Audeze LCD-5

The LCD-5 is the current flagship of the american company Audeze. It uses a planar-magnetic driver and it's priced at 4500 USD.

Introduction to the Audeze LCD-5 Review

Reviewed Audeze LCD-5

Audeze is one of those companies that you simply cannot dislike. Together with HiFiMAN they revolutionised the high-end headphones market marking the comeback of planar magnetic technology.

Ever since releasing the LCD-2 and LCD-3, they have been one of the most popular and beloved headphones manufacturers in the market. Known for their wonderful house sound, take-no-prisoners build quality, and excellent customer service, they gained a lot of fans and customers throughout the years.

After the huge success of the LCD-3 (I had 3 pairs during my life myself), Audeze released the LCD-4 around the year 2015. Just like its predecessors, it was a huge success for Audeze, marking the new TOTL headphones in the collection. It continued on the widely beloved sound characteristics that Audeze has been known for – dark, bassy, and powerful sounding.

We had to wait many years for the new Audeze flagship, but luckily, in 2021 the waiting was over, as they announced the brand-new LCD-5. The audiophile market was quite shocked, as the LCD-5 looked nothing like previous models. It looked smaller, and lighter, and gone were wooden cups, which have been one of the main characteristics of the LCD line flagships in the past.

It’s 2024 now, and I’m lucky enough to present my review of the Audeze LCD-5 to all of you. I spent a few months testing those, as they required a very detailed sound analysis for me to be ready to release this review. I feel it was worth the wait though, enjoy the read.

Packaging

As I said in the introduction, a lot has changed with the release of the reviewed Audeze LCD-5, but not the unboxing experience in general. Just like previous models, the LCD-5 comes packed in a peli-style case that is incredibly secure and serves an actual purpose after unboxing your new Audeze LCD-5.

You see, display cases and wooden boxes are cool when you unbox the product for the first time, but after that, it just lands in your wardrobe and you won’t really use it anymore. If you want to take your new headphones with you, you have to get a transport case, spend money, worry if it’s gonna fit, etc.

Luckily, the tested Audeze LCD-5 continues on the trend of including a quality case that you can use for transportation of your brand-new precious pair of headphones. The box that comes with the LCD-5 is well-built, hard, and sturdy, nothing will happen to your headphones even if you drop it. At the same time, it looks nice and elegant with its all-black design, so this is basically a does-it-all type of packaging. I’m a big fan!

Reviewed Audeze lCD-5 in case

Inside the case, you’ll find your new Audeze LCD-5 (duh), a pair of cotton gloves, a certificate of authenticity, and a cable. As far as the cable goes, it’s a braided OCC copper cable that is just wonderful to use. Unlike many stock cables, I find absolutely no trouble with this one, as it’s comfortable to use and doesn’t get in the way. Also, I’m very happy that Audeze went with a classic copper conductor, no hybrids or silver plating. Copper just sounds right and it doesn’t add an artificial edge to the treble, unlike many silver-plated cables that manufacturers include with their headphones.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the unboxing experience of the Audeze LCD-5. It leaves nothing to be desired, it feels premium and functional. 

Design, Build and Comfort

Diving into the build quality and design of the reviewed Audeze LCD-5, here we have big changes in comparison to their previous models.

First of all, the main goal of Audeze when building the LCD-5 was weight reduction. Audeze products have always been known for their significant weight, reaching 700g with their LCD-4 and LCD-XC. For me personally, it never was a big issue, as weight distribution is far more important than the weight itself, but I definitely see problems with the big weight of your products.

Having owned a few LCD-3s and LCD-XCs in the past, I got used to their goliath-level weight after a while and I was easily able to use them for extended periods of time. However, at first, it definitely was a problem for me as well, as I was forced to take breaks every hour or so.

So, after a lot of feedback from customers, Audeze has successfully reduced the weight of the reviewed LCD-5 to an incredibly impressive 420g (the LCD-4 was 690g!). This is a great result, but the first question that comes to mind is…does it sacrifice the build quality? Well, let’s look right into it.

I’m going for a bold statement right away, as I don’t want to keep you on your toes – The Audeze LCD-5 is built absolutely beautifully and there are no compromises in its build whatsoever.

The overall design of the reviewed LCD-5 is vastly different from what Audeze has offered in the past. First things first – it’s significantly smaller, as their previous flagships were quite big and bulky. Audeze LCD-5 is what I would describe as your average-sized headphones, and you definitely won’t look as ridiculous wearing them as we all did in the past with their previous models.

Wooden rings, which have been used by Audeze for many years are gone, and the tested LCD-5 now uses a material called acetate. It has many advantages over wood, and the most important ones are weight reduction and lack of maintenance. If you owned the LCD-3 for example, you know that these wooden rings crack. I had cracked LCD-3 myself, and I took a good care of them. Acetate won’t crack, it’s lighter, and it also looks good, so this is a clear upgrade, especially when it comes to functionality. 

I know people like wood and I’ve seen complaints about this change, but I honestly think this is more than reasonable. 

Another completely redesigned thing about the reviewed Audeze LCD-5 are earpads. In the past, all LCD-series headphones used earpads that were flat on the section that touched your head. The new earpads are sculpted, and the point of contact is significantly smaller. The new design helps reduce unwanted resonances and interior reflections. At the same time, the new shape makes it easier for your ears to fit inside the earpads and it’s more comfortable during long listening sessions. Also, the earpads are made of real leather, which is a rarity in the current market. The quality of the material is superb and very pleasant to the touch. The LCD-5 definitely has one of the best earpads on the market.

The headband is also a piece of art. It uses a suspension strap design with a carbon-fiber arch on top. Carbon fiber provides fantastic rigidity and very low weight, which is basically what you want from your headband. Also, you don’t have to worry about the headband snapping or losing its shape, even after years of everyday use. in all fairness, I don’t think I have to explain further, why carbon fiber is the best possible material for a headband.

Overall, the Audeze LCD-5 gives you an insane feeling with its overall build and design. It’s built perfectly, it feels great in your hands and on your head. There’s just something extraordinary to it, making it one of the most exciting headphones to hold and use on the planet right now.

Tech

Reviewed Audeze LCD-5 is obviously an LCD series headphone, so of course it uses a planar-magnetic driver. The one you’ll find here has been re-engineered and improved compared to their previous models though.

To help you better understand the differences, let me start with describing what a planar-magnetic driver actually is. Planar magnetic drivers are known for their ability to deliver highly accurate sound reproduction with low distortion. In planar magnetic drivers, a thin diaphragm is suspended between magnets, and the audio signal is passed through the diaphragm, causing it to move and produce sound. 

It is the leading technology for high-end headphones nowadays. It offers fantastic speed, clarity, and detail reproduction, but they are also known for not having the biggest bass impact. Dynamic driver headphones usually hit harder in bass frequencies, but they mostly don’t offer the level of clarity and speed. 

Now let’s dive into what’s changed when compared to the drivers you can find in the LCD-4. 

One of the key changes in the Audeze LCD-5 driver is the implementation of a nano-scale diaphragm. Audeze used this technology to create an ultra-thin diaphragm with unparalleled precision. This nano-scale diaphragm offers several advantages, including improved transient response, reduced distortion, and increased efficiency compared to the diaphragm found in the LCD-4.  

Both the LCD-4 and reviewed  LCD-5 feature Audeze’s patented Fluxor magnet array technology. However, in the LCD-5, this technology has been further refined and optimized for enhanced performance. The Fluxor magnet array consists of an array of powerful neodymium magnets strategically arranged to provide uniform magnetic flux density across the diaphragm, resulting in improved driver efficiency and sensitivity.  

Another important thing is the magnet array. Historically, first planar headphones after the planar revolution were double-sided, then manufacturers started going for single-sided arrays mainly to reduce the weight of the drivers. The double-sided array allows for increased magnetic flux density and improved control over the diaphragm movement, resulting in greater accuracy and resolution in the audio reproduction.

Also, Both the LCD-4 and LCD-5 incorporate Fazor waveguides, which are proprietary components designed to control and improve the interaction of sound waves as they pass through the earcups. In the LCD-5, the Fazor waveguides have been further refined and optimized to work with the other advancements of the drivers. 

All of this is supposed to give a technical edge to the LCD-5 over its predecessor, and I think Audeze definitely delivered. At the end of the day, it’s the sound that matters, not marketing information, so let me just get straight into the sound description.

Sound of the reviewed Audeze LCD-5 

Tested Audeze LCD-5

I’m going to start this paragraph with something very important. You have to keep in mind, that if you’re a long-term fan of Audeze house sound, the LCD-5 is NOTHING like it. Gone is that legendary dark, smooth, and relaxed timbre that was known as the “Audeze” sound for about 10 years. 

Ironically, the strongest point of both the LCD-3 and LCD-4 was their bass response, and I think that the bass is the weakest point of the LCD-5. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing remotely close to being “underperforming”, but you’ll get my point in if you’ll keep reading. 

So, what kind of sound profile did Audeze go for with the LCD-5 you’d ask? I’d describe it as neutral with the biggest focus placed on the treble frequencies. It’s not a chill and relax headphone anymore, more of a hyper-detailed, lightning-fast tool to please audiophiles who look for that last percent of technical superiority in their equipment. 

Let’s start with the bass. The biggest change here is the amount of low frequencies you’re getting, as Audeze has been known for a thick, big bass response for many years. Compared to LCD-3 and LCD-4, the new flagship is thin and speed-oriented in the bass department. I would actually say that it’s one of the bass-lightest high-end headphones currently available. Out of the TOTL headphones I have here, the LCD-5 is the lightest in the bass. However, light doesn’t mean bad, as the quality of the bass here is absolutely outstanding. 

The detail, resolution, speed, and impact are all great on the Audeze LCD-5. It’s not the biggest impact, don’t get me wrong, but it’s very firm and satisfying regardless of the size. If the bass is supposed to hit hard and get very snappy, it does brilliantly with the LCD-5. 

You can actually get used to the quantity of bass rather easily. At first, I was like “Oh this is waaaay too light for my preferences”, but after a few days, it started to sound just right. Right now I don’t feel like the bass is lacking at all, it’s just not in the center of attention. Yeah, if you like your bass big you won’t enjoy it without EQ, but the LCD-5 handles EQ like a champ, so it’s not a big issue in my opinion. The bass without EQ is just all about quality – the speed, resolution, different textures, and being able to change from soft to firm in a matter of milliseconds. This is a very impressive bass response that the more you listen to, the more impressed you’ll get.

The midrange is very natural, smooth, and hyper-detailed. It just feels tonally perfect to me, giving you a beautifully correct timbre and loads of resolution. The midrange is slightly forward in comparison to the rest of the frequency response, but I wouldn’t call the reviewed Audeze LCD-5 significantly midrange forward, mainly because of its treble response.

The amount of detail retrieval and resolution are both top-notch here, being one of the best in the market. While some competitors might sound more colored and “beautiful”, the Audeze LCD-5 gives you nothing but the truth, but it never overdoes it. In all that technical superiority, the LCD-5 never gets tiring or aggressive sounding, it’s a headphone that you can easily listen to for an entire day and not get tired or overfed with it. This is the aspect that is by far the most impressive about the midrange in my opinion. A lot of technicality-focused headphones just sound forced, too revealing, and aggressive. The LCD-5 is smooth like butter, but still insanely detailed, on the same level as the best of the best in the world.

Every single type of vocal and instrument sounds pleasing with the LCD-5. The combination of its excellent tonality with loads of resolution just works wonders. If you’ve ever heard the Sennheiser HD600, then you can kind of feel what I’m talking about. However, keep in mind that the LCD-5 is a FAR superior headphone to the HD600 in every single term, it’s just similar when it comes to tonality. The HD600 doesn’t come close when it comes to speed, detail, and resolution, as it should be considering the huge difference in price.

Now let’s talk about the treble, which is just exceptional. To be completely honest, the LCD-5 has the best treble response that I’ve ever heard from both dynamic and planar-magnetic headphones. Yes, big words, but I really mean them.

First things first, the Audeze LCD-5 has a perfect level of shine and texture. It’s a definition of the treble that is a lot, but not too much. I’m quite sensitive to treble, often feeling that a certain product is just a bit “too much” for me. The LCD-5 has a lot of treble, but it never ever goes over the line for me. The sibilance is non-existent, but the amount of details and air are both class-leading.

The overall technical aspect of the LCD-5’s treble is an absolute dream. This is the headphone to use if you want an ultimate insight into the recording, but not to the point when you feel you’re sacrificing other things. Guitar strings and female vocals sound exceptionally natural and insightful, with a significant crunch and shine to it. To be honest, it’s not easy to describe this treble response without going overboard with statements like “the best”, and “perfect”, as I actually feel both could describe it quite accurately. If you’re a treble-head and you’re looking for headphones in this price range, the LCD-5 is an obvious choice for you, and one that I would recommend without the slightest hesitation.

The soundstage of the reviewed Audeze LCD-5 is something that I would describe as natural, but not specifically “impressive”. It doesn’t have that huge concert hall effect, but this isn’t a bad thing specifically. Fans of huge soundstages have a lot of headphones to choose from, and the LCD-5 definitely isn’t one of them. The size alone here is rather moderate, and it further improves on that incredibly technical and detailed vibe you’re getting from this headphone. 

What should you expect then? A soundstage that sounds correct, not too small, not too big. It suits the rest of the sound characteristics of the Audeze LCD-5 perfectly, as I feel like a huge staging wouldn’t fit this headphone. It definitely is a pro for those who want the maximum transparency and “as close to the recording as it gets” type of sound. 

Comparisons

 

HiFiMAN Susvara

Let’s start the comparisons with a bold move and compare the LCD-5 to the HiFiMAN Susvara, the current leader of our “Battle Of The Flagships” article, which means, in my opinion, this is the best headphone on the market right now, at least from those I tried for long enough.

While both the Susvara and the LCD-5 play in the same league, they are quite significantly different from each other. The Susvara is more relaxed, thicker sounding with a more flavored timbre. The LCD-5 on the other hand is all about that speed and transparency.

When it comes to detail retrieval, I would rate them very similarly. Both are exceptional when it comes to resolution and getting all the micro details from the mix. It doesn’t really get better than this. You’ll hear everything, whether you like it or not. Both are actually so detailed that I’m unable to listen to vinyl through them. All the little cracks are there, nothing is hidden, everything is exceptionally clear and forward. That level of detail retrieval makes the details pop, you don’t have to really focus to hear them all. They are all served to you on a silver plate, and they are a natural part of the overall sound you’re getting.

When it comes to tonality, the Susvara definitely has a bigger, thicker bass response. The LCD-5 is faster and snappier, but it lacks some weight in comparison. After using the Susvara for a long time, you will need some time to readjust to the bass of the LCD-5, as it will sound thin coming from the HiFiMAN flagship. 

The midrange is again, thicker and more colored (in a good way) in Susvara, while the LCD-5 sounds more neutral and more technical-oriented. Because of this, the LCD-5 might sound a bit faster, but the Susvara is an incredibly fast-sounding headphone to begin with, so this is even more impressive.

The treble is quite simple. The Susvara has a beautiful-sounding treble that has a lot of detail and resolution, but as I already stated – the LCD-5 has the best treble response I’ve heard from a planar-magnetic headphone, so I’ll give an edge to the American flagship here. It’s just more prominent, even more exciting sounding and it offers a bit more when it comes to the absolute resolution. 

Overall, both pairs are truly spectacular and it would be best to own both. Choose the Susvara if you’re more into a romantic type of sound, and choose the LCD-5 if you’re after an ultimate resolution and neutral tuning. Or just get two and forget about the world.

Meze Elite

Now we’ll take a look at two vastly different headphones. The Meze Elite is a master of enjoyment. This is a high-end headphone that is all about giving you fun, emotions, and just pure bliss. 

On the other hand, the LCD-5 is all about that fast and detailed, neutral presentation, which is just something totally opposite. It’s not supposed to charm you with its color, rather than just give you all the truth there is in the recording.

Because of that, it’s really hard to pick the winner here. These two headphones are so vastly different and they are both exceptional at what they’re supposed to do. 

Another thing is the build quality and design. They both are built fantastically and both are highly addicting when it comes to their overall presentation. These could be the two best-built headphones on the market, so again, it’s really hard to pick the winner.

What we can objectively rate though is the technical performance, such as detail retrieval and resolution. In this regard, the LCD-5 is clearly a superior headphone. It’s more insightful, faster, and more detailed. However, these were never the aspects that the Elite focused on. 

So, picking up one of the two should come down to a question – what do you value the most? The Elite should be your pick if you want a colorful, relaxed, and super fun presentation. The LCD-5 is an obvious choice if you’re into detail, speed, and clarity. It’s that simple. 

Final D8000 Pro

This comparison is more complicated since both headphones aim at a similar goal. Both the LCD-5 and the D8000 Pro are meant to be neutral, reference-grade headphones that value detail and speed the most.

However, there are levels to this game, and I think the LCD-5 is just a superior headphone when it comes to their strengths. 

Both the D8000 Pro and the LCD-5 try to achieve the same thing, but the LCD-5 just does it better. It’s more detailed, faster, snappier, and more exciting sounding.

The build quality and comfort are both better on the LCD-5 as well. The D8000 Pro isn’t too comfortable, while the LCD-5 is easy for me to wear for hours without any issues. 

The D8000 Pro is still a fantastic headphone, but I somewhat feel that the LCD-5 proved it could use an update if it is to keep up with the competition.

Pairings

Feliks Envy + XI Audio K-DAC

I’m going to give you guys 3 pairings, but let me explain one thing at the very beginning. The LCD-5 might not be hard to drive, but it absolutely requires a very high-quality system. It’s not about the amount of power, but rather about the quality of the signal you’re pumping right into these.

Because the LCD-5 is so detailed and fast, it’ll show you every single shortcoming in your system. If you want to get the best results using them, you absolutely need to give them the best possible signal and power you are able to. Of course, you can easily use them with cheaper equipment and be happy with it.

It is until you plug them into some very serious equipment though, that they start sounding like a complete Summit-Fi headphone. In this instance, I used a setup consisting of the XI Audio K-DAC R2R DAC plugged into the Feliks Envy. It is a Summit-Fi, 300B tube amplifier by a Polish company called Feliks Audio. It is an absolute behemoth, with the price set at a whopping 7000 Euro.

When plugged into this system, the LCD-5 sounds ridiculously good, to the point where you simply cannot stop listening to music. It keeps you on your toes, gives you all the detail and resolution in the world, and a majestic frequency response.

Actually, this setup makes the LCD-5 a little bit more colored than it usually sounds, without compromising even a single percent of its raw technical capabilities. Because of that, the LCD-5 transforms into an even more impressive and enjoyable headphone that I could easily live with till the end of my days.

The Envy also has a lot of power, which the LCD-5 might not need, but it doesn’t hurt. That reserve of power gives it huge dynamics and great slam, and the sound as a whole doesn’t feel forced whatsoever.

This whole system is a definition of High-End audio, it does it all with such an elegance it’s just addicting. Definitely a setup worth its insane asking price.

EarMen Tradutto + EarMen CH-AMP

You don’t really need such a behemoth-level system for the LCD-5 to sound fantastically though. Take a look at the EarMen stack, which costs a fraction of the price of the Feliks Envy alone.

When plugged into this setup, the LCD-5 sounds exceptionally detailed, fast, and natural. The EarMen stack is easily capable of driving the LCD-5 and giving it the quality it requires to sound great. It’s not the last word, but it’s definitely enough for a lot of people.

This is important because you don’t need to buy a 10k USD setup to be able to get a great sound out of your new headphones. A system like this will be plenty enough to already get a very high quality of sound without needing a bank loan.

If you’ve got the money for it, sure, just go for the first system and call it a day, you’ll be set for decades. However, if you don’t have an unlimited money glitch, something like Earmen Tradutto + CH-AMP will also do the job.

Fiio M15S

And to continue on this topic even further, the Audeze LCD-5 sounds pretty good even from a DAP.

Once again, it’s not their full potential we’re talking about here, but it’s still an incredibly high quality. Rather than simply buying the LCD-5 to use with a DAP, I’m thinking more of a specific scenario, where you have a good stationary setup for them, but still want to listen to your new favorite headphones in bed or in your garden.

If you’d buy a HiFiMAN Susvara for example, you just aren’t driving them from a DAP, not a chance. It’s a different story with the LCD-5, which you can easily enjoy even from a mid-range DAP. 

Audeze LCD-5 – summary

The release of the Audeze LCD-5 was full of surprises. Audeze introduced a brand new design, and more importantly – a completely new sound philosophy, which shocked their most loyal customers.

However, with the LCD-5, Audeze introduced a never-seen-before quality when it comes to their headphones. The current flagship is an extremely well-performing headphone that sits among the best headphones in the world. 

Excellent build quality meets the sound that is simply screaming High-End. And don’t even get me started on its godlike treble response.

Wildly recommended!

Big thanks to Ari and Audeze for providing us with the LCD-5 for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion.