At long last, we managed to get our hands on our first pair of Audeze headphones, courtesy of a generous colleague. Those who are in the audiophiles scene will be familiar with the Audeze brand.
Brief History of Audeze
Audeze, a California-based company, makes high-end audio accessories. They are extremely well-known for their planar driver technology in their headphones. It is said that the founders met an engineer who developed specialized circuit material for NASA in 2008. They were convinced that the material will be perfect to make planar drivers for headphones.
With that, they went and created their first pair of planar headphones – LCD-1.
Since then, Audeze has continued to lead and push the limits of planar driver technology. It created the world’s first in-ear headphone – iSINE headphones and also the world’s first on-ear headphone – SINE headphones.
Audeze EL-8 Titanium Headphones
The Audeze EL-8 series has an open-back and a closed-back version. The headphones that we are reviewing is the Audeze EL-8 Titanium model which has closed-back cans.
Build Quality and Comfort
When we first got our hands on the EL-8, the first thing that hit us was how heavy it was (460g). Apparently, it was advertised as one of the lightest and portable headphones Audeze has made. Yikes.
The only portable feature is the rotatable earcups. The ear cups can be rotated both inwards and outwards. This is useful when you are hanging the headphones off your neck, else you will be feeling every inch of that bulky ear cups on your shoulder.
With a mainly metal frame, the EL-8 feels durable and solid to touch. The smooth brushed metal finishing looks classy and the minimal, modern aesthetics are pleasing to the eyes.
The pleathered ear pads are thick and soft. When it is worn on the head, you feel like there are two pillows that are hugging your ears. This turns out to be a double-edged sword as you will read later on.
The EL-8 has a considerable amount of clamp. The clamp is unlike what you get from a Bose QC35. The Bose’s clamp is firm but comfortable and very quickly, you forget about the headphones.
However, for the EL-8, the ever-existent clamp gets worse over time. The hugging ear cups, together with the strong clamp, gave me a headache just after half an hour of usage.
To make things worse, if you are in a warm temperate environment, your ears start sweating and the level of discomfort becomes unbearable.
Til this day, I’m unable to get more than an hour of listening on the EL-8 without ripping it off of my head. This is a pity, considering how good the EL-8 sounds.
With the large ear cups, driver size (100mm) and price point, I expected a wider soundstage than what I was getting from the EL-8. Compared to the Bower & Wilkins P7, the soundstage was narrower.
The EL-8 has a well-balanced sound signature. In songs with complex layers such as Leave Me by Taska Black and House Work by Jax Jones, each layer gets presented clearly and does not sound congested.
The bassheads will love the EL-8. The mid-bass is punchy and heavy but yet not overwhelming. Songs with great bassline sound amazingly groovy. Listening to Unfinished Sympathy by Massive Attack was pure joy on the EL-8.
Sub-bass reproduction is impressive on the EL-8. It’s one of the few headphones that I can feel the low rumble so clearly. As usual, my song of choice for testing sub-bass is Intro by Yosi Horikawa.
As with any good headphones, the mids have to be excellent and the EL-8 is no exception. Vocals sound really rich and detailed. The mids are neither forward and nor recessed. It sits perfectly together with the bass and treble without being overwhelmed.
The EL-8 handles treble well on violin covers such as Rude by Daniel Jang. The treble is rich and not overemphasized. It handles the upper treble of the song (2.22 – 2.40) well enough without sounding tizzy.
Overall, the sound quality of the EL-8 is brilliant. The well-balanced sound signature means most of the songs on my playlist sounds great on it. The EL-8 is able to bring out the best of the songs but yet not overshadow the minute details behind them.
The EL-8 does not have active noise cancellation (ANC) technology like the Bose QC 35 but the noise isolation via passive noise cancellation is great.
As mentioned before, the closed-back ear cups, strong clamp, and the thick soft pads created a good seal that manages to reduces a lot of the external sounds.
The EL-8 is a great headphones for listening to loud music in a quiet environment. Barely any sounds get leak, even at moderately loud volume.
- Transducer type: Planar magnetic
- Magnetic structure: Fluxor magnets
- Magnet type: Neodymium
- Driver Size: 100 mm
- Maximum SPL: >130dB
- Frequency response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- Impedance: 30 ohms
- Efficiency: 102dB / 1mW
Given the nature and size of the driver, we expected that we may need an external amp to drive the EL-8 efficiently. To our surprise, this planar magnetic headphones, with a 100 mm driver size, has only 30 ohms of impedance and a sensitivity level of 102 dB/1mw.
From our headphone calculator, you can see that even mobile devices are able to power the headphone effectively. Truly a product of brilliant engineering.
For all the audio engineering effort in EL-8, it was let down by the ergonomics of the headphones. Although songs sound great on the headphone, we don’t feel compelled to use it as much as our other headphones.
At the price point around $799, the value for money is poor for us. Your money will be better spent elsewhere like the Sennheiser HD800.
Like any other reviews, take our suggestion with a pinch of salt. If you have a strong skull and is someone who appreciates great bass response, you should audition it at your nearest electronic store and let the experience speaks for itself.
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- Well-balanced Sound Signature
- Deep and punchy bass
- Heavy and not portable
- Uncomfortable due to the clamp and the ear cups hugging your ears