Rumors of the 3.5mm headphone jack's demise on the iPhone may be premature, but the expanding use of that phone's Lightning connector for audio purposes is definitely growing into a trend. Started off by Philips with its Fidelio series, today the Lightning headphones game has gone upmarket in a significant way with the introduction of the $799.95 Audeze EL-8 Titanium. This is a closed-back variant of the $699 EL-8 launched at CES at the start of this year, only it now has a digital signal processor, digital-to-analog converter, and an amplifier all built into its so-called Cypher cable.
For Audeze, a boutique audiophile manufacturer whose headphones are usually priced in four figures, the EL-8 lineup actually represents its most affordable products. The Cypher cable does inflate the price by $100, but it adds meaningful benefit to the user in ensuring that the headphones are properly powered. I've listened to the open-back EL-8 set with an iPhone 6S Plus and, while they sound crisp and clear, the iPhone is never really able to push them to their limits. Even at max volume, it sounds only moderately loud — now that Audeze has built its own amp and processing into the cable, its headphones can really show off their mighty sound while used with a mobile device.
The EL-8 Titanium headphones have an in-line microphone and remote control, and their processing is also used when conducting phone calls or sending voice instructions to Siri — if that's the sort of perverse way you want to use them. They are a peculiar hybrid beast: combining the huge price and dimensions of a high-end headphone with the basic conveniences of a portable set. In their shipping configuration, they're compatible with Apple's Lightning connector and also include one for traditional 3.5mm outputs, plus for an extra $49 you can buy additional balanced cables for high-end audio players from Astell & Kern or Pono. The Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones are available from Apple's online store and in a selection of US and Canadian retail Apple Stores now.
Correction: The article originally stated that a cable with a 3.5mm connector would have to be a separate purchase, but one is actually included in the box with the headphones.