Stock image: elusive disc | Design: HomeStudioBasics
Originally published 6/10/17.
- 4/28/22. Article revisit.
Greetings friend and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Audeze EL-8 Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
- Intro & Summary
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who do these headphones benefit?
- Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
Audeze EL-8 (Open)
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
- Design: Planar Magnetic.
- Type: Open Back.
- Fit: Circumaural (Over-ear)
- Driver Size: 100mm. What is a Headphone Driver?
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity: 102 dB SPL with 1mW input. What is SPL?
- Total Harmonic Distortion: < 0.1% at 1kHz at 1mW.
- Weight: 16.2 oz. (460 g)
- Color: Black with Wood veneer accents.
- Material: Die-cast metal, protein leather.
- Cable: 3.5mm with 1/4″ headphone adapter
- Removable Cable: Yes
- Case: No
- Fold-able: No
- Apple Compatible: Inline Remote Apple-compatible version via lightning port connection or just standard cable (no remote/mic)
Introduction & Summary
I got a chance to demo the Audeze EL-8s at my local Audio Advice.
They are nice enough to loan out pretty much anything in the store, and they have a wall of headphones for an audition as well. They mostly carry brands like Audeze, HIFIMAN, Bowers and Wilkins, Grado, and Master & Dynamic to name a few.
I kind of wish they would include stuff like Sennheiser, Beyerdynamic, Sony, and some other big names, but they’re primarily a Home Theater store, so I guess it isn’t too much of a priority for them to appease people like me. 😛
As for the EL-8, it comes in a closed back or open back model. Today I will be reviewing the open back version. Related: Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
Build & Style
For starters, this headphone exudes pure elegance.
It’s just about the classiest headphone that I personally have come across, and I really appreciate the workmanship that went in.
The EL-8 boasts die-cast metal and protein leather with wood veneer accents and it’s definitely one of the prettiest pretty boy headphones I’ve seen.
For a planar magnetic, it’s actually not as heavy as you would imagine, but it is heavy enough to put your mind at ease. I don’t see this one breaking down any time soon.
I see the EL-8 as a stealth bomber. It looks rather sleek and has this amazing matte black finish that makes you want to hold it in your hands.
I must have spent at least a couple of minutes just playing with it in my hands and admiring the quality.
The headband adjustments are rather typical and fairly utilitarian but still feel really nice to play with as you’re preparing for a good fit.
As for comfort, it’s through the roof. I didn’t have to take them off at all, and I had them on for 1-2 hours in-store initially. The cup width and depth are more than adequate and part of what makes them so comfy.
Your ears aren’t going to be touching or digging which is welcome for extended listening sessions.
Not so with the EL-8, which is one of the main reasons it’s stood out to me for so many years when I think about all the headphones I’ve demoed.
This baby has just the right amount of clamp, though I did hear that brand new out-of-the-box is a little tight. They definitely open up nicely with some wear.
The pads are really meaty as well and are made of probably some type of protein leather. They’re perfect.
The overall sound is what I would describe as extremely relaxed, balanced (for the most part), smooth, buttery, and non-fatiguing.
Let’s start with the bass.
As with pretty much all Audeze headphones, the bass here is marvelous and essentially a flat line on a graph.
This means you’re getting excellent sub-bass extension without the mid-bass bloat that accompanies most consumer products. It’s deep, it hits hard, and it thumps, but it doesn’t ever sound clammy or bloomy.
In fact, I loved the EL-8 so much at the time of demo that I still include it in my Best Headphones For Hip-Hop article. It’s just that good and should be considered if you’re looking for something to play with harder genres but want to avoid the bloated mess.
Ken Rockwell described it best in his review:
Bottomless is just about the perfect word to describe the EL-8’s bass. It’s truly remarkable.
If you’re coming from Beats headphones or even many entry-level to mid-fi dynamic headphones, prepare to be blown away and then some.
The mid-range, as with most Audeze headphones, tends to sound a bit relaxed and some say even dull.
I wouldn’t necessarily argue that, but I don’t find it to be an issue most of the time.
It seems like Audeze kind of takes a page out of the HIFIMAN book in this regard as both companies tend to gradually roll off the mids after about 1kHz.
This may cause the EL-8 to sound almost too laid-back, and certainly, this is a minor caveat to keep in mind as vocals and instruments may come across as a bit lazy.
As with the mids, the treble is very relaxed and not bright, essy, or sibilant in the slightest.
This is the subject of never-ending debate with audiophiles and I tend to stand somewhere in the middle.
There are times when yes, I feel as though the EL-8 could have more sparkle or sizzle.
But then again, the overall sound is so good that to me it’s not a huge deal – especially considering how many manufacturers tend to overdo it.
Again, you won’t have to worry about that (overdoing it) with the EL-8 as it’s tuned extremely well.
Hi-hats, cymbals, and the treble area, in general, all sound extremely correct – this is something that won’t make sense to you until you compare a planar with a dynamic.
Planar headphones typically represent the frequencies better and also have better instrument timbre. The EL-8 is no different.
The instruments and vocals sound more realistic and their tone is more true to life.
All of this and more is what you can expect with a headphone of this caliber.
- Great instrument separation.
- Smooth, relaxing type of sound. Not aggressive or Sibilant at all.
- Extraordinary comfort. Just perfect.
- Vocals shine.
- Does well with faster music. This is something that I always get worried about in detailed headphones. Can they keep up with the rhythm of faster music? The EL-8s do with flying colors.
- Sound can get a little distant at times and boxed in so to speak.
These sounded phenomenal out of my Android device, but an amp is very much recommended for more serious listening sessions in the studio. How to choose a headphone amp!
Some good options for the EL-8:
- Oppo HA-1
- Emotiva Little Ego DAC
- Audeze Deckard
- Sony ZX2
Who do these headphones benefit?
I found these to be great with pretty much all genres. They seem to be very versatile, handling the frequency spectrum with ease.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
The EL8’s come with a proprietary flat jack connection, which I’ve never come across before.
The cable is also flat (think a flat-head screwdriver shape), and doesn’t tangle in the slightest. I really enjoy the quality of it as well. It doesn’t feel overly cheap or heavy. It’s a nice size, and over 6 feet long.
Fluxor Magnetic Technology
Audeze’s patent-pending “Fluxor Magnetic Technology” means that instead of the magnets inside the driver being magnetized vertically and horizontally, they are magnetized at a 45-degree angle.
They also transfer more energy on the driver-facing side than the backside. In layman’s terms, this results in reduced weight with greater efficiency to work with mobile devices.
Audeze’s Fazor Technology places acoustical elements on each side of the magnet, basically giving the sound more clarity and better imaging, while also preventing phasing.
Phasing is when sound waves cancel each other out. This is basically what happens in a sub-par pair of headphones; the sounds start to run together and there’s no sense of instrument separation.
These can sound a little boxed in at times, even a bit distant. I didn’t find it to be a huge deal, but it is something that I noticed.
This is likely a result of the relaxed mid-range we discussed earlier. At times it can be a little too recessed.
From song to song, I noticed that certain mixes sounded much better than others. I believe this to be the honesty of the cans and how transparent they are.
I would try to focus on listening to the best sources possible; stuff like FLAC, WAV, and generally anything 320kbps and up. With both Deezer and Spotify, these sounded great, but you could definitely discern the bad tracks from the good ones.
Have a Cigar
On Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar”, in particular, there was this sense that I had been missing a lot of the subtle details, which is something I live for when it comes to headphones. This is always what I’m after.
I want to hear everything, good or bad.
Think of these details like raindrops – they’re kind of small, but when it’s just starting to rain you feel them. There’s simply a lot of cool background stuff that comes alive with the EL-8 and you’re likely to really enjoy it as I did.
I’ve really come to enjoy a more toned-down (but still retaining impact) bass response as I’ve gotten older. This is exactly what you’re getting with the EL-8.
When it’s immersed in the music, it feels as if it’s a part of, and not trying to dominate.
That said, here it’s very articulate and detailed. I’m clearly able to pick notes apart and get a sense of the style of the artist. It’s about definition and accuracy, not necessarily oomph here.
One of my favorite aspects of these headphones is the clarity.
I had a much easier time deciphering lyrics than I perhaps ever have. On Common’s “Act too.. The Love of my life”, he seemed to be a lot easier to understand.
I could follow the lyrics better, whereas in time past he may have sounded muffled or distant. Certain lyrics that seemed difficult to make out became extremely clear with the EL-8.
Cups, Portability & Soundstage
The ear-cups rotate inward, allowing you to lay them flat on your desk if you please.
Overall they don’t have an incredibly large range of motion, but there is some freedom there. The headphones don’t fold, however, which does not make them a great candidate for on-the-go.
Because of the fact that they don’t have a carry case and aren’t foldable, I wouldn’t personally take these out.
I think you could get away with using the closed-back version on the go, but these are most definitely studio headphones.
The Soundstage here isn’t huge by any means, but I did feel like the sound was spread more evenly across the palette. You really start to get a sense of space with these. What is Soundstage?
The build and comfort are amazing, and outside of the minor mid-range slope, the sound is incredible in many ways.
The attention to detail is almost unrivaled here, with the precision and balanced sound to match. These are simply exquisite headphones, and going back to 2017, they still stand out in my mind as some of the absolute best I’ve heard.
I would absolutely recommend them, but I think I’ve beaten this horse to death.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audeze EL-8 Review.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Looking for something else? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Which of these tickles YOUR pickle? Would you invest in the EL-8? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,