Audeze LCD-5 offers an excellent balance between technicality and precision and melodiousness and beauty of sound.
Since the launch of the Audeze brand almost a decade and a half ago by a group of technical specialists and a former NASA engineer, little has changed in the company’s policy until recently. Having immediately achieved stunning success thanks to the extremely successful launch of the LCD-2 Audeze models, they followed the path of least resistance. Periodically, with variable success, the company experimented in the lower and middle price segments, but the sub-flagship and flagship models always had common features of the structure, sound and size of the emitter.
And so, recently, presenting the LCD-5 , Audeze demonstrated radical changes in their own canonical approaches and forms. LCD-5 is a hit headphone that fundamentally differs from previous models of the brand in a number of key aspects, which we will consider today.
Construction and equipment
Presenting the LCD-5, Audeze surprised us with a number of changes and innovations. The deviation of the new flagship from the usual form factor caused great interest in the community. It looked interesting and effective. It felt comfortable and pleasant. Fans positively noted the brand’s move to meet them and take into account their wishes for improvements and optimization of headphones.
The subsequent releases of the Audeze MM-500 and MM-100 models confirmed that the elegant form factor and design of the LCD-5, which was very warmly received by audiophiles, became a successful basis for launching a new generation of headphones that have significant constructive, technical, aesthetic and ergonomic innovations .
The current Audeze flagship is significantly different from the usual typical model range of the brand, let’s look at the differences and innovations, starting with the form factor, design and ergonomics.
The headphones really look stylish and modern against the background of their predecessors. Yes, maybe the classic models seem more impressive and effective due to their bulkiness, but the world of portable audio has already passed the days when it was possible to impress with the size of headphones and monstrous appearance.
Audeze claims that every element of the design has been redesigned using magnesium, aluminum and acetate, resulting in a weight of 420g, which is a third lighter than the brand’s previous models. The rational distribution of weight together with the overall comfort of the structure makes the LCD-5 much more comfortable compared to the previous generation Audeze models.
LCD-5 have a pleasant structure made of high-quality premium materials, which feels reliable and functional and comfortable at the same time.
The upper part of the headband is made of carbon, the inner hanging part is made of soft, high-quality leather with macro perforation. Adjustment of fit on the bridle is carried out with the help of the bracket for fixing the cups. The adjustment itself is tight with clear steps, there are notches for uniform adjustment.
The earcups are made of anodized aluminum and finished with acetate instead of traditional Audeze wood. The classic steel cup grills have also been replaced with brushed magnesium alloy.
The outer sides of the cups have features of the classic design for the brand, but their visual design is generally more neat and attractive. The design of the headphones is perceived as very organic and stylish by the combination of colors, proportions and shapes and makes a particularly pleasant aesthetic impression.
The sizes of the cups have become smaller, the fit feels more comfortable – the cups are noticeably less bulky. The LCD-5 cups move 180° on the horizontal axis and are quite mobile on the vertical axis.
Below I clearly demonstrated how compact and efficient the design of the new Audeze flagship is compared to its predecessor – the LCD-4Z.
MiniXLR connectors in the new Audeze design are removed from the cups at a convenient angle, they do not create problems and discomfort during operation. The LCD-5 cable uses high-quality Rean connectors.
New design of ear pads
Headphones with an isodynamic emitter , in which the Audeze brand specializes, have gained immense popularity due to their potential in working with low frequencies.
Audeze use “contour” ear pads, which are anatomically correct to ensure the highest quality reproduction of the low frequency range. Brand engineers take into account the anatomy of the human head and emphasize that the surface of the human head behind the ear is not flat, therefore the use of symmetrical ear pads makes it much more difficult (and in their opinion makes it impossible) to ensure the correct fit of the headphones to the head and, as a result, clearly does not contribute to proper transmission of sound waves to the listener.
Presenting the LCD-5, Audeze introduced a new design of ear pads. After numerous experiments, Audeze engineers designed the shape of the earcup with the correct angle of inclination towards the emitter in a shape close to a triangle. This innovation provides the following advantages:
• the adjusted shape minimizes the contact area of the ear cushion with the head, which ensures a clear fit and overall comfort;
• the acoustic chamber formed by the ear cup and ear cushion is optimized to reduce resonance and improve control of sound waves when close to the head. This provides correct frequency response, higher band resolution and low frequency depth.
Ear pads received not only a new shape, but also a different method of attachment. They are now not detachable, but fixed on a pressure-sensitive adhesive.
The image below shows the frequency response graph of one pair of LCD-5s with snap-on ear pads (red) and with adhesive-attached ear pads (green).
Audeze notes that with clip-on ear cups, the headphones have oscillations in the low-frequency range and have a drop below 40 Hz. There is also a rise in the range around 1200 Hz and a much larger dip between 2 and 5 kHz. At the same time, headphones on glue have a much more stable frequency response and better transmission of the low-frequency range.
After thousands (!) of tests with many hours of measurements and listening to dozens of types of ear pads, Audeze engineers determined that the best way to fasten the ear pads is to use a special glue and introduced this method of fastening on the brand’s new headphone models. Audeze admits that this is not the most user-friendly option, but puts sound quality above all else. And taking into account that users statistically come to the need to replace the ear pads after an average of 3-7 years, the quality of listening in everyday scenarios was obviously recognized as a priority and, with the rest, a new way of attaching the ear pads was adapted to the current and future models of the brand’s headphones.
Subjective assessment: Audeze’s work in this direction is really excellent. Ear pads are very soft and pleasant. The shape is calibrated, the contact area compared to predecessor models is very clear and really feels intelligently designed.
The pressure force of the headphones is higher than average, but thanks to the competent shape and the cool material of the earmuffs, the fit feels very comfortable.
• black transport case. The usual case in this case is made of aluminum and definitely feels more premium;
• copper 4-Pin XLR cable of high degree of purification, 2.5 m long;
• adapter from 4-Pin XLR to 6.3 mm;
• warranty card and certificate of originality;
• white gloves to properly emphasize the exclusivity of the product;
• keys to the transport case.
The complete copper cable of a high degree of purification is beautiful, convenient and tactilely pleasant. It has a comfortable length, quality hardware from Neutrik and Rean, an adapter for an unbalanced 6.3 mm connector, but, as is often the case with top-level headphones, it is not able to reveal the potential of the LCD-5. The headphones sound great with it, it fits them tonally well, but they could play better. Keep this in mind when listening.
Technologies and technical characteristics
In the LCD-5, instead of the usual 106 mm for Audeze, we get a new 90 mm emitter. That made it possible to make constructive changes to the form factor of the headphones, making them more compact.
Audeze, as a successful recognized brand with insane popularity, has a number of interesting and effective patented technologies that help them occupy a leading position in the world of audio technology. The flagship model embodies the brand’s technological assets to the maximum extent.
Nano-scale Parallel Uniforce – an ultra-thin and ultra-light diaphragm that allows you to reproduce sound with maximum speed and accuracy. Most Audeze headphones have an ultra-thin Parallel Uniforce diaphragm with a thickness of 1.8 microns. The flagship LCD-5 uses an ultra-thin Nano-scale Parallel Uniforce diaphragm with a thickness of 0.5 microns, which is one of the thinnest in the world. Even measurements of the aperture size cause difficulties for engineers.
· Fluxor magnets – an effective magnetic system technology that allows Audeze to design lighter headphones using fewer, higher-quality magnets. Designed with Fluxor technology, the headphones are efficient in swing and provide clear and transparent sound. N50 neodymium magnets from an alloy of neodymium, boron and iron are used. This alloy is known for its attractive power and high resistance to demagnetization.
The high-power magnetic field generated by Fluxors provides incredible control over diaphragm movement, which in turn guarantees exemplary resolution.
The Audeze flagship, unlike younger models of the brand, has double Fluxor magnets (magnets on both sides of the diaphragm). This helps achieve the ultimate control, detail and accuracy of sound.
· Fazor waveguides – a technology that prevents distortions caused by the movement of sound waves. Each “Phasor” is located directly on the outside of the magnet, which drives the diaphragm, promoting the parallel movement of sound waves and reducing sound distortion due to their crossing and mixing (an undesirable phenomenon is called wave interference).
Despite the low impedance of 14 ohms, the LCD-5 has a rather low sensitivity of 90 dB. As headphones of the highest level, they need both quantitatively and qualitatively good amplification.
Audeze LCD-5 sound
The following devices and cables were used when testing the headphones.
Inter-unit cables: 4.4 mm – 4.4 mm Arctic Cables Opera, 3.5 – 3.5 Alo Audio SXC 22, 3.5 – 3.5 Era Cables Symphony.
Cables. In addition to the stock cable, the headphones were tested with Symphony, Fusion #8 and Hercules cables from Era Cables.
The headphones have a technical presentation, organically saturated with a fairly thick sound. This is not a reference setting, the entire range is beautifully colored. There are light unobtrusive accents on low and high frequencies. There is also a slightly increased expressiveness of upper midrange frequencies.
Audeze flagships have a pleasant fusion presentation, which at the same time is simply exemplary filled with details. Micro and macro images are perfectly combined.
Excellent density and durability of images is realized. They have excellent contours, thanks to the saturated tuning and excellent control, everything is played out in the LCD-5 with spectacular springiness.
The width of the stage is not stadium wide, it is slightly higher than average. Headphones are more invested in the depth of the scene. The depth is excellent. The depth of both the scene and individual images. The separation of plans is exemplary. Demarcation of the foreground and background of the scene fascinates with its beauty, which is facilitated by excellent detail and exemplary rendering of image sizes.
The black background and dynamic range are very strong points of the LCD-5. But for the beautiful disclosure of these parameters, of course, proper material is necessary.
Headphones are moderately critical to recordings. On improperly designed material, they may sound a little cloudy or bright (although they try to mask the brightness). But this is still a fairly typical price for sound quality in headphones of the highest level, which give a maximum of information and unmask all the nuances of the recording, whether it is impressive detail or simplification and incompleteness in the design of the recording.
LCD-5 do not have an emphasis on cold transparency due to the density and saturation of images. At the same time, the performance of attenuation and sound duration is fantastic. The amount of information is often overwhelming.
LCD-5 demonstrated excellent compatibility with sources. It will not be easy for modern players with them. It was difficult for the Cayin N8 player to reveal the LCD-5 as a top headphone, but he played them well. In combination with the Astell&Kern PA10 portable amplifier, it was possible to get a decent result. Chord Hugo 2 and Quloos qa390 for portable devices allow the LCD-5 to open up perfectly. With the Phatlab Sassy Gt, calm music sounded great, with fast and complex music, the portable amplifier could not reveal the crazy potential of the headphones.
All scenarios of stationary tests demonstrated excellent compatibility of headphones with sources. The LCD-5 clearly prefers a stationary source.
I liked the sound of LCD-5 in connection with Era Fusion #8 the most. The smoothest presentation of the sound range. The stock cable is also correctly leveled, but a bit simpler in sound. Era Hercules saturated the sound with warmth, filled the lower middle with weight, added space – both width and depth. With Symphony No. 8, the presentation of the headphones became dark and thick. Quantitatively more low frequencies. Quantitatively less high frequencies.
More about LCD-5 frequency range reproduction
Low frequencies are dense, elastic and detailed. They sound rich and very pleasant. The balance of speed and weight is excellent. Control is sure. The headphones display an unexpectedly rich low-end decay train at the right speed, with a nice separation of punch and decay.
Low frequencies have excellent resolution and sound variability. The balance of lower and upper bass is excellent. The separation of low frequencies from the middle ones is clearly maintained, taking into account the general fusion of the supply and the weight of the instruments, this is a strong technical parameter in the implementation of the low-frequency range.
The middle frequencies of the LCD5 have a rich, dense sound with pronounced coloration. They don’t feel warm, but as I mentioned above, the saturation, density and elasticity of the images creates a rather unusual feeling of bold, controlled neutrality. This benefits all textured instruments and sounds.
The vocals are highlighted, their emotionality, physicality and the beauty of timbral fluctuations are charmingly conveyed. Here, of course, there is a flip side – the sophistication of subtle images is not always accurately conveyed, but such things still sound very beautiful.
Lower midrange frequencies are confidently dense, calm vocals have a pleasant deep softness, energetic ones are delivered with the right mood. The upper midrange has a moderate, neat accent, which helps the overall expressiveness of the headphones. No sibilants, only the promotion of presentation effectiveness.
A distinctive feature of the LCD-5’s midrange is the impressive saturation and atmosphere of the far-field compositions. This component reveals a combination of quality characteristics of weight, workmanship and detail.
The floating background sounds immerse you in the music in a very cool way, given the cool black background, the atmosphere on the favorable material is fantastic.
High frequencies. Clear saturated images with appropriate weight, pleasant natural sound with cool expressiveness, body, but without excessive brightness. High frequencies are not highlighted in space, but have great detail and the organicity of their sound in the overall picture is pleasantly impressive.
Technical parameters at a class level. Separation, rich elaborations of decays, beautiful clear overtones, confident small percussion. High frequencies, like the rest of the sound range, masterfully balance between micro and macro delivery, organically inscribed in the sound, attracting exactly as much attention as necessary.
All of the above in relation to the frequency range is designed in exemplary technicality and excellent dynamics. And the extra weight and coloration of the sound prevent the headphones from sounding too sharp or bright. Decays, reverbs, timbres and elasticity in the tempo and rhythm patterns of melodies in the LCD-5 sound with exemplary beauty.
Hifiman Arya Stealth Magnet
The Arya SM is more aggressive in the low and mid frequencies, the LCD-5 is more technical, with better control of the entire range. The transient characteristics and dynamic range of the Audeze flagship are both extremely informative and make the sound of the flagship smooth and neat against the background of the Arya SM.
Low frequencies. In both models, there is additional weight in the low frequencies, but in the LCD-5 it is designed more neatly. The Arya SM woofers are larger and more aggressive in certain scenarios, but the LCD-5s are much more versatile and play sub bass better.
The middle frequencies of the LCD-5 are denser and often more effective due to coloration, higher purity, technicality and accuracy. LCD-5 presentation is more cohesive, the sound is elastic, Arya SM is roaring. The aggression of the Arya SM is also evident in the midrange. Both pairs have accentuated depth of images and scenes. The Arya SM plays more neutrally transparently, the images of the LCD-5 are picturesquely denser, and the background of the scene is impressively rich in quality.
High frequencies. The quantity is comparable, the quality according to LCD-5. Audeze are more technical, better control, more accentuated separation. The Arya SM tweeters are more rapid, feel more massive when playing intensively, but their signature is less accurate, the tweeters are generally of less universal quality.
Both pairs are comfortable, have optimal clamping force. The ergonomics of the Arya SM are excellent, but they are still inferior to the LCD-5 in terms of mobility and comfort. Both pairs have a similar minimum gain requirement for optimal sound development, but the LCD-5 behaves much more stably when absorbing a higher than necessary amount of gain.
Hifiman HE 1000 SE
In Hifiman HE1000SE, we have radically different accents in sound. Top headphones from Hifiman and Audeze are so different in performance that it is even difficult to compare them in terms of frequency range. Therefore, let’s do it according to the general sound signature. LCD-5 emphasize depth, density and elasticity of sound, HE1000SE – width, volume and freedom of sound. HE1000SE are brighter and slightly warmer, LCD-5 are thicker and darker. Both pairs have an excellent dynamic range. LCD-5 have a better black background. Both pairs have exemplary craftsmanship and detail, but are quite different in character.
Hifiman are fast, fast and light, Audeze are also fast, accurate, but heavy and spectacular due to coloration. With commensurate detail, the HE1000SE strongly emphasizes the separation of instruments and the space between them, while the LCD-5 provides insane detail in a single presentation, which is a rather unexpected and very interesting decision. The length and freedom of the Hifiman sound is contrasted with the spectacular, saturated elasticity of the Audeze.
Ergonomics, comfort and fit on the LCD-5 side, performance is excellent in both models, aesthetics are subjective, both pairs are very nice. The HE1000SE is 20g heavier (420g vs 440g) but feels lighter and has less downforce.
Audeze LCD -4 Z
The model of the previous generation of the manufacturer is larger, heavier and noticeably more tiring when listening. LCD-4Z has a bright design and noticeably differs from the Audeze flagship in sound.
LCD-4Z have a wider stage and larger images, but in comparison, they noticeably lose to LCD-5 in the depth of processing and filling the background of the scene. Detail in the range is also according to the LCD-5, they demonstrate an incredible result in this parameter. Saturated damping throughout the range, the detail of damping at low frequencies is especially impressive. The LCD-4Zs also have excellent detail, but are harsher and sharper.
The color LCD-5 helps them smooth out peaks. The more open and aggressive sound of the LCD-4Z brings out the brightness or poor quality of the recording. At the same time, the LCD-5 is more sensitive to recordings with poor stage design. In rare cases, the LCD-5 scene may “crash” on a bad recording.
In terms of sound signature, the LCD-5 has a darker sound. Both pairs play low frequencies massively and elastically. The LCD-5s have a quality accurate accent, adding a bit of weight in this part of the range.
The LCD-4Z midrange has sufficient presence and plays more freely and aggressively, the LCD-5 is denser, successfully colors the sound, has more expressive upper midrange frequencies, and is more interesting in terms of the technical parameters of music reproduction.
High frequencies are reproduced qualitatively on both pairs of headphones. LCD-4Z are brighter, LCD-5 have more weight and informative HF with more comfortable playback.
The LCD-5 was the first confident step into the future from Audeze in a long time. Without losing the signature ancestral features of the brand, LCD-5 offered a new design, which was immediately recognized by the community as one of the most comfortable, efficient and premium on the market.
The sound of the new flagship, although it noticeably deviates from both the reference and the usual variations for the brand, using a number of spectacular tricks, is obviously perfectly matured in terms of philosophy and character and has a number of unique features. And according to the set of high-quality technical characteristics, few people are able to stand in the same row with them.
The LCD-5 offers an excellent balance between technicality and precision and melodiousness and beauty of sound. It is not surprising that among the army of supporters of the brand there are many music lovers and professionals working with sound. LCD-5 is definitely able to confidently satisfy the needs of both the first and the second.
And if we talk about LCD-5 simply and clearly – Audeze made headphones of the highest class both in terms of sound and structure. And they made them carefully and checked to the smallest detail. So that by all parameters they are quite universal and have an excellent coverage of the target audience.
The score is excellent. And not only for the sound, but also for the quality development and movement of the brand forward.