We've heard about them, and tonight we got a chance to hear them. The $799 Audeze EL-8 Titanium headphones and brand new $499 Sine headphones, both of which connect to iPhones via the Lightning port, are here at CES 2016. Each pair of headphones comes with a special Lightning cable that includes a built-in amplifier, digital-to-analog converter (DAC), and custom audio processing. With the plain old 3.5mm jack, Apple's iPhone can sometimes struggle with powering audiophile-grade headphones, but this approach avoids that issue entirely. Everything about the audio you're hearing, aside from the source material (Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, etc.) is self-contained.
Our headphone aficionado Vlad Savov has written about the specifics on both models, and my first listen confirms that these are truly targeted at the audiophile crowd. They get loud, with a soundstage that's wide and engrossing. I couldn't exactly get a thorough sense of them here on the crowded CES floor, but we'll be spending more time with these in the weeks to come. And if Apple ditches the headphone jack in the iPhone 7 — as the rumor goes — you'll be seeing more and more headphones that plug into the bottom of Apple's handset. Most people won't spend anywhere near this much on them; Bluetooth headphones are plenty for many of us. But if you're after high-grade sound, these could be worth the listen. The Sine headphones are coming later this month for $499, and you can already buy the EL-8 Titaniums from the Apple Store — for more than the cost of an iPhone. Even audiophiles might balk at this concept, but it may be the path that Apple chooses to take later this year.