Planar magnetic headphones focused on your mix
Review by Paul Vnuk Jr.
Audeze reference-grade headphones should be no stranger to our readers as we have been covering the company’s audiophile-grade planar magnetic designs for several years. The MM-500 represents a bit of a departure for the Orange County-based company. Crafted in tandem with noted audio engineer Manny Marroquin (the MM in the name), the MM-500 represents the first Audeze entry purpose-designed for today’s mixing engineer.
Meet Manny’s Headphones
The MM-500 is, like most Audeze offerings, an open-back planar magnetic headphone design based on the company’s Fazor and Fluxor technology. What makes these “Manny’s headphones?” According to discussions with Audeze and Manny at last year’s NAMM show, the MM-500 is the result of consultations and real-world use. Together, Manny and Audeze refined its current technology so that an engineer can trust them both for mixing both in the studio and on the go. This makes the MM-500 focused on mix translation rather than hyped for pleasant play-back.
Like many Audeze offerings, the MM-500 comes in a robust aluminum briefcase with a custom braided cable and a 1/4” connector.
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Looks and Design
Visually and design-wise, the MM-500 is similar to the flagship Audeze LCD-5 (reviewed September 2022) and the current generation LCD-X (1st generation LCD-X reviewed October 2020). This makes sense as the MM-500 is positioned squarely between the two in the Audeze family—not the most expensive set of Audeze headphones, nor the least.
The MM-500 features the Audeze standard large aluminum vented ear cups attached to a firm spring steel headband by way of two vintage-style yoke rods. The plush foam ear cups and headband are lined with supple leather.
The MM-500, as mentioned, features an open-back planar magnetic design that uses a single sided magnet array to vibrate a flat, ultra-thin diaphragm etched with metal traces rather than standard dynamic headphone drivers, which vibrate a domed membrane.
The Flux and the Fazor
Unique to Audeze is the use of the company’s Fluxor magnets and the Fazor waveguide technology. The Audeze website digs deeper into both than I have space for here. Still, the net result of this technology is that the soundwaves, which Audeze reminds us “ripple like water,” “pass through magnetic structures without disturbance, preserving timing details in the recorded signal.” In simple terms, this results in fewer issues of phase, smearing, sonic degradation and interference.
Out of the case, the MM-500 exudes the construction and class that are hallmarks of the Audeze line. The aluminum construction is robust and should easily stand up to life in the studio and the road, plus it is a noticeable step up from the older LCD-X.
However, one thing to be aware of is that the spring steel headband has a bit more clamping force than I would like for my head. I did find them to affect my jaw after moderate periods of use. The headband can be flexed and relaxed a bit over time, and everyone has a differently shaped noggin, so it’s just something with which to be aware.
Sonically the MM-500 retains the tonal honesty, broad throw clarity and balance for which Audeze planar magnetic designs are known. However, there are some sonic differences from past offerings.
Most noticeable is a forward mid presence, which gives the MM-500 a more focused sound stage than the LCD-5 or LCD-X, yet it retains a great “reach out and touch it” dimensionality. The most significant difference I can hear in the MM-500 is its low-end presentation. While the LCD-5 was a bit on the neutral, natural bass side and the LCD-X offered a great deep low-end reach, the new MM-500 has the best weight, punch and boldness of the three. Having said that, it never feels obvious or overbearing. The MM-500 really does have a “studio monitor” quality to the way it presents sound—detailed yet tight imaging, the right amount of forward presence and punch, and beautiful clarity minus harshness or fatigue. The bottom line is that nothing is hidden or made to sound “pretty,” yet nothing sounds hyped or forced—like a great studio monitor.
One last thing to note, unlike many hi-fi headphone offerings (such as the Audeze LCD-5) that crave a nice high-powered headphone amp, the beauty of the MM-500 is that it sounds great with the stock headphone outs on even the most modest interface. I’m told this has more to do with the type and intensity of the magnets and less with the headphone’s impedance.
Sonically, I am very impressed with the MM-500. While the LCD-5 would still be my ultimate “kick-back and listen” headphone of choice paired with a great headphone amp, the MM-500 more than accomplishes its goal of being a high-end, next-level mixing-focused set of open-back cans. As an aside, my friend (and contributor) Justin Perkins at Mystery Room Mastering is also finding the MM-500 quite useful as a mastering tool. Excellent work, Manny and Audeze!
Price: $1,699 More From: audeze.com
Maximum Power Handling: 5W RMS
Maximum SPL: >130dB
Frequency Response: 5 Hz–50 kHz
THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
Transducer Size: 90 mm
Magnet Type: Neodymium N50
Diaphragm Type: Ultra-Thin Uniforce