Listening Impressions and Conclusion

Passive listening (3.5 mm connector cable)

When using the SINE headphones with the included 3.5 mm stereo cable, rather than the Lightning connector, I noticed two things at one: first, these are far more powerful than one might assume from their size and refined appearance, and second, I needed some very good source material.

This is the issue that anyone might face with high-end headphones; a good amp and source material are necessary for these to sound their best. This is to say that the SINE headphones were able to retreive all of the detail of any of the files I played back. If you don't think you can hear a difference between an MP3 and lossless file of the same music, try these headphones. You'll hear the difference, and you won't want to listen to the MP3 anymore.

The source components I tested with the 3.5 mm cable, ranging from a Nexus 6 smartphone up to a Calyx M digital audio player (DAP), were handling the vital digital-to-analog conversion and amplification. For its part I won’t belabor the experience with the Nexus 6’s audio output, choosing instead to say you’ll want something better as a source for the SINE. These headphones aren’t going to make a poor source sound better; revealing instead the limitations of your equipment (and of course that pesky source material).

In the case of the Calyx M DAP, with its high-end ESS ES9018-K2M Sabre DAC and discrete class-A headphone amplifier onboard, the SINE headphones sounded phenomenal. All of the tropes of an audiophile review could be included here, but I will simply say they sounded incredibly clear and detailed, and had far more bass than I would have expected for their size. The class-A output from the Calyx M provides a slightly warm sound anyway, and with the SINE this was more prominent. What really surprised me, however, was how deep the SINE's could go. It seemed at times that I had a small subwoofer in my head. These would make great gaming/movie headphones!

Digital listening (Cipher Lightning cable)

Audeze is offering quite a bit for the $50 premium that the "Cipher" Lightning cable-equipped version of the SINE requires; considering what you’re actually getting with these. For $50, and if you use an Apple device with a Lightning connector, the SINE's aren't just a pair of headphones – though they certainly still can be via the included 3.5 mm cable. What they become with this special cable is an entire music playback system, minus the source component.

Inline on the Cipher is a large controller for playback and volume, and with this Audeze has integrated a 24-bit DAC and a headphone amplifier. This allows the SINE headphones to take the digital music files – untouched – from your device, and process the sound internally. It's a very interesting idea, and one that's all the more important as we continue to hear rumors of an iPhone sans 3.5 mm connector.

So how did the Cipher cable sound? There was clear differences, as there will be when switching both DAC and headphone amp simultaniously. I found the digital experience to be outstanding on the iPad mini 2 I tested the Cipher cable with, and certainly a better audio experience than just using the iPad's onboard headphone jack. Another advantage of the digital connection is the ability to enjoy high-resolution music, and for this I played with both VLC and VOX for iOS. The 24-bit music I played back sounded great, though I found the sound a little better from my Calyx M DAP with the 3.5 mm cable (go figure, as now we're adding a $1000 source component into the mix).

The Cipher cable can bring an iPhone or iPad significantly better resolution, and the internal amp was up to the task of driving the SINE headphones to loud volumes if required – though I did find the dynamics to be a little compressed the higher up the ladder I went. Bass, which seemed slightly elevated when listening with the 3.5 mm cable, was even more prominent with the Cipher cable. The only issue with this was at higher volume levels, where I felt that some of the lower frequencies (mid bass into lower midrange) lacked a little detail. EQ is your friend here, as I was able to tailor the SINE heaphones to my own preferences using Audeze's app for iOS, which offers a 10-band equalizer.

To be fair, there are other standalone options for portable devices that can accomplish what the Cipher cable does, such as the AudioQuest Dragonfly or the Calyx PaT I reviewed last year. At around $99 each these little devices are pretty inexpensive for what they do, but add to the complexity of your portable setup as well. The appeal of an inline solution is very appealing, though its limitation to Apple products is unfortunate – though not surprising given the market and compatibility differences between Apple and Android.


The Audeze SINE headphones are a beautifully constructed, wonderfully clear and detailed sounding pair of headphones with a surprising amount of bass. They offer a warm overall character, with a bit of emphasis to the bass and lower midrange, but still extract a tremendous amount of detail from all frequencies in my subjective listening tests. They fit securely, and the ear pads are very soft.

As I mentioned, my personal headphones are the Audio Technica ATH-AD700X, and though I love their delicate sound (and very comfortable, light fit), what so impressed me about the SINE headphones was the power with which they could convey music. I was expecting detail from planar magnetic drivers, but Audeze has created a product with a modern sound that can produce the low bass of a full-range home system, while still producing very clear and extended treble.

The option of the Cipher DAC/DSP/Amp cable, which takes the MSRP from $449 to $499, makes these a very different product for anyone using an iOS device, and creates a fantastic all-in-one solution for high-resolution audio playback. Audeze has a very compelling product here for the iPhone owner looking for a premium audio experience, which is reflected in the SINE's availablity at the time of this writing:

"Due to overwhelming demand, we are now backordered. Please be patient – We are making them as fast as we can and we are shipping by oldest order first."

It's a problem I think most companies would love to have. Listening to well-recorded music with the SINE headphones might just temp you into adding to their current back-order, especially if you use an Apple Lightning-connected device.

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