The closed-back EL-8 offers all the benefits of the open-back EL-8 — flexible, lightweight and...

Audeze EL-8 Closed-Back

Average User Rating:
4.125/5,
  • The closed-back EL-8 offers all the benefits of the open-back EL-8 — flexible, lightweight and loaded with new technology — while isolating the listener and reducing ambient noise as no sound escapes the earcups. The EL-8 closed-back is also sensitive enough to be driven directly by portable players and smartphones, but an external amplifier produces better results. They're built with superb craftsmanship, wood veneer accents and enormous attention to detail.

    Package Includes
    2m (6.56 feet) Audeze headphone cable
    3.5mm to 1/4in stereo adapter

    Patent-Pending
    Fazor elements
    Fluxor magnetic structure
    Uniforce diaphragms

    Specifications
    Style Closed-back circumaural
    Transducer type Planar magnetic
    Magnetic structure Fluxor magnets
    Magnet type Neodymium
    Driver Size 100 mm
    Maximum power handling 15W (for 200ms)
    Maximum SPL >130dB
    Frequency response 10Hz – 50kHz
    Total harmonic distortion <0.1% (1KHz, 1mw)
    Impedance 30 ohms
    Efficiency 100dB / 1mW
    Optimal power requirement 200mW – 4W
    Weight 480g

Recent User Reviews

  1. bosiemoncrieff
    1.0/5,
    "Like Bose, except uncomfortable, no ANC, and 3x the price"
    Pros - will help all those ISO more neck pain
    Cons - heavy, clamping, meh sound
    This review is of the Audeze EL-8 Titanium. My initial impressions are via the lightning cipher cable from Tidal on my iPhone 6 Plus (the assh0le iPhone, as I put it). They will be updated in due time with my impressions via Bimby and Mjolnir 2. 
     
    Although I will occasionally listen to a pop single for kicks, 99.9% of my music is classical. 
     

    Pros:

    Mids - The bread and butter of a good headphone is a good midrange, and EL-8 has it. Solo cello is rich and satisfying. 
    Decay - Although not as fast as HE-6 or K1000, or as supremely natural as HD800, it has a pleasing wetness. 
    The Eighteenth Century - Not kidding. Currentzis's Così fan tutti really came alive, shoutout to whoever was singing Come Scoglio. Ditto for the sinfonia to Vivaldi's Incoronazione di Dario and the finale to the second act of Händel's Rinaldo. These cans like the smaller, daintier ensembles of the Baroque and Classical periods. (Strange connection to my beloved K1000.) The 'Credo' from Herreweghe's Mass in B minor wasn't impressive by HD800 standards, but was enjoyable nonetheless. 
    Vocals - Voices sound natural and resonant. 
     

    Cons:

    Lacks Transparency - Sennheiser gets schiit for an alleged veil, but listening things like John Eliot Gardiner's Magic Flute Overture, I felt the recurring urge to remove a curtain between myself and the music. It felt muffled, distant.
    Soundstage & Imaging Capabilities - For larger orchestral ensembles, you really crave instrument separation and great width. EL-8 Titanium provides neither. Imaging is not more than acceptable—clearly outclassed by the HD600, which I bought new for 1/4 the price on Amazon, which Sennheiser brought to market some 15 years ago. Soundstage is cramped. For Wagner in particular, EL-8 was a decidedly poor performer. 
    Isolation - Doesn't provide much. On the go, Bose every day of the week.
    Leather - Audeze is rightly lauded for its microsuede pads for the LCD series. As a vegetarian, I would prefer a leather-free version.
    Comfort - Much heavy! Very clamp! Such fatiguing! Wow. Though the headphone is large and heavy, my average-sized ears are pushed against my head and pinched at the bottom by a lack of space. 
     

    On the fence:

    Treble: Audeze has never delivered noteworthy treble, and EL-8T could have done more to change that narrative. It's better than most of the LCD series, and it's certainly inoffensive and great for badly recorded stuff, but more air and sparkle would help 
    Bass: Not overwhelming, but with decent impact and lovely extension. Carly Rae Jepsen and Katy Perry sound great. Nevertheless, HE-6 (which I purchased used for $100 less than EL8T after sf taxes) and others clearly outclass it in clarity.
    Build quality - Aluminum, leather, and plastic. Heavy! Cable is very nice.
    Solo piano - Not bad, but not exactly a step up from QC25. I'm notoriously picky about this, and although K1000 is my current favorite, I want to hear LCD-X.
     

    Value for the money: F+

    Get an HD600. Get an HD650. Get an HD630VB. Get a PXC 550. Get a QC35. Get a QC20. Get a K700 series. Get an HE-400 series. Get an HE-500 series. Heck, get an HD800! Or an HE-6 and Jotunheim!
     
    Audeze is the prime culprit in the overpricing of headphones, having strictly enforced a $1000 minimum price tag for years, and the EL-8 Titanium, while a welcome $800 entrant and satisfactory for pop music, is a disappointing choice for most classical, and is bested by any number of cans in the $250-$350 range (ok, discounted HD800/HE-6 aside).
     
    Audeze fails to give me a reason to purchase or recommend the EL-8 titanium, and I will be returning mine to the apple store. The value is Just. Not. There. 
     
    I give it a "+" for the cipher cable. That bit of innovation is certainly welcome. 
     
    More to come when paired with main rig at the weekday pad.
     
    Preliminary impressions with MJ2 and Bimby suggest a significant improvement beyond Cipher cable (perhaps three stars). However, because Cipher/portability is such a selling point to EL8, and because the resulting sound is so mediocre relative to price, I will leave my above review unchanged.
  2. Mr Shartypants
    5.0/5,
    "Great closed headphones with a few caveats."
    Pros - Detail oriented, balanced, great sound stage (for closed)
    Cons - Crinkly pads, not highly portable.
    I am very happy with these. I pair them with a Fiio X7 and enjoy them on breaks at school. I enjoy a lot of classical music and OSTs when studying and the sound profile on these makes those genres a joy. The caveats I mentioned are that the pads are a little noisy when you first start wearing them. The sound is sort of like a crinkling plastic bag, its just a little irking and I'm not sure what causes it. At first I was expecting to peel back the rim of the pads and find some protective wrapping that had been left in by mistake or something. I want to say that the crinkling noise has died down with use, it is also totally possible that I have just become a little desensitized to it. These headphones are super substantial and therefore maybe not ideal for commuting and the such. I read several lukewarm reviews in my research on these headphones and I'm really glad I disregarded it.
  3. Rynsin
    3.0/5,
    "Strange sound signature, wonky but functional connectors"
    Pros - Looks, portability, comfort
    Cons - Missing upper mids, loose connectors
    I had originally posted this in the impressions forum, but after a little updating and some consideration, I decided to post it as a review as well.
     
    After owning the closed-back EL-8s for 4 months, I finally feel confident enough to give some impressions. These represent approximately 150 hours of listening to the EL-8s, and probably about the same amount on a collection of other headphones.
     
    First, a bit about me. In 2011, I bought some ATHM40s. In 2014, I sold them for HiFiMAN HE-400s. At the time, I was lucky enough to own a pretty decent floorstanders. But then I moved from my roomy Tucson townhouse to a tiny Boston graduate student apartment. Since then, I've been on a war path that included a Maverick Audio D1, the NAD VISO HP50s, a Project Debut turntable, Audeze LCD-3s, a DACMini CX, and the Grado GS1000e. So I've been "critically listening" since 2011, but only for about a year and a half with headphones.
     
     
    Second, the EL-8s seem to be a very divisive headphone. On one hand, we have three different five star reviews, and on the other, we have awesome folks like Asr saying that they are "one of the worst headphones I've EVER heard". I don't mean to pick on Asr specifically, he's just the first I recalled. There's a lot of love for the EL-8s, and a lot of hate too. Personally, I think that's because the EL-8s have a very distinctive sound that works for some people and not for others.
     
     
    Third, my first pair of EL-8s had a failure in the right driver. If you tapped on the cans a bit, it might cut back in, but there was no doubting that there was an issue. Audeze was quick to send me a new unit, which I got back in about a week. They were very responsive when I called them, so I would recommend that route if anyone else has the same issue.
     
     
    Finally, since this is my first attempt at a "real" contribution here, I thought I'd explain how I went about listening. I'd start with my LCD-3s, and listen to a song while noting the moments in that song that struck me as awesome. Then, I'd grab my EL-8s, and listen to those same parts and try to compare. Eventually, I built up quite a large list of songs and moments. For me, the most helpful reviews are the ones that compare headphones to each other, rather than talking about one set of cans in vacuum. So I took a few of those moments, and wrote down my thoughts while listening to the EL-8s side-by-side with as many headphones as I could. I think I built up a pretty big list.
     
     
    • Other headphones
      • NAD D 1050: the midrange
      • NuForce Icon 2: entry level
      • Centrance DACmini: hi-fi (for me)
    • Amps, DACs, Sources
    • Conclusions
     

    Compared to other headphones

    [​IMG]
     
    1. NAD D 1050
      1. Shure SHR1540
      2. Beyerdynamic T90
      3. Beyerdynamic DT 770
      4. HiFiMAN HE-400
      5. Audeze LCD-3
      6. NAD VISO HP50
    2. NuForce Icon 2
      1. Grado SR225
    3. Centrance DACMini CX
      1. Audeze LCD-3
      2. Grado GS1000e
    4. Other (not enough time for a real comparison)
      1. Oppo PM-1
      2. ZMF Blackwood
     

    NAD D 1050

    [​IMG]
     
    Overall, the NAD D 1050 is a solid DAC/amp combo. The remote that it comes with is extremely hard to read, which is only a downside when it's dark. The volume knob has extreme precision, but it would be nice if the LEDs that showed the decibel level had a bit more granularity. I personally prefer 1/4" TRS to the 3.5mm miniplug, but for the EL-8s the miniplug is good.
     
     

    Shure SHR1540 (NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Before getting into sonic characteristics, I think it is worth pointing out here that there is "no contest" in terms of comfort: the Shures are a clear winner. They feel lighter, and the pads feel "cool" against my head for a long time, while the EL-8 feels like a bit of a clamp and definitely warms up.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    The base drop at around 37 seconds is the only thing you need to listen to in order to hear the drastic difference between these two cans. On the Shures, it's a massive transition in the song. The baseline sits a good ways away from the treble and the contrast is readily apparent. On the EL-8s, the drop is much more subtle. You would think it was an additional instrument joining in, not a transition in the piece. Giving the EL-8s more volume doesn't appear to affect this much, which was surprising to me.
     
    The vocal crescendo around 2:40 ("Oh my wrinkles build on me, build on me, build on...") highlights the second massive difference. The Shures seems to push all the treble together into a bit of a muddy mess. It sounds like the notes are being played over one another, and it becomes impossible to differentiate the subtle differences between the notes of the drum and ... I'm going to call it "the bells." It's the thing playing the primary melody. Putting on the EL-8s, the subtle differences are plain as day, and this particular segment of the song sounds like music again. I'm honestly shocked at how poorly the SHR1540s perform here -- but perhaps this can be talked up to preference.
     
     

    Do it Again by Steely Dan

     
    This is the version of of "A Decade of Steely Dan."
     
    This time, the differences in base are a little more difficult to pinpoint. The Shures absolutely put more distance between the drums and the (what I believe to be a) washboard. But right around 20 seconds, the keyboard seems to blend together entirely with the guitar. At around the 50 second mark, the cymbal is blurred on the SHR1540s. Crystal clear on the EL-8s.
     
     
    There's a particular vocal sound at 1:55 -- "when you know she's no high climber." I think the detail in the EL-8s really outshine the SHR1540s here. On the EL-8s there is virtually no blurring between the vocals and the background instrumentals, even as the pitch increases. With the SHR1540s, the vocals seem to "disappear" for a split second into the piano.
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage The Elephant

     
    The opening bass note at around 8 seconds sounds drastically different. On the Shures, the bass note is "what's happening." Everything else sounds like subtle background. The note is booming, and it fills your entire head. On the EL-8s, the bass note provides a nice ambient background to the incredibly crisp guitar.
     
    At around 2:45, many instruments drop out, and the harmony is built up again. On the Shures, this buildup is dominated again by the bass. The hi hat and the snare are unmistakably muffled. Here, the EL-8s lose something in the low ends -- the bass line is not as "thumpy" as on the Shures, but the hi hat and snare are rendered in exquisite detail. To be more specific, on the Shures, it sounds like a simple "whack" of the hi hat that blurs into a snare hit or two. On the EL-8s, you can hear the roll off of the hi hat and it is kept entirely distinct from the snare.
     
     

    Beyerdynamic T90 (NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Yes, the T90s are open and my EL-8s are closed. Clearly, that's going to give the T90s an advantage in some respects. So it's worth noting now that that T90s don't isolate as well as the EL-8s, and they leak a lot more sound. When I compare the EL-8s to other headphones below, the same will apply.
     
     
    Comfort wise, I'd say it is a tie. The T90s start to feel warm just like the EL-8s do, but instead of feeling like a head clamp they feel like they're going to fall off. Aesthetically, I'd say the white ring around the mesh on the T90s that resembles a tacky eMac from 2005 is quite a bit more tacky than the wood band on the EL-8. But even as a Head-Fi member, I'm willing to admit that's a matter of opinion (beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it's in my ear and my ear alone).
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    The bass drop at 0:37 is absolutely fantastic on the T90s. The bass is present but not overwhelming, thumpy, and well imaged without compromising the details of the highs. The precision is absolutely stinging (in a good way -- extremely precise, in the forefront when it should be and in the background otherwise). In comparison, the EL-8s sound like they are missing something, almost like there is a wall between the low-frequency instruments and the treble. The "bells" sound a little bit stale on the T90s, especially when directly compared to the EL-8s. The EL-8s reproduction of each entire note -- from the note's initial impact to its decay, sometimes lingering and sometimes cut off by another note -- is several steps ahead of the T90s.
     
    The vocals around 2:40 are a clear win for the EL-8s. The T90s do a much better job than the Shures at maintaining separation and preventing instrumental blurring than the Shures do here, but still pale in comparison to the EL-8s. The T90s seem like they are almost overwhelmed by the frequency range, whereas the EL-8s seem unfazed. Perhaps I'm anthropomorphizing a bit here, but that seems like the most succinct way to describe it. The T90s keep the very high and very low clear and detailed, but everything in the middle seems to disappear into noise.
     
     

    Do it Again By Steely Dan

     
    The T90s have an extremely hard time separating out the piano from the baseline until about the minute mark, where things clear up a bit. There's a lot of detail lost here, which becomes apparent right away after putting the EL-8s on. The vibration of the guitar becomes fine and detailed, whereas the whole thing sounds muddy and mixed together on the T90s (in comparison).
     
    The T90s sound straight-up better in every respect than the EL-8s at 1:55. The vocals are smooth, the piano is crisp, the percussion is imaged well and punchy. By comparison, the EL-8s reproduce the vocals extremely well, but the piano has substantially vanished and the percussion feel crammed.
     
     
    (at this point I opened a Snapple -- did you know the praying mantis is the only insect that can turn its head?)
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage the Elephant

     
    The opening base hit at ~8 seconds is pretty well done on the T90s. It sounds clean, well-separated, and not at all muddy. Much more immersive and wide soundstage than the EL-8s. The muttering about "a bag of gummy bears" at the start of the song is just as detailed as on the EL-8s (you can't quite taste the gummy bears -- for that you need a better cable). At 12 seconds, there's a guitar that comes up suddenly in the left channel -- the attack and detail here are much better on the EL-8s, but they certainly aren't bad on the T90s. Again, the EL-8's percussion detail is a step ahead.
     
    The build up at 2:45 is different with the T90s as well. The guitar is much more forward and fast on the EL-8s, where the T90s seem to focus on the bass. The T90 details outside of the mid-highs are just as good as the EL-8s, and even better in the lows. But the EL-8s absolutely steal the show with the main guitar line and the snare/hi hat.
     
     

    Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250Ohm (AlphaPads, NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Comfort wise, I'd say this is basically a tie. The alpha pads are great, but they get pretty hot. The DT770s don't seem to clamp down quite as much as the EL-8s do, at least on my head.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    I think I like the bass drop at 0:37 on the DT 770s the best. I've also heard them on the Bottlehead Crack amp through the PeaceTree DAC iT, and they were excellent there as well. The base is tight and controlled by still very present. It doesn't overwhelm you, and you can "feel" it a lot more than the T90s or the Shures. Absolutely fantastic. Comparisons here most drastically demonstrated what the EL-8s were "missing" in the lows. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the details in the highs -- from the vocals to the "bells" to the hi hat / snares / claps -- are superb on the EL-8s. The DT 770s make the vocals sound much less smooth, while at the same time making the "bells" blur together.
     
    As for the vocals at ~2:40, the DT 770s do not do very well... the "bells" blur into the percussion (especially the hi hat and the claps) and the ambiance in the background sounds like slightly melodic noise (which, incidentally, is how a few of my friends have described this entire song). The EL-8s bring the detail, and they do it exceptionally well. There's another instance of this messiness around 1:45, where the vocals transition from a female singer to a computerized extremely low voice. Later, at around 2:20, the vocals are mixed. Here, the DT 770s fail to keep all the instruments from bleeding into each other, but the overlay of the two voices is absolutely fantastic. The EL-8s are the opposite: the instruments remain isolated and composed, but the overlay of the voices sounds a little... off? The lower voice seems to disappear, and the higher voice dominates.
     
     

    Do it Again by Steely Dan

     
    The DT 770s avoid the issues the Shures had at the 20 second mark -- the piano and guitar are clearly and well separated. The reverb off of the high hat is also excellent. The "shimmering" at around 1 minute is also pretty good on the DT 770s, but it is still much more detailed with the EL-8s.
     
    The DT 770s don't blow the EL-8s out of the water at the 1:55 mark like the T90s did. The 770s are much more recessed, and don't carry the same "liveness" as the T90s. Although the DT 770s definitely maintain a bit more "liveness" than the EL-8s do at this point in the song. The vocals on the DT 770s sound a little smoothed over, whereas they sound appropriately rugged and detailed on the EL-8s. The guitar solo around 3:00 carries a bit more depth with the DT 770s, but a lot more detail on the EL-8s. I would say that the EL-8s have a very clinical treatment of the solo, whereas the DT 770s are a bit more "fun."
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage the Elephant

     
    The big drop at ~8 seconds are much more subtle on the DT 770s than on the T90s, so the DT 770s and the EL-8s are a lot closer in this regard. The EL-8's detail really shines against the DT 770s with the opening guitar before the 30 second mark.
     
    The build up ~2:45 is also not so great on the DT 770s. "Burning the town down" sounds pretty troubled (granted, it is screaming. So what'dya expect?), but the bass remains thumpy and clear. Everything but the bass, however, has some issues. The guitar starts to become sluggish when other instruments step in, and even the singer's articulation seems to suffer when the song becomes more complex. I much prefer the EL-8s rendering than the DT 770s here.
     
     

    HiFiMAN HE-400 (Moon Audio pads, wjernst's custom cable, NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Let's just all take a second to remember that you pick up an HE-400 for $250.00 NEW on Amazon. If that isn't the best bang/buck in headphones, I don't understand what "bang" is.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    The dark sound signature of the HE-400s are apparent from second 0 of Obedear. The base drop at ~35 seconds is clean and controlled, but is not "thumpy." The HE-400s are the first headphones on this list that come close to capturing the level of detail in the "bells" as the EL-8. Overall, this first part of the song shows that the EL-8 and the HE-400 have a similar signature except for the highs -- the EL-8s have a bit more there than the HE-400s.
     
    Around ~2:40 the HE-400s encounter a problem. They just aren't able to capture everything that's going on. The mids get lost, and the base losses focus. The vocals are still rendered in lovely detail, but the EL-8s are able to capture the entire ensemble from the bass to the highs. I'm still extremely impressed with the performance of the HE-400s compared to some of the more expensive headphones I listed earlier.
     
     

    Do it Again by Steely Dan

     
    The base kick at the 20 second mark is so subtle on the HE-400s that you might miss it if you blink (with your ears). It's still controlled and tight, but it does seem undeniably recessed, even compared with the EL-8s.
     
    At 1:55, the HE-400s have no problem keeping everything separated and clean. Compared to the Shures, for which identifying the instruments here is a auditory Where's Waldo, the HE-400s have excellent imaging. The details on the main guitar are still better on the EL-8s, but it is a close match.
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage the Elephant

     
    The bass drop at 8 seconds is a lot more satisfying on the HE-400s than on the EL-8s, but it doesn't have the same punch as a lot of the Beyerdynamic headphones. Again, it is very controlled, very tight. On the EL-8s it is similar, but more recessed. After the drop, the EL-8s still take the cake with what I've described as a perfectly "stinging" guitar in the left channel. This still sounds good on the HE-400s, but it is just so well timed, so detailed, that the delivery on the EL-8s is just superior.
     
    At the 2:45 mark, I hear the vocals being a lot more recessed (compared to the EL-8s) on the HE-400s (and that's during the yelling). The guitar gets a little blurry as well, but the percussion is still rendered in extremely accurate detail. The buildup also seems less dramatic -- like the instruments aren't augmenting each other like they do on the EL-8s. Not quite sure how to describe this any better than that, though...
     
     

    Audeze LCD-3 (pre-fazor, Moon Audio Silver Dragon, NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Unlatching the Pelican case containing my LCD-3s and connecting my Moon Audio Silver Dragon cable felt like bringing a gun to a knife fight. But the Audeze-on-Audeze violence seems necessary to compare two different takes on the Audeze "house sound," plus, as an upside, I really like listening to the LCD-3s.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    Ah... finally having the cake and eating it too. LCD-3s successfully give a controlled, non-recessed bass response at the ~35 second mark while maintaining insanely good details in the highs. The vocals are excellently conserved. By comparison, the EL-8s makes the percussion sound tinny, and the bass sounds bloated. I was surprised to find the EL-8 bass bloated, given how recessed it seemed in other tests. But after switching back and forth several times, I can find no other word to describe the difference. The bass on the EL-8s sounds like it is spread out, unfocused, and not very powerful. Maybe "bloated" is the wrong word.
     
    The EL-8s and the LCD-3s are actually pretty close soundstage-wise at the 2:40 mark. The LCD-3s definitely have better bass (more controlled, more detailed) than the EL-8s here, but both do an excellent job of imaging. I think the EL-8 matches the LCD-3s with detail in the highs, and the LCD-3 is a little ahead in the mids.
     
     

    Do it Again by Steely Dan

     
    Both the LCD-3s and the EL-8s handle the initial bass kick subtly, but not to the same extent that the HE-400s do. The EL-8s seem to muddle the bass a little bit compared to the LCD-3s, and the EL-8s are missing a bit of detail and refinement in the mids as well. This is especially apparent at the minute mark "shimmer."
     
    The LCD-3s handle the vocals around 1:55 much better than the EL-8s. The LCD-3s preserve their detail and musicality while the EL-8s seems to make them a little more rigid and clinical. Both headphones do an excellent job maintaining a complex soundstage, but the LCD-3 stage is absolutely both wider and deeper.
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage the Elephant

     
    The LCD-3s really outshine the EL-8s in the first 45 seconds. The speed of the guitar, the richness of each tone, and the perfect reverb from each percussion note is incredibly apparent. In comparison, the EL-8s seem cheap and unfocused. The bass at 8 seconds is exceptionally satisfying on the LCD-3s, as good as the T90s I think. Maybe better, with a little more details in the lows.
     
    The LCD-3s also outclass the EL-8s at the crescendo at 2:55. The detail in the LCD-3s, as well as the more precise imaging, really does a fantastic job providing a solid foundation for the vocal high point of the song. In comparison, the EL-8s seem to be missing a lot of low mids. It is difficult to say, but I personally think I can hear a better dynamic range here with the LCD-3s than with the EL-8s, but it is close.
     
     

    NAD VISO HP50s (V-MODA cable, NAD D 1050)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    I think that a lot of people who wrote off these headphones did so when they saw the shape of the pads. For my ears, the odd rectangles work and the headphones are "over-ear." If your ears are very large, this might not work out so well... but I still find the HP50s to be more comfortable than the EL-8s.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    What drastically different sound signatures! From the very start of the song, the EL-8s sound higher pitched, and I think they do a better job of representing the grainy start to the song. The HP50s also just don't have the detail the EL-8s have, in the vocals, in the bells, in the lows... anywhere. Perhaps that's to be expected with the dynamics vs. orthos. Now, the bass impact! The HP50s are the opposite of subtle. While listening to the EL-8s, you might think "oh, that's a nice bass line for this song." With the HP50s, you would think "this song has an AWESOME bass line!" It's everything you could want bass to be: it isn't overpowering, it is clean, it is full/rich, and it fits perfectly with the song.
     
    At ~2:40, I think the HP50s have some of the same issues as the DT 770s, but less extreme. A lot of detail in the reverb of the percussion disappears entirely. Vocals seem harsh, but aren't pain-inducing. The bass continues to be forceful and pleasant throughout, but the detail loss in the mids and highs is troubling. Overall, I'd say the biggest issue is really the vocals -- they seem to be lowered a bit compared to the EL-8s. Still just as loud -- but actually lower pitch. I'm not sure if that's even possible, or if it just my ears playing tricks on me.
     
     

    Do it Again by Steely Dan

     
    The HP50s have the same issue as the Shures at around the 20 second mark -- the guitar and the piano fuse together. It doesn't seem to be as drastic as the Shures, but it is unmistakably still there. In comparison, the EL-8s sound exceptionally detailed.
     
    The guitar solo at ~3 minutes sounds very different on the EL-8s than on the HP50s. The HP50s really bring up the background sounds, and the EL-8 seems to highlight / amplify the guitar a bit more. This is likely a function of the frequency response, and could easily be reversed in different settings, but for this particular song, it is certainly a difference. It is hard to say which I prefer. I like the EL-8s ability to articulate the detail in the guitar, but I also like the more ensemble sound of the HP50s.
     
     

    In One Ear by Cage the Elephant

     
    Wow! What a bass hit! I actually checked to make sure I hadn't turned on an equalizer or anything. For whatever reason, the HP50s have more bass here than even the T90s. For me, the bass is a bit rough at the start. The HP50s seem to bring the entire soundstage forward. The vocals and the guitar are about on the same level, but with the EL-8s the vocals are clearly in front of the guitar.
     
    The HP50s surprised me at 2:55 -- I thought they'd become muddy and fail to render everything that was going on. Instead, the HP50s seemed to excel in the chaos and produce a pretty good ensemble. Everything is very clear, just like in the EL-8s. The percussion (especially the cymbals -- or it might be a hi-hat hit really loud) lacked the detail that the EL-8s bring, but overall it worked pretty well.
     
     

    NuForce Icon 2

     
    The Icon is a nice entry-level DAC/amp. It's got a few different inputs, and can even power speakers if you figure out the strange phone jack-like system. It's got an extremely small footprint, which makes it ideal for a cluttered desk.
     

    Grado Prestige SR255 (NuForce Icon 2)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    The Grados are a lot lighter than the EL-8s, and the Grados don't feel like they're going to fly off my head if I move around too much. Thousands of words have already been written about the EL-8 cable, but I want to add that, compared side by side to the Grado cable, the EL-8 cable feels like string. The Grado cable is thick and feels like a durable, quality product. The Grados I used also terminated with a TRS / quarter-inch jack, which I prefer to the 3.5mm terminator on the EL-8s.
     
     
    The Grado's also don't get "hot" against my face like the EL-8s and other leather pads do. That's probably purely a property of the pads/cups Grado uses.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    Let's start with the bass drop ~37 seconds. On the Grados, for the first time, I think the bass is cleaner and more focused. It seems to kind of overflow in the EL-8s by comparision. The Grados keep it contained and tight. Neither have the crazy bass impact of the T90s or the DT 770s, but I think the bass on the Grado's is preferable, at least to my ears. Let me clear(er) -- the Grado bass seems to be cleaner and more controlled but also more impactful and punchy. I stand by that "focused" is the correct word. I guess you could say the bass is slimmer (tight), but also more forward, making them seem more impactful.
     
    At ~2:40, I think the SR255s have a similar issue to the HE-400s. There's just a lot going on and behind some very powerful vocals. The EL-8s render the entire thing, front to back. The Grados get about halfway back and then blur the rest. Specifically, the EL-8s render the vocals in their entirety while maintaining excellent details in the percussion. The Grados seem to miss out on the grandness of the vocals and have a much slower percussion.
     
     

    Shadow Stabbing by Cake

     
    (Apologies for changing songs -- I didn't have my entire collection with me.)
     
    For me, this is a great test song because so much happens in the very first 15 seconds. There's percussion, two guitars, and vocals. The clear superiority of the EL-8's detail is immediately apparent. The Grado's are a little scratch on the first guitar's notes. The percussion sounds pretty flat on Grado's, but has a lot of depth to them on the EL-8s.
     
     
    The bass guitar, however, is much more impactful and present on the Grado's than on the EL-8s. On the Grado's, it sounds like the bass line "fills the room", whereas on the EL-8s make it sound like the bass line is filling the apartment above and below you, or is being practiced quietly in the corner with a muffle/mute (whatever you call them for guitars).
     
     

    Stamp on the Gound by ItaloBrothers

     
    Since the bass comparison between the EL-8s and the Grados were giving me a bit of confusion (how could the Grados seem more controlled AND more impactful / punchy? I still think focused is a good word for it), I decided to throw a song with a crazy amount of bass in it.
     
    The drop in Stamp on the Ground is at around ~55 (lyric: "drop the beat"). I gave the Grados and the EL-8s a lot more volume than I had been doing with the other tracks, and the Grados responded really well. Again, the bass on the Grados sounds more focused, tighter, and more impactful. All-around superior bass to the EL-8s, as far as I could tell from these three songs with this DAC/amp.
     
     
    Again, we see supreme detail in the EL-8s, especially in the parts of the song before ~55/the drop. The recessed sections of the song -- 2:10 to 2:50 -- also are substantially more detailed on the EL-8s. The atmospherics at the beginning and end of the song are extremely immersive and full. But the bass is lacking! I'm really torn here -- if only I could get the bass of the Grados and the detail of the EL-8s... thank god for the LCD-3s.
     
     

    Centrance DACmini CX

     
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    I'm extremely pleased with my DACmini CX, especially in combination with the LCD-3s. Even at it's (relatively) low price point, I would say the DACmini can go head to head with much more expensive amps like the ALO Studio 6. Since the DACmini was recently on Massdrop, I imagine we'll start seeing them everywhere. My only real complaint is that the labels above the input selector LEDs can be difficult to read when it is bright, but since there are only 4 of them, you very quickly figure out which is which.
     
     
    Right off the bat, I can tell the DACmini CX gives the bass a lot more impact with the EL-8s. They don't seem to be "missing something" nearly as much through the DACmini as the did with the NAD D 1050. More below.
     
     
    Since I really like vinyl as a medium, I also tested Poison in the Well by 10,000 Maniacs. The turntable is a Project Debut Carbon DC connected to a the Project Phono Box S via the stock grounded interconnects. The phono preamp is connected to the DACmini CX via AudioQuest Evergreen cables (0.6m). The cartridge is a brand new Ortofon 2M Red.
     
     

    Audeze LCD-3 (Centrance DACmini CX)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    I've already commented on the comfort differences above, so I won't rehash that here.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    My initial impressions listening to the DACmini with the EL-8s was that the bass came through with a lot more impact. And the additional amping certainly does help bring out the bass in the EL-8s. Comparing to the LCD-3s gave me a slightly different impression, however.
     
    The bass drop at ~37 seconds has good impact on the EL-8s with the DACmini, but the LCD-3s make it much more "full". The EL-8s have a bass that hits you and you can feel it, but the LCD-3 bass seems to "fill the air" and really give solid presence. While I've previously said that the EL-8 has more "focused" bass, in this particular side-by-side it seems to much more narrow than it is focused. The bass seems to vanish quickly on the EL-8s while it seems to linger a little longer on the LCD-3s. It isn't rolling off because it isn't a frequency thing, and it isn't a control thing either because the LCD-3s have excellent bass control. There's simply less bass presence.
     
     
    At around ~2:40, I can hear what some people have described as "tinny" properties of the EL-8s. The vocals come through with stunning, holographic clarity on the LCD-3s, but have a tiny bit of a "cheap speaker" sound on the EL-8s. Like the singer is performing through a (large) tin can. It's strange, because the vocals elsewhere in the song sound fine. But in this particular section, they seem to fail.
     
     

    Shadow Stabbing by Cake

     
    The guitars have a lot more character on the LCD-3s. They sound much more synthetic and digital on the EL-8s. Especially the imperfect little "twang" at the end of each strum. Again, the bass is substantially more "full" on the LCD-3s. The initial attack of the bass -- the thump/impact -- is excellent on both the EL-8s and the LCD-3s, but during the reverberation and the fade the LCD-3s really excel at preserving the presence of the bass in the song while the EL-8s seems to lose something.
     
    Vocals are much more forward on the LCD-3s, and seem to be complete/authentic/natural.
     
     

    Tonight by The Colourist

     
    This is a great test song. It's got guitar, percussion, and male and female vocals in the first 30 seconds and some great harmonizing in the first 45.
     
    The guitar at the very beginning (~1 second) actually sounds better to me on the EL-8s than on the LCD-3s. On the LCD-3s the guitar seems to be set back and muted. On the EL-8s, it's very forward and appropriately harsh. Some might prefer the "smoother" sound of the LCD-3s, but for songs in this genre, I prefer the relentless sound the EL-8s give.
     
     
    That's where the EL-8's advantages end, however. The female vocals are definitely getting that "tinny" sound which sounds especially grating during harmonization. In fact, after ~45 seconds, when the sound becomes sufficiently complex, the soundstage on the EL-8s completely collapses. It sounds like toddlers in an overcrowded daycare all demanding that the teacher give their crayon drawing the undivided attention such a masterpiece must deserve. On the LCD-3s, there's a lot of air and the whole thing sounds well put together. Honestly, this is the first song/setup combination I've found that's fairly unpleasant with the EL-8s. Don't get me wrong -- they're not Apple earbuds, but they aren't good either.
     
     

    Poison in the Well by 10,000 Maniacs (vinyl)

     
    From this comparison, I don't think the EL-8s are good transducers for vinyl. In general, the vocals seemed to be getting clipped on the high end, and the snare was very forward. The guitar, however, had plenty of air.
     
    The LCD-3s, however, had nearly perfect vocals and pushed the snare a little farther back and made it much more full. Additionally, there was a lot more detail and precision in the guitar (although I'd say it had about the same amount of "air"). The soundstage, just generally, also seems much deeper on the LCD-3s.
     
     

    Grado GS1000e (Centrance DACMini CX)

     
    [​IMG]
     
    Comfort wise, these phones are in different leagues. The EL-8s feel like they have a lot of clamping force and are very heavy. The Grados feel lightweight but secure. I can wear the Grados substantially longer than I can wear the EL-8s -- there's no contest here for me. The Grados are orders of magnitude more comfortable.
     
     
    These Grados have approximately 150 hours of burn-in, and are relatively new.
     
     

    Obedear by Purity Ring

     
    Holy soundstage! The Grados make the EL-8s sound like an entire middle school band attempted to record a mixtape in a porta-potty. The Grados sound like Carnegie Hall. In my opinion, the Grado sound stage is almost as "holographic" as the LCD-3s, and perhaps even a little wider. Several times during the ~2 hours I compared the Grados in the EL-8s, I found myself listening to the Grados beyond the clip of the song I was examining because they are just so wonderful.
     
    Bass -- the EL-8s absolutely have a bit more thump to them than the Grados, but the Grados can do what the LCD-3s can do: the bass seems to reverb a lot better and provide better support to the song as a whole. The EL-8s just seem to lose each bass note a little too early, even though the initial thump is pretty good.
     
     
    In terms of detail, the EL-8s definitely do a better job at enunciating the highs and the quick attack on the percussion.
     
     
    At ~2:45, the Grados don't outperform the EL-8s as drastically as I expected them to. The sound stage, of course, is much wider on the Grados. And while the Grados certainly avoid the "tinny"ness of the EL-8s here, they don't seem to have the resolution of the LCD-3s. I suppose the planar sound is the trick here, at least to my ears.
     
     

    Shadow Stabbing by Cake

     
    Again, the soundstage. The Grados are really able to lay out each instrument at distances that the EL-8s just don't seem able to reach. The guitar on the Grados is almost as good as the LCD-3s.
     
    The bass on the EL-8s doesn't seem substantially more impactful as it did in Obedear. The Grado bass has some good richness and grain that the EL-8s seem to smooth over. But the EL-8s absolutely give a satisfying thump.
     
     

    Tonight by The Colourist

     
    First -- the soundstage. The EL-8s and the Grados are much closer here. The primary thing I listened to is the percussion at ~2 or 3 seconds. The EL-8s do a good job getting them pretty far back and to the left, but the Grados do so even better without sacrificing any detail.
     
    The percussion and guitars are much more natural and alive on the Grados, and the EL-8s give them a bit of an artificial sound. However, the Grados don't do a very good job of maintaining their detail when the song becomes complex at about ~41 seconds. On the EL-8s, it sounds clean, detailed, and accurate. On the Grados, it sounds messy and unfinished. Almost like whoever was in charge of mastering the song screwed up.
     
     
    The vocals are also a little more forward on the EL-8s (both male and female, but more pronounced for female vocals). The Grados seem to push them back a bit, although they do sound more natural (but less detailed) on the Grados. You might say the vocals on the EL-8 sound a bit more clinical.
     
     

    Poison in the Well by 10,000 Maniacs (vinyl)

     
    There's no doubt in my mind that the Grados are the superior headphone for vinyl. The Grados sound open, full of air, tonally warm, and extremely natural. The EL-8s sound condensed, crammed and analytic. On the EL-8s, the percussion sounds almost synthetic, and the vocals sound grainy. On the Grados, I also get much better bass presence that seems to live long enough to provide background to the melody.
     
    The EL-8s produce all the bass notes (obviously), but it doesn't seem to complement the rest of the song, or provide the same level of naturalness as the Grados. You can say its a tear in a salty sea all you want, but it was not cleaned up by the end of the week.
     
     

    Other Headphones

     
    Oppo PM-1 : I got to listen to one of the PM-1s that Oppo loaned out a while ago. I didn't listen to these three specific songs, and I'm going off of my notes, so take this with a grain of salt. It seems like the PM-1s have much better bass response than the EL-8s (Our Own House by MisterWives). When the EL-8s feel like they are "missing something," the PM-1s are able to deliver. The detail on the PM-1s match or surpass the EL-8s, except possibly in the very high range, where the EL-8s seemed to have a slight edge.
     
    ZMF Blackwood : Listened to these for quite a while at the most recent Denver meet (thanks to Tedman), and I also got to compare them to my EL-8s on Tedman's awesome custom rig. Overall, I think the Blackwoods produced far superior bass to the EL-8s, but lacked the immense details in the rest of the range. I wish I had written down more, but I wasn't smart enough to keep detailed notes.
     
     

    Amps, DACs, and Sources

     

     
    Over the past three months, I've done my best to compare the EL-8s across a number of different DACs, amps, and sources. Since I never had them all together at the same time, I did the comparison in multiple parts.
     
     

    Part 1: MacBook Pro, FiiO E12 "Mont Blanc", NuForce Icon 2, AudioQuest Dragonfly

     
    [​IMG]
     
    For this comparison, I used a 24-bit version of Ellie Goulding's Lights off of Haclyon. I used the most recent Fidelia. In order to feed the source into all three amplifiers/DACs at once, I created multi-output device in Audio MIDI Setup. I enabled drift correction on all three devices.
     
     
    The FiiO was set to high impedance mode, no bass boost, no crossfade. The Dragonfly was set to match the song ("pink"), as was the NuForce Icon 2. I did volume balancing by ear, and then used a microphone to confirm the SPLs were approximately the same.
     
     
    Everything was fed into a FiiO HS2, so I could change the stack by simply rotating the knob. I'd highly recommend this setup for comparing different stacks.
     
     
    In order, I prefer the NuForce, the FiiO, and finally the Dragonfly. The NuForce is a clear winner, and the differences between the FiiO and the Dragonfly are much more subtle. The NuForce just opens up the sound stage substantially -- you can hear it get wider every time you switch to it. A real "wow" moment when compared against the other two. I think the NuForce boosts the lows up quite a bit, or at least makes them sound more immersive.
     
     
    The detail on the Dragonfly and the NuForce are equivalent to my ears, but I would say the Dragonfly is a bit more detailed in the highs than the E12. I still prefer the sound of the E12 over the Dragonfly because the music seems to have more depth (soundstage goes farther back) on the E12 in a pretty drastic way. I wouldn't normally say that I prefer soundstage over detail, but in this case it seems I do.
     
     
    The NuForce does an excellent job with the percussion at ~35 seconds. The bridge at ~42 is also handled well by the NuForce. The FiiO, compared to the NuForce, seems to bring the vocals forward and push everything back. The Dragonfly seems to push everything back.
     
     
    I attempted to confirm these results (or at least see if they matched) with my LCD-3s. I definitely still prefer the NuForce. In fact, the difference seems to be even more severe on the LCD-3s (not surprising). The soundstage, in general, was simply better on the LCD-3s, and differentiating between the Dragonfly and the FiiO became more difficult (which was surprising!). Perhaps I've just convinced myself that I can hear the difference, but after nearly 20 minutes of back and forth A/B testing I think the FiiO is fuller and does a better job representing the detail in the vocals.
     
     

    Part 2: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12, iPod Mini 2nd Gen, iPhone 5S

     
    [​IMG]
     
    I spent a lot longer than I care to admit trying to figure out how to take a picture without my tablet and without my iPhone. I've got a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12, a 2nd generation iPod Mini (EMC 2044), and my iPhone 5S connected through the FiiO HS2 and into the E12 amplifier.
     
     
    The mini is playing 16-bit ALACs loaded with iTunes. The tablet and iPhone are streaming 16-bit FLAC from Plex.
     
     

    Wake Me Up by Avicii

     
    Honestly, the EL-8s make it kind of difficult to differentiate between these three sources, which is perhaps a bad sign. It is pretty easy on the LCD-3s, on which I prefer the Mini, followed by the iPhone, followed by the Galaxy. On the LCD-3s, the Mini sounds more detailed and more crisp. About halfway through the song, there's a few vocals and guitar details that come through substantially better on the Mini than on the Galaxy. The iPhone is somewhere in the middle.
     
    After a rather dramatic increase in volume (beyond my normal listening levels), the differences became a little more apparent on the EL-8s. I still prefer the Mini over the other two sources, but I'll admit it is pretty subtle. The Galaxy seems to have some dynamic range problems when the vocals diverge substantially from the instrumentals (~2:25 in my cut). Compared to the iPhone, the Mini seems to make the vocals a little less "hissy" and seems to make some of the noisy (~3:15) parts of the song more musical. But again -- it is very subtle.
     
     

    Place to Hide by O.A.R.

     
    Again, with the LCD-3s, I can differentiate between these three sources very easily. With the EL-8s, it's more difficult. Maybe my ears just aren't good enough -- using the LCD-3s to hear a difference between these sources is using the Hubble telescope, whereas the EL-8s feel more like binoculars. Yeah, some of the stars look kind of different, but to really tell you need better magnification/resolution.
     
    It sounds like the Mini gives the sound more richness and definition. The iPhone and the Galaxy seem to blur things together. But again, it's just extremely subtle...
     
     
    For the EL-8s, I think a DAP is a DAP is a DAP. Unless you are really, really critically listening, I don't think they have the resolution to really reveal any issues as far upstream as the DAP. Granted, each of these devices I tested also used a different DAC, and I'm entirely convinced there's a difference between the PeachTree dacIT and the NAD D 1050's DAC amped through the NAD D 1050 that's audible on the EL-8s. I wish I had a FiiO X5 to test -- maybe it would do a better job presenting a sound closer to that of a desktop / full size system.
     
     

    Conclusions

     

    Sonic properties

    Overall, I'd say the sound of the EL-8s is unique. You'll either love 'em or hate 'em. If you are a "treble head" who enjoys crisp and detailed highs, you should give the EL-8 closed a listen. If you're a bass head who wants a booming, thumping bass, don't even bother picking these up.
     
    1. Bass: the bass is controlled and tight. With the right amping, it can even be punchy, but without the right amping you should prepare for disappointment. "Tinny" bass and generally unimpressive lows are absolutely a possibility. Even with the proper amping, the bass won't compare with excellent (and admittedly much more expensive) LCD-3s. If you like the bass on the HE-400s, you'll probably like the bass on the EL-8s. If you like the bass on the Beyer cans... you might want to stay away.
    2. Highs: absolutely excellent detail, on-par or exceeding more expensive dynamic phones like the Grado GS1000e. Still nothing like the LCD-3s, but definitely more detailed than lower end planars like the HE-400s. They do sound a bit clinical, especially on jazz or more classic rock, and absolutely when compared to the Grado sound or the NAD HP50s.
    3. Mids: there's a lot less body in the midrange than on other, even cheaper headphones like the Grado SR225s. They are still detailed, but can become very recessed.
    4. Soundstage: not so great, especially compared against open cans like the GS1000es or the T90s. They do better against cheaper closed cans like the NAD HP50s, but still don't compete with the $500 Shure SRH1540.
    5. Vinyl: I don't think these are the headphones you want for vinyl. Too synthetic, unnatural, cold, clinical.
     
    You're either going to love them or hate them. I happen to love them. The music I listen to really benefits from the delivery of detailed highs and a controlled bass. Female vocals -- very important to me -- sound lovely, almost as good as the LCD-3s. And they're closed, which means I can listen to them in my office at school. But based on others I've talked to, you shouldn't just go buy these without auditioning a burned-in pair. These aren't like the HD600s; they are divisive and potentially alienating to many ears. But if it works... it works!
     

    Comfort

    These aren't as comfortable as the Grado GS1000es or the Shure SHR1540s. They've got a good amount of clamping force, so if you have a larger head you might find them more uncomfortable. The pads feel fine, although they do get hot against your face after a while. I find I can wear the EL-8s for about 2 hours before wanting to take them off for a bit. I can wear my LCD-3s for about 4 hours, and the Grado GS1000e for about 5.
     

    Price

     
    At time of writing, the EL-8s are selling for $700. Bottom line: I don't think these are $700 dollar headphones. Do they out perform the $250 HE-400s? Yes. Do they outperform cheaper closed headphones like the DT770s? Certainly, unless you are a bass head. Do they beat out the $600 T90s? Much harder to say. Only if you really like the sound signature.
    Hawaiibadboy and HiFiChris like this.

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