Audeze burst onto the audio scene a couple of years ago as one of the new wave of manufacturers dedicated to high-performance headphone products. Its first headphone design, the LCD-2, has gone through several versions, but is still currently in production along with the newer and more expensive LCD-3 and LCD-X, and LCD-XC. At RMAF, Audeze unveiled its latest flagship model, the LCD-4, with an eyebrow-raising price of $3995. All of these ’phones offer similar technology, fit, size, weight, and open-back design. The LCD-2, LCD-3, and LCD-X (no one has the LCD-4 yet) have all had similar criticisms aimed at them: They are heavy, power-hungry, offer little isolation, and are not travel-friendly because they do not fold or flatten.
Given that so many ’phone fans require cans that are portable, lightweight, affordable, and easy to drive with a cellphone’s limited power output, Audeze was missing out on a good portion of the headphone market with its LCD designs. Cue the music for the Audeze EL-8 and EL-8C headphones. Priced at $699, these two models are virtually identical-looking except that one is an open-backed design (EL-8), while the other (EL-8C) is a closed-back version using a solid piece of milled metal instead of an open grille.
Apart from a 2dB drop in sensitivity in the closed-back version and a slight weight difference, their specifications are identical. Weighing only 460g or 480g (for the closed-back) and able to fold flat, the Audeze EL-8 represents the company’s thinking on how to incorporate its sound and technology into a lighter, more travel-friendly, more portable player-friendly package. How did Audeze do? Let’s find out.
The Technological Tour
Designed by the BMW Designworks, USA, the EL-8 uses a planar magnetic driver that employs an ultra-thin diaphragm with a large surface area to generate sound. Since it can start and stop so quickly, the resulting sound can be more precise and lower in distortion than a multi-driver dynamic headphone. The EL-8 is the first Audeze headphone to utilize its trademarked Fluxor magnetic technology, which delivers nearly double the magnetic flux density of the highest-grade neodymium magnetic circuits previously available. Fluxor magnets are magnetized at a 45-degree angle instead of vertically or horizontally. When these magnets are placed side by side with north/south corners touching, the magnetic fields are forced to arch out and go around to reach the corresponding magnet’s pole. This pushes the magnetic field into the diaphragm area where it can be used by the headphone’s diaphragm system instead of being wasted outside that working area. This driver technology results in reduced weight with greater efficiency, perfect for mobile devices.
The Fluxor technology is combined with something Audeze calls Uniforce diaphragm technology that employs variable trace widths in the voice-coil to capture variations in the magnetic field within the magnetic gaps by equalizing forces in the individual traces. This creates a uniform driving force across the entire diaphragm surface. Where the conductor is weaker at the outside edges, the traces are reduced so the same amount of current will be flowing through the entire conductor trace. This “industry first” was created to reduce overall distortion as well as to allow for higher resolution and improved imaging.
The EL-8 also uses proprietary Fazor technology developed for Audeze’s LCD series. Fazors are special acoustical elements positioned on either side of the magnetic structures. They enhance transparency by interacting with the sound waves generated by large planar diaphragms. According to Audeze, “a few of the benefits include extended frequency response, improved high-frequency extension, and lowered distortion, with better imaging.”