Audeze LCD-5 Planar Magnetic Headphones

tutetibiimperes

100+ Head-Fier
Setting a New Benchmark
Pros: Unparalleled Detail and Resolution
Best Stock Tuning of any Audeze Headphone
Solid and Attractive Build Quality
High Quality Stock Cable that's Finally Long Enough
Premium Aluminum Case
Cons: Excessive Clamp Force (original headband on review sample)
Cups Smaller than Ideal
Thank you to Todd @ TTVJ for sponsoring the review tour of the Audeze LCD-5. I was able to test the headphone on my home setup for a week in exchange for my honest opinions.

Overview

There's a scene in the 2nd season of the television show The Expanse where an alien intelligence deconstructs an entire space-ship into its individual component parts. The Audeze LCD-5 does this to music, exposing every detail, every nuance, every intricate detail in such a way that's breathtaking.

Associated Equipment

Source - Bluesound Node 2i with Apple Music Lossless and FLAC CD Rips on USB Stick

DAC - RME ADI-2 DAC

Amp - Schiit Ragnarok 2

Overview

Build, Presentation, and Comfort


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The Audeze LCD-5s come in a high quality aluminum travel case, similar to the previous Audeze Pelican cases, but feeling more premium due to its metal construction. The headphones fit into a beautifully precise laser-cut cutout and are surrounded by copious padding above and below, giving full confidence to take these when traveling without having to worry about the headphones being damaged.

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Audeze has swapped their signature wood rings for an acetate ring finished in a lovely tortoise shell pattern. I'm always a sucker for brown, and in the right light the tortoise really pops. I own a pair of LCD-3s that have suffered from the common cracking of the wood rings around the cable connectors, so going to a most robust material that shouldn't suffer such a fate is a move I fully support.

The adjustment rods are now more rectangular than the older style, but work in essentially the same way. The suspension headband has a leather (or leather-like) strap that touches your head, and a beautiful carbon fiber strap on top. While it's not really that important day to day, the leather on the Audeze headband doesn't smell anywhere as nice as the leather on the Meze Empyrean Elite headband.

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The cups are a major departure from previous Audeze headphones, with a concave construction that tapers in from the lip. This was reportedly done to help reduce unwanted reflections inside of the cups to produce a purer more detailed sound. The unfortunate part about it is that due to the high clamp force and smaller cups, my ears were mashed up against the inner surface of the pads. Over my week as the headband stretched a bit they did become more comfortable however.

Sound

The official Audeze LCD-5 thread has had a long-running debate since its inception about whether or not these headphones require EQ. I'm personally in the pro-EQ camp for the majority of headphones that I own, and it's rare that I find one that I feel reaches its full potential without it. In order to give the most well-rounded feedback about the LCD-5 I listened to it for several days without EQ, then with just a bass shelf, and finally with a full EQ profile (in my case Oratory1999's EQ Profile, as I've always been very impressed with his work). While just a bass shelf did improve and enhance them, I felt that the full EQ profile was considerably better, so the following are my impressions stock, and with full EQ.

Stock

Bass:
Light in impact, but with extremely deep extension, and the most detail I've ever heard in the bass of any headphone. Some rumble and a bit of slam on tracks that were mixed heavy in the bass, but on others with a more neutral production the bass often felt somewhat lacking in quantity. At no point did the bass ever bleed into the midrange or cause any problems for any other area of the frequency response.

Midrange: Hands down the best midrange of any Audeze headphone ever, and in easy contention for the best stock midrange of any headphone I've heard at all, perhaps falling a bit to the HD6XX/650 in overall tuning, but easily besting it by orders of magnitude in detail and speed. Voices come alive with proper harmonics and richness.

Treble: I'm not a treble-head, so it's hard for me to make direct comparisons, but it seemed very detailed and was never sibilant or over-emphasized.

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With EQ

Thankfully my RME ADI-2 DAC makes it very easy to apply EQs to various headphones, and to also switch between full-EQ, no-EQ, and just bass boost, all while still listening through quick hot-keys on the remote, so I could switch multiple times per track to really make sure I was hearing what I was hearing.

Bass: With EQ these slam and rumble with the best of them, easily matching or exceeding my LCD-3s, and maintaining the level of detail and accuracy without any bleed even with a copious amount of boost. The texture of the bass in Bela Fleck's Flight of the Cosmic Hippo came across perfectly, hearing nuances I'd never heard before, even on $200,000 speakers at audio shows. Switching to some electronic music Propellerhead's Bigger? showed off the bottomless extension and ability to rattle one's cheeks. HA:TFELT's Ain't Nobody is a track I love to test headphones on because it has both deep bass that should slam and punch that occurs at the same time as a yearning vocal line, a great headphone will make that sweet bass feel like it's suffusing your entire being while not letting it intrude on that vocal line, and the LCD-5s pass with flying colors.

Midrange: While the stock midrange performance is strong, with the Oratory EQ it's rounded out without being reduced, giving a bit of boost into the 5-6khz range and into the lower treble, making for a more fulfilling presentation with more bite, edge, and detail. Sara Bareilles' Live at the Variety Playhouse is one of my favorite live albums, and the LCD-5s did an amazing job reproducing her vocal tone while maintaining the sound of the live venue in songs such as Brave. As a long time fan of Mamamoo and their individual works, I'm intimately familiar with all of Solar's Gamsung releases, so reached for Alone People to test timbre and was richly rewarded with a holographic presentation that sounded like she was singing directly into my ears, plus the panning Hammong Organ at the beginning of the track gave a very cool effect with the LCD-5s. Turning to some male vocals I broke out one of my favorite rock albums, House of Freaks' Tantilla a beautiful exercise in how amazing music can be created with minimal production. With When the Hammer Came Down every bit of the stripped-bare rock goodness came through crystal clear.

Treble: I always feel at a loss trying to describe treble. Where does midrange end and treble begin? With the EQ applied the treble is more present and the transition from the midrange into it smoother. Elevations in the lower treble helped provide more intensity that I personally enjoy. I turned to Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 (the Royal Philharmonic recording conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras is a favorite of mine) as it's a piece I'm intimately familiar with having listened to it many dozens of times and performed it in community orchestras in the past. The violins sounded properly airy, the trumpets properly piercing and brash, and the celeste in the final moments of the first movement had the proper sparkle.

Soundstage and Imaging: I personally prefer a more intimate soundstage but with precise imaging, and the LCD-5 is right up my alley in that regard. The soundstage isn't small by any means, but it's not artificially wide as with some other headphones, things are kept inside the head or just outside of it. The imaging is top-notch, rivaling or even exceeding my previous imaging champ, the Beyerdynamic T1.2. Not only can the LCD-5 place sound properly within a single horizontal plane, there's a lot of depth forward and backward, plus top and bottom, it's capable of truly three-dimensional triple-axis placement of music, which combined with its amazing detail retrieval creates some breathtaking moments listening into the mix. Going back to the Propellerheads their song 360 Degrees (Oh Yeah) begins with a skateboarding sound that pans back and forth across the head. With some headphones it just appears on one side and then immediately appears on the other, with the LCD-5 I could hear it cleanly transitioning in three dimensional space around my head.

Comparisons:

Meze Empyrean Elite:
The Meze is a beautiful headphone with impeccable craftsmanship and astounding comfort. When it comes to sound however it's rather relaxed and reserved, not coming close to the LCD-5 in terms of detail and precision. The tuning on the Empyrean is more laid-back compared to the more forward LCD-5, which some people will undoubtedly prefer, but during my time I couldn't help but feel it was lacking due to that smoother tuning. Audeze could learn a thing or two from Meze when it comes to comfort, however.

Audeze LCD-3: My first higher-end Audeze that I've owned (I do have an old pair of EL-8 Titaniums). Stock to stock the LCD-5 takes the LCD-3 out behind the woodshed. IMO the LCD-3 absolutely needs EQ to not sound dead and dull. EQ'd close to Harman and compared head to head the LCD-3 is still more lush and fuller sounding in the lower midrange, and (though I generally hate the term) 'organic' in that it smooths things out a bit, details are obscured, but because of that it's also more forgiving. Comfort-wise, I do prefer the LCD-3 to the LCD-5 even with the LCD-3s extra weight. The large earpads and lighter clamp make it a headphone I can wear for hours without ever having to readjust.

Hifiman HE6se V2: While comparing a $600 headphone to a $4,500 headphone may seem unfair, the HE6se can more than hold its own in a specific niche. Stock tuning to stock tuning the HE6se is somewhat similar to the LCD-5 in that it has a forward midrange, though the peak is a bit higher on the HE6se, and it scoops the mid-mids around the 1-2khz region. You don't buy the HE6se to listen to it stock however (at least I didn't). The HE6se is a headphone you buy to swap on the Hifiman round velour pads, and then give it great heaping gobs of bass boost. With a Harman EQ from 1khz up and 12db of bass boost below 105hz the HE6se becomes a hysterically fun and brutal monster of a headphone, providing bass slam that I've never heard anything else come close to matching, including the LCD-5. On the other hand it doesn't match the LCD-5 in terms of details in that bass, nor anywhere else in the frequency response, and sports built quality that's far more in line with its $600 price. Still, it's an amazingly fun headphone for when I want to get all about that bass.

Conclusions: The Audeze LCD-5 comes super close to being the perfect headphone for my tastes, with the biggest issue being the comfort from the extreme clamp of the stock headband. Thankfully Audeze is now shipping them with a larger headband that from reports greatly improves comfort. This is one that I really didn't want to let go at the end of my review tour. Because of that, and I suppose this is my ultimate vote of confidence, I called Todd and placed an order for one for myself.

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(this one is still Todd's, but I'm eagerly awaiting the arrival of mine so it can take its place. I just left it there long enough to take the picture, I didn't want to scratch it up, I should probably get a headphone stand).
W
wolfstar76
Good review, you successfully convinced me to keep trying to mod my HE6SE V2 (still in original stock setting, swapped the pad and removed grill before only to see no difference so far and went back to stock)

FullBright1

Headphoneus Supremus
Beautiful Sonic Microscopes
Pros: Timbre.... FR.....Musical Presentation....Linearity..... Fit & Finish
Cons: No Balanced cable included. Cup Clamping force.
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Lets just get right to it.

15 hr burn in, minimum, and you have to give them a bit of power.
I like them the best with a good Balanced XLR copper cable.


Currently Driving them : FiiO K9 Pro & Questyle CMA 12 : Master Edition.

Audeze SE LCD-5 Cable

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Comfort : 8.0 Out the box the clamp is slightly firm. Headband is good. Headphone weight is comfy.

Leather Cups : These are the cups that the "new" Diana V2 need, and do not offer. So, if you have purchased the "new edition" DV-2 '2021 cups with your Diana V2, then you noticed they are not quite good. Well, the LCD-5 cups, are softer, very similar in shape, but deeper and feel better.

SE Cable : Impressive.... Longer than i like, pretty, upgraded copper and transmits more warmth than you're going to get if you use a Silver/Copper, instead.


SOUND :


Treble : Fatigue Free, clear as a bell, and extended towards precision vs air. This is a treble that is found in no other Audeze Headphones. Its rich, its sweet, and its effortless. Its a perfect extension and compliment to the LCD-5's Bass and the Mids.

The LCD 5's Treble is extremely revealing, yet free of etch, and never rolled off.

Midrange : Lively .....generously provided inside the best sounding headphones that Audeze has thus created.

Some reviewers stated that the LCD-5's midrange is too forward. I'd agree that they are slightly forward, especially when new..... yet overall the mids are engineered to sound very detailed yet not clinical, cold, or dark.

Bass : With Audeze, we have learned that their Sound Sig was designed long ago to be thumpy and powerful regarding the low end. With the LCD-5, they have uniquely retooled the Bass response to be detailed and definitely not the overarching sonic highlight of the Gear. Instead, the LCD-5's Bass is all about balanced presentation and layering with very good extension.
Its not a sub bass canon, and the upper bass is slightly reserved.

Soundstage : How it is presented is much a result of the pads that are not extremely deep. The result is that the LCD-5's SS. surrounds you, yet definitely does not immerse you inside a huge room. Its designed to feel generous vs overtly spacious, and always keeps your ears positioned directly in the center of the music.

Instrument Separation : I'd say it equals the best Tot'l's.

Vocal Clarity : A true highlight of this gear.

Detail Retrieval : Digs deep. Easily achieves the same level as the Hifiman HEKSE

Resolution: If the LCD-5 offered any more detail and resolution, then it would be producing it falsely, vs revealing it wonderfully.

Timbre : Precision Machine Crystal Clean

Recording Studio : Sonically, the LCD-5's will work much better regarding the Mixing process vs the Mastering room.


So, what is the LCD-5?
Its a gear that is first and foremost all about """"Resolution, Transparency, and Speed"", says the Audeze Website, and that is a fact revealed upon hearing it.

What it's not is the evolution of the last 4 LCD's, tho, i dont count the LCD-1 in this group, as that's just a different situation.
This means that if you spend the $4000.00+ USD expecting more of the same Audeze sound, or hoping for the evolution of the LCD-4, then you wont find it in the LCD-5.
The LCD-5 is its own thing going on.
Full stop.

The 5, is a new sonic blue-print, a new Audeze sonic statement, and a quite different Audeze sound.
If i was the CEO of Audeze, i would have given this gear a brand new name....like....>"Zenith", or "Ultra".
Follow me?, as its THAT Audeze, vs a refinement of the previous, or an evolution of the most recent.
It is good, and it is a NEW Sound from Audeze, and does not try to evolve previous Audeze Audiophile sound.

Why is it good?

Its because of its re-designed Audeze tonality combined with its resolution and overall precision sonic balance.
Its extremely detailed, and its Signature Sound, sonically speaking, is clarity.
The LCD-5 is the true redesigning of the Audeze Audiophile Sound... delivered as very detailed, yet never fatiguing.
This is the sweetly lush & balanced Audeze FR that offers you a newly designed Audeze "house" sound.



Final analysis : If Audeze had refined the Abyss Diana V2's sound..... to sound like a "new product" Audeze, then the LCD-5 is the result.

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AlfeedE
AlfeedE
Excellent Review. Thinking about LCD 5 or Diana TC. What is you opinion?
Cactopus
Cactopus
Nice review! However if balanced cable is desired the cable termination can be chosen (either 4pin XLR or quarter inch) upon purchase. My pair came with a balanced XLR cable.
J
jmwant
Excellent review. Answers all my questions.

corgifall

500+ Head-Fier
Two sides of the same coin
Pros: Warm detailed sound. New lightweight design comfy for long sessions. Wonderful looks.
Cons: Mid heavy. Requires EQ for best results. Smaller ear pads may be uncomfortable to some.
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I personally loved pretty much every full size Audeze headphone I’ve had the chance to check out. I got to listen to the LCD-4 a bit back and I liked it for the short time I got to use it. I was excited to check out the LCD-5 when Todd decided to run a tour of the LCD-5 and the Weiss DAC. The new LCD-5 comes in a little smaller and lighter than other Audeze headphones.

Quick shoutout to Todd from TTVJ for sending the LCD-5 to test and review. While I always appreciate the chance to test and review products sent in from manufacturers/dealers, it never affects the rating of my reviews.


The LCD-5 can be picked up from TTVJ at their website below.
https://www.ttvjaudio.com/Audeze-LCD-5-Planar-Headphone-p/aud5555555.htm

Onto the review of the LCD-5! My personal preference is a hybrid/tribrid IEM where I get good hitting bass and have a detailed treble with decent mids. When it comes to an over ear headphone I prefer a spacious sound with a deep low end, the mids to be more forward and the highs to be a little bright with some sparkle. I listen to a lot of genres but I hover in the classic rock, blues and edm music with some rap here and there.


Gear Used​

iFi Go Blu, SMSL SU-9 feeding the SP400 amp and Weiss DAC.

Looks and fit​

These look fantastic. The dark tortoise color scheme really catches my eyes and I liked the way it looks. The black grill gives it a more professional look and I like it over the silver grill from the LCD-4. The headband and new sliders look really good as well. The fit on other Audeze products for me personally is fantastic(though heavy). The LCD-5 is smaller with new pads that use a different shape. That’s the biggest issue I ran into. The pads are too small for my somewhat small ears and end up touching the bottom of the pads. I can adjust it fit via the slider but then the top of my ears get pushed down and it just doesn’t work for me. I would have liked to see the standard sized housing with maybe the new pads. After a few min the irritation goes away and I don’t notice it though.
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Packaging and accessories​

The LCD-5 comes inside a nice looking black metal travel case that has locks on the outside. Inside we get the cable, headphones and warranty card. All pretty straightforward accessories for a full size open back headphone.
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Sound(overall)​


These final impressions were done off a mix of the Weiss DAC, iFi GO blu and the SMSL SU-9 connected to the SMSL SP400. These are what the LCD-5 sounded like to my ears. Things like DAC/amp selection or pad swapping will produce different results and impressions vs what my ears hear on my specific gear.

I’ve heard a few Audeze sets over the years and I’ve owned the GX, older LCD-2, 2C and I’m picking up a new set of the LCD-2 Closed to review soon. All the sets I heard I really enjoyed, except for the LCD-5. I’m not sure why I have a hard time connecting with the LCD-5 but let's get into my impressions. The set is warm sounding overall with a huge focus on mids. I personally don’t like mid-focused IEMs for all the reasons I’m about to get into but these LCD-5 remind me of some Sennheiser HD series headphones with less treble. The lows do have good extension down low but they lack any real impact when I expect to hear some thumps on certain tracks. It isn’t boosted in any way so we get no bleed into mids which is fantastic. The mids are overly boosted to me. It wasn’t bad on the first day of listening but after a few days I wasn’t impressed. Mids that are boosted tend to sound hollow to my ears and that's what I get here. They feel hollow and lifeless at times, other times it's fatiguing. The vocals do come through fairly well but the rest of the mids just don’t mix well with me. The Treble pulls in good details when the mids aren’t getting in the way. Things are still too relaxed and almost dark. I had to struggle to really listen for details up top. There is a decent amount of air when listening though. This could all be easily solved with some EQ, but I don’t like EQ and outside of iFi hardware xBASS/xSPACE. I simply don’t use software EQ. I got the best initial results sound tuning wise off the iFi GO blu using it’s bass/treble booster which made me realize these headphones could be solved with EQ if some effort was put in by the owner. I did play with a little EQ thanks to Resolve’s EQ profile from the HP.com team via the Weiss DAC. I got really good results and the set did end up sounding much better over stock tuning but since normally I review headphones with no EQ, that's how this set is gonna be rated overall.

Soundstage/Imaging​

Staging was weird for me. It felt a little closed in for an open back that leaks so much sound. It was on par with the Meze Elite which I thought was also small in terms of soundstage. I did notice that cleaning up the tuning with EQ did help with staging width but it might be a byproduct of less mid fatigue for me personally. Imagining was really good without the need for EQ. One of the better open back imaging sets I’ve heard recently.

Stock cable​

The stock cable included with the LCD-5 is really nice. I like the braid and color scheme they went with. I also like that they give you the option to go with single ended or 4pin XLR balanced for the cable when you purchase the headphone. The cable is on the longer side but I think it's a good compromise for those that use a setup not near their amp. 100 percent of my headphones usage is usually within 3 feet of my desk or my source gear on my nightstand next to my bed.
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Full size headphone comparisons​


Meze Elite​

I don’t really do full sized headphone reviews often so I don’t have any sets on hand usually to compare(working on this for future reviews) but I had the Meze Elite in at the same time as the LCD-5. The Meze Elite and LCD-5 have polar opposite tuning. The Elite has a more lows and highs focused tuning but both headphones lack any real sparkle up top. The Elite has a slightly elevated bass but it's very balanced and detailed. It also has good slam/impact over the LCD-5 which goes for a neutral tuning in the lows. The mids are way better balanced and slightly relaxed on the Elite vs the LCD-5. Vocals come through better on the LCD-5 but the mids are simply more enjoyable to my ears on the Elite. The treble is a little clearer and has a little more energy on the Elite. The LCD-5 feels tamed and goes for that “neutral” sound up top which I personally don’t like. I liked the design of the LCD-5 over the Elite but the comfort and sound tuning goes to the Elite for me. If I had to choose which headphone to get without ever using EQ, it would hands down be the Meze Elite.
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Amping Combinations​


iFi GO Blu​

I love the GO blu and of course I wanted to see what it would do with the LCD-5. The little GO blu managed to get the LCD-5 to good volume via balanced but the real magic came from using the xBASS and xSPACE. I had both features turned on and that really brought the tuning to a more enjoyable sound with a little more life. This is when I realized EQ might be the thing to turn these headphones into something I like. While the GO blu did the job, I didn’t quite get the same detail that I did with the desktop amps and I felt the stage was a little too closed in on the GO blu.
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SMSL SU-9/SP400​

My go to desktop DAC/amp did well with the LCD-5. I was able to achieve a decent sound with the pairing. The lows still were a little too relaxed in terms of impact but the details in the bass were still really good. The mids were still too rough for my tastes but the ESS sharpness helped with the treble in my listening with the LCD-5. Staging was a little wider and deeper vs the GO blu and I was fairly happy with the pairing. I would still EQ the LCD-5 if I was gonna keep the headphones personally though.

Weiss DAC​

The Weiss DAC has been a really great experience with everything I paired it too. It still wasn’t able to bring the LCD-5 to my preferences stock but it has so many EQ options built in, that after playing around I got probably the best results from the LCD-5. With the little EQ I did, I was able to get a more lifelike presentation from the pairing. Width and depth were fantastic as well and I was very impressed and I can see why Todd likes the pairing so much. I think the SMSL stack I use was totally fine but if you have endless money, the LCD-5 does scale a little.
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Overall thoughts​

I mentioned having a hard time connecting with the LCD-5 in my review and I still stand by that after finishing up this review. Playing around with EQ made a big difference for my thoughts on the LCD-5. I loved all the Audeze headphones up till this point. For those who don’t software EQ headphones and like to use headphones with the stock tuning like me, I can’t recommend the LCD-5 unless you like a warmer mid-heavy sound. If you absolutely love to EQ headphones and don’t mind fine tuning the LCD-5, I think you will be well rewarded and I can give the LCD-5 a recommendation for those users. The LCD-5 is a pass for me personally but one headphone I don’t like from Audeze won't stop me from absolutely loving the brand and their other offerings.

Overall rating note​

So I had to compromise on my star rating because I have two ratings for the LCD-5. For the stock tuning I would have to say its a 3.5/5 rating due to not liking the sound out of the box. That may seem low but the tricky part is that when EQ’d, I was really impressed. So much so I would call the LCD-5 with the light attempt at EQ a 4.5/5 star rating. As such, I met myself in the middle and went with a 4 star rating. Thanks for reading!
corgifall
corgifall
I used the Weiss DAC in my review. Which is a $10k DAC/amp. It just wasn’t quite my taste on stock tuning. Doing EQ made the headphone sound great though.
seonghyunc
seonghyunc
Thanks for your review. Really helpful, since I have wanted to get either the Audeze LCD-5 or the Meze Elite. I am now more leaning towards the Meze Elite.
JasonLucas
JasonLucas
whats the power output for headphones on a Weiss Dac?
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