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Audeze LCD-5 and CRBN review

  • My experience with headphone firm Audeze goes back to the very beginning. It makes me feel old to admit this, but I recall first covering their original LCD-2 and introducing the company as an “ambitious newcomer”. This little upstart, run out of a garage in Orange County, California, was attempting to disrupt the then-current headphone pantheon of Sennheiser/beyerdynamic/AKG, and was doing so using planar magnetic drivers – an idea that had seemingly run its course decades earlier. But Audeze had its own unique technology which, combined with its wood-and-metal steampunk aesthetic, made for an intriguing product that would soon make big waves in the headphone world. As time passed, Audeze continued pushing its designs further and further, leading to many other classic models and ultimately to Audeze becoming a leader in the high-end headphone space.

    Looking at current Audeze headphones with their precision workmanship, it’s tough for most people to imagine just how rough those early products actually were. The original LCD-1 from 2009 was more of a proof of concept, stuffing planar magnetic drivers into an existing (and cheap!) headphone shell just to get it working. Yet the sound showed enough promise to generate buzz when it was demonstrated at headphone meets. Word of mouth spread, and people anxiously awaited whatever actual headphone Audeze might eventually launch.

    That product ended up being the original Audeze LCD-2 which many people know and love. Yes, it had a simple strip of exposed foam padding under the headband, and some ergonomic quirks, and a bit of unit-to-unit variation in terms of sound. But it was also a beast of a headphone for that era, giving a level of performance you really couldn’t get anywhere else. Accolades and many positive reviews followed, along with various revisions to smooth out those rough edges.

    More than a decade later, Audeze’s latest flagship model is now the LCD-5 (US$4500). It represents the most significant evolution we’ve seen since that original transition from prototype to commercial product. That alone makes it worth investigating even for folks who haven’t always found prior LCD models enjoyable for one reason or another.

    Design
    The Audeze LCD series has always been about incremental improvements. Upon visual inspection, the lineage from the original LCD-2 to 3 to 4 is evident. They even share quite a few parts, though sometimes with a different color/texture/wood choice. It brings to mind the Porsche 911 or Chevy Corvette, where even casual observers can likely note the family resemblance in all but perhaps the very earliest generations. And just like those car manufacturers, Audeze hasn’t always kept things neat and clean, but rather made some fairly sweeping updates mid-cycle. So it is possible to own two Audeze LCD models from the “same generation” which feature very different headband designs, or even completely different drivers altogether. I expect the LCD-5 is mature enough to avoid that sort of thing, but then again Audeze is never one to leave well-enough alone. So we’ll see.

    The LCD-5 is a ground-up design. Looking closely, I don’t see any parts in the headband, the cups, the pads, the gimbals that are common to other models. The cable connector jacks might be the same, as they still use the (excellent) mini-XLR standard, and there may be some behind-the-scenes things in common such as screws or damping material. But the point is these are far more of a “new” headphone design than any of their predecessors. And yet they have not strayed so far as to no longer look like an obvious member of the Audeze LCD family. It’s a pretty impressive accomplishment overall.

    The best part of this new design? It isn’t just about obtaining a sleeker look.The LCD-4 weighed in at a hefty 690g, pushing the limits of what some listeners would tolerate, the LCD-5 is a “mere” 420g. That puts it on the lower end in terms of weight for most planar magnetic designs, and even undercuts some top dynamic driver models (which generally tend to be lighter than planars) such as the Focal Utopia and Grado GS3000x.

    Where did all that weight go? Looking at the LCD-5 next to older Audeze models, we see the latest version is notably smaller overall. That means less physical mass which leads to less weight. Instead of real wood, the LCD-5 uses acetate which is a synthetic material often used in frames for eyeglasses. Acetate is sturdy, strong, lightweight, and likely easier than wood to reliably manufacture with exacting tolerances. On the downside, it isn’t as subjectively interesting to the eye. A fair trade? Probably. I will say the LCD-5 looks better in person than in pictures though – particularly under certain lighting when the brown shading really pops.

    Another key change is the next-generation driver. Audeze lists the size as 90mm whereas previous LCDs have always been 106mm. LCD-5 also uses a single-sided magnet array here, versus double-sided on the LCD-4, which should be a major contributor to the weight loss plan. Comfort is obviously subjective but even as someone who had no issues with the heft of previous models, I still find the LCD-5 to be easily the most agreeable planar magnetic headphone Audeze has created to date.

    Review hardware
    I rotated through several different systems in order to get a feel for what the LCD-5 was capable of. Things kicked off with a Yulong DA1 (US$4000 with matching outboard power supply) acting as an all-in-one DAC/headphone amplifier. I then switched over to a tube-based setup consisting of a Cayin CS-100DAC (US$3400) paired with a Cayin HA-6A (US$2500) headphone amplifier. Next up was the Musician Audio Aquarius DAC (US$3200) feeding a Niimbus US4+ (US$6500) headphone amplifier. Lastly, a new reference rig: a Cen.Grand DSDAC1.0 Deluxe (US$6200) with the Cen.Grand Silver Fox (US$4200) headphone amplifier.

    That gave me a wide variety of signatures and flavors to give the LCD-5 a real workout. The transport was the Stack Audio Link II – with a matching VOLT linear power supply (US$1400) –Β  streaming Roon from a custom server in another room. Everything was fed balanced power by an Equi=Core 1800 power conditioner and all cables came from Audio Art.

    Listening
    After owning or extensively auditioning just about every headphone Audeze has ever made, I was somewhat taken aback at my first experience with the LCD-5. Using the potent integrated headphone output from a Yulong DA1, and playing my favorite tracks from Beverley Knight’s Music City Soul, the LCD-5 hit me with more clarity, precision, and sheer resolution than I have ever heard from an Audeze headphone. This was not a sound that grew on me with quiet confidence – this was a bold, in-your-face presentation that seemingly revelled in its own technical abilities. The change-up from prior generations was not at all subtle.

    Meandering through a wide variety of music – Vola, Sublime, Murder By Death, Anna Mieke, Curtis Mayfield, Machinedrum, Avishai Cohen – I noted more of that same shift in focus. Tonally, the LCD-5 felt quite different from its predecessors. While there have been a few other high-end Audeze models with different tunings (LCD-24 Limited Edition and MM-500 come to mind), the core LCD2/3/4 series has always been about big, bold sonics with generous low-end impact and slightly relaxed, diffuse top-end. The LCD-4 had very nice detail retrieval but pushed back in the mix, embracing scale and density over subtle minutia. So to hear the LCD-5 come out guns blazing with a crisp, almost spotlit presentation, placing a focus more on midrange lucidity, microdetail retrieval, and surgical treble precision, was somewhat jarring. True, it was an extremely competent and enjoyable signature, but it did take time to wrap my brain around Audeze’s new direction.

    Switching to an SACD rip of Tsuyoshi Yamamoto’s Midnight Sugar, I was very impressed with the wide-open, spacious presentation of the LCD-5. Previous Audeze models have been reasonably fleshed out in terms of where performers fit into the mix but to my ears the LCD-5 is clearly superior in terms of localization and is among the very best I’ve heard from any headphone to date in this aspect. The liner notes for Midnight Sugar show a little diagram of where the drums, bass, and piano sit with respect to one another as well as microphone placement for the recording session – and hearing the LCD-5 match the picture was a real delight.

    This new tuning by Audeze also seems to place greater emphasis on midrange projection. Vocals, guitars, piano, violin, snare drum “body” – they all come through with plenty of momentum and articulation. There is also a more prominent response in the upper midrange and highs compared to earlier LCD-series headphones. The result is arguably a more critically engaging sound that digs deeper into the recording yet also makes heavy demands of recording quality and ancillary gear. Contrast that with the relatively slower, more forgiving, “fun” tuning of the earlier models, and you can see why the LCD-5 required some mental adjustment on my part.

    So far it seems like I might be describing a thin, somewhat polite headphone, in the same vein as an Audio Technica woody or Etymotic Research in-ear monitor. But no, the LCD-5 has superb low-frequency capabilities. The quantity might be less than its predecessors but the quality is among the best I’ve yet heard from the brand – which seems a fair trade-off in most circumstances.

    So if I throw on some Tim Reaper – his take on modern jungle seeming from the genre’s early 1990s golden age – the LCD-5 gives us convincing bass authority and enough depth to really drive the rhythm home. Or how about “Three Ralphs”, a minimalist track by DJ Shadow which feels overly simplistic until you listen on a system capable of reliably showcasing its impressive low-frequency layers. The Audeze LCD-5 passes that test with ease, portraying nuanced, articulate bass impact which feels perfectly placed in the mix. The same result follows with all my favorite deep bass test tracks – “Under the Influence” by The Chemical Brothers, “Limit To Your Love” by James Blake, Kaiju’s “Justice”, or pretty much anything from Daft Punk’s TRON: Legacy soundtrack.

    At the same time, playing “Tricotism” from the 1995 Ernie Watts release Unity, I can easily separate the upright bass from the electric bass as they compete in a sort of joint solo spanning the first few minutes of the track. The older/warmer LCD models, and even my generally neutral LCD-24 Limited, render them more prominently in the mix but with less delineation between each unique instrument.

    The LCD-5 might thus appeal to folks who didn’t quite love the LCD-4, LCD-3, etc, either due to finding them overly thick, lacking in midrange projection or treble detail, or perhaps just finding their large size and heavy weight uncomfortable. Of course, the flip side of that involves people who enjoy the previous models and might want a milder evolution of that same sound. Unless they can mentally adjust and find value in the new signature – which might take some time as it did for me – the LCD-5 may not be what they are looking for.

    As far as system matching, the LCD-5 is technically easier to drive than its predecessors. One can achieve enjoyable results from even a modest DAP or dongle DAC. I used the diminutive iFi GO blu (US$199) connected to my Pixel 6 via USB to achieve satisfying resolution and plenty of volume from the LCD-5, though using the more powerful 4.4mm balanced output showed a fairly significant improvement in tonal solidity. You still aren’t reaching the full potential of the headphone, which is to be expected, but it is nonetheless very workable. Meanwhile I wouldn’t have bothered using the 200-ohm Audeze LCD-4 in those situations at all, as that model really demanded more stout amplification.

    At the same time, the LCD-5 scales extremely well with quality gear. Switching to the Cayin tube-based system running KT88s in ultra-linear mode imparted a subtle valve glow with increased tonal saturation and even more holographic imaging. Swapping again to the Musician Audio Aquarius R-2R DAC with the potent Niimbus Audio headphone amplifier gave massive dynamic swing, superior low-end impact, and a general sense of liquidity which I really enjoyed. Lastly, my reference system – using the Cen.Grand DSDAC1.0 Deluxe paired with their Silver Fox headphone amplifier – seemed to combine many of the best traits from my other systems – the midrange sweetness of the Yulong DA1, the natural, full-bodied tone of the Aquarius/Niimbus duo, and the openness of the Cayin combo, all while resolving intricate details better than any of them. The LCD-5 is certainly a headphone that gets to the heart of an audio system, for better or for worse.

    The inevitable result is that the LCD-5 is somewhat ruthless when it comes to revealing sub-optimal system pairings. Where the LCD-3 and LCD-4 were forgiving and worked with a broad spectrum of gear, the LCD-5 will force users to really evaluate their choices. Those who embrace the newfound transparency should look for a chain that presents as close to neutral as possible, prioritizing cleanliness and extension whilst minimizing coloration. Those who aren’t quite fully on board and desire some of that classic Audeze warmth might not be totally out of luck though. For example: running the Cayin CS-100DAC in tube output mode, paired with Cayin’s HA-6A amplifier using EL34 valves in triode mode, gives a notably richer and more visceral sound whilst somewhat tamping down the upper treble energy. Moving the output impedance switch to medium or high makes the effect even more prominent. It still doesn’t sound quite like an LCD-3 or LCD-4, but does move noticeably in that direction.

    Those willing to commit audiophile heresy by using some sort of EQ will find the LCD-5 extremely responsive to those efforts as well, be they in software form (Roon, Audirvana) or hardware (RME’s ADI series of DACs, the Schiit Loki family). Either way, the LCD-5 seems among the most pliable headphones out there, and most users should be able to coax their desired signature out of it. It’s worth noting that Roon has built-in DSP profiles for Audeze products and while I haven’t always enjoyed that feature with their other models, it’s actually quite useful with the LCD-5. It makes the sound just a bit less edgy without any serious drawbacks and is definitely worth a try for those folks who use Roon.

    Comparisons
    I sold my LCD-4 some time ago but do have the LCD-24 Limited (US$3500) on hand for comparison. I’ve long considered that model to be the most balanced, even-handed Audeze out there, but the LCD-5 does credibly challenge that thinking. It forces me to examine what I feel “neutral” really sounds like. The LCD-24 gives the impression of a punchier, more prominent low-end response, with a comparably recessed midrange and less air up top. One might say it has just a bit of the older Audeze house sound peeking through, despite being toned down significantly from the prior models. Meanwhile, the LCD-5 sounds faster, more extended and more resolving, but tonally a smidge thinner. It unearths more information and is able to better unravel complex, layered performances, yet pays a penalty in terms of musical ease or flow. The LCD-24 is the more relaxed of the two, better suited for relaxing musical exploration whilst LCD-5 commands more of our attention.

    On low-end capabilities, if we listen to the dueling bass solos on the aofrementioned Ernie Watts track, the LCD-5 does present them as notably more distinct from one another, despite the overall low-end response being less in-your-face. So again it’s more a matter of quantity than quality. I really enjoy both headphones but when paired with the right gear, the LCD-5 pulls ahead in sheer technical brilliance, making the LCD-24 sound almost reticent and dull in comparison. And of course, there’s the comfort aspect which favors the LCD-5 by a significant margin.

    The other obvious competitor I have on hand is the Meze Elite (US$4000), another superb headphone that evolved from the highly-regarded Empyrean. Both models are exceedingly comfortable in their own ways – I suspect the bulkier/looser fitting Meze is better suited for larger craniums whilst the firmer-clamping Audeze would fit best on more modestly-sized heads. Both are beautifully crafted and visually attractive with packaging and accessories befitting headphones of their high-end price points.

    The Elite sounds warmer and richer than the Audeze, and going back and forth between it and the LCD-5 is quite the contrast. If I listen to the Elite for a while, everything just sounds correct, and I can’t imagine how the Audeze could possibly improve upon it. Switching to the LCD-5 feels jarring at first, with the midrange feeling too forward and the general tone overly thin and bright. After a short period of adjustment (usually just a few tracks), things begin to “click” in my brain. The LCD-5 ends up having the more correct presentation after all, with significantly better resolution and inner detail. It’s faster, more spacious, and overall more convincing in general. Going back to the Elite just sounds wrong. Why did I never hear this as a bloated, compressed-sounding headphone? But after a few tracks, I begin to adjust again. Now the richer, meatier tone is welcome, and the generous low-end impact is intoxicating. Details actually are present, just portrayed in a different way. Maybe this is actually the more correct presentation. How did I ever enjoy the LCD-5?

    I could go back and forth like that indefinitely, which is my way of saying I can’t really pick a winner between the two headphones. Once again I definitely think the LCD-5 is the more cerebral of the two, demanding more from the system and from the listener him/herself. The Meze is more engaging on a physical level, and not as picky about associated gear or recording quality. That, along with the preferences of the listener towards warmth versus resolution, will certainly play a big role in determining which flagship makes a better fit.

    Audeze CRBN
    While arranging a review sample of the LCD-5, I also requested that Audeze send along its new CRBN electrostatic model. The CRBN is also priced at US$4500 making it something of a co-flagship offering.

    Electrostatic designs work on an entirely different principle to what we might call “regular” headphones like the planar magnetic designs that Audeze is known for. Without getting too technical, I’ll just point out that electrostatic headphones need their own specialist “energizers” and cannot be driven by traditional headphone amplifiers. Truly high-caliber electrostatic amplification is relatively rare and fairly expensive which makes electrostatic headphones something of a niche within a niche, comprising a vanishingly small percentage of the combined headphone market. Still, electrostatic headphones are known to offer a sense of immediacy and clarity unlike anything else on the market, and fans tend to be of the die-hard variety.

    Most people’s awareness of electrostatic headphones starts with Stax whose products have been the in the field for decades. But lately, we’ve seen new models pop up other brands, and I am happy to welcome Audeze into this (slowly) growing space. The CRBN name is derived from Audeze’s use of carbon nanotubes in the driver’s polymer diaphragm composition, which is something that has never been done before. The technology was developed for a project where Audeze designed special headphones for an MRI machine – a place off-limits to traditional headphones. Audeze’s video explains why:

    Audeze founder and CEO Sankar Thiagasamudram explained the steps which led to the creation of the CRBN drivers:

    “CRBN started by trying to make planar drivers with embedded conductors. All planar headphones have a conductive layer of metal on top of the thin film. The circuit is either made by etching this metal layer or by deposition onto the metal with a mask. At Audeze we cast our own thin film and then metalize it. We thought we could make this process faster and easier, if we could somehow embed the conductive material inside the film when it is made. When we were experimenting with this, we dispersed carbon nanotubes into the liquid, before it was cast into film. This gave us a conductive film where we could control the amount of conductivity by doping the film with different levels of carbon nanotubes. This type of film, though it is unusable for planar drivers, has a lot of different applications, one of them being electrostatic headphones.

    Compared to traditional electrostatic film, it also offers several advantages.

    a. Normal electrostatic film typically has a very thin metal layer deposited on the film, usually on one side. Depositing it on both sides usually increases distortion.
    b. When the film touches the stators, the coating can wear off.
    c. Humidity, dust, etc. have a significant effect.

    With our single-walled carbon nanotube film, we have none of these issues. The film is uniformly doped with carbon nanotubes and they are inside the film. It doesn’t wear off etc.

    We also made a version of the headphone for medical applications (MRI machines) with an 800V bias voltage version for very high SPL. We think there is a lot of potential with this type of thin film and we will invest in R&D over the next few years.”

    Design
    Despite its deviation from the planar magnetic driver designs for which this Californian manufacturer is known, CRBN remains an Audeze product from a visual standpoint. That’s mainly due to its use of the carbon fiber headband assembly as seen in the pre-LCD-5 models. Instead of the usual round design, CRBN has an oval shape to the cups – think HiFiMAN’s HE1000 rather than Susvara – which appears to be melamine like the LCD-5 but with black instead of brown coloration. The grills have an intricate pattern vaguely reminiscent of the Meze Empyrean/Elite siblings, and overall build quality is both attractive and confidence-inspiring.

    Despite its visual ties with the previous Audeze models, CRBN stands out as being surprisingly light in weight. At 470 grams it undercuts everything else in the lineup save for the LCD-5 and of course the smaller gaming-oriented designs. That weight is on the lower side of average in terms of competing electrostatic designs as well, though I’d say CRBN is among the most comfortable of that crowd regardless of weight thanks to the generous oval-shaved cups, low clamping force, and plush leather pads. As much as I like the fit of the LCD-5, the CRBN is perhaps even better for my large head, and I often forget I’m even wearing them as I melt into the music. Those with smaller heads would conceivably enjoy the LCD-5 more but the point is the Audeze is really on the ball when it comes to comfort on these new models.

    Amplifier requirements
    Electrostatic headphones require special high-voltage amplification. Audeze wisely embraced the Stax standard which calls for a bias voltage of 580V and the use of the same 5-pin connector, allowing CRBN to technically work with most existing electrostatic amplifiers. Still, before signing off on the review loaner, Audeze wanted to make sure my choice of amplifier was up to a high enough standard – a hint that the CRBN isn’t all that easy to properly drive. Thankfully my custom-built hot-rod KGSSHV amplifier – short for Kevin Gilmore Solid State High Voltage – is more than up to the task. Other great options would include the Blue Hawaii Special Edition (US$6500), Mjolnir Audio Carbon (US$5400), Corsonus Kodachi Plus (US$4200), and Eksonic Aeras (US$6700). These are all hand-made products from small boutique firms, giving extremely high performance at corresponding prices. Yes, one could technically use a more affordable Stax unit to drive the CRBN, but I personally wouldn’t recommend it if one hopes to extract anything close to the full potential from Audeze’s ambitious design.

    Listening
    The Audeze CRBN has a very different presentation compared to the LCD-5. That’s interesting to me, as the LCD-5 has certain characteristics (speed, clarity, immediacy) which are often attributed to electrostatic designs. Meanwhile, the CRBN has a very unique tuning that wouldn’t sound so out of place coming from a planar magnetic headphone. Not to say it sounds exactly like the older LCD-3 or LCD-4 but I do hear traces of that lineage for sure – which is noteworthy considering the typical (bright) electrostatic sound. The CRBN is indeed still very fast and clear, but it also has a sense of liquidity and tonal richness that take it in a different direction from nearly all electrostatic competitors heard by this head-fi-er.

    With Stax, and electrostatic headphones in general, many users (myself included) file two complaints. First, the treble can feel overly sharp. It’s the sort of thing that sounds mighty impressive upon first listening but also begins to wear over time, causing fatigue and ultimately making me want to stop listening. That sums up my experience with the Stax SR-009 series, which was their flagship model, priced similarly to the CRBN. The second yet equally important complaint concerns a lack of low-end energy, which to some degree is just a byproduct of the way electrostatic designs work. They don’t have the driver excursion to move a lot of air, so they typically produce tuneful, quick, but are less viscerally impactful in the bass. Often the second complaint compounds the first.

    The Audeze CRBN goes a long way toward addressing both of these grumbles. The treble is fast, expressive, and extremely clear, but nowhere near as “in-your-face” as a typical Stax presentation. It certainly has less top-down energy than something like a Sennheiser HD800S or HiFiMAN Susvara, or even Audeze’s own LCD-5 for that matter. On the low end, the CRBN hits with a sense of solidity that is vanishingly rare for an electrostatic design. While falling just short of the thunderous capabilities of the LCD-4 and LCD-5 with EQ applied – even Audeze must adhere to the laws of physics – the CRBN remains utterly satisfying thanks to the speed and precision it displays in that region.

    I particularly appreciate how convincingly it renders percussion, which to me has always been a weak spot with Stax and other competitors. Yes, most electrostatic designs can sound particularly brilliant with singer/songwriter acoustic material, string quartets and light-n-airy fare. I enjoy that sort of thing from time to time but my Roon playback history tells a different tale. While it does show some lighter jazz and acoustic and bluegrass, I also see a lot more of artists like Soundgarden, Purity Ring, Beyond Creation, Matumbi, Aesop Rock, Electronic Noise Controller, Tool, Fugazi, Marc Houle – all of whom benefit greatly from the more fleshed-out tonality CRBN delivers. This is a headphone that I could listen to all day long at considerable volume levels whilst experiencing minimal fatigue – which is definitely not the norm for me when it comes to most electrostatic headphones. Yet CRBN also delivers enough speed, inner detail, and imaging localization that I’m not left wanting when it comes to other technicalities. It really is one of the most well-balanced headphones I’ve encountered, advancing beyond the (somewhat well-earned) stereotype we usually affix to electrostatic designs.

    As mentioned previously, Roon has integrated DSP profiles for Audeze headphones, and the CRBN setting is definitely worth a try. It gives a subtle nudge towards more tonal solidity and richness whilst (very) relaxing the top end by just a hair. The CRBN will win more hearts among those who love the “classic” Audeze sound; but, on the other hand, it might not win over those who feel Stax has the correct take on electrostatics. I spent most of my time listening to the CRBN as-is for evaluation purposes, but if I owned a pair I would likely have the Roon DSP filter permanently activated – it’s that good.

    Comparisons
    Despite using different technologies, both the CRBN and LCD-5 are flagship Audeze headphones that sell for the same price and thus invite comparisons for those cross-shopping or just curious about how they stack up. As mentioned above, the LCD-5 has traits vaguely reminiscent of those associated with the typical “electrostatic sound”: fast, revealing and fairly unforgiving when it comes to poor recordings or upstream equipment. But when done right in those two areas, the payoff is a wide open window into the performance like few other headphones can manage. This sort of laser-focused presentation is ideal for things like evaluating DACs or comparing different masters of the same album.

    Meanwhile, the CRBN feels less cerebral, with comparably subdued treble and less spotlit midrange focus too. It’s a more relaxed sound relative to the somewhat high-strung LCD-5 and thus much more well-suited for an evening of listening with no other goal beyond musical enjoyment. That said, the CRBN remains wonderfully engaging, with tactile bass impact, convincing transient attack, and pinpoint imaging. CRBN seems to give me more of a connection to the performance itself whilst LCD-5 provides greater insight into the recording process and the gear being used to reproduce that recording. When I don my audio reviewer hat I find LCD-5 to be an extremely useful tool of the trade. But at the end of the day, for some off-the-clock listening, the CRBN is my choice for its greater emotional connection to the music.

    Conclusions
    So there you have it – two excellent headphones with very little in common, both sharing the top spot in Audeze’s current lineup. Experiencing them together is very much a yin and yang situation, with the LCD-5 appealing to the head whilst the CRBN appeals to the heart. Both represent masterful takes on very different goals, and anyone shopping for a top-caliber headphone would do well to consider whichever of the two speaks their particular sonic language.

    It would have been so easy for Audeze to subtly tweak their tried-and-true formula for planar magnetic dominance, releasing an LCD-5 that felt and sounded much more like a slight evolution of its predecessors. And of course, it would have been easier to leave the electrostatic designs to others (like Stax) rather than compete for a piece of that relatively tiny market. I applaud Audeze for taking the less obvious path in both of those areas and look forward to seeing what they come up with next.

    Further information: Audeze

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    Written by John Grandberg

    John Grandberg is a US-based audio journalist who has been immersed in the scene for over a decade. A recovering percussionist, he has a particular affinity for headphones and associated gear.

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