For the MM-500, Audeze have collaborated with renowned mixer Manny Marroquin to create planar-magnetic open studio headphones that impressed us with high-quality materials, great workmanship and flawless sound.
With the MM-500, Audeze aim to provide a high-quality sound tool for audio professionals and multimedia content creators. “MM” stands for Manny Marroquin, who is a successful mixing engineer for numerous top artists and Grammy winners. And although this model is considerably cheaper than the Audeze LCD-5, the manufacturer has adapted some of its technology. This is astonishing because the Audeze LCD-5 is the top model in the California (USA) manufacturer’s planar-magnetic portfolio. This is reflected in the price of the open version. The recommended retail price of these exquisite headphones is over 5,500 euros, while the MM-500 that we are testing here costs little more than 2,100 euros. Let’s see if this really is a “bargain”…
The Audeze MM-500, like its big brother the LCD-5, comes in a lavish travel case. As befits a device in this price range, its black case is lockable (two keys are included). While with the top model this case is made of aluminium, MM-500 buyers have to be satisfied with a plastic hard case. The headphones come with a 1.9m long 6.35mm stereo jack cable that terminates in two 4-pin mini-XLR plugs. The LCD-5, on the other hand, comes with a 2.5 m balanced lead with XLR plugs, which includes a jack adapter. In addition, a velvet carrying pouch with a drawstring is included as well as a card with download links for the operating instructions. The serial number and the name of the Audeze headphones inspector are included on a handwritten countersigned certificate of authenticity in business card format.
Construction, materials and technology of the Audeze MM-500
Like the LCD-5, the Audeze MM-500 are open, circumaural headphones whose diaphragms are driven planar-magnetically. In both units, this is achieved by an array of powerful neodymium magnets. And as with the LCD-5, the MM-500’s inner grilles are made of Fazor Waveguides. They prevent phase problems caused by design-related interference.
In a nutshell for beginners: In planar-magnetic drivers, ultra-thin membranes with etched conductive tracks are induced to vibrate in the space between two magnets. This design also counteracts resonance vibrations in the diaphragms. As a result, the frequency reproduction of this model is said to be more even and precise than that of dynamic drivers. In addition, less distortion is said to occur, especially at high volumes. However, the 90mm diameter diaphragm is not the nanoscale Parallel Uniforce diaphragm used in the LCD-5, but the somewhat more robust Ultra-Thin Uniforce diaphragm, which has already proven itself in the LCD-X and LCD-XC models.
The technical data shows us that the MM-500’s maximum sound pressure level is over 130 dB SPL, keeping pace with the LCD-5. So is the frequency range, which extends from an ultra-low 5 Hz to a super-high 50 kHz, and the distortion factor, which is below 0.1% @ 100 dBSPL/1kHz. This promises a far-reaching distortion-free sound. However, there is a distinct difference in sensitivity and impedance. While the LCD-5’s sensitivity is given as 90 dB/1 mW, the MM-500’s sensitivity of 100 dB/ mW is actually even higher. This means that its sound pressure output at 1 mW is considerably higher than that of its more expensive sibling. While the LCD-5 has an impedance of only 14 ohms, the input impedance of the MM-500 is also extremely low at 18 ohms. Nevertheless, Audeze recommends a headphone preamp with at least 250 mW. Upwards, there are virtually no limits, as these headphones can be powered with up to 5W RMS.
Handling the Audeze MM-500
The MM-500 uses mini-XLR plugs to connect the cable, which is plugged in at both ends. A coloured marker indicates which side of the headphones each plug should be attached to. The cable has a firmly attached splice protector and the two supply strands are loosely but securely woven together. The large jack plug at the other end of the cable can be unscrewed and serviced in case of an emergency.
With a weight of 495 grams, these headphones fit comfortably in the hand. This makes the MM-500 75 grams heavier than the LCD-5, but lighter than the Audeze LCD-X. At least here, the sturdy spring steel headband is finished with lightweight parts made of aluminium. The headband size adjustment is ratchet-locked, so the headphones retain the last selected setting. The rather stiff adjustment requires both hands and is confirmed with a clicking sound. The ear cups can also be rotated and swivelled. In this way, the headphones can be transported in a space-saving manner and adjusting them to the shape of your head is very flexible.
The Audeze MM-500 have high-quality leather ear pads that feel comfortable the first time you put them on. However, the contact pressure of the two earpieces is powerful. This means that head movements do not cause the headphones to move out of place, making it possible to nod to the music extensively during mixing and mastering. However, if you want to wear them for hours, it is advisable to plan breaks on account of the contact pressure.
Sound of the Audeze MM-500
Audeze says the MM-500 deliver a particularly transparent sound that manages to convey emotion. All this with a studio quality that is intended to be a benchmark.
As expected, the MM-500, as open headphones, present a rather restrained, but undoubtedly present low bass. This provides the desired bass texture rather than an ill-defined rumbling. Bass levels above this are punchy rather than warm. To what extent this is an advantage for mixing pop and rock songs is, of course, ultimately up to each mix engineer. At the other end of the spectrum, the headphones deliver crystal clear highs. A very open super high-frequency range gives audio material plenty of room.
The Audeze MM-500 reproduce mids in a multi-faceted way. Vocals reveal a lot of details and fine nuances. However, especially in the upper range, the frequencies that are important for speech intelligibility, its sound mercilessly exposes even the most subtlely emphasised vocal parts. In the range between 5 and 7 kHz, the sound of these headphones was a little too strong for my taste. This was also noticeable with guitar music. And since my playlist for headphone tests consists of top productions (David Guetta, Usher, Joss, Stone, Foo Fighters, among others), these songs were not likely to be unbalanced. As a result, the analytical imaging of these headphones in these music styles can become exhausting in the mids, especially at higher volumes. The situation was different with classical music. If you are a classical music fan looking for high-quality hi-fi headphones, but you are not prepared to spend more than double the price of the Audeze LCD-5, you will find the MM-500 a decent choice for a significantly lower price.
The MM-500’s good depth and wide stereo image create a large audio stage. These Audeze headphones are also strong in terms of dynamics. The transient imaging was fixed, orchestral tuttis were reproduced with pressure, and drum beats were distinct. Due to the low impedance in combination with the good sensitivity of 100 dB/1mW, they were sufficiently loud even with lower voltage and lower power headphone preamps. The purity of their sound was also reflected in the fact that the reproduction remained distortion-free through all frequency ranges even at high volume. Of course, the acoustic isolation to the outside was as low as the attenuation of external noise with this open model. However, this also means that the MM-500 can indeed be used exclusively for mixing and mastering. They – like any other open headphones – are completely unsuitable for recording with microphones.
The Audeze MM-500 are great headphones that I found difficult to classify. Their audio frequency response was, as expected, unadorned. There was a broad equalisation of all frequency responses. However, this led to voices and guitars quickly sounding harsh. If you turn down these frequencies too much in the mix, you may endanger the translation of your mix in relation to other playback devices. That’s why I see these headphones as being more usefully employed in editing rather than mixing and mastering. There, thanks to their analytical sound, they can mercilessly reveal even the most subtle inconsistencies. Prospective buyers will, however, have to deal with the high contact pressure as well as the high price. If you do not consider these points to be negatives, the Audeze MM-500 are headphones designed for mixing engineers that are made with high-quality materials, great workmanship and a flawless sound. To some extent, they incorporate the qualities of their big brother, the LCD-5, and make them more readily available.
- analytical sound
- high-quality materials and workmanship
- good wearing comfort
- lockable carrying case
- technically close to the top model LCD-5
- slight emphasis on the presence range of vocals and guitars
- relatively high contact pressure
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principleplanar magnetic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 50.000 Hz
- Impedance18 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)>130 dB
- Weight without cable495 g
- Cable length190 cm
What's in the box
- braided interchangeable cable
- standard case
- certificate of authenticity