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In the last few years there has been much excitement and hype around planar magnetic transducers, particularly in headphones. Audeze, a company out of California, are the industry leaders when it comes to planar magnetic headphones. More specifically, the Audeze SINE Series Headphones. Audeze have developed a similar technology for NASA, so it’s safe to assume they know what they’re doing!
In 2017 the Audeze SINE won the prestigious, internationally recognized Red Dot Award for Product Design. The statement from the jury read:
“The materials, workmanship and technical equipment of these headphones guarantee a unique tonal and tactile experience.”
Unlike most modern headphones, which are designed to be more of a fashion accessory, the Audeze SINE is minimalist and unassuming. If you saw someone wearing a pair of Audeze SINE in public you might assume they’re just average headphones. You’d be VERY wrong!
The Audeze SINE Series consists of the SINE and SINE DX. The difference between the two models is the SINE DX is open back while the SINE is a closed back headphone. Both SINE models are on-ear headphones meaning they fit over the ears as opposed to in the ears.
SINE On-Ear Headphone
- Style: On-ear, closed-back
- Frequency Response: 10Hz to 50kHz
- Speaker Type: Planar magnetic
- Sensitivity: 97dB (at Drum Reference Point)
SINE DX On-Ear Open-Back Headphone
- Style: On-ear, open-back
- Frequency Response: 10Hz to 50kHz
- Speaker Type: Planar magnetic
- Sensitivity: 102 dB (at Drum Reference Point)
Open-Back vs Closed-Back Headphones – What’s The Difference?
Most on-ear headphones are closed-back. Audiophiles and headphone geeks will tell you closed-back headphones change the sound delivered from the transducer inside the headphone cup. Sound reflects off the closed-back headphone cup, coloring the sound you hear while the open-back allows sound to travel freely and thus the audio you hear is considered a “truer” frequency pattern. For most of us humans, this is completely irrelevant and you’ll be hard pressed to hear the difference between the SINE and SINE DX.
Personally, I don’t like open-back headphones because they end up with dust and other debris inside the back of the headphone. As a sound engineer, I’ve only ever owned closed-back and I’ve rarely come across other sound engineers who use open-back. The difference will be only noticeable in a quiet room doing an A/B test between the two headphones. For general use, barely noticeable. The SINE DX are $100 more, so there is also the price factor to consider.
What Are Planar Magnetic Headphones?
The SINE Series headphones use a planar magnetic transducer or speaker. A regular speaker is made up of a cone, voice coil and a magnet. An electrical current (audio signal) passes through the voice coil interacting with the magnet causing the cone to move and thus a sound is produced. Obviously there is more to it than that, but for the purposes of this article, let’s keep it simple.
A planar magnetic transducer is made up of a single flexible membrane with a voice coil mounted on it. Two powerful magnets sit either side of the voice coil creating a magnetic field. Current from an audio signal passing through the voice coil interacts with the magnetic field causing the membrane to vibrate resulting in a sound being produced.
Take a piece of paper and place it between your hands like you are praying. If you blow onto the paper it will vibrate between your palms. This is a representation of what happens inside a planar magnetic transducer.
The membrane on a planar magnetic transducer is a hair’s width (in the SINE’s case even smaller) whereas a regular cone speaker is much thicker. This means the planar magnetic transducer will be far more responsive to even the slightest current. For this reason, planar magnetic transducers will produce better detail and clarity across all frequencies, even at low volumes.
The Audeze SINE headphones are a perfect example of this detail and clarity. You are guaranteed to hear the difference SINE planar magnetic headphones deliver compared to regular headphones.
Audeze SINE Series Features
Audeze deliver a complete package when it comes to the SINE Series. The aluminum frame makes the SINE headphones both lightweight and ultra-durable. The headband and ear cups are lined with foam covered in leather for an ultra-comfortable fit. You can extend or contract the headband making these headphones fit perfectly to any head size.
World’s First 24-Bit Lightning Cable Option
One of the most exciting features for Apple users is the 24-bit lightning cable option. The iPhone no longer features a 3.5mm (⅛ inch) input which means you need an adapter or headphones specific for the iPhone’s input connector. The 24-bit cable is not only convenient for Apple users but comes with some extra features to customize your listening experience via the Audeze SINE iOS App.
A 10-band equalizer allows you to adjust frequencies to create presents. This is great if you need to adjust the sound for specific listening applications like music, voice, movies, games, etc. The lightning cable also has a control panel with a SIRI-compatible microphone. Great for chatting to SIRI or making calls.
The SINE’s cable is not permanently fixed to the headphones and can be removed simply by unplugging the connectors from the headphone ear cup. This makes it easy to switch between the 24-bit lightning cable or regular 3.5mm (⅛ inch) cable.
If you are looking for a new set of headphones and have $499 to spend, then buy the Audeze SINE headphones. If you don’t have $499 to spend, then save up and buy the Audeze SINE headphones. These headphones are far superior to anything on the market in that price range. And possibly compete with headphones triple that price.
If you are unsure about choosing between the SINE and SINE DX, my advice, if you’re using these as regular headphones, purchase the SINE. The difference between the two models is minimal and won’t have any impact on your listening experience for the average user.
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