Part of the Audio Company Conundrum Series!!
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Audeze headphones. Are they worth an investment?
I’ll tell you, but first swipe your credit card information here, put your date of birth here, and JUST KIDDING.
Stick around and we’ll talk about it.
Greetings mate and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…
Are Audeze Headphones Worth it?
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The answer is that it depends. Do stick around ‘til the end of this article as we’ll go over reasons why you should and shouldn’t purchase a pair, as well as delve into specific models and their nuances. Well also touch some things that may be neither good nor bad, so stay put for that as well.
First the bad.
I don’t think Audeze headphones are worth it if:
You have neck issues and/or have trouble wearing heavy headphones for an extended period of time.
As much as I love the sound, I don’t think I could ever own one as they get incredibly uncomfortable after a certain period of time. The clamp is great. The depth and size of the cups are great. The build is fantastic. It’s the weight of the headphone itself that presents problems. It feels like you’re literally wearing a bowling ball on your melon.
If you happen to have some disc issues like myself, it’s a definite no-go. The frustrating part about it is that I really, really want to own a pair, and specifically, the LCD-2 is probably my favorite out of the bunch. But when I demoed one, I couldn’t even keep it on my head for more than 30 minutes without feeling like someone was sitting on my face.
You desire a brighter treble.
Let’s face it. The Audeze house sound can be very, very polarizing. You’re probably either going to love it or hate it.
The treble on all Audeze headphones leans towards dark, with the LCD-4 being the darkest that I’ve personally heard out of the ones I tried. To be honest, I think they went a bit too far with it.
In comparing one side by side with a Utopia out of a NAIM DAC V-1, I preferred the Utopia and it wasn’t even close. The LCD-4 sounded incredibly veiled in comparison, but also took a lot of juice to get pumping. More on that in a jiffy.
By and large, you’ll notice the treble on all models leans towards dark, but some not as much as others.
My most memorable experience was certainly an LCD-3 paired with a Bryston BHA-1 playing back a FLAC version of Pink Floyd’s Time – an experience I’ve talked about quite a bit on the blog and channel and one that I will never forget. Related: The Audeze LCD-3 Will Change YOUR Life!! A few patrons really recommended this article as it’s a great read.
SO CLICK THE LINK NOW!!
Speaking of pairings, a third reason an Audeze headphone may not be worth it is if you don’t also plan to invest in some fairly beefy amplification; for the LCD line specifically. Related: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]
This is one product that absolutely needs some juice to get going, even despite varying impedance and Sensitivity ratings. What is Sensitivity in Headphones? [Explained]
Most of my regular readers and subscribers know I don’t really place a lot of emphasis on the Amp and DAC, but in the case of the Audeze, I would most certainly plan to do so. This is one instance where I firmly believe the right amp is crucial.
Some are very Sensitive to power (meaning they don’t need much in theory) and some aren’t, but you’ll find that they all would rather have the proper setup and plenty of headroom.
If you’re new, I’m simply referring to efficiency. How good is the headphone at using the power it receives. Generally speaking, a higher number indicates good efficiency (i.e. it doesn’t need as much power) while a lower number represents poor efficiency (and does need a lot of power).
On spec sheets, this number will be its Sensitivity rating, but explaining it in terms of efficiency is much easier for people to understand. I’ll flash up a graphic of the LCD line and their specific numbers.
Because most of them terminate in a ¼” jack already, it’s obvious Audeze wants you to pair them with something of equal measure. I’ve personally tested Audeze headphones on the NAIM DAC V-1, Bryston BHA-1, ifi iDSD Black Label, and Chord Hugo amongst others. The point is that you’ll want to invest in an amp with plenty of power and in my opinion, something a bit more neutral. Related: Chord Mojo vs. Hugo
Per my experience, these numbers can also be a bit deceiving. For example, even the Gargantuan Monolith NAIM DAC took a bit of volume knob turning to get the 97dB/mW LCD-4 going. 97 isn’t exactly low, but for comparison’s sake, an HD600 is much easier to drive at the same rating, even despite the 600 having a higher impedance as well.
Also, be careful to turn the volume back DOWN after you’re done or you’ll be in a world of pain like Smokey from Big Lebowski.
Now that the bad is out of the way, What about a few reasons to purchase one?
This is perhaps the best reason, along with the overall sound. Audeze headphones tend to sound incredibly lush and natural. Like butter. Everything is smooth, velvety, and effortless. This is in large part due to their planar magnetic profile. Related: What is a Planar Magnetic Driver?
You really get a sense that you’re hearing the track in the way the artist intended. The way an instrument may sound in real life vs. the way it sounds through a device. It kind of feels like you’re in an actual space hearing the sound envelop you rather than it being fed into your ears. Soundstage and Imaging here are both tremendous.
There is a life-like quality about an Audeze that really cannot be disputed. You’ll know it when you hear it. If there were ever a headphone that deserved the overused “musical” moniker, an Audeze is most certainly it.
I’ve talked quite a bit about how the Audeze house bass is my most preferred, and you’ll likely fall in love as well. Just add some butter, salt and pepper, and spices to the bass and maybe a side of mashed potatoes and Asparagus. Now envision you’re at the beach with your boo sittin’ in some restaurant on the dock of the bay like Otis redding. Now click this link and buy the headphones.
Haha for real. The bass is perfect. You’ll get miles and miles of sub-bass extension and plenty of impact without ever feeling like it’s drowning out the wonderful mid-range – another quality of Auedeze headphones that I love.
This is as articulate and correct as bass gets. It hits hard, but never sounds artificial – another quality of planars (and Audezes in particular) that stand out.
Oftentimes bass can thump but sound dry or needle-y. The bass on an Audeze has a lush, wet character without sounding sloppy or sloshy.
The kick drum and bassline both sound incredibly natural – again as if you’re hearing someone physically press the kick pedal in real life vs. just hearing the thump of it through a headphone driver. What is a Headphone Driver?
This is due to both the attack and decay of the kick – something that again, Audeze headphones tend to excel at with regard to the overall sound as well.
This is bass for bass head snobs who understand what good bass is supposed to sound like, unlike those silly ass Beats by Dre noobs who smirk at you thinking they’ve found the holy grail of headphones.
THIS JUST IN BUSTER, YOU HAVEN’T!!
The only slight issue is that the mids can sometimes sound a tad too relaxed and recessed. This is a minor issue that pops up in most of the LCD line, but it’s still a great presentation overall. This isn’t your mid-forward K702 or anything like that. There’s a gradual roll-off after 1k, similar to a Sundara and somewhat of a problem at times.
This is another aspect of higher-end headphones that tends to make them stand out over stuff in the lower-tiered category or even mid-fi.
When you buy an Audeze headphone, you’re almost guaranteed to get a product that sounds just about perfect from both sides. This is of paramount importance to the listening experience for obvious reasons. With cheaper stuff, you can almost immediately tell if there’s a mismatch, and it does put a damper on the listening session – however small that inconsistency may be.
On The Fence
Good or bad? You decide.
Another great quality of high-end headphones is the micro-detail you’ll experience. It can be overwhelming at times how much nuance becomes present – something that again, I discussed in great detail with the LCD-3.
Imagine putting a microscope up to a fire ant. That’s the kind of detail I’m talking about. Everything seems to become incredibly magnified and crystal clear.
Do I make myself clear, Mr. Bender?
As in the case of the LCD-3, you’ll find that this may not necessarily be positive or negative. The sense of raw emotion and clarity that the headphone provided made me feel really uncomfortable; as if I was experiencing some form of cognitive dissonance and couldn’t quite make up my mind whether or not I believed that this was how the track actually sounded, vs. the way I had grown up accustomed to hearing it.
Still, in most cases, the detail in Audeze headphones is a wonderful experience and really adds to the immersion.
This may or may not be an object standing in the way. If you’re watching this on YouTube or reading it on the blog, you’ve likely already set aside some money or have money to spend on an Audeze product.
The question then becomes, is that investment worth it over the long haul? This brings us back full circle.
I believe it can be if you understand the potential drawbacks of owning one. I also believe that purchasing something like an LCD-2 Classic could be a perfect compromise, as it’s both under $1000 AND lighter @ 544g.
Weight graphic/// (Coming Soon)
If I were to spend the money on one, I’d most certainly buy a Classic without much hesitation. At around $800, it’s a great bargain considering the positives we’ve discussed today:
- The Timbre is excellent and the planar sound does stand out over its dynamic counterparts. This is a warm, musical headphone that will appeal to many people. What is Timbre?
- The build is mostly fantastic and I’ve never had an issue with any Audeze headphone I’ve used dating back to 2017.
- The bass strikes a perfect balance of not being too rolled off nor too boosted. This is my preferred type of bass response and just may become yours as well. There is plenty of sub-bass extension, but the mid-bass isn’t bloated and doesn’t get in the way of the mid-range. A perfect scenario, as Audeze headphones tend to work well for a multitude of genres and portray any type of music I can think of with absolute ease.
The LCD-2 Classic to me represents a true upgrade from Mid-Fi at a sensible price.
What are your thoughts on all of this? Is the Audeze house sound worth it? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,