A few readers have requested a review of the Audeze Sine ($449). When I first heard the Audeze Sine at CanJam 2016, my first thought was “Oh man, on-ears? Painful.” And indeed, it was. It was painful while they were on my head and even more when I took them off. I really didn’t give them a fair shake as far as sound quality. So what would make me want to purchase a pair? For one I’ve heard the band could be slightly bent to reduce the clamping pressure, which was my biggest gripe about the Sine. Secondly, I have to give the people what they want. 🙂 Besides, I was a bit curious as to how they actually performed sonically.
My comparison will be with the Meze 99 Classics ($309). Given the form-factor and price point, it’s not meant to be an entirely fair comparison but it’s the only I’ve gots!
Portability / Weight
As far as portability, they took up much less space than my previous portable, the Meze 99 Classics. The Sine was also 4-5 oz lighter than the Meze within their respective stock cases. So as far as portability, I’m quite happy with the Sine. However, as far as the headphones themselves, the Sine is about 2 oz heavier. Didn’t really bother me.
The Meze 99s are over-ears and are extremely comfortable. I’ve once had them on for about 8 hours straight with no fatigue. The Sine were much more comfortable after making a slight bend on the headband but I’m not sure I could do 6+ hours with them. Those extra 2 oz might start taking a toll, but who knows.
I did testing on the Chord DAVE just to see what the potential is on these headphones. Then I swapped back to a portable Chord Hugo for a “real world” evaluation. Both of these headphones were compared with their stock cables (non-cipher for the Sine). My raw notes are below so if you’re lazy just scroll to the conclusion.
On Chord DAVE
Tempest (Live) : Montreal (Live) – Jesse Cook
- Meze is much more comfortable around my ears.
- Meze definitely more on the same plane. Thicker and fuzzier…in a good way.
- Sine has much better separation
- Meze really does sound like a fun headphone.
- Sine has better clarity, individualism, and definitely cleaner with a blacker background.
- The Sine is just more clean and tight. Does quite let its hair down like the Meze.
- Sine has much better layering. Meze sounds a bit smeared at times.
- Sine has more refined textures and better resolution. More precision.
- Sine is technically superior. Meze is more intimate and lush. Hm, I really like the sound of both but I bob my head more with the Meze and find myself more analytically impressed with the Sine. I’m still leaning towards the Meze in this case for casual listening.
Cut Me Loose – Kiesza
- Sine definitely has this “thin” but clear presentation in the mids. There’s a bit body missing in the mids.
- Sine comes in a bit harsh at times but crystal clear details. Could also be the track.
- Sine is super clean, maybe too clean? Not quite sure on the tonality.
400 Lux – Lorde
- Meze definitely more sub-bass presence and weight. More enjoyable for this track than the Sine.
- Sine is technically superior. Very pristine and crystal clear sound. Amazing control.
- Meze is just more fun but lacks dimension. If I were working on the road, I really wouldn’t mind the bigger and warmer sound of the Meze.
- For critical listening, the Sine kills the Meze. Hands-down. The Sine is unequivocally sonically superior from a technical standpoint.
Fidelity – Regina Skeptor
- The Meze is very engaging and sweet.
- The Sine is amazingly detailed and provides a very sharp and clean sound. Regina’s voice has more life to it although I still prefer a bit of warmth in the vocals (this could be the DAVE setup with the LPS-1, which is generally a bit more lean). You could hear every part of the song individually. Most audiophiles I think would prefer the sound of the Sine vs the Meze.
- The Sine does lack a bit of bass presence (surprisingly). Maybe the Meze just has too much of it but that’s what accounts for its more head-bob inducing sound. I hear more of the lower textures which are addictive on the Meze. A bit surprised coming from the LCD-3.
- Meze, the sound isn’t as cohesive. Her voice sounds better on the Meze. You could hear her breath and energy as she sings. With the Sine it was more matter-of-fact. Tons of details and cues but lacks a bit of that humanistic, sweet sound.
The Soundmaker – Rodrigo y Gabriela
- Seeing these guys live two days in a row and once in the front row…it sounded more like the Sine but with more warmth. You hear a lot more energy and detail from the Sine but it really lacks a bit of bass and mid-range presence.
- Sine has much better imaging and much wider soundstage. Meze sounds very closed in comparison, as if RYG were standing arm to arm.
- Sine is much tighter and precise. More holographic.
- Man….so hard to decide…the Sine really kills it for this track. You hear so much more detail and you get a much lower noise floor…on the other hand, the Meze has this really golden and sweet sound.
Pirates of the Caribbean (Live in Miskolc) – Epica
- The Sine unravels the intricacies of this track. Each actor has their own space whereas the Meze is more of a beautiful mesh.
- Sine does a much better job with micro-dynamics. The Meze does have this visceral and atmospheric sound.
Minor Blue – Thurman Green
- Meze is much more forward, much warmer. Definitely not as tight and dynamic as the Sine…but a very smooth and buttery sound.
- Meze sound quite dimensionless in comparison to the Sine. Same plane with a lack of depth. Definitely one of the first things you’ll notice.
- Tonality wise…I still like the Meze more. I feel like I miss out on some of the emotive cues of the singers with the Sine.
- The Sine is definitely the more capable headphone. Much wider soundstage, much better dynamics. The difference is hearing humans playing music and instruments being pieced together in a song. The Sine has almost a polite sound in comparison to the Meze. Very clean and precise but I find that the tonality of the Meze is more aligned with the sound I would hear from a live jazz band. More meat on the bones.
- Meze vs Sine = Tubes vs Solid State
- Bass hits much harder on the Meze. More presence and bigger sound.
- Sine has a much more holographic and detailed sound.
- I like the tonality of the Meze more. Although not as refined or sharp, it’s an enjoyable sound.
- With the Hugo…the Sine is significantly better. The Meze comes off a bit smeared and loose.
Layla : Clapton Chronicles: The Best of Eric Clapton – Eric Clapton
- The Meze is much more forward but definitely fuzzy around the edges. A bit loose.
- Sine has this eerie sense of realism.
- I still enjoy the tonality of the Meze more. Wish separation was better.
- The Sine is much more expansive. I must say, much better than the Meze as far as imaging and dynamics. Sine is definitely the better headphone.
Gypsy Eyes – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Amazing textures with the Sine. Very clean sound.
- Meze is a much looser and fuzzy sound. Tons of bleeding in the midrange. Bigger sound though!
- Meze has no where near the control of the Sine.
- The Sine brings Hendrix back to life. The Meze is more of a memorial.
- The Sine is much more engaging and accurate. Preserves the integrity of the music.
Giant in My Heart – Kiesza
- Meze more forward, in your face. Much better tonality on vocals IMO.
- Sine delineates the components the song much better and gives it dimension.
- The sound from the Meze is flat and fuzzy in comparison. Still fun though!
- You get much more realism from the Sine. That’s the bottomline.
- The Sine is much more insightful and technically superior in every way.
Hopefully you were able to see a trend in the raw notes. The Meze has this more atmospheric, organic, and lush sound with a very rich and addictive tonality. Meaty low-end rumble, great slam, and very euphonic. Being over-the-ear headphones, the Meze does provide a much larger sound (not to be confused with soundstage). On the contrary, it’s much flatter and narrower than the Sine. It’s a great headphone for just kicking back with a beer while perusing through Reddit. The Sine on the other hand is almost for a special occasion where you bring out some nice wine.
When passages got busy, the Sine was able to handle it with ease. It has this amazing controlled and coherent sound that provides a very well-paced presentation. The Meze falls but gets back on his feet and does a great job entertaining us again. The Sine is much snappier, sharper, and textured in its delivery. The only gripe I had with it is really its lack of low-end heft and mid-range presence/weight. Otherwise, a superbly designed headphone that’s easy to take on-the-go.
Bottomline: The Audeze Sine is an audiophile’s portable headphone. Although the Meze 99 does provide more body and warmth (which I actually hold in high regard), the Sine performs everything else better. The Sine is more of an honor student that works hard and plays hard. Meze is more of a party animal but he’s a cool guy. In comparison to the Sine, the Meze is more forward, more in-your-face, and smothers you with buttery goodness at the expense of dynamics, detail, soundstage, and a darker background. There were some tracks I still preferred the Meze for. The Sine is significantly better at imaging, layering, and separation. You could really hear the nuances that give the actors and instruments a sense of dimension and life. The depth and width of the soundstage is also much more expansive. I must say, quite an impressive headphone in a such small package.
My first high-end headphone was the Audeze LCD-3. I still think back when I had that paired with a Pathos Aurium and Chord Hugo TT. That was one of my most memorable listening experiences. Audeze has done a fantastic job with this portable planar magnetic and I’m glad I was able to give it a second chance. I still can’t quite let go of the Meze 99 Classics just yet (it’s really a fun headphone) but the Sine will be my current daily driver as far as portable needs. Great work Audeze!