Audeze LCD-5: the ultimate hi-fi headphones?

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Over the past decade, American manufacturer Audeze has pushed the boundaries of high fidelity with its range of planar magnetic headphones inaugurated in 2009 with the Audeze LCD-2, followed in 2011 by the Audeze LCD-3, the Audeze LCD-4 in 2015 and the Audeze LCD-4z in 2019. The latest Audeze LCD-5 headphones top off the range with a number of improvements: new planar drivers, a revised design and new earpads. Optimizations that promise to set new standards in headphone audio.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones promise to set new standards in headphone audio thanks to new planar drivers and a revamped design.

Audeze LCD-5: packaging & accessories

The Audeze LCD-5 hi-fi headphones make a bold statement as soon as you receive the package. They come in an elegant, black aluminum travel case with a folding handle. Inside this case, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones sit in a recess cut out of protective packing foam. They come with an OFC braided cable equipped with a 6.35mm jack connector. A certificate of authenticity is also included, along with a pair of white gloves that allow you to handle these luxurious headphones with care.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones come in a beautiful and robust travel case made of black aluminum, accompanied by a double mini-XLR to 6.35mm jack cable.

Audeze LCD-5: presentation 

Design 

Like all of the brand’s high-end models, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones are entirely designed and handcrafted in California. For this high-end model, the American manufacturer has completely revamped the design and different elements. Even more elegant, the Audeze LCD-5 benefit from a new magnesium and aluminum structure that enhances the solidity of the headphones, while reducing the weight to 420g, compared to 600g for the Audeze LCD-4. Each ear cup features a resin ring combined with a large grille on the outside to allow the drivers to breathe, for a wider soundstage.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones have a luxurious design with resin ear cups and perforated metal grilles that optimize the breadth of the soundstage.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones’ ear cups are mounted onto a metal arc that allows them to be easily rotated 180° and tilted approximately 45°. This arc is screwed onto the end of a notched bar used to adjust the height of the headphones. Like the previous models, the adjustment isn’t very smooth. You have to force the arc somewhat, and the height can only be adjusted by 3mm steps (the distance between each notch). But once you’ve found the right setting, the position will always stay the same, even after putting the headphones on and taking them off countless times.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones’ ear cups are mounted onto a metal arc, which is connected to an axis to ensure a perfect adjustment.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones feature a double headband made of carbon fiber. The latter has a matte finish that is more elegant and understated than that of the previous models. The double headband features a very wide leather band to distribute the weight of the headphones evenly across the listener’s head and has several perforations to remain breathable. During our test, this design proved to be particularly effective. The headphones didn’t exert any pressure and didn’t get too warm, even during long listening sessions. The temperature was also perfectly regulated.

The double headband evenly distributes the Audeze LCD-5 headphones’ weight of 400g across the listener’s head to maximize comfort.

New to the Audeze LCD-5 headphones, the earpads have a sculpted, inwardly sloping design to reduce unwanted resonance and internal reflections. Wider at the back to fit the head, the pads naturally surround the ears. The memory foam padding is firm, while the genuine leather covering is soft to the touch. Overall, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones are quite comfortable to wear, even though there may be some pressure on the jaw area for certain users or after prolonged wear.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones’ earpads are wide and completely surround the ears.

Planar Magnetic drivers

Like all of the headphones and IEMs from the American brand, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones feature Planar Magnetic drivers that overcome the restrictions imposed by traditional dynamic drivers. As a quick reminder, a Planar Magnetic transducer is comprised of two elements: an extremely thin diaphragm that has electrical conductors running through it and two powerful magnets (usually neodymium) that generate a very strong permanent magnetic field parallel to the surface formed by the diaphragm. This diaphragm, which is much lighter than that of a standard dynamic driver, is suspended in the magnetic field. When the diaphragm’s circuit receives an audio signal, the magnetic field that is formed interacts with the permanent magnetic field, moving the driver. This working principle has many advantages compared to dynamic transducers: better responsiveness, wider frequency response, lower distortion, etc. 

The Audeze LCD-5’s Planar Magnetic drivers provide better responsiveness, a wider frequency response and lower distortion.

Audeze isn’t the only manufacturer to use Planar Magnetic technology for its headphones. It can be found in certain high-end models from HiFiMAN and Meze. However, Audeze uses proprietary technologies to fully utilize the characteristics of the Planar Magnetic drivers. The Audeze LCD-5 headphones therefore incorporate ultra-thin 90mm Nano-Scale diaphragms. The latter benefit from the new patent-pending Parallel Uniforce technology, which consists of implementing parallel traces of varying width to keep the impedance low and provide increased voltage headroom by altering the current density within each trace. Better still, this system is driven by Fluxor magnets as well as classic neodymium magnets. Lastly, Fazor waveguides ensure a more precise sound. This technology consists in placing two grilles on either side of the magnetic structures to guide the sound towards the ear.

Audeze’s Planar Magnetic drivers use Fazor technology to improve the transmission of soundwaves.

Thanks to these different technologies, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones have a dynamic character and very high responsiveness across the entire frequency range, which extends from 5Hz to 50kHz. They have an impedance of 14 ohms and a sensitivity rating of 90 dB. Despite these measurements, which suggest that the headphones are easy to power, they require a quality source capable of developing at least 100 mW and ideally 500 mW to offer their best performance and correctly animate their large drivers.

To provide their best performance, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones need a powerful, high-quality source such as the FiiO M17 DAP.

6.35mm jack cable

Both of the high-end Audeze LCD-5 headphones’ earpieces feature a gold plated mini-XLR connector underneath to accommodate the removable cable. The cable that comes with the headphones is a braided model with a 6.5mm jack connector that is also gold plated. Measuring 2.5 meters in length, it is equipped with conductors made from multiple strands of very high purity OCC copper. To ensure optimal compatibility with all sources, we would have appreciated having a balanced cable. However, it is possible to purchase an optional model such as the Meze Furukawa PCUHD 2.5mm Jack, Meze Furukawa PCUHD 4.4mm Jack and Meze Furukawa PCUHD XLR, which are all compatible with Audeze headphones equipped with mini-XLR connectors.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones come with a 2.5 meter long cable equipped with double mini-XLR connectors to connect to the headphones, and a 6.35mm jack connector to connect to the source.

Audeze LCD-5: key specifications

  • Open-back, over-ear headphones
  • 90mm planar magnetic drivers
  • Frequency response: 5Hz to 50kHz
  • Impedance: 14 ohms
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB
  • Minimum recommended power: 100mW
  • Recommended power level: 500mW
  • Maximum power handling: 5W
  • Weight: 420g

Audeze LCD-5: listening conditions

We tested the Audeze LCD-5 headphones with the Shanling EM5 Streaming Music Center and Astell&Kern Acro CA1000 headphone amplifiers, as well as the Astell&Kern A&norma SR25 MKII and FiiO M17 DAPs. We listened to DSD and 24-bit/192kHz files stored locally, as well as Hi-Res music streamed from Qobuz.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones form a perfect system with the FiiO M17 DAP and the Astell&Kern Acro CA1000 headphone amp.

Audeze LCD-5: listening impressions

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones have a beautifully clear reproduction, making them some of the most detailed headphones on the market. They provided an incredibly precise image that was bursting with micro-details. Every tone and nuance of the instruments and voices were perfectly reproduced and no detail was left out. They were very unforgiving with poor quality recordings and required a source with an excellent signal-to-noise ratio to keep the listening experience transparent and pure.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones had a pure, linear and very high resolution reproduction.

The soundstage created by the Audeze LCD-5 headphones wasn’t as wide as that of other models such as the Meze Empyrean Elite, but nevertheless displayed a great deal of depth that created a very appealing sense of distance. The soundstage was very consistent and delineated the position of each note with skill and control. The spatial structure was masterful in effectively placing each instrument and skillfully separating it from the other sound elements. Everything was perfectly positioned in a musical landscape that had a lot of texture and extended far into the horizon.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones delivered music with ease and accurate frequencies. The balance, with its unwavering naturalness, offered a great tonal richness over the entire sound spectrum. The low frequency response was even more well controlled than with previous models. The bass was nuanced, with a lot of substance and richness. They were nicely articulated, which ensured a wide harmonic palette without the slightest attenuation. The depth was pleasant without being over the top. The lows were always structured, natural and surprisingly punchy. The power handling was remarkable, as was the headphones’ sense of control, which ensured that the sound was never exaggerated.

The Audeze LCD-5 hi-fi headphones offered nuanced, rich and well controlled bass.

The Audeze LCD-5’s expressive sound was present in every frequency range. The mids were very linear and were expressed with more naturalness, presence and texture than with the Audeze LCD-4. We enjoyed a true richness in this frequency range, where each tone was released with smoothness and accuracy. Vocals offered a striking acoustic purity, allowing us to perceive each intonation and nuance. They were extracted with naturalness and with the greatest respect for the artists, whose breath was audible. Finally, the highs were clear, transparent and very well delineated. The cohesion was perfect, even though the 5,000Hz area was a little hollow, in favor of slightly more emphasized mids and highs.

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones displayed great tonal balance, with a precise, natural and rich reproduction of every frequency range.

Audeze LCD-5: compared to…

Audeze LCD-4z: priced at €4,499, the Audeze LCD-4z headphones introduced many of the technologies present in the Audeze LCD-5. They feature the previous generation of planar drivers that already provided one of the most accurate and detailed listening experiences around. However, the optimization of these drivers has allowed the Audeze LCD-5 headphones to be even more precise in their musicality, especially in the midrange, which is lighter and richer. The sound also seems more linear and purer with the LCD-5s, which manage to separate and retranscribe each detail with greater ease. 

The Audeze LCD-4z headphones provide a very detailed and precise sound, and their successor, the LCD-5, extracts micro-details even more effectively and is richer in the midrange.

Focal Utopia:  sold for €3,999, the Focal Utopia headphones are a worthy competitor of the Audeze LCD-5s and offer an even wider and more enveloping soundstage. These headphones, made entirely in France, also have a superior impulse response and greater dynamics. However, they are surpassed by the resolution and the level of detail offered by the Audeze LCD-5s. The mids delivered by the latter are also a little richer. 

The Focal Utopia headphones offer an even richer and more spacious soundstage, but can’t compete with the fine details of the Audeze LCD-5.

Audeze LCD-5: who are they for?

The Audeze LCD-5 headphones are an exceptional model designed for the most discerning audiophiles who want to make the most of a high-quality headphone amplifier and build a top-notch headphone system. Their ability to reveal every single detail makes them the ultimate choice for listening to Hi-Res sources and files to uncover their many facets.

Combined with a high resolution source, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones uncover unexpected new details.

Audeze LCD-5: conclusion 

With the Audeze LCD-5 headphones, the American manufacturer tops off its iconic LCD range with an even more powerful and refined model. A clear evolution of their predecessors both in terms of design and acoustics, the Audeze LCD-5 headphones first impress with their more elegant and refined format. Quite subjective from one user to another, the comfort has been overlooked in favor of a highly detailed, linear and rich sound. Without being the most extensive on the market, the soundstage is spacious and, above all, very deep to effectively position each piece of information. Their price of €4,999 makes the Audeze LCD-5 headphones a premium model, but the investment is rewarded by an incomparable listening experience.

We liked:

  • The elegant and refined design
  • The high linearity
  • The rich mids
  • The controlled bass

We would have liked:

  • A balanced cable in addition to the unbalanced cable
  • For them to have been more comfortable around the jaw area
  • A wide soundstage

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