Fit, Finish, and Ergonomic Considerations
The more headphones I review, the more I realize that a headphone’s fit and comfort level are as important to an end user’s experience as how well it reproduces music in the audible spectrum. Both versions of the EL-8 are comfortable, but depending on your head size and tastes in side-pressure, you may find that one of the two fits better than the other.
The differences is largely because the closed-back EL-8C weighs 20 grams (.7 oz.) more than the open-back version, so it may also feel a bit heavier. While both versions of the EL-8 were far more comfortable than the Audeze LCD-2—especially during long listening sessions—I would rate their overall comfort to be slightly better than the new HiFiMan HE560, but not quite as good as the Sennheiser HD-700. The reason the EL-8 is more comfortable than the HE560 is because the EL-8’s ear pads are softer and conformed more easily to my head than the HE560’s stiffer pads. The Sennheiser HD700 outpointed the EL-8s on comfort due to their lighter weight, greater headband padding, and softer velveteen-covered ear pads. The EL-8’s ear pads are made of leather but they do not breathe, so if the outside temperature is hot and sticky, your ears will soon be hot and sticky, too.
The EL-8 headphone has a flat, lightweight, and flexible removable cable that uses a unique connector scheme. Instead of the more standard mini-stereo-style plug, or a screw-in connection, the EL-8 employs a flat connector that looks like an iPhone 6 power connection on steroids. The male section attaches into the headphone’s female section just like Apple’s, but unlike the iPhone’s connection, which can be inserted either way, there is only one correct way to attach the EL-8’s cable. And if you try to force the cable when it’s in the wrong position, you can damage the connection permanently.
There is also a second potential problem with Audeze’s new cable connection—it can and most likely will loosen up with use. Both of the EL-8 review samples have gotten to the point that even a slight tug can pull out the cable’s connections. While an easy-to-disconnect attachment scheme is great for those times when something bad happens like catching the cord on a doorknob while you walk through a door, it’s not great when merely vigorous head-shaking results in an intermittent connection. I predict that a lot of EL-8 users will be complaining about the excessive “play” in this connection, and there will be some warranty issues as a result. Audeze has reportedly improved the connectors since it shipped my review sample, and all current production features the new connectors.
Recently I reviewed a pair of $70 headphones from Monoprice that included a very nice hard-formed travel case. Given that the EL-8 was designed to be a portable and portable-friendly headphone, it was disappointing to find that instead of a nice molded hard case for travel, the EL-8 only comes with a soft drawstring bag for “protection.” Similarly-priced headphones from other firms including AudioQuest, Oppo, and HiFiMan all come with serviceable travel cases; why not the Audeze EL-8? (Audeze offers an optional hard travel case for $39.)
The EL-8 comes with one 2m (6.56 feet) cable and one 3.5mm-to-¼" stereo adapter. There are additional cables available at extra cost for the EL-8, including a cable for Apple iOs device with controls, a balanced cable for Astell&Kern devices, and a balanced cable for use with Pono players and the Sony PHA-3. Your choice of one of these cables is provided at no charge. Additional cables are priced at $49 each.
I have a new way of testing and comparing the isolation abilities of headphones—I use my AKG “Harry” dummy-head microphone rig. I place the headphones on Harry and compare the aural leakage I hear at two feet away. Using this testing method I could hear that even the open-back EL-8 had better isolation than many other open-back headphones including the AKG K-7xx, and the aforementioned HifiMan HE560 and Sennheiser HD-700s. The closed-back version (EL-8C) delivered even better isolation; I could hear nothing from two feet away. Yes, the EL-8C is definitely library-friendly.