The Unique Audeze iSine 10: a mind blowing, peaky, blunder...
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Hi all! Welcome back to the Neighborhood.
Today we’re looking at something that’s pretty unique. The iSine 10 for Audeze. This is an open-backed, planar, IEM that was sent into the channel by a supporter of the channel. Thanks to the Neighborhood for believing in the channel, and for sending in items for review!
If You’d like to send something into the channel for review. You can email me. My email can be found on the about section of the YouTube channel or from links on the blog.
But with regard to the iSine 10’s; these are a pretty unique item, they’ve always interested me, and they end up offering a really unique sound.
So, without further ado, let’s get InToit!
So, by all accounts, the the iSine 10 was really developed for use with an iPhone, and they also make an additional cable that specifically E.Q.’s this device for use with iPhones and other Apple devices. This cable is called the Cipher Cable, but, unfortunately, this cable does not work with Android devices, so all of my commentary and sound descriptions will be in reference to the iSine 10’s powered off phone, portable, and desktop amplification- as I was not provided with a Cipher Cable.
This is too bad, as I kind of think I’m only getting part of the picture with these. A rumor exists that the sound engineer who tuned these claimed that the iSine 10’s were relatively unlistenable without their E.Q. cable, and I kind of have to agree, although we’ll get to specifics on that later on when we pick up with the sound. Other variants of these in-ear-planars by Audeze, including the LCDi3, iSine 20, and iSine LX all came with the Cipher cable per Audeze’s website, so it seems like Audeze got the message that the Cipher cable might be necessary, at least eventually. Given this, I had to find a work around, but more on that towards the end.
I’m ultimately uncertain if you can use alternative, after-market, 2-pin cables with the iSine 10 (and my guess is that you can’t), but for the purposes of this review, I stuck to using the unbalanced stock cable, which consisted of a flat, plastic, rubber construction, which was just as long as any other IEM cable, but, with these, somehow I felt it was still somewhat too short in this instance.
Regarding the rest of the build. They look like Spiderman’s web floating in each of your ears. Or something from a Star Wars movie or Star Trek tale featuring the Borg. Other than the internal planar dynamic diaphragm and a mesh screen, these appear to be mostly constructed of plastic; but the plastic also appears to be of a relative high-quality.
These mount in your ears either using internal rubberized wings or plastic ear hooks that surround your ear like an over-ear cable. I had no trouble with the rubberized wings, and ultimately, preferred that method, so I pretty much stuck with that. One thing to note, is that, by all accounts online, the plastic ear-hooks appear to be less durable compared to the rubberized wings, so if that is your preferred method, you might just want to take extra care. But Audeze appears to have included plenty to spares in the package, and the ear-hooks also appear relatively easy to replace if need be.
They also came with a variety of tips, some of which are smooth rubber and others of which have ridges. My guess is that the ridged tips are supposed to hold the nozzle in your ear canal better, but I discerned no difference in terms of this.
Speaking of the nozzle, the nozzle that these tips go on is also pretty large; however, and these require that you insert them pretty deeply to seal and stand up appropriately in one’s ears. When inserted properly, these things had a bit of suction to them- so much so that I imagined they might suck out some earwax. My wife has smaller ears, and we had a hard time getting the iSine 10’s to feel comfortable for her, even with the smallest tips. So, if you have little ears, these may be hard to use for you.
Like the design approach by Audeze here, the sound that the iSine10 produces is also unique. In some ways these are mind-blowing, while in other ways they are barely tolerable. So, I think for this review, we’re going to discuss the sound of the iSine 10’s in terms of the “good,” vs. the “bad.”
With regard to the good, detail and resolution are very respectable, and the soundstage is excellent with amazing instrument separation, distinction, and outstanding dimensionality to the sound. When using iSine 10’s on particular tracks, I felt like I was in a really good 4D movie theatre at times, with sounds occurring all around me.
Transients are also other-worldly. These almost sound like an open-backed, over-ear. Vocals almost have an ethereal quality to them, but their presentation was remarkably more intimate than the rest of the presentation. At times, vocals were immense in their scope or almost haunting in their character- especially on movie soundtracks. With respect to other strengths, I noted that the bass is fairly linear, with decent bass extension and impact to it, but there is also not an abundance of sub-bass representation here. It is also apparent that the treble is super well extended as well.
But in terms of the bad, this treble extension came with a cost, as the iSine 10’s often came across as either sharp, or, at the very least, bordering on it. Upper mids were also pretty forward, and tended to be very shouty at times. So much so, that I could only tolerate listening to these for a few tracks at time. Timbre was also bright, thin, and somewhat artificial in nature. At times, tones were simply harsh and unnatural sounding. And despite the fact that I praised the imaging for its instrument distinction and separation, its precision with regard to placement was wildly inaccurate. So these are fun, but precise.
I also found that the iSine 10’s thirsted for power, and power handling and amplifier tones ultimately did affect the sound greatly. With regard to amplifier matching, I enjoyed these the most on the Gold Note DS-10 for desktop use, and the Centrance DACport HD for portable enjoyment. Both the current and slight warmth from these amplifiers furnished the iSine 10’s with thicker and more natural sounding sonics overall.
Nevertheless, these are a portable device, that require to much power to reasonably be driven portably for long periods of time. And most offensively, the frequency response is also beyond what I would consider to be super peaky. So much so, that I had to employ an EQ program called Wavelet to apply the Cipher cable E.Q. to listen to the iSine 10’s for a sustained period of time. With this E.Q. applied, the iSine 10’s became significantly less shouty and aggressive, but may have sacrificed some resolution and stage to achieve this outcome.
In summary, the Audeze iSine 10 is a unique experience that is very cool to listen too. I ultimately think that everyone should get an opportunity to hear these at least once, but I cannot recommend these without the use of a Cipher Cable or the Cipher Cable E.Q. due to their abhorrently peaky and overly assertive frequency response. As these have been out for a number of years now, you can now find B-stock variants that potentially come with the Cipher Cable on Adorama Camera for approximately $150 USD. Despite this attractive price, I’m probably still not going to bite on a set for myself.
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