Comfortable lightweight design, Excellent achromatic tuning, Nigh class-leading technical ability, Ultra-tight bass, Relatively easy to drive
Some may find the midrange too forward, Only 1 included cable, Odd pads shape and higher clamp force, Acetate is scratch-prone
Should you want for a comfortable open-back headphone with a hyper-detailed, achromatic sound, the LCD-5 deserves exclusive recommendation.
If there’s one name associated with high-end headphones, it’s Audeze. Though they’ve since branched out into other form factors, the full-sized LCD series remains their bread and butter in addition to being one of the most ubiquitous on the market. And yet, time moves on and consumer expectations change. In accordance, so too has Audeze been incentivised to re-evaluate their time-tested designs. Introducing the new LCD-5, the company’s new flagship headphone. This model carries over technologies observed on their past flagships whilst introducing a new chassis revised from the ground up. It features new materials, a substantial weight cut, updated drivers and a similarly transformed sound from bottom to top. Altogether, this makes the LCD-5 the company’s most radical and disruptive model to date.
The newly released LCD-5 retails for $4500 USD. You can read all about it and treat yourself to a unit on Audeze’s website. The LCD-5 is also available on Apos Audio that includes a free balanced cable bundled.
I would like to thank Ari and Audeze very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the LCD-5 for the purpose of photographing and review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review.
- Transducer: 90mm Planar Magnetic
- Frequency response: 5 Hz – 50 kHz
- Sensitivity: 90 dB
- Impedance: 14 Ohms
- Weight: 420g
Behind the Design –
Nano-Scale parallel Uniforce Diaphragm
As is the company’s specialty, the LCD-5 employs an in-house derived planar magnetic driver. This is an entirely new design with a 90mm diaphragm (as opposed to 106mm on the LCD-4) and similar Nano-Scale Uniforce diaphragm. With regards to headphone design, there are various aspects that require consideration. In essence, the lighter the diaphragm, the more responsive it becomes. The LCD-5 likes its predecessors, features an ultra-thin diaphragm made from a proprietary film. Like the new LCD-X 2021, the LCD-5 has also been designed to be easy to drive, far more so than the LCD-4 before it.
Fluxor Magnet Array
Of course, this is only part of the equation, as distortion can be introduced via deformation of the diaphragm. In turn, it is essential that force is applied uniformly across its surface area – especially pertinent for planar magnetic designs which feature much larger, thinner diaphragms. The LCD-5 uses strong N50 Neodymium magnets and assumes a single-sided magnet array which contributes largely to the weight cut over the LCD-4’s double-sided magnet design. The voice coils employ parallel traces with varying width and low impedance, further promoting uniform motion and low distortion.
Fazor Waveguides + Sculpted Earpads
Audeze’s Fazor waveguides make a return and feature a revised design. They now lie within the earcup and feature a lower-profile design to promote comfortable wear for those with wider ears. Audeze has taken this one step further on the LCD-5 with new sloped earpads. The company posits that the reduced surface contact area produces greater comfort and seal while the triangular cross-section creates an acoustic chamber that reduces resonance and heightens control over the air between the driver and ear. This was instrumental in achieving their desired frequency response and bass performance.
Take one look at the LCD-5 and you can tell there have been major changes relative to past LCD headphones. However, it’s only when you have them both before you that you can appreciate the substantially sleeker, lighter design of the LCD-5. In addition to being more compact, the LCD-5 sports new materials that further enhance wearing comfort. This comes in the form of magnesium over heavy steel rails, more liberal use of aluminium and finally, acetate rings. The headband also swaps spring steel for carbon-fibre, altogether forming a premium yet lightweight package.
You’d be right to want for a premium unboxing experience and here, Audeze strike a pleasing balance between opulence and utility. The LCD-5 comes within an aluminium hard case similar to that seen on competing high-end headphones. The Audeze case is more compact and features a locking hinge. In addition, the clasps on the front can be locked with the included keys for added security during transportation. Inside are the headphones within a laser cut foam inlet. A cutout below houses a pair of keys in addition to cotton gloves for smudge-free handling of the headphones. You also receive a warranty card and certification of authenticity in addition to the new premium Audeze cable with OCC high-purity copper conductors. Unfortunately, buyers must choose between single-ended and balanced terminations. I do think including both would be a considerate addition given the asking price.
The signature Audeze grills and copper acetate surrounds mean this will never be mistaken for anything but an LCD headphone. And yet, beyond this, there are few similarities to behold as can be observed below next to the LCD-X 2021. The new design is considerably smaller, lighter and infinitely more forgiving on the wearer and, it manages to do so without coming across as insubstantial. Some may lament the loss of the iconic wooden earcup rings, however, the new acetate enclosures offer lovely visual contrast and colour alongside a flawless gloss finish. They are, however, more prone to scratches so take care during handling. Otherwise, the matte grills have a little more depth than before, and the more rounded angles and smoother edges all suggest a higher level of finish than past models. The LCD-5 is solid where needed and flexible where required by virtue of specifically engineering pivot points. So, rather than simplistic, this headphone handles and presents as streamlined and purposeful.
Below, we observe the return of highly ubiquitous mini-XLR connectors that will be compatible with a wide range of aftermarket options. The connectors exit at a comfortable angle, avoiding the shoulders whilst leaving ample room for larger plugs. Audeze has also made revisions to the stock cable which is immediately nicer than those included with former models. It has a similar gauge and a 4-wire square braid that feels sturdy yet not cumbersome. The new OCC conductors are the showpiece, flaunted with a split black/transparent sheath and a new insulation material contributes to a substantially less tacky in-hand feel. In addition, the cable has zero memory and microphonic noise is a non-issue. The connectors and strain relief are signature Audeze forming a high-quality experience that leaves little to be wanted – I just wish both single-ended and balanced cables were included in the box.
Fit & Comfort –
Weight & Comfort
Where I would use terms such as robust or hearty to describe past Audeze headphones, the LCD-5 certainly deserves other descriptors. It no longer feels like such a chore to wear, in fact, I found them quite effortless if still shy of the perfectly distributed Meze open backs. This has been achieved on multiple fronts. Of course, the weight shedding cannot be understated as this alone transforms the experience. At a lovingly quoted “blazingly low 420g” compared to the 690g LCD-4, the LCD-5 is immediately less cumbersome and far more forgiving on the top of the head. Though the headband is slimmer than before, I was able to wear these for hours on end without adjustment of hotspot formation. They are immediately more comfortable than the older LCD chassis and, for my head shape, in the top handful of summit-fi headphones I’ve tested as far as comfort is concerned.
Headband & Earpads
The benefits don’t stop at weight loss, as we observe an entirely new headband design. It has a carbon-fibre spring that offers even tension across its range of adjustment and has an X-frame design that offers additional torsional flexion for increased adjustability. The leather strap is slim but supple and offers a breathable perforated design. Though there isn’t much headspace between the strap and spring, I found it to conform well to my head shape with no hotspot formation.
On a side note, one small issue I found past LCD headphones is that they unevenly distributed clamp force which would pinch more at the top of the head and less at the bottom – something the new headband design handily alleviates. Likely this has been implemented due to the new earpad design. Furthermore, the lower profile earcups also contribute to far superior fit stability. While I was unable to confirm the status of my review unit, do note, that new batches have slightly reduced clamp force. For the unit I have on hand I would rate it as on the higher side but not immediately irksome as I found on the RAD-0.
As aforementioned, so too have the earpads been revised, now sporting a completely new shape with a triangular cross-section. They are made from lambskin leather that feels very soft on the skin. However, the angled design means only a slim portion of the pad contacts the side of the head which can exacerbate the sensation of clamp force. While I didn’t find this to present issues for my head over time, it is something that is noticeable during wear and a more atypical sensation. I would advise you try these yourself to clear any potential comfort issues. Otherwise, the pad design means they are surprisingly breathable despite not employing perforations or fabric.
The pads look slim but actually offer a good amount of depth, 3cm at the rear, tapering down to 1.5cm at the front. Though the earcup diameter has also shrunk, the angled design provides more internal dimension than the opening size may suggest. There is also a new mesh material covering the fazor waveguides. The surface feels completely flat so the waveguides should no longer dig into your ears should they be wider than the pads – as I understand, this was an issue for some on the LCD-4. Do note as well that the pads are glued on. They are replaceable with a service kit and this was an intentional decision on Audeze’s behalf to optimise sound quality. The pads are rated to last between 3-7 years before requiring replacement.
The sliders are now integrated into the headband rather than attaching to an external block. This new design feels far sturdier and contributes to the more even clamp-force distribution. The LCD-5 offers the same range of adjustment as past LCD headphones, however, as the sliders are now more perpendicular rather than being angled outwards, they do offer about 2 additional notches of height over these models when fully extended. The slider also attaches more securely to the hangers, where I found myself having to periodically tighten the screw here on my LCD-X 2021.
I do find it interesting that the sliders offer around 20 degrees of free swivel before tension kicks in. This means they easily adjust during wear but also hold their position when folding the headphones flat for transport. Altogether, Audeze’s experience shows here as does their serious and very long commitment to the new chassis design. It feels fully formed and brilliantly engineered with many small touches that contribute to excellent handling and wear.