Among audiophiles the name Audeze goes hand in hand with the top tier of planar magnetic headphones. Audeze’s open back LCD series with luxury wood cans and black grills are a near gold standard for listeners everywhere. However, the one downside to these fantastic headphones is the price. The on-ear and closed back Audeze Sine’s introduction onto the market means their brand of planar magnetic quality can be had at a much closer price point to entry level than ever before. With the cost of a planar magnetic headphone now competing directly with top level dynamic cans, you may be wondering if it is worth upgrading. Does the Sine capture the glorious sounds planar magnetic are known for?
Sine Headphone Look & Build
One of the first things I noticed when I took the headphones out of the box was a small certificate of authenticity card. The card thanks you for purchasing and also has fields for model, serial number, inspected by, and date all handwritten in blue pen. Together this adds to the general feel that this headphone is produced with extra care and a personal touch. The card also mentions that the headphones were tested and burned-in at the factory. I’m inclined to believe them, because while most headphones can take 20-40 hours to really warm up to their bass potential, the Sine’s low end was going hard from the moment I put it on. The headphones themselves have a solid build with rotating cups making it easy to fold the headphones down for travel and storage. While the metal and black leather design feels weighty, the leather does pick up scuffs and scratches somewhat easily. The Sine’s detachable cable has jacks for both sides and runs down a semi-rigid flat black rubber wire that feels well insulated. The leather cups are shaped to fit the outline of your ears which makes them sit more comfortably for longer periods of time than the traditional circular or oval pads. Inside the cans are Audeze’s exclusive Fluxor magnetic array with drivers 3 times larger than standard on-ear headphones.
Audio Quality & Performance
The power of planar magnetics comes in their ability to reproduce a very natural and lively sound across the entire frequency spectrum and the Sine does not disappoint. Due to having lower distortion than a dynamic headphone, the sounds the Sine throws out are on point with their transients and clarity. Details and sound accuracy are simply remarkable. Even at a much lower cost point then the bigger Audeze headphone pairs, the Sine are more than capable of demonstrating what makes a planar magnetic’s signature so enthralling. Listening to music through the Sine is a very active and exciting experience. Knife Party’s Rage Valley immediately struck me on just how super punchy and bouncy the bass was while still being restrained enough to not to cover the nearby frequencies. With mid to high frequency synth sounds there is always a danger of becoming too sharp and tinny but the Sine keeps all the layers balanced and neutral. In fact the Sine raises up instruments that were hiding to be front and center in the mix. I noticed this happening when I listened to John Williams score from Star Wars Episode I. While this phenomenon of supercharging the mix is killer for enhancing a bass heavy electronic or rock track, more dynamic music such as orchestral arrangements sometimes feels a bit too evenly loud and compressed. It is important to make clear that even when the sounds are all pushed forward and up they remain very detailed and well separated in the soundstage. The soundstage is not overly large but a good DAC such as my trusty Chord Mojo definitely sweetens the space. On Grimes’ track “Realiti,” I noticed a subtle bass panned hard left that I’d never picked up before under the wash of heavy reverb and delayed percussion elements. The Sine also comes packaged with an Audeze exclusive Cipher cable that provides a Lightning connection to Apple iDevices. This Cipher cable contains an inbuilt amp/DAC combo that bypasses the iPhone’s internals to directly stream 24-bit audio to your headphones. The Cipher device can also be used to make and receive calls. I tested the DAC with an iPhone 6 while listening to the Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” (Live). Before the DAC the guitar was completely dominating the track. With the Cipher doing the processing work, the vocals became much more present and the drum kit more driving. The only trade off was the sound became slightly colder. The Cipher amp is very strong so keep in mind that even at the lowest volume setting whatever you are listening to may be audible to people around you in quiet environments.
The Audeze is great for on the go and given the inclusion of the Cipher cable is seemingly a perfect match for use with mobile devices. The comfort is good for an on ear headphone, but the thinness of the headband did start to pressure the top of my head after a listening session of 2 hours. However, the high levels of power, detail, and clarity the Audeze Sine provides is great for the price. If you have not tried planar magnetics before I would highly recommend this as a starting point.