Got to hear the MM500 at Pacific Audio Fest, so here are some impressions:
So first of all, can I just say that with the MM500, Audeze has made the best looking headphone for the Resolve aesthetic. It’s black and grey! - with a sturdy, no-nonsense, industrial look to it. What could be more to my taste than this? Okay the Meze Liric is the other one that really speaks to me in the looks department, but damn does the MM500 look and feel great.
Comfort is acceptable, although I think once again for my bigboi audiophile head the clamp force is still a bit tight. I did try the LCD-5 with the newer less clampy headband and it’s much better than the one on our demo unit, so at least that’s encouraging.
After first listen, I found myself saying to @taronlissimore and @netforce that the Audeze MM500 is more ‘HD650-like’ than the LCD-5, and by that I mean that I actually think it may have a more agreeable tuning for certain ranges. I know there were a lot of comparisons to the HD650 when the LCD-5 came out, but in my view there is enough of a difference in the upper mids/treble with a stronger emphasis to 3khz on the LCD-5.
The key thing with this is that it’s all about relative balance. While the LCD-5 is a technological marvel, and in many respects it’s the flagship headphone I’d personally buy today, its stock tuning without EQ or DSP is a bit shouty for me with slightly hot upper mids. This results in those upper midrange harmonics being emphasized over the resonant harmonics in the treble above it. I think this is also why you may have seen some folks saying it’s ‘dark’.
The MM500 has a similar sound in the sense that the relative balance is still quite ‘midrangey’ - again in a way that could be compared to the Sennheiser HD650. And this is where I found the MM500 to be slightly less forward in the upper mids by comparison to the LCD-5. Once again, this tricky part of the tuning is all about the balance between 3khz and 5khz+, and this is where I found the MM500 to sound a bit less glarey than the 5, making me think it’s got a better balance for what we might call the ‘ear gain’ transition.
So, overall I’d say it’s a bit more in line with the kind of smooth balance I like. Still midrangey, still chilled out in the treble, and very much in line with Audeze’s ‘new’ sound signature, where they’re a lot more clarity-focused than the previous models. If you’re expecting it to be a smaller and lighter LCD-X, I think the tonality is different enough that you may even be disappointed. But for those wanting more clarity - where the LCD-X is a bit withdrawn, the MM500 delivers. Make no mistake though, the X has the more forward upper treble, so there’s a sense in which the mm500 is less ‘exciting’.
As for detail and technicalities, I thought it was pretty good! I think again it’s more similar to the LCD-5 in the sense that it sounds tighter for its initial leading edge, with great control during busy passages and better instrument separation than the X.
In my view, the MM500 marks a nice alternative to the LCD-X 2021, and slots in nicely between it and the LCD-5. I’m looking forward to getting one in to have a longer listen soon!