside.
To make up for the loss in diaphragm size, Audeze uses their super-powerful Fluxor magnets to provide quicker movement. These magnets are nearly double the power of a traditional magnet, making the iSINE 10 drivers incredibly efficient.
The included plastic hooks help secure the lightweight earpieces.
More than just a Lightning cable
Audeze's "Cipher" Lightning cable offers more than just a way to play with the iPhone 7 or other Apple device. You also get a built-in DAC and headphone amp that Audeze has precisely matched to these drivers. This means you get serious punch and clarity, just by plugging into your phone.
A tricky fit at first, but it grew on me
I'll admit, it took a few minutes for me to get used to those drivers sitting outside my ears. It was so different than anything I had worn. But the headphones felt much lighter than I expected, especially when secured to my ear with the included plastic hook.
I liked using those hooks because they kept the earpieces stable as I moved my head around. You can also use choose from two sizes of soft inner-ear loops that keep them in place. All of the accessories and cables fit inside a magnet-sealed carrying case. You can quickly pack them up for travel, then reassemble them when you want to listen — like a cool James Bond gadget.