The Audeze Euclid planar magnetic headphones are extraordinary. And at $1299/£1099, it would be better if they were. They’re designed as audiophile earbuds for music and the like, but they’re Digital Foundry so we’ve focused on them games performance in our test mode. Is it worth spending that much on liners for this purpose – and are there any cheaper alternatives worth considering?

We’ll get to that soon, but let’s start at the beginning: Who is Audezi? This Californian firm isn’t a mainstream gaming brand like your Corsairs or Razers, but the company has built a reputation for great-sounding planar magnetic headphones and gaming headsets that justify their hefty price tag. Indeed, we named Audeze’s Penrose and LCD-GX among the best in their respective categories. Penrose, Penrose X and Cloud Orbit S under the HyperX brand these are full-fledged gaming headsets that support modern consoles and PCs, and LCD-GX is a headset for ultra-premium audiophiles which can also be used for games – a descriptor that is closer to the nature of Euclidean liners.

However, even trying these headsets didn’t quite prepare me for the Euclid—it’s one thing to put on a comfortable, chunky over-ear headset and get great sound, and quite another to shrink the same technology down to a size that fits in your ears.

I don’t know how this is possible without serious sacrifices, but the technology here is, to put it mildly, impressive. The relatively unassuming earbuds house an 18mm planar magnetic driver with magnets and a waveguide, an impressive feat of miniaturization that doesn’t seem to sacrifice much in sound quality. Of course, since this is a closed in-ear design, you won’t get the same soundstage or immersion factor as open and/or on-ear headphones, but you’ll at least get some measure of that soundstage, precision, and bass response that sets planar magnetic headphones apart from dynamic ones.

In the photo above: engineering, magic.

The Euclid in-ears are extremely comfortable to use, with plenty of tips in a variety of materials, including silicone and foam, and sizes to ensure you find a combination that suits the geography of your auricles and auricles. I found that my left ear was a slightly different size than my right, but luckily that was easily accommodated.

To connect these earbuds to your computer, console, or other device, you get a choice of detachable MMCX cables that terminate in unbalanced 3.5mm or 4.4mm plugs. I chose to connect the 3.5mm end to a Sound Blaster X1 USB DAC/AMP, this was more than enough to get the 12 ohm headphones comfortably loud, but that’s probably the low level DAC/PAM you’d want to use with Euclid – after all, I’m sure using something like a high-class tube amplifier will give even more impressive results. However, with this level of resistance, you don’t have to worry about using them with built-in sound cards, laptops or smartphones should the need arise.

Interestingly, the Euclid can also be used wirelessly, although I’m not sure that should be the primary use case for a pair of earbuds in this price range. This is achieved via a cable with an integrated Bluetooth receiver, but even with AptX HD support, the earbuds don’t have quite the same sound signature when you use them wirelessly. Battery life is acceptable at eight hours, but requires charging via a micro-connector — not ideal in 2023, but workable.

The Euclid comes in a nice clear plastic Pelikan-style case that has room for earbuds and accessories, although the Bluetooth adapter needs to be folded down a bit to fit inside. It’s definitely overkill compared to the tiny cases we’re used to with AirPods-style earbuds, but I think you need the extra protection for headphones that cost significantly more. I’m afraid the box is so bulky that it should be avoided entirely, so the inclusion of a smaller hard case rather than a simple soft fabric bag would also be appropriate.

The Antlion Kimura Duo provides many of the benefits of earbuds with a convenient built-in microphone for multiplayer gaming.

So, are these IEMs worth the money? For 99 percent of people, absolutely not – you can get the Antlion Kimura Duo, a dynamic IEM that offers a similar sound profile and the microphone is on for £165, and use that extra £1,000 on something you need more, like an entire gaming PC? A month of gas and light (if you’re lucky)?

But if money is no object, then Euclid is worth considering. These pads eliminate jamming better than anything in this category I’ve ever used, with incredible technical precision and excellent low frequency performance, and it’s not even close. I will let more experienced audiophiles than me speaks to the exact nature of their quality, but suffice it to say that these earbuds sound great; listening to music with them is a transformative experience, whether right out of the box or after carefully tweaking the EQ to get the best quality, and the same specs also make game audio and soundtracks shine.

So: what’s it like to use high-quality in-ear headphones like the Euclid for gaming and work? To find out, I used them as a headset for Zoom meetings, competitive Counter-Strike matches, and a more relaxed game of Fire Emblem Engage.

These are beautiful headphones with carbon fiber and gold elements that create a feeling of luxury.

The first thing that strikes me from my notes is the difficulty of getting these IEMs in and out of the ear. Although the fit is quite natural, I had to really learn how to insert each side into the ear, snap it back into place, and thread the cable over the ear. This meant I spent the first 30 seconds of Zoom meetings — or Counter-Strike matches — fiddling with the IEM, which was an awkward experience for everyone involved. It’s a lot more song and dance than over-the-ear headphones, more than wireless in-ears, and the introduction of Bluetooth slows the equation down even further.

However, once the Euclid were actually in place, I found them to be surprisingly comfortable, blocking out background noise with ease and allowing me to really focus on what I was doing. It was great for being productive or hearing subtle sounds in competitive games, but not great for listening to the mailman knocking on the door. After only a few hours of use, my ears started to hurt a bit, but that’s normal for me when it comes to earbuds – about four hours is my limit, I think.

For gaming, the Euclid works well with a relatively neutral, unfussy sound signature and exceptionally well-developed low frequencies. I found that they worked better in single player games where I was immersed in what was going on than in competitive shooters where I didn’t have time to appreciate them, but in both scenarios you still get the benefit of being able to pick up a lot of detail, whether it’s individual instruments in the soundtrack or enemies from the flanks. Of course, a headphone that was tuned to emphasize the high frequencies in a more noticeable (and less natural) way would likely be better from a competitive standpoint; something like Fnatic React is a good example of this.

Fnatic React doesn’t care about audiophile credentials and is free to pursue competitive FPS sound.

So if you’re considering the Euclid, I’d suggest starting with a much cheaper IEM first – the Antlion Audio Kimura Duo I mentioned earlier, almost £1000 cheaper than ~£150 and provides a very similar experience in terms of usability, if not excellent sound quality, with the useful addition of a connected microphone if you need one. That makes it a much better option, especially for gaming, but if you want something that pushes the boundaries of audiophile in a similar form factor, the Euclid impresses.

I just hope we see more of Audeze’s planar magnetic technology in more mainstream in-ear headphones – at around £300 it could be a great alternative to high-end on-ear headphones for those who prefer an immersive soundstage. However, in the here and now, the Euclid is at least an impressive indicator of headphone sound quality, even if it’s too expensive to recommend.