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Audio lovers who know of Audeze know that it means serious business in the headphone industry. The company builds some of the highest-end headsets out there, that use top-notch planar magnetic drivers. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean a whole lot to many people, because those headphones are at unreachable prices. Many of us are happy with lower-end audio like the V-MODA ZN. For those who prefer over-ear headphones, check our list of the best over-ear headphones.
Times are a-changing, though, and Audeze has just expanded its portfolio into the on-ear segment, with the new SINE series. The SINE still uses Audeze’s killer planar magnetic technology, but the best part is the more reasonable price tag – $499. Sure, it’s still relatively pricey, but you should expect stellar quality. If you want a free pair of headphones, take a look at our Urbanears Tanto headphones review. Let’s find out the scoop in our Audeze SINE On-Ear Review.
Related: You may also check other headphones in our Audeze El 8 Open Back Over-Ear Headphone review.
Price: $538 on Amazon
Model: Audeze SINE On-Ear
WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Audiophile-grade sound quality in a solidly built and travel-friendly package.
Summary: The SINE takes Audeze’s construction prowess and advanced planar magnetic technology into the on-ear headphone segment, and iPhone users can enjoy superior audio through a Lightning-compatible cable that has an in-line DAC built-in. If you want less expensive headphones, check out our V-MODA crossfade M-80 review instead.
What We Liked
What We Didn’t
Related: We also recommend the Beats By Dre Mixr On-Ear Headphones review
The design of the SINE On-Ears is fairly unassuming. But it’s a different story when you pick them up. The build screams quality from every angle.
Its metal framework gives off a sturdy feel and satisfying heft. The headband and the ear cups are wrapped in premium leather, with fancy stitching and an eye-catching sheen. All the elements in the build are tightly and impeccably constructed and cohesive in Audeze’s stealthy styling.
The ear cups have an interesting asymmetrical, angled shape. Audeze did this so that it more closely matches the shape of your ear. The SINE is an on-ear headphone (the earpads rest on top of the ear), so it makes sense for the earpad cushions to follow the ear contour. Speaking of the cushions, they’re a super soft and squishy material (foam-like) and leather-wrapped.
A nice feature is that the ear cups can rotate flat, either way. The headband doesn’t have hinges to collapse in size, but at least you can slim the headphone down when you take them on the go. The SINE’s packaging includes a velvety carrying pouch.
Another considerate incorporation is detachable cables, which are somewhat similar to the Bowers and Wilkins P3 mobile HI-FI headphones. Unlike most manufacturers, the SINE’s ear cups each have their own 3.5mm connection.
That makes it friendly with balanced cables, although, you won’t find that in the box. They could be the best wired headphones you could purchase. But you’re in for a surprise if you’re an Apple user. Audeze made a special cable with an in-line DAC (digital-to-analog converter) and lightning connection. This is an awesome feature, so that you can get better sound than your iPhone/iPad provides and not have to carry around a separate DAC unit.
If you’re not an Apple user, unfortunately, you’ll just have to settle with the sound processor in your mobile device. The SINE packaging also includes a standard 3.5mm connection cable. Both of cables are flat and rubbery. They have a nice amount of length (about 46″) and feel very sturdy.
The fit of the SINE is fantastic. They’re probably the comfiest on-ears I’ve used. The earpads and their openings are larger than you usually find, and I think that helps the on-ear ergonomics (and less concentrated pressure on your ear). Audeze also says that more surface area means more air for acoustics, resulting in better performance. But we’ll talk about the sound quality in the next section.
The SINE is not a light headset, at 230 grams. But fortunately, that’s of little consequence. They remain comfortable even with extended use – attributed to adequate cushioning on the headband and a snug fit on the ears. Although, the ear pads aren’t exempt from a little warmth after a while. There’s no getting around that.
On-ear headphones aren’t really what you think of when you picture an ultimate headphone audio experience. Audeze’s expertise is full-on, open-back, hard-to-drive headphones, so the SINE’s existence is quite interesting. The drive behind it was portability. It’s is a lot more travel friendly than Audeze’s other headphones, and its impedance is a measly 20 ohms, which any source can drive.
But is this compromise in vain? I don’t think so. I don’t know how Audeze does it, but the sound is still airy, despite being closed-back and on-ear. I didn’t even know that was possible. However, the soundscape won’t quite match the 3D openness of open-back headphones. It’s definitely a more confined sound in comparison. But the limits that Audeze is pushing are still impressive.
Both the treble and mid-range are equally impressive to my ears, in different ways. I can hear the power of the planar magnetic drivers as the tiniest details are pushed through, such as the ringing from cymbals and the resonance of strings. It makes the music very engaging and realistic. The forwardness/lushness of the mids is also satisfying. Vocals have a great presence and natural tone. Everything about the SINE’s sound is clean and the responses are quick.
A caveat with these headphones is that the bass won’t be pompous. Many people like a strong bass response, but on-ears aren’t the best place for bassheads. However, this isn’t to say that the SINE’s bass is a letdown. It’s certainly well defined and has a punch, but it’s more delicate than bold. Like the rest of the spectrum, the delivery is also super clean.
Audeze set out to make its mark in the portable headphone market and I think it succeeded in showing the industry how it’s done (for on-ear headphones, at least, not over-ear headphones yet). It does come at a pretty hefty price, though. Audiophiles don’t think of on-ears for the best audio experience. But when you put things into perspective, the SINE is an Audeze planar magnetic headphone at half the cost. And it’s smaller and closed-back, so you can take Audeze-quality with you on the go.
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