Audeze’s iSine 10 is one of the largest and strangest-looking in-ear headphones you’ll encounter, but it’s also one of the best sounding in-ears out there right now.
The headphone looks like Star Wars jewelry that didn’t make the cut: TIE Fighter earrings, perhaps. That’s because the unusual shape is housing Audeze’s 30mm planar-magnetic drivers, which sound very coherent and spacious, with low distortion, and until now have only been found in models that have full-size earcups. (Audeze makes several audiophile-grade over-ear planar-magnetic headphones, as well as the smaller on-earthat I like a lot.)
If “planar magnetic drivers” sounds Greek to you, you’re in good company. Ultimately, what matters is that it’s a totally different technology than what you find in nearly all other mainstream headphones. If you want the technical details, check out Inner Fidelity.
The iSine 10 costs $400 or £400 (the US price translates to about AU$525). It has an open-back design, so it not only lets some sound in but leaks it out, too. In other words, this probably isn’t the best headphone to use in an open office environment or walking the streets of a big city.
It comes with two cables: A standard one fitted with a 3.5mm plug and an Apple-certified Cipher Lightning cable that takes digital audio directly from your iOS device and uses the cable’s built-in digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier. (Put another way: no dongle needed for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus owners.) That cable also has an integrated microphone for taking calls while the standard 3.5mm cable does not. Call quality was good with the Cipher cable, but it’s best to make calls in quieter environments.
Using that Cipher cable, the headphone plays significantly louder and sounds better overall. It does draw a little bit of power from your iOS device and will cause your phone’s battery to drain slightly faster than it normally would while playing music, but the quality of the sound makes up for the slight loss in battery life.
With my iPhone I usually listen with the volume in the 60-80 percent range, but with the Cipher cable things got loud at a 40 percent volume setting. (Audeze is apparently working on a Cipher USB-C cable for Android users, but so far the cable is only available as a Lightning option).
The only problem with the Cipher cable is that the in-line remote/DAC is heavy and not great to walk around with (I did use the included clip with it, but I had a little trouble keeping the clip clipped onto the cord because the cord is so thick). In the not-too-distant future, we hope to see a second-generation Cipher cable with a smaller in-line remote, but this is the cable you get for the time being.
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