I’ve always been an on-ear headphone guy before I moved onto in ear monitors and never have I experienced such sound from an on-ear design. In most cases, on-ear designs suffer from sonic imperfections due to the overall design. Nevertheless, I do not want to spoil anything in the introduction but this headphone was hard to call it an on-ear regarding its performance.
From their website:
Audeze’s origins go back to 2008 when founders Sankar Thiagasamudram and Alexander Rosson met engineer Pete Uka who developed specialized flexible circuit materials for NASA. They quickly realized the material might be perfect for headphones. That’s when Dragoslav Colich, who has 30+ years’ experience in designing planar drivers, joined the team as CTO to create the LCD-1 headphone.
Then we created the legendary, award-winning LCD-2 and LCD-3 headphones, and the higher-efficiency LCD-X and XC models. More recently, we made planar magnetic technology accessible to a wider audience with the EL-8 and SINE series headphones. Audeze turned to their strategic partner Designworks, a BMW Group Subsidiary, for the cutting-edge industrial design for the new headphones as well as the Deckard DAC/Amplifier.
Audeze feature proprietary planar magnetic designs with extremely thin-film driver materials and powerful custom magnets. Planars overcome many limitations inherent in typical cone drivers; our lightweight diaphragms are, for example, faster and more responsive than heavier moving-coil or dome drivers. Planar magnetic diaphragm also have a voice-coil circuit spread across the diaphragm surface. The diaphragm’s voice-coil circuit interacts with the magnetic field to produce an electromagnetic force that moves the diaphragm back and forth creating the sound you hear when energized by an audio signal.
This review unit was lent to me by audio excellence, for a review. Nevertheless, my review will contain no bias
Style On-ear, closed-back
Transducer type Planar magnetic
Magnetic structure Single-sided Fluxor
Magnet type Neodymium
Diaphragm type Uniforce
Transducer size 80 x 70mm
Maximum power handling 6W
Maximum SPL >120dB
Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
Total harmonic distortion <1% full spectrum @ 100dB
Impedance 20 ohms
Optimal power requirement 500mW – 1W
THE BUILD QUALITY
Starting from the headband to the cups, all I could see was either Leather or hard metal. Audeze coordinated with the BMW subsidiary to create this beautiful masterpiece. Hearing “bmw” instantly increased my build expectations for this headphone and that was not very good for this headphone because I already had high enough expectations for an on-ear design at this price range. If one little thing bothered me, I would have been unhappy with this expensive little gear…
Nevertheless, it was impossible to find any imperfections as the cups were beautifully designed in the shape of normal human ears with thick leather and the pad were plush memory foam that was comfortable enough to fall asleep with. The headbands were also memory foam inserted leather strap that was plush on top of your head. Considering that this headphone is no “light” headphone by any means, weighing 300g, the pressure on the head was evenly distributed enough for long lasting comfort and even thinking “these are incredibly light” until you took them off your head and feel the actual weight on your hands.
Negatives? (could be a negative or maybe I am just picky)
The cable and connector was the only problem I had. It just did not suite my personal taste and made me laugh because just why….. why Audeze? They decided to go with an inverted 45 degrees angled 3.5mm connectors that lock onto the headphone without a locking mechanism. But I cannot hate on it completely, as they did come up with a locking mechanism without having a legit something to be locking the cables down. It is quite an ingenious idea if you see it that way. But if you look at the fact that you will not be able to get these cables anywhere else other than from audeze and nowhere else in about few years when it is discontinued…. Other than that, the fettuccini looking cables did not meet my “personal taste” because it was hard to grab and go but that’s just me. You also can get the lighting cable for your iphone for extra dollars and get extra feature I will talk about in the next section.
The drivers used are planar magnetic drivers and to me, this is a plus because other than the fact that Audeze has great experience tuning these types of drivers, these types of drivers can make a more impactful sound in a closed housing like this. Isolation is also very good due to the overall build.
Included is also their latest technology, the “fazor,” which is a wave guide to increase the clarity and lower distortion.
Going with the trend you can also get the lighting cable for your iphone which comes with an attached dongle type D/A converter. It also can be used with an app from your iphone to store the EQ setting. For those of you that do not know what EQ is, it is basically the capability to boost or lower the frequency levels to your taste. For example, you can increase the bass and roll off the highs if that is what you prefer. Sound all very complex, right? it is as easy as scrolling up and down and finding out if you like the sound coming out of your headphones.
Lower Frequencies: Not the most bass you would experience. I would say it is natural. I cannot even say it is neutral because the bass just really kicks and thumps on tracks that has bass. For example, on Tupac’s Ambitious az a Ridah, the drums felt alive, kicking into my skulls. And going with the EQ recommended by much respected Tyll from inner fidelity, it really made me dance. But I will say this, these do not have sub-bass to please anyone looking for that “boom boom.”
Mid Frequencies: Guitars sound real and natural. Vocals sound correct but not euphoric like the HD650s or anything like that. And before all the audiophiles go wild saying “you can’t compare closed to open back headphone,” I am not comparing these two headphones in any way but just merely pointing out the vocals will sound recessed if you are coming from the HD650s. But in no way, is the mid-range “wrong.” These sounds just incredibly correct. In fact, listening to these for the review and going back to my HD650s for my own personal listening, I found the HD650s muddied. Before the Sennheiser fan boys go crazy, let me tell you I am not saying the HD650s are muddy in any way, just that these are extremely clear sounding and I really enjoyed every single track of Jason mraz and good old John Denver.
High Frequencies: I think this is where you can really tell these are high end headphones and experience what you paid for. The highs are sparkly and just spicy hot enough to give you that tingly feeling. However, I did not find them sibilant in any way, however, I can see that it may be fatiguing for some individuals in long listening session. Not because it is sibilant but because it is very detailed for an on-ear design.
Soundstage/imaging: the sound stage is limited but still adequate for an on-ear headphone. The imaging is on point and right on. right on baby…
If you are looking for the best On-ear for home & portable use. Here it is. Best on-ear headphone 2017. Period. Nothing else to say…