Audeze MM-500 review: A $1,699 masterpiece

Audeze is a brand that needs no introduction; the American audio manufacturer is well-known for its range of planar headphones, and its products have a unique design that’s immediately recognizable. Another trait is the distinct sound signature, and that’s where Audeze is doing things a little differently with the MM-500; these headphones were made in collaboration with music producer Manny Marroquin, and they’re positioned as a do-it-all option for use in the studio and at home.

Coming in at $1,699, the MM-500 is going up against the likes of the Sennheiser HD800 S and HiFiMan Arya Stealth, and it slots in nicely between the $1,200 LCD-X and $2,995 LCD-MX4 in Audeze’s portfolio. Having used the LCD-X for the better part of a year, I was keen on seeing how the MM-500 would measure up, and I can safely say that these are the best headphones I’ve ever used.

Audeze MM-500: Specs, price, and release date

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Audeze unveiled the MM-500 in Q3 2022, and the headphones went on sale at the end of the year. They’re available globally from Audeze distributers and major online retailers, and in the U.S., you can get your hands on the headphones for $1,699.

The packaging contains Audeze’s standard hard shell travel case, and a braided 2m single-ended 6.35mm cable — identical to the one you get with the LCD-X and LCD-GX. Interestingly, you also get a cloth carrying case with the package.

Audeze MM-500: Design and comfort

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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Most headphones in this category tend to have extravagant designs, but to its credit, Audeze kept things minimalist. The MM-500 feature an industrial design that looks very elegant, and the grey color scheme makes the headphones look that much more premium. They’re made out of aluminum, and the build quality is the best of any headphones in this category — these are built to last several decades.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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The grey design over the ear cups combined with steel accents around the fasteners and yoke, and the black headband pairs very well, and overall, the MM-500 look and feel like headphones that cost a lot more than their asking price. The leather earpads have exquisite padding, and they don’t get hot even after several hours worth of use.

The stylized Audeze logo over the grille of each ear cup is a little different to what you get on the LCD-X, but it is just as recognizable. You get Manny Marroquin’s name at the bottom of the left grille, and the producer’s logo on the headband.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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What I particularly like about the design is that the new yoke allows the MM-500 to fold fully flat; this isn’t possible with the LCD-X and LCD-GX, and while the headphones aren’t designed with portability in mind, the additional swivel allows you to get a better fit.

The MM-500 have a floating headband design that does a great job distributing the weight of the headphones evenly. That’s a good thing, because at 495g, these are not the lightest headphones around. That said, they’re much more comfortable than the LCD-X, and I hadn’t realized that I was giving my neck a workout by wearing those headphones. To give you some context, the LCD-X weigh 612g, and you can immediately tell the difference when switching to the MM-500.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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They’re not as light as the gaming-focused LCD-GX — which come in at 454g — but they’re definitely easier to use than the LCD-X by some margin. The headband adjustment is still not as smooth as other headphones, but then again, you won’t need to fiddle with it often. The bundled cable connects to the MM-500 via mini-XLR pins, and you get 6.35mm on the other side — there’s no way to select a balanced 4.4mm out. You will need to buy an aftermarket cable if you’re interested in going the balanced route.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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The extremely comfortable earpads makes the MM-500 one of the best Audeze headphones. I didn’t have any issues wearing these headphones for over six hours in one go, but I will note that they have a slightly higher clamping force than the LCD-X. It isn’t uncomfortable by any measure — and they don’t exert as much pressure as the HD6XX — but they fit snugly.

Overall, Audeze did an excellent job with the design, and the MM-500 look every bit as premium as their price tag suggests.

Audeze MM-500: Sound quality

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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Audeze is known best for its planar drivers, and the MM-500 use the brand’s 90mm planar magnetic drivers combined with the same Fluxor magnet array that’s found in the $4,500 LCD-5. The result is a sound signature that immediately stands out. The MM-500 are designed for use in the studio and at home, and as such, you get a neutral sound — albeit with a few welcome tweaks. Audeze went with a mid-forward presentation, so you get a little more body in the mid-range , and an intimate soundstage that makes these headphones sound amazing.

There’s the characteristic planar sound with fast attack for the bass, and while you don’t get an overly exaggerated low-end, there’s plenty of detail and body. You get a slightly elevated mid-bass that gives the MM-500 a more musical sound, and it works really well across a diverse set of genres. I tend to listen to as much heavy metal as orchestral, and the MM-500 did a terrific job in both scenarios.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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When it comes to the mids, you’ll find excellent layering and detail retrieval, and these headphones shine in ensemble pieces with plenty of instruments. Vocals have a distinct forward presence, and they sound natural and smooth — this is where the MM-500 really differentiate themselves over their immediate rivals. The mid-range is slightly elevated, and that once again lends well to the musical nature of the MM-500.

The treble doesn’t have a lot of extension, but you get excellent detail retrieval, and there isn’t any sibilance to the sound. The overall soundstage is fairly intimate — it doesn’t sound as wide as the HD 800 S — with Audeze instead focusing on layering and imaging. I think it works in favor of the MM-500, and is a big part of why these headphones are so engaging.

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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With a sensitivity of 18Ω and 100dB, the MM-500 can be easily driven by any source, but you’ll ideally need something that can deliver over 250mW of power to get the most out of the drivers. The bigger problem here is that because you just get a single-ended 6.35mm cable with the package, you will need to pick up a balanced 4.4mm cable if you’re interested in using the MM-500 with a portable source or digital audio player like the M15S. When paired with a neutral source like the Fiio K9 Pro, the MM-500 absolutely shine.

What makes the MM-500 stand out is that they’re fun to listen to; they’re tuned as reference headphones, but the sound isn’t fully flat, and there’s enough vibrancy here that they hold up just as well for daily listening as mixing music. So if you don’t care about music production and are primarily interested in getting a pair of headphones for casual listening, they’re among the best in the sub-$2,000 segment — I’ve certainly never had as much fun using a pair of headphones.

Audeze MM-500: The competition

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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The Sennheiser HD800 S is the go-to choice in this segment, and the headphones feature a flat sound that lends itself well to a lot of use cases. If you need a planar-focused option, the HiFiMan Arya Stealth is a good alternative as well.

Audeze positions the MM-500 as the upgrade choice to the LCD-X, so if you’re looking at an affordable choice, you should consider the LCD-GX or the LCD-X. The only thing I’ll note here is that the LCD-X is very heavy, so take that into account when considering the headset.

Audeze MM-500: Should you buy it?

Audeze MM-500 review: A ,699 masterpiece

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You should buy this if:

  • You want the best headphones under $2,000
  • You want a neutral sound with added vibrancy that’s fantastic across genres
  • You want headphones that are built to last
  • You need comfortable headphones for casual listening

You shouldn’t buy this if:

  • You want lightweight headphones
  • You need the best value

The MM-500 may just be one of the best headphones Audeze has produced to date. They’re not as technical as the LCD-5, but for what they cost, they sound absolutely incredible. The industrial design makes them stand out, the build quality is exquisite, and the floating headband along with the plush earpads means they’re very comfortable in daily use.

But the main reason you’re buying the MM-500 is for the sound, and they absolutely deliver in this area. The neutral sound means you can use it as a pair of reference headphones in the studio, but there’s still enough dynamism and vibrancy to the sound that they’re just as great for casual listening. Ultimately, what Audeze has created here is an all-in-one product that works just as well in any scenario, and that’s no small feat.

Via: Androidcentral

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