The L5pro has five gain settings making it suitable for use with any type of headphone. When using monitors I tend to use the ultra low setting, with all other headphones I have used the medium gain setting. If there is anything this DAP has it is POWER. I haven’t felt the need to use an external amplifier with it but you will of course get a better result with your LCD-2 when using an external amplifier. The L5pro actually drives the Sennheiser HD650 pretty well.
In the beginning, straight out of the box, the L5Pro had a bit of a bass focus but you could immediately notice the superb clarity as well. You might not believe in burn-in but the bass after a few days quickly settled down. The thing I like a lot is that the L5Pro has such good body overall and that in combination with the clarity makes it very addictive.
The sound the L5Pro produces is clean, precise and very dynamic. That, in combination with a very black background, makes it a very analog and pure sounding player with just a tad of darkness. That doesn’t mean the L5Pro is a dark player though, it just isn’t as airy as most other DAPs. From bass to treble you will notice the sound is always tight but it doesn’t have a lot of air between the instruments. Its sound stage is pretty good but it is a lot wider than it is deep. The L5Pro as said has good clarity and detail but was I’m missing here most is the depth and layering.
Vocals jump out a little bit but I wouldn’t call it a vocal forward player. All in all the L5Pro is very musical sounding, more so than it is analytical, but just like the AKs it has all the detail you need. Listening to the L5pro reminds me of the sound signature of the superb Cypherlabs Picollo amplifier.
The L5pro from the beginning impressed. Even if the FW/UI wasn’t always the best, the L5pros sound quality always was stunning. The bass goes pretty deep but it doesn’t reach all the way down. The lack of layering/depth is most noticeable here. Bass however is tight, punchy and always has great body, the L5Pro isn’t bass shy in any way. Don’t mistake this for being bass heavy as that isn’t the case by far.
The mids section is very detailed, musical and smooth at the same time without ever losing clarity and detail. The L5pro is a fast player and the mids make this very noticeable. It are also the mids that sound most analog and tight. Again, layering is there but is lacking a little but the extremely good voices make up for that in a weird kind of way. The L5pro’s treble is fairly extended but just like the bass it doesn’t go all the way. Treble is very clear and lively but will never sound harsh or sibilant. I often ask for more extension or clarity in the treble section but L&P actually did the treble just the way I like it.
I have tried the L5pro’s line out with a couple of portable amplifiers like the Corda Quickstep and the Cypherlabs Duet and it is a great source. While the result will be better using an amplifier the L5Pro does score pretty good on its own, so I didn’t often use it. I also hooked it up to my Chord Hugo via the coaxial output, especially when I wanted to listen to the Hifiman HE-1000. The result of course is good sound, but I always prefer using one of the AKs and the optical connection.
All in all the L5pro sounds very good, it’s that easy. Whether it’s up there with the big boys or not is something for you to decide. I do have my own opinion though, and you can read it below.
As said the L5pro is powerful and plays very well with a whole bunch of ear- and headphones. Most of the time I have been using it with my custom inear monitors such as the Lime Ears Aether, the Eartech Music Quad and the JOMO5. It’s clear the L5Pro likes balanced armatures and the synergy with all these monitors was sublime. The Jomo5 actually is a good example that the L5pro doesn’t add extra bass. If there’s something I don’t like about the Jomo5 it is its lack of bass body, the L5Pro doesn’t solve that and I have to use an amp like the Fiio E12A to get the bass level I want. (Fiio’s bass boost).
At work I have been mostly using the Audioquest Nighthawk with the L5Pro and it has no problem at all driving it. The Nighthawk is a fairly dark sounding headphone that clears up when using a good amplifier. I prefer listening to the Nighthawk in balanced mode on my V281 but it actually sounds pretty good and very musical straight from the L5Pro. Sennheiser’s HD650 is known to be harder to drive but the L5pro makes it sounds acceptable on medium gain. There’s plenty of power but the L5pro just doesn’t have the juice to make it sound like a full sized desktop amplifier can. That’s mostly audible in the bass and mids where the body goes lacking.
The biggest surprise to me came from the Audeze LCD-2 which actually sounded very good straight from the L5Pro, again at medium gain. The result is far better than with the HD650 and you get full bodied powerful sound, clarity and detail. The sound signatures of the L5Pro and the LCD-2 are somewhat comparable so maybe it shouldn’t have been such a surprise. That being said, my LCDs still sound better in balanced mode with my Violectric V281 but the L5Pro performs really well. So good in fact that I often end up listening to my LCD-2 straight from the L5Pro when I’m too lazy to plug in the DAC.
The Hifiman HE-1000 (review very soon) is one of my favorite headphones and one of the very best headphones on the market nowadays. It isn’t extremely hard to drive but it does scale up very well with better amplification. I have used it straight from the L5pro as well but unlike the LCD-2, the pairing isn’t as magical. The HE-1000 is capable of a lot and once you have heard how it can sound, it’s hard to go back to a lesser source or amplifier.
A lot of headphones will pair well with the L5Pro and you can be sure they’ll always have enough body. The L5pro is more powerful than you think, so don’t forget to test it with all the headphones at your disposal, you just might find that magical combination.
Comparisons & pictures are up next