Gear Review: Audeze LCD-5 Reference Headphones

A California-based leader in high-tech audio gear, Audeze has announced a new reference headphone that promises to be remarkable but there is a lot more to the new LCD-5 headphones than you might expect.

First of all, let’s understand that calling a product “reference headphones” implies that these are designed to not alter the sound in any way. That is to say, reference headphones (unlike more commercially popular headphones) add no bass boost beyond neutral, zero mid-cut, no treble boost, and provide just as smooth a treble response as possible. When you listen with reference headphones, nothing is added to the sound you are recording or listening to. So, who would pay more for something that does less?

Easy answer: professional audio engineers and true audiophiles who are looking for a completely “neutral sound”. Why? Because when the true sound of that guitar, voice, or violin is your goal, you have to be able to know what it really sounds like—not just what it happens to sound like in xyz headphones or on xyz speakers. Many songwriters and artists leave these details to ‘the pros’ and for good reason: it can take a lifetime of listening to get it right. Having and hearing good references is often what separates good engineers from great ones, and that’s where a pair of good reference headphones can be the key to a great mix.

Like so many high-tech companies, the Audeze story begins in a garage in Orange County, California, but this one adds an ex-NASA scientist to the mix who had developed a new, flexible circuit material for use in space.

The Audeze founders recognized that the incredibly thin, remarkably strong, and surprisingly agile material was perfect for use in headphone design. Rather than typical cone-shaped drivers producing the sound, the company’s planar magnetic headphones employ etched diaphragms instead to produce more pure sound. Audeze offers over-ear and in-ear headphones with prices ranging from $400 to many thousands of dollars. At the high end, that’s a pretty hefty price tag even for audio gear, but users say the experience that these headphones provide rivals some of the best stereo systems in the world.

Here are four key promises that Audeze makes that set them apart from the rest of the pack:

1. Better impulse response from faster diaphragms that capture details normally lost as sounds start up and fade away.

2. Lack of distortion from NASA-science-based materials that move in sync eliminating most distortion to create the most accurate sound possible.

3. Matched drivers that are individually tested and then paired to create the best audio and a more consistent experience.

4. Superior frequency response achieving frequencies well above and below the range of human hearing that increase a sense of realism in whatever you listen to. 

The new Audeze LCD-5 headphones have a fully re-designed magnesium frame providing rigidity and ultra-lightweight (they weigh in at just 420 grams or 14.8 oz. and 1/3 less than the company’s LCD-4 model). More importantly, they have a notable, science-based pedigree: something that could take your mixes or other sonic experiences to the next level. If you have an interest, you should check out all the specs at https://www.audeze.com/ and find out where you can experience them.

Price: $4,500.

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