For this chapter we are using a laptop with ROON and Tidal, the iFi Audio Stream, Violectric V850 DAC and the AudioValve Solaris amplifier. For this comparison part we have chosen to use all headphones in balanced mode. The Audeze headphones chosen for comparison are the LCD-MX4 and LCD-5. The non-Audeze headphones are the Sennheiser HD 800 S and the Hifiman Arya Stealth. Unfortunately, the LCD-X is in France for the moment, but when that headphone makes it back to the HQ? I will edit in a comparison.
The Audeze LCD-MX4 is part of Audeze’s reference series, selling for just under $3K USD. That’s almost double the MM-500. Audeze calls it their “most precise and efficient professional headphone”. It is designed for the discerning professional, to reveal every critical detail in their mixes. So basically, it’s a pure studio headphone at a very high level, where the MM-500 isn’t just for the studio but also great on the go, though at a lower level than the MX4. Personally, I find the MX4 to sound fuller, especially at the bottom. Bass presence, layering and depth is even more impressive than with the MM-500. Vocal presence in the MX4 is more forward presented. The MX4 is more spacious and 3-dimensinal sounding, with better positioning. The MX4 does sound more extreme with its strong bass and vocal tuning, where the MM-500 probably is the more balanced and fun one for casual listening. Note that the MX4 amplification-wise needs a whole lot more than the easier MM-500.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S ($1,699 USD, the exact same price) is a very different sounding headphone. First, it’s lighter and much more comfortable. Second, it tonality-wise is lighter in body, faster, cleaner, and even more balanced and neutrally tuned. The HD 800 (S) is super revealing and the spaciousness and extension in width and depth are on a level of their own. The HD 800 S sounds cleaner and especially clearer, and that makes the note extension more audible. The mids in the Audeze have more weight than the lighter tuned HD 800 S. The same goes for the bass, though that for the Senn strongly depends on the amp you’re using it with. The HD 800 S for sure needs better amplification. These are very different sounding headphones, very complementary. The MM-500 compared to the HD 800 S sounds fuller, more compact, and less extended. Even if I find the Senn technically stronger, I am also convinced that a lot would prefer the easier to listen to, easier to drive and more fun sounding MM-500.
The Audeze LCD-5 is the TOTL headphone from Audeze’s flagship line-up. It’s selling for $4,500 USD and it’s Audeze’s ultimate headphone for when it comes to transparency, resolution, and speed. Pinpoint imaging and an extremely clean and clear soundstage are what the LCD-5 is all about and it might just be my favourite Audeze headphone. The LCD-5 without doubt is more precise, resolving and balanced in tuning. I also find it to have an increased level of clarity over the MM-500. The LCD-5 sounds more balanced, more spacious and it extends better, especially on top. Bass on the LCD-5 might not have the same quantity as on the MM-500 but it’s more refined and revealing. All-in-all the LCD-5 technically is a few levels up from the MM-500 and for the price it’s going for, it should be as well. It’s a true flagship headphone. At the same time the LCD-5 does show that the MM-500, at a fraction of the price, is offering exceptional value.
Finally in this list is the excellent, award-winning Hifiman Arya Stealth. The Stealth is selling for $1,599 USD, just a bit below the MM-500, making them direct competitors using the same technology. The Hifiman easily “wins” for what comfort is concerned, the Arya Stealth just is super comfy, also for long listening sessions. The MM-500 feels more solid however, where the Stealth looks like it could break anytime in the future. Design-wise these headphones are also very different, but that’s all about personal taste. Build-quality wise, the Arya looks and feels flimsier. Sound-wise the Arya sounds full, like the MM-500, but the Arya is smoother in the delivery. Bass is less controlled and bigger in presence than in the MM-500, but I do find the Hifiman to have a slightly cleaner sound. The bass presence is similar in both headphones, but the sub levels are even more impressive in the Hifiman. Sound stage-wise the Arya perhaps has the edge over the MM-500 at the bottom and especially the top. I also find the Stealth to be more airy, spacious, and wider sounding in the mids. The MM-500’s vocal presentation is more in the front, while it in the Arya is softer and blending in more. The MM-500 is more contrasty, and snappy, where the Arya Stealth is more levelled-out, making the Arya the more relaxed headphone to listen to. For studio-use I would probably opt for the MM-500, while I for pure relaxed listening will probably pick up the Hifiman more.
Audeze has really nailed it again with the MM-500. It looks great, is well built to last a lifetime and it reminds me of when they launched the original LCD-2 back in the days. And that is a big compliment.
The Audeze MM-500 doesn’t break the bank and you in return get a headphone which you can use in both the studio use as well as for normal listening. The MM-500 is not the most refined monitor for mixing, as Audeze has the MX4 for that, and it’s not the very best technical performer, as we have the LCD-5 in that spot. But the beauty of the MM-500 is that it’s a do it all headphone, which is easy to drive. You can use it for everything you want, anywhere you want, and it will perform at a really good level. Therefor I am convinced many audiophiles will like the MM-500.
What would I like to see next from Audeze? Why not a headphone blending all the best from the MX4 and LCD-5, with a touch of LCD-X added to the mix? Or why not a new real portable unit, like the LCD-1? I really love that one. Or no, maybe a new IEM, because al the last Audeze IEMs were amazing. Whatever it is, I am sure Audeze will keep surprising and spoiling us with excellent gear. Can’t wait!
- Great design
- Build Quality
- Dynamic & Engaging sound
- Easy to drive
- Price level
- Wearing comfort
- Technical level can be higher
The full tech specs can be found on the last page of this article. Thanks for reading!
Page 3: Sound General, Basics, Sources
Page 4: Sound – Comparisons, Conclusion
Page 5: Full technical Specifications