CES 2015: Audeze Introduces New EL-8 Open and Sealed Planar Magnetic Headphones
In April of last year I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Audeze's headquarters for a nice long lesson from Dr. Drag Colich, Audeze's chief design engineer, in planar magnetic headphone design. Specifically, in the types of magnetic circuits used, and the advantages and disadvantages of the various configurations. The result of that conversation/lesson was my Headphone 101 article "How Planar Magnetic Headphone Drivers Work."
What I wasn't able to talk about at the time was some of the current work being done at Audeze to improve further on the state of the art in planar magnetic technologies. Fortunately, now with the introduction of the EL-8 and patents applied for, I can now spill the beans.
Fluxor Magnet System
Unlike most planar magnetic headphone magnets which are magnetized either vertically or horizontally, the Fluxor magnets are magnetized on a 45 degree angle. When two of these magnets are placed side-by-side with north and south corners touching, the magnetic field on the top of the magnets is very small as the poles are touching. But the magnetic field at the bottom has to arch out to reach around to the corresponding pole on the other magnet.
This configuration allows most of the magnetic field of the magnet system to be pushed out into the area where the diaphragm is, and not be waisted above the magnets.
Uniforce Diaphragm Circuit Traces
The Uniforce circuit of conductive traces on the diaphragm is another patent applied for technology in the EL-8 headphones. The important thing to understand about the circuit traces on a planar magnetic headphone is that it's actually a single conductor weaving its way around and around the circuit on the diaphragm. That means that at every point in the trace the exact same amount of current is flowing. The Uniforce design varies the width of the traces such that when the conductor is in the weaker areas at the edge of the magnetic field, the trace width is reduced. Because the same amount of current is flowing in the conductor at all points, when the trace width is reduced the current density at that point increases, which in turn increases the magnetic flux density around the trace.
The intent of the Uniforce design is to vary the trace width within the various portions of the magnetic field such that the driving force on the diaphragm is constant over the surface of the diaphragm resulting in a more pistonic motion of the surface, and less modulation distortion products.
Unfortunately, the EL-8 cans were still in pre-production form and final voicings are yet to be done. I heard both cans as being a bit bass-light, and slightly strident, with the sealed version being rougher sounding than the open model. Surprisingly, however, the sealed version, despite its sonic flaws, sounded much more like an open headphone than a sealed one. That said, I've got quite a bit of confidence that when Audeze releases the final version of these cans we'll hear something quite different.
Audeze worked with BMWDesignWorks USA on the design of these cans, and boy does it show...these look lovely! Not only are they much lighter in weight than the other Audeze headphone, they're also just miles sexier in appearance. The proprietary magnetic cable connections to the headphones are also very niceI hope Audeze will consider offering these connectors to select after market cable makers.
Both EL-8 models will sell for $699 and availability is expected in the first quarter of this year.
If you can't see the video, click here.