Normally, when you see the name Audeze, you expect stellar sound and a price tag in the thousands. However, with the new Sine headphones, the company has managed to bring the price down to a more attainable $449 ($499 with the Cipher Lightning Cable).
Despite this lower cost, the Sine headphones are the first cans to feature planar magnetic drivers, creating big, spacious sound that belies the headphones' relatively compact size. As if that weren't enough, the Sine boasts a leather and metal design that screams luxury. It's a pair of headphones that audiophiles with champagne tastes and sparkling-wine budgets should definitely give a listen to.
A note to designers: Expensive doesn't have to mean gaudy — just take a long, admiring look at the Sine. I was delighted by the self-assured simplicity that Audeze employed with the design.
With the exception of the tangle-free cord, the entire headset is made from black aluminum and leather. I'm particularly fond of the stitching prominently displayed on the top of the band.
The metal sliders extend from within the headband with a silent precision, showing off the pivoting yoke that allows the cans to lie flat. The arms of the yoke wrap gently around the uniquely shaped ear cups. You'll find a 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom of each cup.
Rounding out the exterior is a pair of pillowy-soft, black-leather ear cups accented by a thin, black cloth with the Sine emblem in the center.
I wore the Sine for about three weeks, and it seemed to get more comfortable every day. The padding isn't overstuffed and gently cradles the ear through the plush leather cover. I wore the headphones during a subway trip from East Harlem to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, giving me approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes of comfort.
But, at 8.1 ounces, the Sine can get a bit weighty over time, especially compared to the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones, which weigh a barely-there 5.6 ounces.
If Apple has its way, we'll soon be bidding a fond adieu to the traditional jack in favor of a Lightning port. In preparation for this brave new world, Audeze includes a Cipher Lightning cable if you spring for the $499 configuration. Apple-approved, the cable acts as an integrated digital-to-analog converter (DAC), allowing for even better audio quality. However, a mere cable can't replace a discrete headphone amp, so keep that in mind. The Cipher cable also has an integrated microphone, so you can make calls or interact with Siri.
Fun with Magnets
It would have been easy for Audeze to use the industry-standard neodymium drivers to power the Sine. But that's just not the company's style. The headphones feature several of Audeze's proprietary technologies with 80 x 70-millimeter planar magnetic drivers.
Audeze's Fluxor magnetic tech doubles the amount of magnetic flux density in neodymium magnetic circuits. In layman's terms, that means it makes for lighter inner components that work better with mobile devices.
The Uniforce diaphragm captures variations in the magnetic field within the magnetic gaps using variable trace widths in the voice coil. From there, the variations are equalized, creating a uniform force that translates into higher-resolution sound with less distortion.
Rounding out the proprietary features is Fazor technology, which uses special acoustic elements positioned on the sides of the magnetic structure. The result is greater transparency, which leads to better highs with lower distortion. These features are impressive on their own, but they work together to provide cleaner audio with crisper detail.
While the Sine's planar magnetic drivers and proprietary technologies contribute to the bulk of the sound quality, the headphones' closed-back design is also a big deal. Typically, planar magnetic cans are found only in open-back headphones, which deliver a more airy performance but also allow ambient noise to seep in. With the Sine headphones, you retain most of that spacious, airy soundscape, without worrying about unwanted distractions sullying the experience.
Listening with the Sine headphones is an enlightening experience. The headphones consistently delivered crystal-clear highs and mids with strong bass that rarely bottomed out. The cans' overall transparency makes them pretty genre-agnostic. Make sure you're listening to high-quality MP3s, though, as the headphones will exacerbate every flaw on a poorly recorded track.
However, the Sine headphones were at their best when I was listening to R&B, jazz or classical. Prince's unforgettable falsetto titillated my ears, buoyed by the plinking of individual guitar strings and accentuated by the brass of the cymbals on "When Doves Cry." When I listened to the same track using my Sennheiser Momentum headphones, the overall soundscape was more condensed, creating a more confined sound.
When I switched to Nina Simone's "I Put a Spell on You," the Sine greeted me with swelling strings, which gave way to a warm piano, deep bass and the artist's reproachful alto. On the Momentum, the audio sounded somewhat distant, and the details were a hair duller.
The Sine can rock, too, but guitars sometimes sound a bit harsh, as I discovered on Nine Inch Nails' "Closer" and Red Sun Rising's "Emotionless." The Momentum headphones delivered a brighter, more even result.
As a premier high-end audio brand, Audeze could have charged much more for the effortlessly stylish Sine headphones. But these cans sell for a mere $449, despite being the first to pack planar magnetic drivers in a closed-back design, delivering big, spacious audio with little distortion. And with the Cipher cable, which connects via Lightning port, the Sine also adds a bit of potential future-proofing for iPhone owners.
If you're looking for great audio on a budget, consider the Sennheiser Momentum On-Ear headphones, which start at $106. Those cans come in a variety of colors, are remarkably lightweight and ship with an inline remote. However, audiophiles looking for high-end sound and a design that's as luxurious as it is comfortable should invest in the Audeze Sine.