Audeze have proven themselves to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of high-end audiophilia. Their eager passion for innovative technologies and reiterative design has earned them many audio fans across the globe.
The Audeze LCD-5 represents their new flagship planar headphones with a vision for reference sound, detail and tonal transparency. Next to its predecessor, the LCD-5 has an all-new magnesium housing and improved luxurious carbon fiber suspension for a more rigid and ultra-light weight feel.
The driving force behind the sound are Audeze’s own patent-pending Parallel UniformTM voice coils and new magnet assembly. The array has been aimed specifically to minimize reflections, improve frequency response and enhance accuracy. Impressively, Audeze have managed to scale down the high 200 Ohm impedance of the LCD-4 to a mere 14 Ohms (sensitivity of 90 dB) of the LCD-5. This enables it to be driven from a multitude of sources including medium to high powered digital audio players.
At a retail price of $4500, the Audeze LCD-5 is by no means cheap and is aimed at those wishing for the last word in top-tier sound.
The Audeze LCD-5 arrives in both a practical and luxurious aluminum briefcase-style case. The case features a locking hinge mechanism and is lined interiorly with a foam cut out which houses the headphones themselves. Users also get a small key which allows you to lock the case which is rather nifty feature.
Interestingly, the packaging comes with a pair of white gloves which adds a showroom feel to the out of box experience. Audeze have chosen to go for a stock OCC high-purity copper conductor which is terminated in 4 pin XLR.
Also included is an adapter allowing users to convert the 4 pin XLR to a 6.35mm connection.
The Design & Build
The Audeze LCD-5 is the company’s best designed headphones to date and feels light-years ahead of its predecessors in both form and function.
The LCD-5 is more compact and refined compared to the heavy wood enclosures and pivot block headband structure of yester-generation products. As a result, the Audeze LCD-5 is significantly more lightweight. Since this has always been a complaint of the LCD series, Audeze have done well here to aid the listening experience.
The dual headband system employs a lightweight carbon fiber headband with perforated holes for both a uniform look and to prevent heat build-up. It is a clever choice of material which ties in with the overall aesthetic.
The audio brand has also made good use of ‘Tortoise Shell’ acetate which adds a touch of luxury and unique flair to the flagship headphones. The twin rod adjusting mechanism works well and joins the headband system to the yokes of the headphone housings.
Audeze have opted for a mini XLR connection system on the housings – this time, it is located on the rear of the headphones which reduces microphonics.
The Audeze LCD-5 is an open-back planar magnetic headphones which employs 90mm drivers with neodymium N50 magnets. Behind the core structure, Audeze uses Fazor waveguide technology to reduce diffractions and interactions with the ear.
Patent-pending parallel UniforceTM voice coils are utilized to keep impedance low to an impressive 14 Ohms. The secondary aim here being lower distortion and better control over diaphragm movement.
Overall, it is a step up from the LCD-4 in the use of an easier to drive trace pattern and superior levels of technicality and reduced distortion.
The LCD-5 is the lightest of the LCD Series weighing in at 420g. As a result, it now offers a supreme and comforting listening experience compared to Audeze’s prior products. This is the result of premium materials such as magnesium, aluminum and acetate which provide both light weight and high rigidity.
The carbon fiber headband provides an evenly distributed pressure and is also comfortable during long listening sessions. The perforated holes are a good design approach and help to prevent heat build up.
One minor drawback is that there a slight added clamping force imposed by the deep seated ear cups. While the ergonomic-designed earcups have less contact surface area than traditional designs, the clamping force is more present compared to the likes of the Meze Empyrean or HiFiMAN HE-Series.
The Audeze LCD-5 represents an evolution in the traditional Audeze house sound with a more reference tuning, mid-forward sound with outstanding levels of detail, pinpoint localization of sound and texture. Here, the emphasis is on tonal transparency with notes which decay rapidly and a well rounded centered soundstage.
The LCD-5 produces some of the finest textured and detailed bass combining verve, agility and nuance. While some headphones compromise enjoyability for sheer articulacy, the LCD-5 manages to instil a very agreeable tonality and timbre to its lower frequencies. Particularly impressive is its ability to decipher complex low-end passages with fantastic control, texture and balance.
The LCD-5 draws a departure from the typically warmer Audeze house sound and instead imparts an emphasis on a linear bass profile. There is no denying that this is an incredibly responsive bass which stops on the dime with incision and impact. This is evident in ‘Get Lucky’ by Daft Punk where the lower frequencies are delivered with detail and speedy decay.
Next to the LCD-5, the ZMF Atrium demonstrates more physicality and heft its bass but lacks the nuance and resolution of the LCD-5’s bass. Compared to the HE-1000se, the LCD-5 instils a similarly resolute low-end but crafts a more enjoyable timbre.
The Audeze LCD-5 excels in tonal transparency with a midrange that offers top-tier resolution and detailing. It is a mid-forward sound signature with an uptick of frequencies spanning the 1K – 3K territories. As a result, vocals are brought center stage with more immediacy than slightly more laid-back offerings such as the ZMF Atrium and the Meze Empyrean. While there is a more forward sounding upper midrange, the LCD-5 is best paired with tube amps which take the slight edge off the leading transients in this region.
The LCD-5 retains a cohesive and weighted staging with excellent stereo projection and instrument separation. Vocals contain plenty of texture and contouring while exhibiting an agreeable tonality throughout.
In ‘I Feel It Coming’ by The Weeknd, the LCD-5 capably handles both micro and macro-dynamics with ease. The forward midrange vocals are smooth with plenty of detail, weight and texture without resorting to ‘shoutiness’ or aggression. Compared to the HE-1000 V2, the LCD-5 packs in more density to its vocals with a more upfront midrange next to the HE-1000 V2’s more airy and ethereal midrange presence.
Despite the curtailing of frequencies beyond the 4K region, the LCD-5 does not possess a dark sounding signature. This is perhaps owing to the upper midrange presence along with the neutral bass shelf. As a result, details are here are preserved with plenty of attack, extension and PRaT. Yes, there is not the extension of the HE1000se but the refinement of the LCD-5 serves it many favors with a versatile and cohesive sound.
Again, the timbre is pleasing to the ears – there is neither sibilance nor a muted presence in the treble region. Rather, notes are exacting, precise and in keeping with the reference tuning.
Soundstage & Imaging
While mid-forward headphones do run the risk of sounding congested, the LCD-5 artfully avoids this through top-tier levels of instrument separation and fantastic immediacy and responsiveness in its notes. As a result, it is incredibly easy to delineate between different notes within the composition. Perhaps, the IEM equivalent would be the Tia Fourte which has an equally stunning ability to render an ultra-resolving soundstage.
The LCD-5 does not project the same large soundstage as the HE-1000V2, however it does project a very cohesive and immersive soundscape. To this extent, the LCD-5 renders a more live staging akin to the Utopia albeit more spacious and deeper.
HiFiMAN Susvara ($6000)
Both the Susvara and LCD-5 are flagship planar headphones which share a natural affiliation for a reference and detailed tuning. The Susvara, however, presents details in a more relaxed and open manner with more air in its staging and ethereal quality. The LCD-5, on the other hand, possesses a more mid-forward sound with center staging and more vocal weight.
At the lower frequencies, both the LCD-5 and Susvara offer fantastic resolution with the LCD-5 possessing even more bass texture and depth. At the opposite side of the spectrum, the Susvara portrays greater extension in the higher frequencies with more perceived detail. In terms of pairing, the Susvara requires a more powerful amp to bring it to its true potential whereas the LCD-5 is relatively easier to drive.
ZMF Atrium ($2499)
The ZMF Atrium employs a biocellulose dynamic driver whereas the LCD-5 relies on a planar magnetic array of drivers. Comparing the two, the Atrium is the more open and holographic sounding headphone with a higher level of macro-dynamism. The LCD-5, however, is significantly more resolute with better detailing and texture top to bottom.
The Atrium strays towards a flatter frequency profile whereas the LCD-5 draws a mid-range bias. Instrument separation and pinpoint localization is superior on the LCD-5 whereas the Atrium projects wider in sheer soundstage width. While the Atrium notes sound larger, the LCD-5 renders notes in a more exacting and detailed manner.
Meze Empyrean ($2999)
Both the Meze Empyrean and LCD-5 capitalize on planar dynamic drivers with the use of neodymium magnets. However, the tuning is quite different with the LCD-5 showcasing more resolution, agility and speed whereas the Empyrean outputs a more relaxed and lush overall sound. Where the LCD-5 caters more towards tonal transparency, the Empyrean renders details in a less forthcoming manner resulting in a more laid-back listen.
At the low-end, the LCD-5 eclipses the Empyrean in texture, speed and agility while the Empyrean has a more rounded sound and warmth from its mid-bass focus. While both headphones shy away from treble boost, the Empyrean sounds darker of the two owing to the LCD-5’s predilection towards attack and faster decay coupled with its more neutral bass.
The LCD-5 is an efficient headphone with a resistance of 14 Ohms and sensitivity of 90 dB. This makes it a relatively easier to driver headphone compared to the likes of the Susvara and ZMF Atrium.
Owing to its incisive sound with an emphasis on resolution and speed, the LCD-5 benefits from tube amplification. This slightly softens its upper midrange attack while introducing some favorable harmonic distortion to notes. Both the Schiit Ragnarok and Mjolnir 2 did an excellent job in accompanying the LCD-5 with a fatigue-free and holographic listening experience. One caveat is pairing the LCD-5 with detailed and analytical sources such as the Schiit Yggdrasil which detracts from the overall listenability.
Instead the Schiit Gungnir is more well positioned as a DAC to drive the LCD-5. Comparing amps, the Violectric V281 imparts a more analog and rounded approach to notes while the Linear Tube MicroZOTL2.0 instils a more liquid tuning.
The Audeze LCD-5 deserves its status as a flagship headphone and competes with all the top contenders of summit-fi. The resolution here is one of the best with outstanding tonal transparency, pinpoint localization and imaging. Bass control and texture is also second to none and an often-underappreciated trait when discussing low-end proficiency. The mid-forward sound, however, may not appeal to those who wish for a more laidback and distant approach.
Build quality is outstanding and the LCD-5 is a smartly designed product incorporating premium materials and the use of tortoise shell acetate to bring in some class and luxury. The travel case is a fantastic addition allowing the headphones to transported with ease and safety. The low impedance is a welcome addition and allows easily drivability of the headphones without the need for power hungry equipment.
For all these reasons, the LCD-5 deserves a seat in our most recommended audiophile headphones list. While it is by no means cheap, the likely target audience is not for those with value in mind but for those wishing to seek world-class audio reproduction.
Audeze LCD-5 Specifications:
|Transducer type||Planar Magnetic|
|Magnetic structure||Fluxor™ magnet array|
|Magnet type||Neodymium N50|
|Diaphragm type||Nano-Scale Parallel Uniforce™|
|Transducer size||90 mm|