Our show coverage provided a really interesting opportunity for myself and eCoustics Vintage Audio Editor, Eric Pye, who was arriving from Calgary around the same time that my flight from Dallas was touching down. Audeze is based in Orange County and they wanted to show us the new Audeze MM-500 Headphones that we wrote about last week.
Based out of Santa Ana, Audeze is one of the premier high-end headphone brands and some credit them for getting the luxury headphone apocalypse underway.
We had a great visit with Mark Cohen and got to try a few of the latest models including the LCD-5, CRBN, and the aforementioned MM-500. While I’ve had the pleasure of trying out the CRBN and the LCD-5 previously, this was my first chance to try the MM-500.
At first glance, the MM-500 looks like a more stoutly built LCD-5. It shares the same shape and 90mm driver size (albeit not the same driver) and some have questioned whether the MM-500 could be an LCD-5 “lite” with its similarities and lower price.
I’ll cut to the chase for those who are hoping that’s the case — it’s not.
There is a different focus for the MM-500 which is the first in a new series of models designed for studio use. Audeze has partnered with Manny Marroquin of Larrabee Studios to develop a new headphone specifically for mastering and production tasks.
Listening to the MM-500, you immediately notice that it is more similar to the LCD-X than the LCD-5, but the MM is not just an LCD-X in a different wrapper. Listening to Marcus Miller, I could tell that the bass track had been laid down twice as the imaging is precise enough to hear the two cuts coming from two different points in space.
When I switched over to Yo-Yo Ma’s “Libertango,” I could hear that the violins were slightly pushed back in the mix to give his cello the main stage. The cello was full of energy and life and very fluid while the violin was a little less energetic and a touch dull by comparison.
Frank Sinatra had wonderful presence and I noticed almost immediately the very wide stereo separation and large soundstage. When I closed my eyes, he was standing in front of the horn section, with the drummer slightly behind and to his left.
The MM-500 is also extremely revealing of small changes, whether to volume or equalizer/tone controls so adjustments on the board show up quickly and with good precision.
The MM-500 also shows better linearity than even the LCD-5 which I thought was the best of the Audeze LCD Series to date. When A/B testing between the LCD-5 and the new headphones, the tonal differences are quite noticeable and while the MM-500 won’t quite reach the detail level of the LCD-5, it has more than enough to keep things interesting.
Those who like the LCD-X but wanted something slightly lighter and more comfortable on the head may find the MM-500 to be the ticket. The $1,699 retail price puts it closer to the LCD-X and the build is definitely more robust than the LCD-5 with more clamping force on the headband; I wear glasses and did find that it was harder to get a great fit. Fortunately, the same extension rods that work on the LCD Series are available for the MM-500.
Audeze was slightly tight lipped about how many models are forthcoming for this new series; they did hint that another less expensive model might be next for those who don’t have the budget for a $1,700 pair of mixing and monitoring headphones.
What is clear from our visit is that Audeze has evolved into a technology company with a new focus on speakers for the office and headphones for the medical world as well. They have no intention of lowering the bar to become a brand like Beats or Bose; innovation will always be the driving force along with producing the best headphones money can buy — something they have already proven they can do.
For more information: MM-500 at Audeze.com
Related reading: Show reports about T.H.E. Show 2022.