Thanks to more mass production-friendly methods and the fact that planar magnetics have some advantages over ordinary dynamic drivers, planar magnetic headphones are becoming more common in the slightly higher price ranges. But there aren’t many earbuds built with this principle. There are several reasons for this.
The diaphragms are almost weightless foil layers of micrometer thickness, suspended in the open between two magnetic fields. These drivers are significantly faster than dynamic drivers, with the trade-off that the bass response is rarely as extended and energetic because such designs are not able to move as much air relative to the surface area (ultra-short stroke length). Planar magnets can compensate with a significantly larger diaphragm area, but in a pair of earbuds the housings tend to get very large.
Audeze’s earlier planemagnetic earbuds
However, planar magnetic earbuds are not entirely new for American Audeze, which has both the LCD-i3 and the high-end model LCD-i4 on the menu. Previously, they also offered the more affordable iSine 10 and iSine 20, but both of these have been discontinued. The common denominator for all of them is that they use a giant diaphragm in a housing that basically covers the ear. It looks a bit odd, but they don’t weigh as much as they look, and the sound is magnificent.
All the aforementioned earplug models are of the open type. Open earbuds are very special, and because they let in as much sound as they let out, they’re not very user-friendly. A bit odd, in other words.
Euclid: Audeze’s first closed
Which brings us to Audeze’s latest creation in earbuds. Namely the Euclid. It’s their first closed hearing plugs, making them just as versatile in use as traditional dynamic earbuds, with a much smaller housing than their open sibling models. It also necessarily means that the diaphragm is smaller, but because they are closed, the housing will help to increase the intensity of the bass.
The diaphragm is nevertheless larger than on typical dynamic earbuds, with a diameter of as much as 18mm. That’s about five times the area of the nearest dynamic competitors, and the housings are correspondingly larger. They’re still no bigger than a pair of completely wireless earbuds, which need the extra space for an amplifier, Bluetooth receiver and microphones.
Interchangeable cables (also wireless)
The Audeze Euclid comes with two cables in the box: an unbalanced one with a 3.5 mm plug at the end and a 6.3 mm transition, and in addition also a 4.4 mm balanced Pentaconn cable. A special neck cable with a wireless Bluetooth receiver and built-in amplifier is also optional. This has aptX HD codec for Android mobiles and AAC for iPhone, and it also has a built-in microphone for phone calls. Thus, the Euclid transforms into a pair of thoroughbred wireless earbuds.
The clear, sturdy plastic box also includes ear cushions in two types of silicone and Comply memory foam – three sizes of each; that’s nine pairs in all. Plus a cleaning brush.
The sound of Audeze Euclid
Normally memory foam suits my ears best, but in this case I actually find that Audeze’s medium-sized silicone pads fit best, providing the tightest seal with the best bass. These were also closest to any molded silicone pads I use in terms of sound quality.
The Audeze Euclid has a seductively luscious soundstage, which unfortunately doesn’t come through if you plug the cable directly into a cell phone with analog output. You’ll quickly find that the phone doesn’t have a powerful enough amplifier to power the Euclid. They’re a bit limp at that, so either the sound is too low, or it’s loud enough but without proper resolution. From the newer Macbook Pro, which does have a bit of noise in the output, the sound is loud enough but with audible distortion and blurring, especially from the midrange upwards.
When paired with the Astell & Kern SP2000T portable music player (DAP), it all makes much more sense. The sound image tightens up and becomes so distinct that you can picture the entire orchestra in front of you, in Anne Sophie Mutter’s interpretation of Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G minor. In the 19th century, Schumann was a lone female pianist in a male-dominated world, and counted among the very best. Anne-Sophie Mutter, on the other hand, plays violin, here accompanied by cellist Pablo Ferrández, and Lambert Orkis on piano. It’s beautiful, the notes from the cello glowing in the midrange, as does the violin. The sound from the piano is fluid and natural, and it all sounds so very, very beautiful.
Slightly slim bass
I notice that the deep bass register doesn’t have the foundation familiar from the Beyerdynamic Xelento remote, and although the Sony IER-Z1R is brighter in sound than the Euclid because it has an accentuated treble, both of these also have a deeper bass response.
Still, that’s not what I think of when I hear the beautiful Bird Sing by Anna of the North, but rather how the voice massages the ear canal as the guitar strings are squeezed, plucked and stroked. That the bass guitar is not as big and full as with other earplugs is less important, because the sound structure of the bass guitar itself is exemplary.
But there are also areas where I think the Audeze Euclid gets just too thin. Like with Anitta’s disco song Lobby with Missy Elliott as guest rapper. This music needs more punch in the bass to be really enjoyable to listen to. It becomes a bit like a pair of decorative floorstanding speakers, where what you really need are towering speakers with thundering 15-inch woofers. On this point, there’s more to come with the Sennheiser IE 900 earbuds.
A little sharp in the middle
Another thing that gradually becomes apparent is that there’s just too much energy from the upper midrange to the lower treble. It starts just below 3 kHz, where the tonal character of voices is largely concentrated, and peaks in the midrange at around 4-5 kHz, regulating how close the voices and instruments are perceived. If it gets a little too much of a good thing, voices can become too brash and harsh. Euclid teeters on the edge here, in my opinion. Though it’s far better than the RHA CL2 – a pair of planar magnetic earphones that sound like angle grinders in comparison.
Sibilants in the treble is no problem with the Euclid, which sounds very nice and ornamented at the top, while the earbuds keep the dynamics very well in check.
Together with a CBL-BT-1020 Bluetooth cable, which I was allowed to borrow, the overall impression is well preserved, and the Euclid can actually play louder with this than with the headphone output of many mobile phones. A good compromise, which means the Euclid will be used on many other occasions than just via cable. Extra points for being able to make phone calls with the cable.
Audeze Euclid is among the most interesting earbuds on the market. This is because these are among the few plano-magnetic earbuds out there that, thanks to a larger-than-usual (but not monstrous) housing, have room for a larger diaphragm than those used in dynamic earbuds. That means the Euclid has enough power in the bass, which is usually a weakness of earbuds. Admittedly, there is a lack of punch in the deep bass compared to dynamic earbuds, but the quality of the tonal structure is exemplary.
The Audeze Euclid is very sonorous, with the midrange as its greatest strength. It may have a little too much energy in the lower treble range, but the vast majority of the music sounds impeccable – with great attack and a distinguished sound structure. Note, however, that this model isn’t for everyone, and you’ll need a good amplifier too. That the optional Bluetooth cable works well is a plus in the score book.