Review - Audeze iSine LX

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Also available on YouTube in Spanish: Acho Reviews YouTube 


Intro…

The Audeze iSine LX are a set of planar magnetic IEMs/earphones that are not available in Europe (as far as I am aware). When Audeze had a Valentines Day sale back in February, these were purchased by someone I am in contact with in the headphone world. After deciding he didn’t want to keep them, he was kind enough to sell them to me, unopened, at the sale cost price. I am very grateful for this as I don’t think that these would have made it on to my radar if it wasn’t for him.

I am a fan of planar magnetic headphones but I have never had the chance to try out any planar IEMs, until now, so I was excited to see if the same technology in a smaller package is also something I favour. 

I will talk more about sound shortly but before continuing, let me point out that before I received these IEMs, I was led to believe that these need EQ in order to sound good. Now that I have had them in my posession for various months, I am now convinced that they need EQ. Everyone will have their own preferences, so some may not need to EQ these IEMs, but in my case I always use EQ with the LX.


Presentation…

The presentation of the LX is not super exciting but it is different from what we usually receive. Packaged inside a hard plastic see-through case, the IEMs are displayed inside some foam cut outs.

These same foam cutouts are actually part of a holder that the cable wraps around and fits inside the included transport case. The transport case is of very good quality, using a mix of durable material and imitation leather, with magnetic closure. However, the transport case is also huge. It is certainly not something you could carry in a pocket, unless you are wearing cargo pants with very large pockets. 

Another strange thing is that the IEMs come with (two sets of) plastic clips that clip on the IEMs and hold them in place while wearing them. However, the carrying case and its internal tray have not taken these into consideration and you need to remove them from the IEMs in order to store them. Now, the main issues with this are that the clips are quite fragile and the carrying case has open gaps on the side, so it is quite easy for them to break or to fall out and get lost. I am not sure if Audeze sells replacements (they probably do) but this could have been easily avoided by making space for the clips in the case.

Also included are various silicone tips, some ribbed and others smooth. Personally I am not a fan of the included tips and the nozzle of the IEMs is rather large, in fact, it's around the same size as the Dusk or even larger, although we don’t have to deal with the filter issue that we have with the Dusk. In the end, I am using the same Spinfit CP155 tips I use on the Dusk.


Build and aesthetics…

The build of the LX seems to be decent. It is not perfectly finished around the seam between the two parts of the shell but it is only noticeable if you really look for it. For the rest, they seem to be well assembled and although they are plastic, the plastic does seem to be of a decent quality.

As far as aesthetics, I can see these being quite polarizing. They are certainly on the large side, as are all planar magnetic IEMs of this style (such as the Goldplanar or Monoprice), with a shape that reminds me of a fighter out of Star Wars. In my opinion they are not ugly but mine are grey and black. I can see some of the brighter versions (like purple or pink) standing out a lot more.

They are light IEMs though for their size, or at least they feel light to me (I haven’t actually weighed them) but it could be the way they fit and float outside your ears that adds to the sensation of being very light. Personally I find them comfortable and as they are very open, they are a great option for long listening periods at my desk, especially now that summer is here and we are hitting over 40ºC (104ºF) daily.


Sound…

This is a difficult one. Seriously.

There are two ways to address the sound of these IEMs, one is the way that they sound out of the box, which is harsh and, to be completely blunt, pretty bad. It is overly harsh in the wrong places and rather wimpy in the higher mids to lower treble.

The second is by means of adding EQ. To be fair, these IEMs react very well to EQ, even small changes are quite noticeable and it is easy to tailor the sound of these IEMs to one's taste. However, in this case, am I reviewing the IEMs or the EQ?

I guess I need to write something, so I am going to go with what I think of the LX while using EQ as I really can’t bring myself to listen to them without EQ. I have played around with various tunings and after many tweaks, I keep finding myself going back to the “Antcurve”. For those of you that don’t know what “Antcurve” is, it is the preferred target of Antdroid who was kind enough to work out the EQ needed for the LX to meet his preference, a sound signature that I am a big fan of and meets my preferences very closely.

The EQ for this target involves using a 10 band parametric EQ with the following values:


Low Shelf | 100Hz | 3.0dB | 0.707Q

Low Shelf | 200Hz | 4.0dB | 0.707Q

Peak | 400Hz | 1.0dB | 1.000Q

Peak | 850Hz | -2.5dB | 2.000Q

Peak | 1.45kHz | -6.0dB | 2.000Q

Peak | 2.50kHz | 2.5dB | 1.000Q

Peak | 3.46kHZ | -4.0dB | 5.000Q

Peak | 3.50kHz | 10dB | 1.000Q

Peak | 5.40kHz | 3.5dB | 5.000Q

Peak | 10.00kHz | -3.0dB | 2.000Q


As you can see, there is a lot of EQ going on there, mainly to fix the issues I mentioned above but also to increase the bass a little, which is lacking quite a bit out of the box.

Audeze also offer a VST that can be used in any DAW or music player that accepts VTS plugins, called Reveal. This plugin does a decent job of fixing the issues also, but the EQ by Antdroid just meets my taste a lot better. In fact, if you are an iPhone user, Audeze sells the “Cypher Cable” which basically has the Reveal adjustments built into the cable, making it sound much better and meaning you can use the LX with your phone without the need for EQ.

As I am an Android user, I use the PEQ inside UAPP, however, to be honest, I really don’t find myself using the LX much on the go, I use them more at my desk via Foobar.

So, I have spoken about EQ but not really entered into the sound that much.

Well, applying the EQ curve I just shared, these IEMs have a sound signature that is very close to my preferences. There is a slight boost in the low end, avoiding any bleed into the mids. The mids are quite neutral and the higher ranges are boosted just enough for me to find them clear and present, without any noticeable roll off in the high treble ranges (there is a little but not enough for me to complain about).

So that leaves things that are not necessarily the sound signature, such as space, dynamics, speed, etc.

In the case of stage width and image placement, the LX are very good IEMs. In fact, they are the most open sounding and widest soundstage I have heard on IEMs. This is to be expected as they are totally open back and actually sit quite a way away from the ear due to the design. The image placement is also good. It is not enough to be considered excellent but it is certainly way above the average of IEMs I have heard. I don’t find it to be on a level with the Dusk for example, however, the extra space and openness gives the sensation that instruments have more space between them.

As far as speed and dynamics, this is a planar, it does a good job. It is not on a par with good over ear planars but is certainly good enough to be impressive. Listening to fast moving tracks, including some speed metal, I didn’t get the sensation that anything was being blurred, all the notes and drum rhythms were presented in a way that allows me to appreciate the nuances of them.


Conclusion…

My apologies if this review is not quite as detailed in the sound section as it should be but I really feel that the Audeze iSine LX can be EQ’d to the preferred sound signature of everyone, obviously within reason. Even with an extreme bass boost, they still held together well, not really showing signs of any stress until I boosted them to +12dB at 50Hz and 100Hz. Even so, I wouldn’t suggest pushing the bass that far. In fact, if you are a bass head looking for plenty of thumping bass, I wouldn’t suggest the LX at all, I would look at other models with DD bass drivers.

My conclusion is that there are two ways to look at this, the first being at the price I paid which was around 70€ if I remember correctly (due to the special sale). In this case, if you are willing to EQ them, then I would say that they are something worth having in a collection although I can’t see them being my only IEM. If you are not willing to EQ, just skip them, even at 70€.

If we are talking about purchasing them at retail price, around 200€ from Audeze, then I would just say skip them completely, whether you are willing to EQ or not.

Obviously all of this is my personal opinion, I am sure that there are many people that are very happy with these IEMs even at full retail price, or even without using EQ, as always, I can only give my opinion and each person can only decide for themselves what they like.

SenyorC