If you’ve heard of planar magnetic headphones before, it’ll have been in the context of large over-ear models or Audeze’s entirely unique iSines, neither of which lend themselves to convenient portable use. Well, at IFA this year, Scottish earphones specialist RHA will launch the first wireless in-ear planar magnetic headphones, which it’s dubbing the CL2 Planar.
What are planar magnetic headphones?
Unlike the majority of headphones on the market, which rely on moving voice coils and cones to push air back and forth to create sound, planar magnetic variants use a thin diaphragm. It’s still magnetically driven sound reproduction, but the thin film used in planar magnetic models can be moved in a more uniform, consistent fashion, resulting in higher accuracy, lower distortion, and more crystalline detail. But planar magnetic headphones also tend to be larger, harder to power, and more expensive than conventional designs, which is why they haven’t taken over the market in spite of being technically superior.
Externally, the CL2s keep RHA’s familiar look, exhibiting no outward signs of the new technology inside. With three cable options — one of them being a wireless neckbud setup with USB-C charging — these just look like a finely polished pair of flagship-class earphones along the same lines as AKG’s $1,000 N5005. RHA is certainly pricing its new top-tier product in that same category, asking for $899.95 / €799.95 / £799.95 for the CL2 Planar.
But the interior is where these new in-ears are set to differentiate themselves. The ultra-thin 16-micrometer diaphragm inside the CL2s is part of the most compact planar magnetic driver that’s ever been released, which took RHA four years to develop. The casing of each earbud is made out of scratch-proof zirconium dioxide, which sounds like the same ceramic material as used in RHA’s previous high-end pair, the CL1 Ceramic.
Using a standard MMCX cable connection, the CL2 Planar come with a pair of heavy-duty braided cables, one terminating in a 2.5mm balanced connector and the other having the classic 3.5mm plug. Their wireless neckbud option is intriguing, promising 12 hours of battery life and a recharge from flat to full in just 1.5 hours. The endurance claim is impressive when you consider that planar magnetic headphones typically require more power than conventional dynamic drivers. Unfortunately, in terms of wireless standards, there’s only AptX and AAC support — no AptX HD or LDAC. The highest audio quality you’ll get from these will definitely be by using an old-school tethered connection to the source of your music.
I’ll be trying the CL2s out for myself at IFA, but if you can’t wait until then, they’re available to preorder today, with their full release set for September 12th.
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