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Audeze's iSine buds will upgrade your Oculus Rift audio

Engadget Engadget 2/09/2016 James Trew
© Provided by Engadget © Provided by Engadget

When I first saw Audeze's new planar magnetic in-ear headphones my eye was drawn to the slightly goofy design. But, any self respecting audio lover will probably overlook that if the sound is right. And, on first listen, it looks promising. Audeze has been making planar magnetic headphones for a while, but this is the first time it's squeezed the technology into an in-ear headset (it claims, it's the first time by anyone, ever). Why should you care about that? Well, depending who you ask, some will claim that planar drivers are a good mid-ground between regular dynamic drivers, and pricey electrostatic ones. An unexpected bonus, is that Audeze worked with Oculus so they play nice with Rift, if you're looking for a dedicated set for your VR headset.

But first, back to that the hardware itself. By definition, planar magnetic headphones need more space to accommodate the 30mm flat driver. That's why the buds are much bigger than most in-ears. That said, the iSine may be tall, but it's relatively thin on the profile, like a small audio pancake. The part that goes in your ear is a regular bud, and all in, the headphone is light and comfortable enough to wear. If anything, the over-ear hooks are where any wearing issue comes in. Both myself, and one of the staff members at the IFA booth had to fiddle with them for a few seconds to get them set right. But once you're done, it's a comfortable ride.

The audio experience was promising. The usual caveats of testing on a show floor apply, but from the few minutes I had with the iSine, I listened to some Miles Davis, and the plucked guitars of Daylight by Alison Krauss (the company's demo music, not my choice). Krauss' picked strings in particular were crisp, clear and had an nice airy sound I've not really heard with most dynamic driver in-ears. In general, bass tones were subdued, but I didn't get chance to pump any throbbing dance music through them, so we'll wait and see.

Audeze is shipping two versions of the iSine, the difference is in the impedance which will be down to personal preference. There's also the option to choose between a regular 3.5mm connector and one with a lightning adapter -- something which will become much more common now it's almost certain that Apple is axing the headphone jack on the iPhone. Perhaps more interesting is that Audeze also had a demo pair that connect directly to the Oculus Rift. The company had to design a proprietary connector, working with Oculus' own bespoke technology, but you will be able to get an adapter to work with whichever set you buy, so it's a nice bit of bonus functionality if you're a Rift owner.

If you're curious about the iSine, you'll have to wait a month or so until it starts to ship, but for $399 you can pre-order a pair right now if you're already sold on the idea.

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