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Making a Case for Convenience: Audeze EL-8 Closed Back Headphone

10-11-2015 | By Al Chieng | Issue 81

Audeze has come a long way from its first planar magnetic offering. The upstart company from the United States has steadily grown and offered what some would say to be the best headphones currently in the market place. Not wanting to stay on their laurels the guys from Audeze are back at it again; this time offering not another flagship to replace the vaunted LCD 3 but a product that slots below its top offering open and closed counterparts. Before getting into the EL 8 closed back headphones I think it is important to give you a little background on my experience with Audeze. I was a pretty early adopter of Audeze headphones buying an early revision 1 LCD 2. I was amazed by the bass response coupled with what a lot of people dubbed its rich liquid mids and slightly rolled off top end. It was definitely not a clinical headphone and became a favorite to sit back and relax when not being able to fire up the full size rig. The introduction of the LCD 3 headphone was another significant leap in resolution and quickness and I definitely consider it a reference quality component becoming an integral part of my desktop experience. With the included flightcase it also accompanied me on many trips where obviously my home system with man sized speakers could not. The last Audeze purchase I made came when I needed a little more isolation and the LCD XC was by far the best closed headphone I had ever heard. I am definitely an Audeze supporter but by no means a fan boy as I own and have owned various headphone brands. The particular sound signature that Audeze carries amongst all of its models is what I come back for. Although Audeze has superior sound it does not necessarily scream subtlety. Size, weight and comfort although bearable is not the best amongst the crowded headphone market. The Audeze magic has always been the superior mix of control, musicality and unclinical nature of the music reproduction.


The design of this product is a bit of a departure for the Audeze team. Enlisting the help of BMWDesignWorks USA these headphones where not developed in house like all the other headphones. What was produced is understated and has more of a sleek appearance than previous Audeze headphones. The marriage of aluminum, wood veneer and leather is quite pleasing and reminds me of a mid-modern piece of furniture. The headphone cups swivel and have an adjustable headband. I wish that this adjustment had marked increments so that when the headphone is taken from storage it can be quickly set up again to the proper length but that is merely a nit-pick. The headband is a combination of aluminium and leather that utilizes a suspension system found on other headphones. I found this setup to be very comfortable as it distributed the weight of the headphone along the top of my head. The headphone cups are made up of very supple leather and did not require any real break in period. The headphone cup is meant to encompass the entire ear thus trading size for comfort compared to an on ear model. This lends itself to excellent isolation. I found that prolonged listening with my overly large ears did give me some discomfort as the edges of my ear would come in contact with the inner plastic Fazor wave guide that has become an Audeze trademark. Those that do not have dumbo size ears like mine will not experience this phenomenon at all so fear not. Lastly, the headphones are connected by an Audeze proprietary cable that is flat and should resist getting tangled. The connectors to each headphone cup are unique, flat in appearance they connect securely but headphone cable swapping maybe a little harder to do. Overall the EL 8 can be folded flat and a fabric bag is supplied to store them. I would have liked some sort of hard sided case to transport but the headphones themselves feel sturdy and well made.


When I got the chance to review this product I did not really know how the EL 8 would fit into my listening habits. No matter how good something sounds you have to use it to appreciate it. Having a number of different headphones at my disposal I tried to fit the Audeze into my everyday routine and see if this model would make a difference in my enjoyment of music. Here comes the spoiler alert! These headphones are the business and opened my eyes not because they were the best sounding headphones on the market. The strength of these headphones lies in its ability to reproduce music in situations that are less than ideal. I guess that is one of the main reasons someone would chose to use headphones over a traditional two channel rig. The versatility of the EL 8 astounded me in that where ever I was I had the opportunity to pull them out and have a listen. First and foremost you obviously have to make certain compromises when you are out and about. My serious headphone listening consists siting on the couch or in front of my computer at my desk. For the most part it is pretty static and the larger full size headphones are the ideal product to use because they produced superior sound coupled with serious headphone amplification and associated dac and front end goodies. This type of setup can rival a full two channel setup at times. What the EL 8 was able to do in these situations was commendable. Being nostalgic as of late, the EL 8 beautifully reproduced recordings that were not the best like Bill Wither's "Ain't No Sunshine;" the song with a simple musical backing highlights his voice well and immersed me into the music. The headphone did not highlight any of the recording short comings but instead is more focused on the arrangement. If you listened hard enough you could definitely detect these shortcomings so in no way does it mask deficiencies but this headphone is focused on musical enjoyment first. I have always enjoyed the combination of old and new done tastefully. The album Billie Holiday Remixed & Imagined captures the iconic voice with modern mixing and sampling techniques. The song "Summertime" remixed by Organica highlights the strength of these headphones. The vocals can clearly be heard with the control of mid bass reproduction and electronic effects throughout. I was surprised by how well these headphones could reproduce the lower bass notes with some authority and speed. They definitely take traits from the other Audeze headphones found in the lineup. The soundstage and separation of instruments and singer can also be heard with a slight narrowing from left to right compared to Audeze's open backed offerings.  The album really does have pleasing aural effects that the EL 8 can detect. Changes in Holiday's voice from an analog sampling back to the electronic mixes can clearly be distinguished with the tape noise and all. The trumpet that is used throughout the album has the bite and melody and overall the music does not get regulated to merely elevator music.

If you have read this far it is time to reveal what really makes these headphones a must have. Like I said previously I wondered where these headphones would fit into my listening habits and where the EL 8 fit superbly was the in-between moments of your life where you cannot be at home or at your desk. They are the perfect size to fit in basically any bag and can be deployed with minimal fuss. They do improve in sound quality with an appropriate dac amp combo but still do an amazing job out of my apple iPhone in a pinch. Their ability to travel will surprise you as I was quite content with my previous closed back headphones but the Audeze's were definitely the next level. They fit where my other headphones could not.  I found myself listening to more music than ever before because they are relatively light weight, easy to set up and isolate enough of the environment around you to hear the music. The design is unobtrusive and does not scream very expensive headphone and although slightly bigger than a normal on ear alternative overall comfort and isolation win out for me in this regard. The singular anecdote that made me an EL 8 believer was a recent trip half way around the world. Just going one way including the layovers that were necessary was a combined twenty eight hours. Although not noise cancelling, these headphones provided enough isolation on the plane and busy airports, taking me away from the drone and bustle and making the trip somewhat bearable. Obviously these headphones are not necessarily cheap or the best at reproducing the nth degree of detail out of high quality recordings. However, I believe that these headphones must be seen in relation to its intended purpose which is bringing a headphone to many more people wanting there music on the go and not willing to trade off too many aspect of true musical fidelity. These headphones are enjoyable and highly recommended. If you have been unwillingly to try Audeze out before now is the golden opportunity to fill that niche that this headphone has to offer. Before I finished this review I let a close friend demo the headphones with her favorite tracks. Giving her some time to try them out I was surprised to come back and see tears in her eyes! Yes definitely a cliché but this actually happened. I felt gratified in knowing that I was not the only one to understand how good these headphones can be.  In the end, you will be happily pleased at how much more you can listen to music. Time for another album…

Take care,

Al Chieng

Audeze LLC

EL-8 Closed Back

$699 USD