I got excited when Audeze announced the MM-500 back in June. When it was revealed that Audeze was releasing a new open-back headphone for professional mixing it became one of my most anticipated headphones to listen to. I’d get excited for any new headphone release from Audeze, but reference headphones make up some of my favorites. Having high-grade open-back headphones, and a tool for mixing only increases the potential value it might have. The MM-500 has come along to hopefully deliver on that notion. Being a collaboration between Audeze and a muli-time Grammy award-winning producer, the odds are surely in its favor, but let’s get into the specifics to see if the MM-500 is really a winner.
What You Get
- MM-500 Headphone
- Braided Cable
- Economy Travel Case
- Certificate of Authenticity and Warranty Cards
Look and Feel
Since the LCD 5, Audeze has been improving upon the common criticism about its mainline headphones. That being the size and weight. When the LCD 5 came out last year, it significantly decreased the density of their in-house build, making a more compact and lightweight headphone. The MM-500 follows this design, but with even more stability. Somehow, the MM-500 finds a way to combine the LCD 5’s design while still being built like a truck.
It combines machined aluminum and spring steel for maximum durability and still finds a way to be lighter than most Audeze headphones. With the MM-500 being a mixing headphone, being lightweight and comfortable is much more ideal, taking into account the many hours of mixing some professionals endure. Having a comfortable set of headphones makes that process more enjoyable, and the MM-500 delivers on that front, while also having one of Audeze’s best builds to date.
There are a few variables that make up the main design of the MM-500’s transducer. It is a sizable 90mm planar driver with an ultra-thin diaphragm called “Uniforce.” The magnet design is a Neodymium N50, structured in Audeze’s patented Fluxor magnet array. Another one of Audeze’s in-house components found in the MM-500 is their Fazor circuitry that helps with phase management.
What is most surprising about this driver is its shockingly low impedance. At only 18 Ohms, the MM-500 is incredibly easy to drive, with most systems having no problem giving it sufficient power. In my testing, I used a few different systems, like the iFi Pro IDSD, and IBasso DX320, and they both barely needed a ton of push to reach a comfortable level of gain.
Audeze’s goal with the MM-500 is to design a reliable studio monitor within an open-back headphone, and it succeeds in every regard, especially in the soundstage. Being a tool for professional mixing, the MM-500 can’t be overly theatrical and too far spread out with its imaging. All of the sound placement needs to be concise and easy to localize in an open space. The MM-500 achieves this while presenting an impressive planar soundstage and solidifying its accuracy in a more linear stereo field. What’s really outstanding about the soundstage on the MM-500 is its layering. While the separation between instruments is where it should be, the way different elements stack onto each other is done in a highly definitive way. Each section of the mix appears with a certain level of purity, easily engaging the listener with all aspects of its pinpoint imaging.
Great height is also achieved with the MM-500, with some elements like vocals feeling like they are being performed just above you, and high-pitched piano keys dancing around the crown of your head. Background effects like ambiance also do an excellent job of feeling like they are surrounding your headspace and providing a good foundation for the music to sit upon. The MM-500 is one of the first headphones I’ve heard that nails the open-back planar headspace with the precision of a professional mixing headphone.
You never want to give too much power to the bass with a mixing headphone, but you should also give the listener something to bite on too. The MM-500 does exactly that, establishing good form and depth that places itself evenly within the rest of the frequency response. Nothing about it jumps out at you significantly, but the MM-500 does have some nice thump to it that is natural and clean. You can feel the sub-bass around your throat, but it doesn’t contain vibrating textures. However, the sub-bass frequencies can handle a little shake from time to time. It’s a more dynamic headphone that feels like it is taking all of the low frequencies into account, while not favoring any specific region. The bass is able to properly communicate its tone in any given situation.
At first, I thought the midrange was almost neutral to a fault, flat and balanced but unexciting. However, after a good amount of break-in, the mids started to gain some significant drive and became incredibly rich and detailed. There’s a considerable snap to the timbre here like the transient response is quicker here than anywhere else in the sound signature. All regions of the midrange appear balanced and even, but the gain here gives the frequencies some significant drive. Vocals are forward, cutting through the center of the mix with fullness and realism. Instrumentals have similar transparency, with fully realized performances that showcase maximum clarity.
The timbre of the treble frequencies here reminds me of the uptick that some Beyerdynamic headphones have but are not as bright. With the MM-500 you get a high-end response that isn’t afraid to show its peaks, and the frequencies are performed tastefully in a non-fatiguing way. Its sharpness is met with a clear resolution, making the treble seem energetic but in a realistic manner. Cymbals resonate with a shimmer and appear crisp. There’s a gloss to the treble that doesn’t act as texture, but rather a natural tone that results from the MM-500’s high-end extension.
There are many reasons to get a pair of open-back headphones for mixing, and the MM-500 gives you all of those reasons packed into one magnificent tool. While it’s on the pricy side, I haven’t heard a planar headphone that so successfully replicates the effect of professional near-field monitors quite like the MM-500. It is so precise in its clarity and realistic in its presentation that you can easily regard its sound signature as a pure interpretation of what a mix really sounds like. Even if you aren’t interested in using the MM-500 professionally, it still has so much to offer in terms of just having an enjoyable, comfortable open-back headphone to listen to that has a balanced and open sound signature. With the MM-500, Audeze and Manny Marroquin have constructed a monster of a studio headphone, and maybe one of the best on the market.
The Audeze MM-500 is available at Audio46.