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Headphones

Are you ready for Audeze's radically different in-ear headphones?

Audeze's Lightning-cable-equipped iSine in-ear headphones look and sound like nothing else.

I've been writing about Audeze headphones since 2010, when I reviewed the company's LCD 2 over-the-ear headphones, and every new model broke new ground, including the Sine on-ear headphones I reviewed just a few months ago.

Audeze was in New York Tuesday night to premiere its upcoming iSine10 in-ear headphones, which look and sound like a game changer to me. While the preproduction samples finish was a little funky, and the eartips didn't provide an adequate seal, the sound was truly glorious!

Audeze was first to offer high-end headphones with Apple Lightning cables, starting with its EL-8 a few years ago, and the new iSine10 comes with two cables, a standard one fitted with a 3.5mm plug, and an Apple certified Cipher Lightning cable that takes digital audio directly from your iOS device and uses the cable's built-in digital converter and headphone amplifier. The Audeze DSP app features a 10-band equalizer that changes EQ in real time. If you're considering an iPhone 7, or already own any iPhone with a Lightning connector, the iSine10's cable will plug directly into your phone's Lightning port.

A preproduction Audeze iSine10 in-ear headphone.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The iSine10's earpieces are relatively large, but I found them comfortable over an admittedly short listening time. Without EQ turned on I heard incredibly deep, clearly articulated bass, natural midrange and very finely detailed treble. Soundstaging was bigger and far more spacious than even the better in-ears, and soft-to-loud dynamics were excellent. The iSine10 is an open-back design, so the good news is it doesn't cut you off from the outside world, but that also means it doesn't hush external noise.

The iSine Series models are the world's first full-range planar magnetic in-ear headphones. The iSine10's 30mm driver is more than three times the diameter of most in-ear drivers, and the iSine10 driver is said to produce dramatically lower distortion than the conventional dynamic and balanced armature drivers found in other in-ear headphones. Impedance is listed at an easy-to- drive 16 ohms, the iSine10 weighs less than 1 ounce (20 grams) without the cable attached.

I listened to the Audeze iSine10, $399 (converts to £309, AU$532), but there will also be an iSine20, $599 (converts to £454, AU$799), both due in October. Availability for the flagship iSine LCD i3, $2,495 (converts to £1,896, AU$3,332) will be announced at a later date. All iSines will be made in Audeze's California factory.