It’s clear that the headphone market won’t be seeing any shortage of earbuds in the foreseeable future. That being said, an oversaturated market is far from a bad thing; in fact, it paves a road for change. In this case it seems the iSine10 by Audeze are an obscure hint that change might be coming to the earbud market sooner than you think. Outshining a number of their competitors in 2017, these in-ear monitors sound amazing, while looking sharp, and maybe even a little alien tech-y. In fact, the technology itself is relatively new. Behind the iSine10’s 30mm diaphragm of a Tai Fighter-esque shield hides Audeze’s secret weapon — a downsized planar magnetic driver.
Planar magnetic headphones use the magnetic field around a conductor to drive their diaphragm, and the diaphragm of a planar magnetic speaker is a thin sheet of flexible film. The iSine10 uses an even more compact version of this technology — about the size of a walnut, to deliver a delightfully warm sound that’s a bit unique in its own right (more on that later). Power enhancing Fluxor Magnets that nearly increase the magnetic driving force, and Uniforce voice-coil technology deliver a sweet sound through powerhouse drivers for a fast response time. The distortion (THD) is less than 0.1% overall even at high volumes, and the iSine10 manages to do it all while being incredibly sturdy, and surprisingly light weight.
Audeze is a boutique audiophile brand, and has created some of the best planar magnetic headphones on the market. Having taken innovative strides to shrink their technology down to a palm sized powerhouse is more remarkable that it seems. That alone should be all it takes to send ripples throughout the market. However, someone in R & D decided to ask the question: “Why stop there”? So rejoice iPhone 7 users, innovation falls into your lap too, because someone finally thought about your pesky headphone adapter problem. The iSine10’s becomes the first earbuds to sport the only 24 bit lighting cable on the market; in other words, it’s an iPhone compatible cable, no adapter needed. It’s flat shape is also designed for longevity, and for both android and is as design-conscious as they come.
It has been stated that innovation is the name of the game, and the iSine10 along with its sister earbuds create a niche space in the headphone market. Although they are ultimately still earbuds, the iSine10 and similar models are the only existing hybrids of their kind, and therefore should be judged accordingly. Going back to sound; when it comes to planar magnetic drivers, I find myself looking back to the HE-400‘s for a comparable reminder. The result of reminiscing leaves me with what I imagine to be the dissonance most audiophiles feel when comparing headphones to earbuds. The lack of headphone isolation, makes for a difference in sound that almost feels like a phantom limb, however the iSine10’s design finds a way to rectify that simply with it’s shape. The aforementioned shield like exterior (perhaps consciously) invokes a feeling of slight isolation, and being such an oddity of an earbud, has lessened the gap, and therefore choice. Anyone who is dead set on portability, but love the rich isolated sound of headphones, might want to consider these as their alternative middle ground.