High-End Audeze SINE On and iSINE In-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones


Technology tends toward iteration; true innovation is rare. This is especially true in audio, where a high-quality set of studio monitors or headphones can last a decade or more without needing to be repaired or replaced. I love audio and delight in exploring new products and the technologies that make them possible. Imagine my delight when I first heard about the Audeze iSine10, iSine20, and iSineVR—the world's first Planar Magnetic Drive (PMD) in-ear headphones.

I first got to audition a pair of iSine20s in Los Angeles at the fall Audio Engineering Society (AES) conference. I immediately fell in love with the sound and how they felt in my ears. The planars can draw out and bring to life the finest details in all the music, podcasts, movies, and other media accessible on my phone. The improvement in sound quality is so significant that it drives my desire keep listening, to discover new music. Since that time, I have been lucky enough to spend more time with the iSine20s to share some real-world experience.

This review completes a trilogy for the Santa Ana, California-based company's other flagship LCD Over-Ear and Mid-Level EL-8 lines of planar magnetic headphones. If you are new to Planar Magnetic Drivers (PMDs), I encourage you to check out these first two reviews because they cover more of the technical details of what makes this technology so fun. In some ways, the iSine10 and iSine20 can be thought of as part of the company's Sine line of on-ear planar magnetic headphones.

With crisp acoustic design by Dr. Dragoslav Colich (Dr. C) and an elegant laser-cut steel and matte-leather finish industrial design by BMW Designworks, the Sine On-Ear headphones are an elegant solution for mobile audio entertainment, as well as recording, mixing, mastering, and DJ’ing. If you are lucky enough to own one of the +1 Billion iOS devices in global circulation, the Audeze Sine On-Ear PMD Headphones + Cipher Lightning Cable DAC are an absolute jam. Their appeal comes not just from their sound quality, but from their weight.

In addition to utilizing the company's patented Uniforce (uniformly distributed electromagnetic force in the trace across the thinner-than-a-human hair polymide diaphragm) and resonant-free Fazor waveguide, the Sines implement Audeze's patented Fluxor Magnet Arrays, which entails cutting the neodymium at an angle and arranging their poles to short-circuit the flux on one side and double it on the other. This breakthrough allows the company to place the Fluxor neodymium magnets on one side (as opposed to both as in traditional push-pull PMD designs), thus halving the weight and enabling an on-ear mobile headphone.

The iSines refine this even further, which allows for the miniaturization of Planar Magnetic Drive Technology. The real innovation that makes the Sine on-ear iSine10 and iSine20 is their size. You can now enjoy the acoustic advantages (widened frequency extension, improved impulse response, dynamic range, transient time, orders of magnitude lower distortion levels, better spectral decay, non-radiative wave coherence) anywhere and everywhere.

At first, managing the iSines on my morning subway commute entailed a bit of a learning curve. They are certainly pocketable but are bigger than normal in-ear headphones. They weigh more, which is why the alligator clip connected to the Cipher DAC is so important, to alleviate the strain from the weight of the cable. I had gotten accustomed to using wireless headphones for listening, to avoid getting caught up with a cable. Until the Bluetooth AptX codec is implemented in iOS, it’s not possible to achieve super high-fidelity sound wirelessly, which is where the Cipher Cable comes in.

Several times, the cable has pulled out of my ear by getting caught on a bag or the subway turnstile. Fortunately, they are designed so that the cable will break away without breaking and still leave the planar housing securely resting in the ear. I've gotten good enough at being able to reattach the cable without having to take the driver out of my ear. Realizing that the headphone cable is completely detachable on both ends gave me an idea. Instead of worrying about losing them, I would just leave them in. So, now I wear them all the time, whether I'm listening to music or not.

I simply detach the cable and keep the Cipher DAC iOS cable in my breast pocket, as well as the analog cable for use with alternate DACs like the Audioquest Dragonfly Red, with a computer, or plugging into an audio interface like the Arturia AudioFuse. When I'm not listening to music, podcasts, or making phone calls, I just leave the cable in my pocket and the drivers in my ears.


As semi-open backs, they allow a sufficient balance of attenuated ambient background noise to blend with a phone call or media playback such that I can now carry on a normal conversation while still listening to music. Situational awareness is especially important when walking around New York City, to be safe on the street, maintain one’s personal security, and be able to hear emergency service vehicles or announcements from the train conductor.

A closer look at the Cipher Cable reveals that it is, in fact, four tools in one: a high-quality digital to analog converter that transports through the iOS device’s Lighting port, a two-preset recallable DSP powered 10-Band EQ for tuning the frequency response to your liking (I store a setting for music and a setting for podcasts), a very low-THD Class-D Power amplifier for driving the hand-matched planar magnetic drivers, and a high-quality analog to digital converter, which effectively turns the cable into a digital microphone for drastically improved speech intelligibility when talking on the phone. The improved call quality is so good that I call my mom more often. It is as though I have a personal sound system that I can blend into my everyday experience. My life has a soundtrack.

One of my favorite aspects of the experience has been sharing the Sine and iSines with family and friends. I light up the moment the music comes on and I get to see the reaction of their first listening impression.

I was fortunate enough to obtain a closed-back and a limited edition open-back version of the Sine on-ear headphones.

Obviously, I simply cannot recommend them enough. The Sine and iSine10/20/VR On and In-Ear headphones from Audeze are some of the finest sounding, best designed examples of Audio Equipment that I have ever heard. Although individual experiences may vary, I encourage you to come down to the B&H New York City SuperStore and try a pair on for yourself. If you do get a chance to check them out, tell us what you think in the Comments section, below.