Hi-fi Corner: Audeze goes direct to Lightning with new EL-8 Titanium cans
If the name Audeze doesn’t ring any bells, that’s ok. The high-end headphone maker isn’t exactly as popular as Beats. But Audeze just made a move that could be a bellwether for a potentially radical turn for the headphone world — a turn rumored to be led by Apple — and it might just give the company a serious boost in recognition. Say hello to the new EL-8 Titanium, an exciting new iteration on the company’s already revered planar magnetic headphones which includes a new Apple Lightning connected headphone cable, with a digital audio converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier built right in.
Audeze made some big waves last year when its EL-8 headphones lured high-end planar magnetic designs away from the hi-fi and closer to mobile devices. The EL-8 quickly became one of our favorite headphones of the year. Now, with the EL-8 Titanium and their new Lightning cable system, users will be able to bypass an iPhone’s limited internal components for high-res 24-bit digital audio playback, and better overall sound, supercharging the iPhone’s street cred as a quality music player.
For those unfamiliar with planar magnetic headphones, the design uses a thin membrane excited by a magnet to create sound (as opposed to the cone and coil design of most headphones), making them notorious power hounds. As such, the original EL-8 were designed with a new kind of “Fluxor” magnet technology that focuses voltage towards the drivers in order to allow the cans to work better with smaller amplifiers — such as those inside mobile devices.
With the new Titanium, Audeze aims to innovate mobile listening even further, bypassing an iPhone’s internal DAC and amplifier entirely by building all the critical electronics right into the cable itself. When plugging in digitally, users even have the ability to adjust the EQ and sound presets through the Audeze app.
By relying only on your phone’s digital output, the EL-8 Titanium are also compatible with audio files at 24-bit resolution, the starting point for high-resolution audio files. It should be noted, however, that the resolution for current iPhone models tops out at 24bit/48kHz, which is higher than CD-quality files, but lower than the 24bit/96kHz resolution commonly accepted as hi-res quality.
While most folks listen to lossy MP3s and streaming services for convenience while on the go, both the DAC and headphone amplifier inside Audeze’s new Lightning-connected cable should still provide a considerable improvement in sound quality for Titanium users.
The Titanium’s new Lightning-based system is perhaps more intriguing given the long-whispered rumors that Apple is considering doing away with the conventional 3.5mm headphone jack altogether for future iPhones, ostensibly to make them the thinnest phones in the world. Is it possible that Audeze has inside Apple info we don’t have access to? The Apple-approved logos on the box certainly seem to point that direction
Either way, given the fact that the cans allow for higher resolution playback from current iPhones, and also come with a standard headphone cable for the same brilliant audio experience you’ll get from the original EL-8 from any input, this a pretty low-risk investment for Apple fans. Design elements were also upgraded for the Titanium, courtesy of BMW DesignWorksUSA, which used sleek aluminum components to create the “Titanium” look. Unfortunately, they only come in the closed-back design (we prefer the open-back).
The EL-8 Titanium will be sold directly online and through select Apple retail stores. At an MSRP of $800 — $100 more than the original EL-8 — users are essentially paying for the Lightning cable and components as part of the package, which aren’t currently sold separately. Whether that’s worth the money may just depend upon what kind of tracks/storage capacity you have on your iPhone.
Regardless, this design move by Audeze could be a sign of future events. Ditching the convention headphone jack wouldn’t necessarily mean instantly making millions of headphones obsolete. The solution could be as simple as a new kind of headphone cable, such as the one seen here.
We hope to get some hands-on time with the EL-8 Titanium’s new digital setup soon, so stay tuned.
This post was originally posted on our “brother site” Digital Trends.