Audeze’s Euclid in-ear planar magnetic headphones are extraordinary. And at $1299/£1099, they’d higher be. These are meant to be god-tier audiophile-grade in-ears for music and the like, however that is Digital Foundry – so we have centered on their gaming efficiency in our testing regime. Is it ever value spending a lot on in-ears for this function – and are there any cheaper alternate options value contemplating?
We’ll present that data quickly, however let’s begin at the start: who’s Audeze anyway? This Californian agency is not a mainstream gaming model like your Corsairs or Razers, however the firm has earned a fame for great-sounding planar magnetic headphones and gaming headsets that justify their premium worth factors. Certainly, we have named Audeze’s Penrose and LCD-GX as among the best of their classes. The Penrose, Penrose X and HyperX-branded Cloud Orbit S are full-fat gaming headsets, supporting fashionable consoles and PC, whereas the LCD-GX is an ultra-premium audiophile headset that may be used for gaming – a descriptor that is nearer to the character of the Euclid in-ears.
Nevertheless, even attempting these headsets did not fairly put together me for the Euclid – it is one factor to plunk a comfortably large over-ear headset on and get nice sound, however fairly one other to shrink the identical tech right down to a measurement that’ll slot in your ears.
Fairly how that is doable with out making critical sacrifices I am undecided, however the engineering right here is spectacular to say the least. The comparatively modest in-ears comprise an 18mm planar magnetic transducer, with magnets and waveguide, a powerful feat of miniaturisation that does not appear to sacrifice a lot in the way in which of audio high quality. After all, as this can be a closed-back in-ear design, you will not get fairly the soundstage or immersion issue of open-back and/or on-ear headphones, however you get at the least some measure of that sound stage, accuracy and bass response that distinguishes planar magnetic headphones from dynamic headphones.
The Euclid in-ears are supremely comfy in use, with loads of suggestions in numerous supplies – together with silicone and foam – and sizes making certain you will discover a mixture that matches the geography of your pinnae and ear canals. I discovered that my left ear was a barely completely different measurement to my proper, however fortunately this was simply catered for.
To attach these in-ears to your PC, console or different machine, you get a selection of removable MMCX cables that terminate in 3.5mm unbalanced or 4.4mm balanced plugs. I selected to plug the three.5mm finish right into a Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC/AMP, which was greater than enough for driving the 12-ohm in-ears to comfy volumes however most likely ranks in the direction of the low finish of DAC/AMPs you’d need to use with the Euclid – in any case, I am positive that utilizing one thing like a high-end tube amp would produce much more spectacular outcomes. Nevertheless, with this degree of impedence, you should not fear about utilizing them with built-in sound playing cards, laptops or smartphones if the necessity arises.
Apparently, the Euclid can be used wirelessly, though I am not satisfied that this needs to be the first use case for a pair of in-ears at this worth vary. That is achieved by way of a cable with an built-in Bluetooth receiver, however even with AptX HD assist the in-ears haven’t got fairly the identical sound signature once you’re utilizing them wirelessly. Battery life is cheap at eight hours, however requires Micro USB charging – not very best in 2023 however one thing you may work round.
The Euclid are available in a pleasant Pelican-style clear plastic case, with room for the in-ears and its equipment – though the Bluetooth adapter requires a little bit of folding to suit inside. That is positively overkill in comparison with the tiny circumstances we’re used to for AirPods-style in-ears, however I assume for headphones that price considerably extra you’ll need additional safety. My worry is that the field is so cumbersome as to be eschewed solely, so the inclusion of a smaller arduous case slightly than the easy mushy cloth bag would make sense right here too.
So are these IEMs value the price? For 99 p.c of individuals, completely not – you may get the Antlion Kimura Duo, a dynamic IEM that gives the same sound profile and an included microphone for £165, and use that additional £1000 for one thing you want extra – like a complete gaming PC? A month of gasoline and electrical energy (if you happen to’re fortunate)?
If cash isn’t any object although, then the Euclid is value contemplating. These in-ears kick out the jams higher than something on this class I’ve ever used, with unimaginable technical accuracy and superior low-end efficiency, and it is not even shut. I’ll let more experienced audiophiles than me communicate to the precise nature of their high quality, however suffice it to say that these in-ears sound nice; listening to music with them is a transformative expertise, whether or not straight out of the field or after some cautious EQ tweaking to convey out the top-end high quality, and the identical technical traits additionally make recreation audio and soundtracks shine.
So: what’s it like utilizing high-end in-ear headphones just like the Euclid for gaming and work? To search out out, I used them as my go-to headset for Zoom conferences, aggressive Counter-Strike matches and a extra relaxed playthough of Fireplace Emblem Interact.
The very first thing that stands out to me from my notes is the issue of getting these IEMs out and in of your ear. Though the match is kind of pure, I needed to actually get the dangle of putting all sides into my ear, rotating it into place and looping the cable above my ear. This meant I spent the primary 30 seconds of Zoom conferences – or Counter-Strike matches – fumbling with the IEMs, a clumsy feeling for all concerned. It is rather more of a tune and dance than an over-ear headset, greater than in-ear wi-fi headphones, and introducing Bluetooth the equation slows issues down additional.
Nevertheless, as soon as the Euclid have been really in place, I discovered them surprisingly comfy, blocking out background noise with ease and permitting me to actually give attention to what I used to be doing. This was nice for being productive, or listening to delicate sounds in aggressive video games, however not sensible for listening out for the postman knocking on the door. It was solely after a number of hours of use that my ears grew to become just a little sore, however that is par for the course for me in the case of in-ears – about 4 hours is my restrict, I believe.
For gaming, the Euclid work properly because of their comparatively impartial, non-fatiguing sound signature and very well-developed low finish. I discovered that they labored higher for single-player titles the place I used to be immersed in what was happening, slightly than in aggressive shooters the place I did not have time to understand them as a lot, however in each situations you continue to profit from the power to choose up loads of element, whether or not that is particular person devices in a soundtrack or flanking enemies. After all, a headhone that was set as much as emphasise treble in a extra distinguished (and fewer pure) manner would doubtless be higher from a aggressive perspective; one thing just like the Fnatic React is an effective instance of this.
So if you happen to’re contemplating the Euclid, I would counsel beginning with a less expensive IEM first – the Antlion Audio Kimura Duo I discussed earlier is sort of £1000 cheaper at ~£150 and delivers a really comparable expertise when it comes to usability if not out-and-out audio high quality, with the useful addition of an hooked up microphone if you happen to want it. That makes it a considerably higher worth choice, particularly for gaming, however if you would like one thing that pushes the audiophile envelope in the same type issue, the Euclid are spectacular.
I simply hope that we see extra of Audeze’s planar magnetic tech in additional mainstream in-ear headphones – one thing at £300 or so may nearly function an amazing different to high-end over-ear headphones for those who favor immersion to a wider soundstage. Within the right here and now although, the Euclid at the least function a powerful excessive water mark in the case of in-ear audio high quality, even when they’re manner too costly to suggest.