Sunday, October 27, 2019

Audeze iSine20 Review: Tuned "Beha" in the world of headphones

Audeze iSine20 Review: Tuned "Beha" in the world of headphones

When it comes to headphones Audeze from the line iSine, associations with BMW cars are inevitable, because the look of these unusual planar-magnetic IEM was created by the designers of the Bavarian automaker. We already mentioned this in the iSine10 review, but now we have much more expensive iSine20. How do they differ, except for a spectacular bronze color? Maybe the sound?

Specifications Audeze iSine20

Type: semi-open channelDrivers: planar-magnetic, 30 mmFrequency range: 10 - 50,000 HzSensitivity: 112 dB / mWMaximum input power: 3 WMaximum sound pressure (SPL):> 120 dBTotal harmonic distortion: <0.1% @ 100 dBImpedance: 24 ohmsCables (removable with two-pin connectors):main analog (1.5 m) with a 3.5 mm input connectorDigital Cipher with Lightning input connector, with DAC, amplifier, microphone and control panel + DSP processorCipher cable power consumption: 50 mWWeight: 22 g

Packing and packaging

Exactly the same as the model iSine10 - in vain, hoping that the "tuning" involves spectacular spoilers, chrome lining and other decorations, with which car manufacturers turn budget cars into premium ones. The only external difference is the golden background of the model name on the box.

Headphones rest in a foam rubber bed in a plastic frame that is removed from the packaging and serves as a cable reel. In essence, it is a kind of “exoskeleton” that protects devices during transportation.

It fits exactly the size of the case from nylon and artificial leather and easily fits there if you pull out the accessories: two cables (a regular one with a 3.5mm connector and a digital Cipher with an electronic unit and a Lightning connector), a set of silicone tips, two kinds of fixing hooks ”, A cleaning tool, a clothespin for the cable, a certificate of authenticity card and a beautiful black USB flash drive with a user manual. The clasp of the case is magnetic, and he himself is attracted to his place in the box. Explicit cravings towards each other are also shown by the emitter bodies.

By the way, the headphones are available in two versions: cheaper (with one standard cable) and more expensive (with two, as in the review). This is important because it eloquently characterizes the policy of Audeze: do not impose anything on anyone and leave freedom of choice.


Almost the same as the iSine 10 model: a planar-magnetic driver (30 mm) with an Ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragm, a Fluxor magnetic system, which uses powerful elements from neodymium N50, and a phase correction system FAZOR. Sounds impressive.

Note the long waveguides in combination with a half-open structure. They allow you to get a comfortable fit, since the large emitters remain outside, they do not need to be pushed deeper into the ears. It is remarkable that the recoil level on the bass is almost independent of the caliber of the nozzles. So, you can install the smallest ones, which will not put pressure on the ear canal at all, and fix the headphones with complete ear hooks or hooks, or take larger nozzles (then additional fixing tools will not be needed). But the recoil on the bass in both cases will not suffer.

Carefully comparing the technical characteristics of the models, we see two differences: the iSine 20 model has higher impedance (24 Ohms versus 16 Ohms) and sensitivity is increased by 2 dB (up to 112 dB). The changes are related to the design of the flat voice coil applied to the diaphragm: it has more turns than the iSine10, due to which the emf and driver sensitivity increase. Drawing an analogy with the world of cars, we can say that the “engine” of such a model is forced (which does not affect the reliability and resource). And this was done not to make the headphones play louder, but to increase the resolution, especially at the edges of the range. And also to reduce distortion: they are measured at a certain supplied power, respectively, a more sensitive model will develop the required sound pressure with less input power and less distortion. Although the technical characteristics of the two models have the same values.

In general, a low level of nonlinear distortion is one of the most important advantages of the planar-magnetic technology. In the iSine family, it is unusually small even for headphones of this type — less than 0.1% with a power input of 100 mW. To make it clear how much this is, we recall that for many Hi-Fi players it does not exceed 50-70 mW at a load of 16 ohms or 40 mW at 32 ohms. So, in reality, you can hardly get even this 0.1%. Guess why most headphone manufacturers do not indicate such an important parameter? Because it can reach a level of a few percent, so why scare people?

Cipher digital cable is intended solely for use with Apple smartphones, tablets and music players. His "trick" is not only that it connects to the L connectorsightning, that is, can be used with devices that do not have a 3.5-millimeter analog output, but the fact that the electronic module built into it (combined with the control panel) contains a DAC and amplifier of a higher class than those used Apple in devices with a 3.5mm jack. Moreover, it has a DSP with a ten-band equalizer and memory for two presets - you can adjust the sound to your taste.

The ability to adjust the frequency balance is not deprived of and users of Android-smartphones - they can use their regular equalizers. The sound quality will not be spoiled, it is provided by a combination of high sensitivity and extremely low level of own distortion. Headphones are very responsive to the action of the equalizer, and this applies to any sources - and iOS, and Android.


There were two sources. The first is the LG V10 (Hi-Fi DAC on the ESS Sabre32 ES9018KM2 chip and the Saber 9602 headphone amplifier), the second is the iPod Touch 6G. The music is as varied as always: chamber and symphonic classics, all types of jazz, except boring, some dance electronics and a lot of rock, mostly heavy and progressive. They also decided to shake the old one and poured The Urve's Urban Myths album on both sources, and from fresh one - the recently released Changes album by young jazz singer Arianna Neikrug.

And since it is necessary not only to get an idea of ​​the Audeze iSine20 headphones, but also to understand how great their advantages are over the more affordable iSine10 model, we start listening from it.

We listen to iPod with cable Cipher and usual, and also Android-smartphone by analogy. A sound “handwriting” of planar-magnetic headphones is immediately recognized: an unusually clear, balanced and realistic sound. A similar sound is found in very expensive multi-driver reinforcement headphones. Only a more airy and “light” one, and the fusion of the sound is much better - after all, it is hardly possible to achieve the perfect pairing of several radiators. Approaching - yes, it is possible, but to achieve - no. That is why sound gourmets prefer acoustics with a single broadband speaker and no crossovers - the ideal of fusion and natural sound. Here it is just implemented in headphones Audeze.

The scale and width of the sound stage are amazing - almost like in full-size models. Most dynamic and reinforcing IEMs are not exactly capable of this. Something similar can be heard only with very expensive 12-driver valves, but they are huge, heavy and several times more expensive than iSine20.

Even with an analog connection, the iPod sounds very good, but with a digital cable, Cipher is noticeably cleaner, more harmonious, more full and vibrant. A steep digital cable allows you to get an unprecedentedly high sound quality from the “apple” technology, but with a serious dedicated DAC and a powerful amplifier, it still can't: the smart music sounds denser, more realistic and more convincing. The effect of the equalizer is approximately the same here and there: it is easy to get the very character of the sound that you want to receive. And even with the maximum level of correction (+/- 12 dB for the iPod and +/- 10 dB for the LG V10) there are no unpleasant phenomena.

Now go to iSine20. At first it seems that the character of the sound has not changed. They play a little louder, but the difference is not very large. But soon you start to notice the nuances to which you did not pay attention to the iSine10, and in all parts of the range: more bass notes, a clearer melody of a bass guitar or double bass, clearer percussion. By itself, this additional information is of interest only to musicians, but the degree of sound realism increases, the effect of presence increases, the music begins to “pick up” not childly. Speaking of dry engineering language, the resolution of the system has increased. However, headphones are extremely delicate: they do not draw and do not emphasize the shortcomings of the recording, reproducing not sounds, but music. And it turns out that the “dirt” in some albums was not at all incorporated into them initially - it turns out that it was brought in by the headphones on which we listened to music before.

Genre addictions headphones do not show, they play any music equally well. Due to the very high overload capacity (after all, 3 W of maximum applied power - a very large margin) they will be able to listen to loud music - as far as eardrums are able to withstand. "Heavy" goes very close to how it sounds at concerts from a good place in the auditorium (let's open the secret: the best place is near the console). Well, except that you do not feel the bass roll with your whole body. But if you figure out how to connect the subwoofer to a mobile source, you can fix it. With a stationary system to crank is easy. Never listened to headphones with a subwoofer? Try it, be pleasantly surprised.

Lyrical digression: the dangers of bad habits

Our subjective perception of sound strongly depends on the sound "standard". It is formedI have different people in different ways and changes over time. For those who regularly go to live concerts (classical or fatal - it does not matter), it is completely different than those who have listened to music all their lives on TV, on cheap computer speakers or in penny headphones. Our auditory life experience turns into a habit, often into a bad one. People who are accustomed to Chinese headphones with a V-shaped characteristic (to put it simply, with raised bottoms and tops and a failed middle) may not like high-end models with a smoother and more properly balanced frequency. This is most often due to inconsistencies in the reviews of the same models.

What is our benchmark? First of all, a live concert sound, as well as the sound of serious recording studios. And demo halls at salons selling high-end equipment, where there is an opportunity to listen to the equipment of the highest class. They work, by the way, not only in Moscow, but in all major cities.


I don’t want to be too pathetic, but Audeze’s in-channel headphones opened up a new era in personal audio. Yes, because of their open construction, they are not very suitable for use in transport or on noisy streets, they need peace and quiet. But they work great with portable sound sources, which means that at home they give greater freedom of movement.

Is the gain to the sensitivity just 2 dB for the iSine20 model worth the price increase compared to the iSine10? It’s worth it, because it’s not the formal change that is important, but the really better sound - more accurate and realistic reproduction, more volume and a wider scene.


  • unusually comfortable fit;
  • frequency balance does not depend on the caliber nozzles;
  • "Thoroughbred" and at the same time expressive sound;
  • cable Audeze Cipher for Apple technology.


  • poor sound insulation.

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