The High-Tech History of Audeze Headphones
We love finding awesome gear and sharing it with the world. When something is truly exceptional, it’s hard to stay quiet about it. Audeze offers just that and, for years now, we’ve been proud to carry their headphones here on the World Wide Stereo shelves. I’m definitely a true believer in what Audeze does - in fact, it took only 5 minutes of listening for me to decide that I needed a pair for myself. I’m a major tech geek, and what I love about Audeze is their dedication to new technology and the awesome sound quality their new ideas bring. So, without further ado, let’s take a peek behind the curtain and talk about what goes into these marvels of music.
The Audeze history.
Like many high-tech companies, the Audeze story begins in a garage in Orange County, CA. In 2008, the founders of Audeze met an ex-NASA scientist who had developed a new, flexible circuit material for spacecrafts. It didn’t take long for those founders to realize it could become one of the greatest breakthroughs in headphone design. Incredibly thin, remarkably strong, and surprisingly agile, the material was perfect for use as a diaphragm in planar magnetic headphones (a design that uses etched diaphragms instead of conical drivers to produce sound). And from there, Audeze was born.
Today, Audeze offers over-ear and in-ear headphones ranging from $400-$4,000. There’s a lot of technology that goes into these headphones, and the end result is an audiophile-grade experience that rivals some of the best stereo systems in the world.
Wait, $4000 for headphones?!
The goal of hi-fi is to recreate the experience of a live performance by your favorite band or singer, right in your home. It can take thousands of dollars of equipment and even home remodeling to perfectly create this effect: acoustical treatments to make the room resonate just right, hefty power conditioning to get a strong current and the lowest noise floor, etc. While that's a major investment of time and money, if you want to feel like you’re front row — or even on stage — of a Zac Brown show in your living room, it’s absolutely worth it.
With Audeze headphones (and a great headphone amp), you get that experience — without the need for acoustical treatments, racks full of equipment, and other hassles of traditional systems.
The tech behind the headphones.
In order to create an experience akin to a live concert, there's a lot of really cool technology going on in these headphones. Here are 4 key things that help Audeze stand out from the rest of the pack:
1. Better impulse response (how fast the sound starts and stops).
In real life, we hear sounds as they happen — things we often don’t even realize we’re hearing — and when the sound stops, we don’t hear it anymore. With speakers and headphones, some vibrations can stick around and interfere with the next notes that play. This means a lot of those details get missed, and we lose that realism. Enter better impulse response. Faster diaphragms start and stop so quickly, all those details captured during recording come through with crystal clear clarity. It’s not only hearing a guitar playing, it's hearing the sound of the musician's fingertips against the strings.
2. Lack of distortion.
Distortion makes music, well... distorted. It doesn’t sound right and almost anyone can tell the difference right away. When we listen to that guitar, your brain knows subconsciously how it should sound. Audeze’s drivers offer virtually zero distortion, thanks to their patented technologies like "Uniforce Voice-Coil design" and "Fazor Elements." Everything moves in sync, which almost eliminates distortion entirely and creates some of the most accurate sound we've experienced. And those NASA-science based diaphragms? They’re thinner than human hair. (In some models, they’re as thin as a white blood cell. Yeah, that’s tiny.) Their insanely small size allows them to move quickly — and quick is good, especially when it has almost zero distortion.
3. Drivers are matched in each pair of headphones.
Before any two drivers go into a headphone, each one is individually tested and then paired with another that creates the same performance as closely as possible, resulting in a more consistent experience in each ear. And that’s rare among even elite headphone brands.
4. Wide frequency response range.
To make sure you get all the beauty your music has to offer, Audeze headphones can achieve frequencies above and below the range of human hearing. You may not hear these notes, but you definitely feel them, increasing that sense of realism. And that’s what all of this is about: creating an experience as close to the real performance as possible.
As you can tell, these headphones have an incredible, scientifically-backed pedigree — and we’ve only scratched the surface.
Meet the Audeze lineup
So what kind of headphones does Audeze offer? We got a chance to talk to Evan Grimm, a technical expert and trainer with Audeze, about the lineup:
Can you tell us about the products Audeze offers?
Evan: Our first headphone, the LCD-2, initiated our journey to create the World’s best sounding headphone lineup. Since the LCD-2, we’ve launched multiple LCD headphones for different types of listening, and have created the world’s first planar magnetic closed-back and open-back over-ear headphones and in-ear headphones. We’ve also co-developed our own amp/DAC, including another world’s first: a lightning integrated in-line amp/DAC called the Cipher cable, available on some Audeze headphone models.
And speaking of "world firsts," Audeze made the first planar magnetic earbud, right?
Evan: Yes. A headphone like the LCD-2 isn’t exactly pocket sized, so we created in-ear headphones with the same technology and experience for the listener. The iSine 10 or iSine 20 in-ear headphones, predecessors to the brand new LCDi4, offer a much more portability, and bring everything we love about Audeze inside the palm of your hand.
Hasn't Audeze been pursuing portability in general, even with over-ear models?
Evan: Absolutely! The LCD-MX4. It’s been in the works for a few years — basically, we took the voice coil out of the LCD-X, and the magnetic structure from the LCD-4. We listened to user feedback about the weight of other LCD models, so we used cast magnesium to make it 25% lighter than other LCD headphones. We believe this is the most efficient planar headphone — there’s no need for a powerful amplifier to get great sound quality. It can plug into a laptop and it'll sound great! It’s made for the at-home bedroom producer who's trying to get into music, or anyone who wants to have an extended music listening experience.
Of course, no conversation about Audeze headphones is complete without discussing the LCD-4! Can you tell us more about them?
Evan: The kingpin of the lineup, Audeze’s LCD-4 headphones compete for the title of best-in-the-world. With the thinnest diaphragm available, and one of the strongest magnetic forces in development anywhere, its sound quality is virtually unrivaled from any headphone in the world.
Audeze never seems to rest on laurels. As soon as a new model hits the market, something else gets announced. Is there any news for us?
Evan: The LCD-4z over-ear headphones. While Audeze will continue to manufacturer the LCD-4 flagship headphone, we announced the LCD-4z earlier in April. Satisfying the audiophile demand for a lighter weight and easier to drive version of the LCD-4, the LCD4-Z uses the same diaphragm, but uses a 15 ohm voice coil, which allows the headphone to perform well with less power, and the cast magnesium housing of the LCD-MX4, which takes about 25% of the weight off. The 4z is available for preorder, and comes in either the cast magnesium housing. For an extra $500, you can get it in the same housing as the original LCD-4 in ebony wood rings and enjoy the more power-efficient design.
Evan also told us about a brand new plugin available for PC, called “Reveal.” Since about 25% of all Audeze customers are music creators, artists, and producers, these headphones are used frequently with softwares like Pro Tools, Logic, and more. With Reveal, the musician can completely customize the headphone, including gain, tone quality, and other settings important for creators. A popular choice among these professionals is the LCD-X headphone. Its neutral, transparent sound reveals everything on the recording, which is perfect for artists or music lovers who want to hear the music exactly how the artist does.
As part of Audeze’s commitment to music creators, Audeze has partnered with Metropolis Studios (where some of the most famous artists, from Queen to Lady Gaga, have recorded and mixed albums) to continue the development of their headphones, mics, and software. This also enables them to bring their expertise and quality to every phase of music production, taking the experience to the next level.
With the incredible innovation and success of Audeze, those days in the garage in Orange County seem light years in the past. From day one, Audeze’s foundation has been pushing the boundaries of headphone technology, relentlessly pursuing the scientific limits of what a headphone can be. It is a journey toward perfection fueled by rocket science, and we're proud to sell Audeze at World Wide Stereo. In the area? Stop by our local Ardmore or Montgomeryville showrooms to see some of Audeze's best in person.