Audeze is one of the few companies in personal audio that are truly blazing their own trail. To my knowledge, the new iSine 10 are the very first planar magnetic IEMs ever to come to market. The design is one that massively unique to Audeze, and from end-to-end across the listener’s experience.
The product line starts with the 10 for $399 ($349 w/o Cipher lighting cable), but also includes the step up iSine 20 for $599 ($549 w/o Cipher lighting cable). The external facing shape of the IEM is larger than your typical in-ear. In order to make room for the larger diaphragm, Audeze had to completely redesign the outer shell which now includes a more open back orientation like the company’s flagship full-size headphones. During playback the ambient bleed is minimal, but still just barely audible in a quiet room. It is much less than your typical around ear audiophile headphone and should be suitable for work or public consumption. The benefit to this open design is quite substantial for the other end of things. IEMs are often plagued with an “in-the-head” sensation that couldn’t be further from normal listening situations or even loudspeaker playback. The iSine 10 reached out further than any other IEM we had on hand. Listening to Rock and Jazz, the instruments felt like they originated from a wider distance away, with a natural focus and decay that wasn’t merely sound waves bouncing around in an ear canal.
The larger shape of the iSine 10s sits outside the ear in a Star Wars Tie-Fighter grill. The weight isn’t that substantial compared to other IEMs with the standard analog cable and the headphone is able to be supported in a seated situation with merely the friction from the tip to keep in in place. For a more mobile situation, Audeze included two sizes and two different types of support systems for the piece. One design includes two pairs of removable hooks that clip on easily to the inner stem. These hooks in execution work very well and were comfortable to wear, in the case you needed to run around or walk excessively. Even with the hooks, a cable clip is recommended (and included) to reduce microphonics and protect your ears from undue stress in the case the cable catches on something. The second design is a pair of ear locks that fit into your ear, proving additional support against movement. Overall comfort of the iSine 10 is very similar to a standard IEM, as the physical connection from the tip is the same. In fact some larger flagships we had on hand actually stuck out further from the head than the iSine, bigger driver numbers and new internal bracings tend to beef things out a bit in either direction. So even with the larger vertical layout of the iSine, sitting at home listening is pretty much business as usual for the casual listener.
The $399 package does include Audeze’s Cipher lighting cable. Listening to Lorde’s Liability single through the lighting connector with Tidal as a source, the music did feel a little more processed through the digital port compared to the regular analog out from an iPhone 6S, but in a good way. As we covered on our Sine review, the cable partners with an app that Audeze developed that allows for EQ adjustments. These adjustments stay with the headphone cable, regardless if you plug the headset into another device, so your fine tunings can travel with you as you go. The Cipher cable does a good job in its given role. The noise floor from the internal DAC and amp is very low and the volume is of course very sufficient for the iSines (solid volume levels start at only 2-3 bars). It is noteworthy that the iSine 10s do require a little more power than your typical IEM through a standard 3.5mm jack, although the impedance is still rated at 16 ohms. Due to the hypersensitivity of “typical IEMs” most any portable source will still have plenty of juice to power this headphone, and suffered no issues pairing with everything we had on hand.