Roon Partner Update: February 2023

It’s been another busy month as we welcomed an array of new network players into the Roon Ready family from Cambridge Audio, FiiO, NAD, Primare and Volumio.

You can read all about them in our latest partner update below. For a full list of our partner brands – and every device that works with Roon – visit our Partners page on the Roon website.

Cambridge Audio

Cambridge Audio MXN10 roon ready

MXN10

The Cambridge Audio MXN10 Network Player brings the world of Hi-Res music to much-loved hi-fi set-ups and other audio systems with total ease. Thanks to its compact, half-width footprint, placing this network player in your system is a cinch. The MXN10 can stream Hi-Res music natively, via Roon Ready streaming, and even play your music that’s stored on USB and NAS drives too. You can conveniently control this network player with Cambridge Audio’s StreamMagic app, or from the native app of your preferred service.

Cambridge Audio AXN10 Roon Ready

AXN10

The Cambridge Audio AXN10 Network Player  is the perfect piece for bringing a spectacular streaming music experience to your Hi-Fi system, taking you far beyond your prized collection of discs. In addition to integration with all of the best-known premium subscription services, AXN10 has stacks of free options, such as internet radio and even Bluetooth. Thanks to Cambridge Audio’s streaming know-how, you’ll soon be enjoying high-quality music easily from a variety of sources via their StreamMagic app, Roon Ready streaming, or through your preferred service’s own native app – the choice is yours.

FiiO R7

Fiio R7 Roon Ready

FiiO is arguably one of the most exciting audio brands in the world right now. The Fiio R7 – their first ever desktop grade digital audio player – is only set to raise that reputation even further. 

The R7 is built on impressive foundations – under its sleek black exterior there’s a wealth of top-level hardware, including a premium Sabre DAC chipset, an 8 core Snapdragon SoC, and an exhaustive set of input and output options. Amplification comes from dual THX AAA 788+ desktop-grade chips, meaning there’s enough punch to handle even the most power-hungry headphones. Combine this superb quality build with great useability and Roon Ready capability built-in, and the Fiio R7 represents a truly complete all-in-one setup for premium desktop listening.

NAD – CS1

NAD CS1 is Roon Ready

The NAD CS1 is a super flexible, super compact network streamer that delivers classic NAD looks along with their trademark high-performance sound quality. Analogue and digital audio outputs make the CS1 an easy solution for integrating streaming into any home HiFi setup. You get Roon Ready playback built in up to 24 bit / 192khz, and plenty of other playback options besides – with both Spotify Connect and AirPlay 2 support provided as standard.

Primare I25 Prisma, I35 Prisma, I15 Prisma Mk 2

For three decades, Swedish HiFi manufacturers Primare have been instilling Scandinavian principles of design quality and aesthetic into every one of their beautifully produced audio products. We’re delighted to welcome three new Primare devices into the Roon Ready family.

Primare I25 Prisma

Primare I25 Prisma is Roon Ready

The I25 Prisma is a modular integrated amplifier and network player that offers serious power alongside truly versatile control. For the I25 Prisma, Primare have combined their DM35 DAC and SM35 Prisma network player with their award-winning I25 integrated amplifier platform. That potent combination delivers an impressive 100 watts of power per channel, whilst providing a naturally fast, clean and agile sound that really brings your music to life. There’s plenty of playback options available to you – you can stream Roon Ready direct from the I25, alongside hundreds of other popular music services. It really looks the part, too, with a simple but attractive design that will comfortably pair alongside pieces in your current audio setup. 

Primare I35 Prisma

Primare I35 Prisma is Roon Ready

The Primare I35 Prisma offers many of the excellent performance, sound quality, and design characteristics of the I25 – but with a big extra kick. The Primare I35 once again pairs the DM35 DAC with Prisma’s SM35 network player – but this time they’ve combined those elements with the more muscular I35 integrated amplifier for a seriously punchy 150 watts of power per channel. Once again you get Roon Ready connectivity alongside hundreds of other music applications, and all of it comes presented in a beautifully slick-looking chassis.

Primare I15 Prisma Mk2

Primare I15 Prisma MK2 is Roon Ready

This compact network streaming integrated amplifier packs 60 watts of power per channel and serious versatility into a super slim, cool running chassis. The Primare I15 Prisma Mk2’s three-quarter size cabinet opens up a world of set-up integration opportunities, without ever compromising on build or sound quality. Powerful amplification and sophisticated DAC sections deliver every detail and nuance with power and precise control. Roon Ready playback comes built in alongside plenty of other music service options for superb usability.

Volumio Primo

Volumio Primo is Roon Ready

The Volumio Primo is a network streaming DAC that brings the essentials of Roon Ready streaming seamlessly to your HiFi listening system. With integrated balanced and unbalanced analog outputs, and digital outputs that include USB, coaxial S/PDIF, and HDMI. The Primo is ready to be your complete media streaming hub, with support for USB storage, video output, and full access to the Volumio app platform – you’ll be able to stream your favorite music and movies no matter where they reside.

Black Trailblazers


At Roon, our passion for music is illustrated by a growing selection of eclectic playlists featuring a diverse mix of genres, instrumentation, and voices from around the globe. As music lovers, we’re fortunate to live in a time when music is so plentiful and easily accessible. When you sync a Qobuz or TIDAL membership with your Roon subscription, your listening choices are practically limitless. An all-encompassing palette of sound is at your fingertips, accompanied by the freedom to listen to, and enjoy, anything you desire.

It’s easy, sometimes, to forget that this wasn’t always the case. But we’re not talking about the relatively new emergence of streaming music and its transformation of the music industry; we’re talking about a time in history when there were strict racial boundaries in music. When black music was heard only in black churches, black clubs and theaters, black radio stations, and when black musicians were relegated to Race Records Charts and Race Label catalogs.

American Music was just as segregated as American society and culture.  But Jazz, Blues, Folk, R&B, and Gospel music forms were relentlessly working their magic, building enclaves in white record collections, fighting rhythmically for acceptance. Like a rose growing through concrete to find the sunshine, beauty demanded appreciation.

The list below is a roster of the trailblazing Black musicians who broke through the race barrier with music that was too beautiful to be ignored or denied. It makes sense that music would be a force that helped tear down racial discrimination in The United States.

Music is a universal language, but one that speaks to us in ways that exceed our full understanding. Tonal color, pitch, tempo, texture, timbre, harmony, melody, rhythm – they communicate something deeper than language. They convey emotional expression that recognizes and reminds us of our commonalities – it’s a nonverbal language of brotherhood.

Racial division doesn’t have a chance when one group of people can recognize themselves in the art of another group of people. We’ve all had our lives enriched through that musical kinship. Our Roon libraries are evidence of that.

We hope you’ll find something that resonates with you in our Black Trailblazers playlist in Roon, Qobuz, and TIDAL; offered in honor of the musical visionaries who first opened our ears and our hearts.

Ethel Waters was the first black performer on us television
Ethel Waters

Firsts in Black Music

  • First African-American Ensemble to play at The White House (1882) – 
    • The Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choir from the Fisk School in Nashville, Tennessee, became the first African American choir to perform at the White House for President Chester Arthur.
  • First Commercially Recorded African-American Singer (1890) – 
    • George W. Johnson – The Whistling Coon
  • First Black Musicians in a Motion Picture (1923) – 
    • Eubie Blake & Noble Sissle in Noble Sissle & Eubie Blake performing Affectionate Dan.
  • First Black Performer on US Television (June 14, 1939) – 
    • Ethel Waters on The Ethel Waters Show
The Fisk Jubilee Singers, the First African-American Ensemble to play at The White House
Fisk Jubilee Singers
  • First Black Emmy Award Winner
    • Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series (1959) – Harry Belafonte for Tonight with Belafonte 
  • First Black Grammy Recipients
    • Best Jazz Performance, Soloist (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Duke Ellington Songbook
    • Best Female, Pop Vocal Performance (1958) – Ella Fitzgerald for Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Irving Berlin Songbook
    • Best Jazz Performance, Jazz Group (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Best Performance by a Dance Band (1958) – Count Basie for Basie (The Atomic Mr. Basie)
    • Album of the Year (1974) – Stevie Wonder for Innervisions
  • First Black Oscar Winners
    • Best Music, Original Song (1972) – Isaac Hayes for Theme From Shaft – First African-American winner for Best Original Song. First African-American to win a non-acting award.
    • Best Original Song Score (1984) – Prince for Purple Rain.
Prince, the first black Oscar winner for best original score, Purple Rain
Prince
  • First Black Tony Award Winner 
    • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical (1954) – Harry Belafonte for John Murray Anderson’s Almanac
  • First Black Musician to achieve an E.G.O.T (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) (2018) – 
    • John Legend
  • First Black Female Recording Artist to achieve an E.G.O.T. (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) (2022) –
    • Jennifer Hudson
  • Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, First Black Inductees (1986)
    • Chuck Berry
    • James Brown
    • Ray Charles
    • Sam Cooke
    • Fats Domino
    • Little Richard
  • Country Music Hame of Fame, First Black Inductee (2000)
    • Charley Pride
  • MTV
    • First All Black Band to Appear on MTV (1982) – Musical Youth with Pass the Dutchie
Musical Youth, First all black band to appear on MTV
Musical Youth
  • First Black Billboard Record Chart Toppers
    • Best Selling Popular Record Albums Chart Number 1 (Billboard’s First Album Chart) (March 24, 1945) – The Nat King Cole Trio
    • Billboard Hot 100 Number 1 (September 29, 1958) – Tommy Edwards with It’s All In The Game

Due to the scarcity of some of these recordings, a few of the historic firsts in our list had to be substituted for representative pieces from the same time period.

If you’d like to know more about Roon, simply get in touch with us. We’d love to help you get set up.

Alternatively, you can try the free 14-day trial here.

Roon Ready Road Trips: Introducing Android Auto for Roon ARC

Recently we announced the release of full CarPlay support for Roon ARC, with the promise of Android Auto coming in hot on its tail. Today, we’re happy to make good on that pledge; Android Auto for Roon ARC has crossed the finish line!

Last September, Roon ARC paved the way to enjoying Roon and all your favorite music outside the home. Now, with Roon ARC for Android Auto within easy reach of the wheel, every road you take is a journey in sound.

Take the ultimate Hi-Fi joyride

Nothing makes a road trip or daily commute more satisfying than our favorite music. Android Auto for Roon ARC fully integrates Roon’s browsing and discovery features into your car’s controls for safe and convenient playback.

Now you can tour your daily mixes, give recently played favs another spin, test drive Roon’s featured playlists, explore new musical avenues, cruise your Roon library, and much more – just by tapping a few buttons from your car’s controls. With Roon ARC, music on the go shifts into high gear.

How to use Roon ARC in Android Auto

Roon ARC for Android Auto

We’ve made using Roon ARC in Android Auto as familiar as pressing the accelerator, so you can focus on the road while Roon ARC delivers your favorite music. Get up and running with these easy steps:

  • To begin, make sure you have Roon ARC. Visit the Play Store to download the app. 
  • If this is your first time using Android Auto, you’ll need to get that set up. Use these step-by-step instructions to get started.
  • Once Android Auto is ready to go, and you’ve synced your phone, you’ll see the Roon ARC app on your car’s display.
  • Just tap the Roon ARC icon, select some music, and you’re on your way.

Every road leads to music discovery with Roon ARC

Android Auto and CarPlay support has held the top spot for most requested features since we first unveiled Roon ARC. We’re thrilled to deliver on those requests, and numerous other feature additions, just months into ARC’s existence. With Android Auto and CarPlay for Roon ARC, the road ahead sounds better than ever!


To enjoy Android Auto and CarPlay for Roon ARC, visit the Play Store or App Store and download the app.

Roon Partner Update: January 2023

This month’s round up features new releases of classics from an iconic brand, a range of top-level DAPs, and more.

A new year, a new round of exciting products to welcome into the Roon Ready family. This month we’ve got classic designs relaunched for the modern music lover, revolutionary audio solutions that integrate seamlessly with your home’s interior design, and a range of DAPs from ‘entry level’ to ‘top of the line’. Let’s get started!

Naim NSC 222

Naim NSC 222 Roon Ready

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Naim Audio – a huge marker for one of Britain’s most iconic high-end audio brands. In celebration of a half-century of sonic excellence, Naim are relaunching their classic 200 series, harking back to some of their greatest hardware achievements whilst offering plenty of product enhancements for the 2023 music lover to really get their teeth into. 

Right at the forefront of this relaunch is the Naim NSC 222 – a user-focused streaming pre-amplifier with dizzying functionality and uncompromising sound quality. Housed in a beautifully designed chassis, the NSC 222 utilizes Naim’s time-honored commitment to engineering excellence to get the very best from your music, comfortably handling bit-rates of up to 32bit/284kHz. The NSC 222 comes Roon Ready for easy and instant access to your Roon library, along with a host of other top-name streaming services and radio stations. True to their roots, Naim hasn’t forgotten about your analogue music collection, either. Amidst a full range of connectivity options there’s an MM phono input for integrating vinyl into your digital listening system. 

Zuma Lumisonic

 Zuma Lumisonic is roon ready

Here at Roon, we occasionally see a new product that looks like it’s a genuine game-changer. The Zuma Lumisonic feels truly revolutionary, offering music lovers a whole new and novel way to integrate high end audio into their home.

The Zuma Lumisonic is a ceiling light and a speaker, combining mood-sensory lighting and immersive sound to generate the ultimate ambience within your home. Zuma’s truly brilliant integrated sound and lighting solution potentially removes the need for cabling or big, bulky tech products within your home entirely. 

The Zuma Lumisonic units may be small enough to fit into a standard recessed light fitting, but this doesn’t come at the cost of sound or build quality. An HD-audio Class D monolithic amplifier is controlled by a top of the line quad-core processor for high-end sound quality. Each channel is actively filtered by advanced DSP algorithms for a totally immersive audio experience. From Lumisonic’s custom-built app, you can control both sound and lighting harmoniously, and link the two for a fully sensory experience. All your favorite streaming services are supported via the app, including Roon Ready compatibility built-in for a seamless Roon experience.

PSB Speakers – Alpha IQ

psb speakers alpha iq roon ready

If you’re a home HiFi enthusiast, cable clutter is probably one of your biggest everyday irritations. So when you find speakers that combine reduced cabling with great sound quality, it’s definitely a product worthy of your attention. The Alpha iQ Streaming Powered Speakers from PSB Speakers strike that balance perfectly – making it easy to enjoy PSB’s trademark ‘True to Nature’ sound from streaming services and legacy sources, with significantly less cable clutter. 

The two powered speakers carry 180W of built-in amplification, backed up by superb build quality and real attention to sonic detail – resulting in a clean, consistent sound whether you’re sitting or standing. And to top it all off, the Alpha iQ’s now come Roon Ready for simple and straightforward connection to your entire Roon library.

Fiio M11S, M11 Plus, M17

Chinese portable audio specialists Fiio have become synonymous with on-the-go high performance listening in recent years, becoming a firm favorite for music lovers and audiophiles across the globe. We’re delighted to announce the introduction of four of their flagship portable music players to the Roon Ready family. Let’s take a look at each new addition in turn.

FiiO M11S

The FiiO M11S offers up Fiio’s trademark power and sound quality at a relatively budget-friendly price point, making it a great option for audiophiles exploring the world of DAPs for the first time. Under the sleek casing, the M11S is powered by a Snapdragon 660 processor, and great audio quality is guaranteed from two fully balanced Dual ES9038Q2M DAC chips. It all adds up to give the M11S a slick, immersive user and listening experience at an affordable price.

FiiO M11 Plus

FiiO M11 Plus roon ready

The FiiO M11 Plus takes everything that’s great about the M11S and elevates it. An octacore Snapdragon 660 processor makes for lightning-fast useability from a 5.5inch touch screen display. Two balanced ES9068AS DAC chips take your portable listening to a whole new level, bringing a complete, rich sound to the music you love. It looks the part, too – it’s sleek black casing is further complemented by a unique, intelligent touch-panel volume system.

FiiO M17

fiio m17 is roon ready

The desktop-class FiiO M17 represents an entirely new chapter in digital audio players – quite possibly one of the most advanced DAPs available on the market today. It comes powered by two ESS ES9038PRO desktop-level dac chips, a seriously punchy THX 788+ headphone amp, and unrivaled gain and connectivity. It all adds up to give the M17 the output power and sound quality to rival and perhaps even surpass highly-rated desktop systems, but in a pint-sized, portable package.

SOULNOTE Z3

soulnote z-3 roon ready

The SOULNOTE Z-3 is a Roon Ready bridge that provides network connectivity to audio devices using ZERO LINK, a new connection protocol developed in collaboration between Sforzato and SOULNOTE – two hugely popular brands among A-PAC audiophiles.

Utilizing their unique ZERO LINK technology, the SOULNOTE Z-3 maximizes audio quality by removing all asynchronous circuitry to create a significantly streamlined signal path. It can be used as either ZERO LINK or standard LAN to USB network transports. The Z-3 offers USB, SFP (RJ45 and optical input connectivity via SFP adapter) to USB or ZERO LINK output with support for up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD 512 formats. Besides as a Roon Ready device, the Z-3 functions also as a UPnP media renderer, an OpenHome renderer, and a Diretta Target (a proprietary audio protocol developed by Diretta). Control functions are facilitated via Linn’s Kazoo app for OpenHome.


Roon Ready Road Trips: Introducing CarPlay and Android Auto for Roon ARC

Roon ARC has forever changed how and where we enjoy our favorite music by transforming our Roon library into a bespoke streaming service that’s ready to go anywhere our adventures may take us. Today, we’re excited to introduce full CarPlay and Android Auto support for Roon ARC!

Ready to hit the road? Your Roon library is too

As soon as we began work on Roon ARC, we were eager to see Roon’s features come to life on our car’s display screen – and so were all of you. Now, just a few months into ARC’s existence, that day has arrived.

Nothing makes the road more exciting than our favorite music. CarPlay and Android Auto fully integrate Roon’s browsing and discovery features into your car’s controls for safe and easy playback.

Now you can cruise your Roon library, dig into your daily mixes as you drive, check out featured playlists, explore new releases, hit repeat on recently played favs, and much more just by tapping a few buttons from your car’s controls. With Roon along for the ride, every car trip drops right into the groove.

How to use Roon ARC in CarPlay

Roon Arc for Apple Carplay

We’ve made accessing Roon ARC in CarPlay as easy as possible so you can focus on the road while Roon provides the soundtrack.

If you’re an Android user, you’ll find similar setup tips in our dedicated Android Auto blog.

  • To begin, make sure you have Roon ARC. Visit the App Store to download the app. 
  • If you’ve never used CarPlay before, you’ll first need to set it up. Click here for Apple’s step-by-step instructions.
  • Once CarPlay is set up and your phone is synced to your vehicle’s interface, you’ll see the Roon ARC app on your display.
  • Just tap the Roon ARC icon, and you’re on your way.

Explore a new road to music discovery

CarPlay and Android Auto support has maintained the pole position of most requested feature since we waved the starting flag on Roon ARC.

Roon Arc for Apple Carplay

This release reflects our commitment to listening to your needs and delivering the features that matter most to our customers. We can’t wait for CarPlay and Android Auto for Roon ARC to transform your driver’s seat into your new favorite listening chair.

To enjoy CarPlay and Android Auto for Roon ARC, you first need to download the app. Download it now from the App Store or Play Store.

A new road to music discovery lies ahead!



Roon Ready Writeups: Chord Hugo 2 and 2go Review

At Roon, our passion is to help you get the very best sound and performance from your gear purchases. Our Roon partner products guarantee seamless integration, stress-free reliability, and high-quality sound within every music lover’s budget. 

We understand that gear homework can be confusing and a chore, “will this X sync with my Y DAC/Amp” ad infinitum….. The excitement of gear shopping can evaporate pretty quickly.

Roon-certified gear takes care of all that for you and leaves you with only the fun tasks: shipment tracking, setup planning, and more quality time for enjoying music. Those are benefits we all can appreciate! 

Winner and Still Champion: Chord Hugo 2

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 and 2Go Review

Chord’s Hugo 2 sports an impressive winning streak and continues to rack up Best DAC awards for its design, aesthetics, and sound – even when matched against much more expensive units. It’s not especially difficult to understand why. It remains one of the best value upgrades you can add to your system for its price range. Like all things Chord, Hugo 2’s technical advances and innovation never lose sight of the ultimate goal – superior sonic performance. Let’s take a look!

Aesthetics and Design 

From its robust aluminum enclosure to its lovely polychromatic spherical controls, every element of Hugo 2 / 2go exhibits exceptional design thinking. These products deliver the features and functionality that music lovers demand, and they do it creatively and engagingly.  

Yes, some critics still grumble about Chord’s fondness for color-coded controls. For my tastes, they’re a brilliant, intuitive means for conveying a wealth of information without using an LED screen. Using the crib sheet in the manual, you’ll be up to speed with color translation in no time. We put the cheat sheet back in its box much quicker than expected. 

Grippy rubber feet keep Hugo 2 and 2go safely in place when used as a desktop headphone DAC/amp or streamer/server combo. The handy full-function remote eliminates having to leave your favorite listening spot to make adjustments when using Hugo 2 as an integrated component. Its feature set makes it ideal for that role. We realize design perfection means different things to different people. But we couldn’t find any noteworthy shortcomings in either of these devices that warranted further discussion. 

Hugo 2 and 2go, poised to satisfy every audio need

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 and 2Go Review

The Chord 2go is a high-performance streamer/server that adds Bluetooth, wi-fi, and wired network connectivity for Hugo 2. Together, they’re a solution for an impressive range of use scenarios. Here are just a few we were able to tackle with ease:

  • An unmatched Roon ARC mobile headphone rig 
  • A feature-rich Roon Ready sonic advancement for any legacy Hi-Fi setup
  • A high-quality desktop and handheld head-fi audio solution
  • A veritable digital audio player (DAP) slayer! 2go’s dual microSD card slots provide 4 TB of onboard high-res audio storage,
  • A highly portable around-the-house RAAT streaming endpoint 
  • Hugo 2 has all the device connection inputs and outputs you’ll likely need, making it a powerful contender for myriad applications beyond those we mention.

Use flexibility is a significant factor when I purchase gear. Hugo 2 excels in this capacity. Its small footprint, the size of a petite paperback, further accentuates its versatility.

Sound Impressions

Not surprisingly, the Hugo2/2go produce awe-inspiring sound that reflects their award-winning pedigree. Every genre we fed through the duo assumed a new level of spaciousness, dynamics, and fidelity. The highest praise anyone can give a piece of gear is to say it motivates its owner to find extra time for music listening. These devices do that effortlessly! 

Chord products achieve their unique sound signature with bespoke conversion, filtering, and processing chipsets designed by Rob Watts. 4 filter settings provide users with options for crisp, transparent presentation or a warmer, rounded analog vibe reminiscent of vintage gear. To clarify, Chord states that the filters’ purpose is to reduce high-frequency noise generated by the selected input. They aren’t designed or intended to act as DSP or EQ enhancements. To my ear, they do add understated coloration. It’s very slight, but it’s there. My favorite filter settings were Incisive Neutral, or Warm, depending on the music I was playing. 

I’m even more surprised to discover that I’m a big fan of Hugo 2’s crossfeed filters. Crossfeed gives headphone listening a more speaker-like soundstage by subtly blending left and right headphone channels, giving you a bit of both in each driver rather than distinct separation. I don’t typically use crossfeed features because they rarely produce the desired results for my tastes. Hugo 2’s crossfeed feature outshines all others I’ve tried. As a result, I used the Medium crossfeed setting for most of my casual listening – turning it off only for the close listening session below. 

Listening Notes

For detailed listening, I drove Hugo 2/2go with tracks sourced from Qobuz and TIDAL. All were rendered at their native sample rates, indicated below. Hugo 2’s EQ, crossfeed, and noise processing settings were toggled off for reference listening.

Gordon Lightfoot – Sundown from Sundown (24-bit/192 kHz PCM) 

This one gave me chills when I played it from Hugo 2 through the Meze 109 PRO. The combination instantly transported me to the early 70s when this song dominated AM radio.

The layered acoustic guitars shimmered as if they were in the room. The soundstage was enormous and airy with excellent depth, adding considerably to the perfect vibe achieved in this performance. Textural separation was also very impressive. Each instrument had plenty of room to be enjoyed distinctly in the mix. The bass and drums lock in wonderfully, exhibiting heaps of instrumental detail. Lightfoot’s voice was as warm and comforting as fine winter cognac – the plate reverb on the double-tracked vocal chorus becomes a star contributor in its own right. The Meze 109 PRO’s detail retrieval dovetailed divinely with the Hugo 2. If you’re a detail junkie, this combo deserves consideration. 

Tom Waits – Alice from Alice (24-bit/96 kHz PCM) 

Tom Waits is a musical enigma who shape-shifts between a skid-row carnival barker, a whiskey-soaked crooner, and a tin-pan alley apparition.

On this track, he leans heavily into a sweet tube mic and lays down a spoken jazz vocal that the Hugo 2 delivered absolutely brilliantly. He’s accompanied by a Paul Desmondish sax line, stand-up bass, vibes, piano, snare brushes, and other assorted magic. In my Massdrop Sennheiser 6XX cans, this song transmuted into a moody film noir with undercurrents of loss and unrequited love. 

Orchestra Baobab – Mouhamadou Bamba from Bamba: (16-bit/44.1 kHz PCM) 

Orchestra Baobab comes across as a powerhouse Afro-Carribean ensemble rather than a Senegalese music institution. Bamba compiles several of their early 80s sessions.

Mouhamadou Bamba opens with ethereal guitar and an ocean of plate reverb on the Sengalese vocals before being joined by Afro-Caribbean percussion and a pulsating reggae bass motif. A stinging tremolo-drenched overdriven guitar solo lights up the bridge with a bit of Afro Rock flavor. It’s an intoxicating blend! With the Hugo 2/2go powering the Meze 99 Classics, I noticed a touch of tape hiss sizzle in the track as I was carried blissfully away to West Africa. Meze audio cans pair exceptionally well with the Hugo 2.

John Coltrane – Afro-Blue from Live at Birdland (24-bit/192 kHz PCM) 

This track is a favorite for spotlighting the John Coltrane Quartet’s emotional and visceral power in live performance. The group drives headlong into a passionate reading of Mongo Santamaria’s classic.

Coltrane’s soprano sax soars above and inside McCoy Tyner’s fluid runs and block chords. Elvin Jones’ electrifying percussion propels the ensemble ahead while Jimmy Garrison’s double bass holds the foundation and answers Elvin’s cymbal attack. It’s genuinely mind-blowing to imagine experiencing a performance of this caliber and intensity in that tiny intimate space.

My crossfeed curiosity got the better of me when listening to this track. Using maximum crossfeed to mix channels through the warm voice of the Meze 99 Classics, I felt as if I was there when listening with my eyes closed. I’ve heard this track innumerable times and was amazed at the detail I experienced using this combination. I’ve had the opportunity to listen to some of the most esteemed headphones in existence over the last several months. The Meze Classic 99 always satisfies, even when following on the heels of Audeze’s flagship models.

Our Conclusion

The Chord Hugo 2 / 2go delivers brilliantly refined detail and warm, lush sound via its expertly designed sonics, filters, and soundstage. If you’re looking for a superior DAC/amp for headphones that also shines as an integrated component, you can’t do much better than Chord’s Hugo 2 at this price. Add Chord’s 2go, and you can easily take those sonic qualities anywhere. 

Click here to see the Roon Store’s full line of Chord devices.

Additional Observations

  • Hugo 2 enters RMS line level mode by simultaneously holding down the power button and X-PHD buttons during power up. Though not easy to accomplish, I accidentally activated this mode while sitting down for some relaxed headphones listening. It was painfully memorable. Please use caution to avoid having a similar experience.
  • The Hugo 2’s dual headphone outputs lack individual volume controls. Volume changes affect both outputs.
  • Hugo 2’s clean design leaves no room for either an I2S or HDMI output. If either is needed, a low-cost coaxial to I2S or HDMI adapter will do the trick.
  • Hugo 2/ 2go is a tad chunky for in-pocket on-the-go use. Mojo/Mojo2/Poly is a better match if frequent mobile use is a critical requirement. 
  • Some coaxial cables may require an adapter for optimal coupling with Hugo 2’s connection points.
  • Chord products don’t offer MQA support; fans of the format will need to consider other options.

Chord Hugo 2 and 2go FAQs

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 and 2Go Review

Are the Chord Hugo 2 and 2go Roon Ready?

  • Yes, the Hugo 2 and 2go are Roon Ready! The Hugo 2, when used alone, requires a USB connection. Adding the 2go provides wireless Roon Ready streaming over your home network. 

What file formats and resolutions do the Chord Hugo 2 / 2go support?

  • Hugo 2 offers future-proof format support up to 32bit/768kHz PCM, Native DSD512, and Encapsulated DSD256.
  • 2go supports gapless PCM to 32-bit/768kHz, DSD via DoP to DSD256, and SD card DSD playback as well as FLAC, WAV, ACC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, and MP3 file formats. Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio, and more with the GoFigure app.

What type of input and output connections does Hugo 2 / 2go have?

  • Hugo 2 offers four digital inputs: optical, dual configuration coaxial, Mini-USB, Roon RAAT, DNLA, AirPlay, and Bluetooth 4.1 connectivity.
  • Hugo 2 analog outputs include two headphone outs: one ¼” (6.35mm) and one ⅛” (3.5mm), plus Stereo RCA out. The RCA outs remain active when using headphones.
  • 2go inputs include long-range 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 A2Dp, Hotspot mode, and a Gigabit (GbE) ethernet port. 
  • 2go features dual MicroSD card slots capable of 4 TB of music storage.

How much play time do I get from a fully charged Hugo 2 / 2go?

  • Hugo 2 and 2go are each equipped with Mini-USB battery charging ports.
  • Hugo 2 provides 7-8 hours of music with a full charge. 
  • 2go provides about 10 hours of use with a full charge.
  • Hugo 2 / 2go allows around 7 to 8 hours of playback time when paired.
  • Intelligent desktop mode protects the Hugo 2 and 2go internal batteries from overcharging damage.
  • Hugo 2 will automatically power off when dormant for 15 minutes. This feature is deactivated when charging in desktop mode.
  • Hugo 2 and 2go allow tandem charging during use. A 2A (amps) or more charger is required. 
  • Hugo 2 has two charging modes: fast charge in 4 hours with a 2A charger and 8 hours with a charger rated under 2A.

Tech Specs:

Chord Hugo 2

  • Chipset: Chord Electronics custom-coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA
  • Tap-length: 49,152
  • Pulse array: 10-element pulse array design
  • Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB
  • Output stage: Class A
  • Output impedance: 0.025Ω
  • THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω
  • THD and noise at 3v RMS: 120dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ weighted (reference 5.3v)
  • Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 126dB ‘A’ Weighted
  • Channel separation: 135dB at 1kHz 300Ω
  • Power output @ 1kHz 1% THD: 94mW 300Ω, 740mW 32Ω, 
  • 1050mW 8Ω
  • Dimensions: 5.11″ (W) x 3.97″ (H) x 0.82″ (D)
  • Weight: 12.5 ounces

Chord 2go

  • Compatibility: For 2go to perform as a fully functional streamer, a connection with Hugo 2 (DAC/Preamp/Headphone amp) or 2yu is required.
  • Power supply: Internal battery with up to 10 hrs (approx) playback. Desktop mode activated upon insertion of Micro USB charging cable).
  • Wireless connectivity: Long-range 2.4GHz WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1, A2Dp
  • WiFi modes: Connect to (allows 2go to connect to an existing 2.4GHz WiFi network) or Hotspot mode (activated within the Gofigure app, which enables 2go to broadcast its own WiFi network with SSID and password in the eventuality that the device cannot connect to a static network).
  • Wired connectivity: Gigabit (GbE) ethernet
  • PCM and DSD Support: up to 32-bit/768kHZ PCM, DSD256
  • File format support: ACC, WAV, FLAC, AIFF, OGG VORBIS, ALAC, WMA, MP3, and more…
  • Initial setup, configuration, and updates: Via the free Gofigure app for iOS and Android
  • Music storage: 2x Onboard Micro SD card slots (up to 4TB of total storage)
  • Playback: Roon Ready, DLNA (server and render), AirPlay, Bluetooth audio (A2DP), Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio, and more coming…
  • Gapless playback: Supported
  • Dimensions: 1.96″ (W) x 3.97″ (H) x 0.82″ (D)
  • Weight: 5.6 ounces

What comes in the box?

Chord Hugo 2

  • User Manual
  •  Safety instructions
  •  Drawstring bag
  •  5V 2A Switching Micro USB power supply
  •  IR remote control
  •  Micro USB to Type-A USB cable
  •  Micro to Micro USB OTG cable
  •  Optical cable
  •  Optical to 3.5mm optical cable
  •  2x AAA batteries

Chord 2go:

  • Get started with the 2go guide
  •  Safety instructions
  •  Drawstring bag
  •  Micro USB to Type-A USB cable
  •  Ethernet cable
  •  2x locating screws
  •  Allen key 

Click here to see the Roon Store’s full line of Chord devices.

Roon Search Overhauled – Dec 2022 Update

The Roon team has been working on improving the search engine throughout 2022, and last week, we rolled out a whole new architecture for search.

It’s been just about a year since I last wrote about search, so I figured it was a good time to provide an update on what’s been going on behind the scenes.

The Roon team has been working on improving the search engine throughout 2022, and last week, we rolled out a new architecture for search. If you are running Roon 2.0, you have been using the new stuff for several days.

Previously, the cloud performed a search of TIDAL/Qobuz libraries and the Core performed a search of your personal library, then merged the results.

Now, the Core gathers potential matches for the search query and submits them to a cloud service. The cloud service then searches the TIDAL/Qobuz libraries if needed, ranks and merges the results, and returns the final list to the app.

This change will allow us to deliver better results and improve the search engine more quickly. For more information, keep on reading.

Automated Testing Tools

One of the challenges of improving a search engine is understanding the effects of each change that we make. A change that improves one search might accidentally make other searches worse. In order to make progress, we need to be able to test our search system and understand the intended and unintended consequences of each change.

We introduced an automated testing system in 2022 to help us with that. This system allows us to test thousands of searches in the cloud without using the Roon Core. Our test infrastructure will help us make sure we’re not making things worse as we continue to improve the search engine.

Shorter Cycle Time for Improvements

By moving the search engine to the cloud, we can release improvements without shipping new versions of the Roon Core and apps. This reduces the time it takes to deliver improvements to our users, and allows us to iterate quickly on specific issues when they are reported.

Metrics

While our primary goal is to make our users happy, it’s also helpful to have objective signals that show we are making things better. The new search system includes an array of metrics that allow us to monitor search results quality on an ongoing basis. This helps us see if our changes are helping, and also helps us catch any accidental issues that might degrade the quality of search results for our users.

As an example, the “Average Click Position” metric measures the average position where a user clicks when they select an instant search result. For example, a result of ‘1’ means that the user selected the first item in the list.

These are the results from last week’s rollout. You can see that the number dropped quickly around the time of our rollout, which shows that our changes were an improvement.

Smarter Ranking

One of the challenges with the old search system was merging lists that had been ranked separately in the Core and in the cloud. It was difficult to compare scores from different ranking systems, so we relied on heuristics that tried to balance the ranks, popularity information, and text match accuracy.

This often led to less-than-ideal results, and troubleshooting issues was time-consuming because we had to replicate each user’s library in-house in order to see the issues. Since search ranking is now performed in the cloud in a unified way, this class of tricky issues has disappeared.

More Powerful Algorithms

Today, state-of-the-art search systems use Machine Learning to deliver results. It was difficult to use these techniques in the old Roon Core, so one of the main goals of the re-architecture was to enable this.

In the future, we will be able to tailor results to individual users. For example, a Beatles fan typing “John” into the search box probably expects “John Lennon” to be the top result, while a Jazz listener might expect “John Coltrane”.

This will also enable the implementation of modern search techniques like spelling corrections, search suggestions, semantic search, and gradient boosting, none of which are practical within the Roon Core.

Instant Search Improvements

After deploying the new architecture internally in September, we started the process of tuning it to perform better than the old system. We focused on improving the instant search dropdown, making sure that fewer characters are required to reach the desired result, and that the results continue to feel sensible as more characters are entered.

In addition to automated testing, we have a weekly review process where the product and search teams come together to examine a set of 50 representative searches and discuss how the results changed because of the previous week’s work. This helps us understand the tradeoffs and make decisions that prioritize the user experience.

Dozens of Smaller Improvements

As part of this work, we made many of smaller improvements to the search system. Shorter queries like “john” or “pink” should now return more coherent results. The system is not directly auto-correcting misspellings, but it is more tolerant of misspelled terms in multi-word searches. It is also better at prioritizing exact matches, deduplicating similar results, and choosing the best version of an album or track when there are multiple versions available.

While things have definitely gotten better in the past year, 2022 was mostly about laying the groundwork. We plan to make faster and more visible progress in 2023 and beyond.

I want to thank everyone for their patience as we work on improving the search engine, and for all the feedback in last year’s thread. It has been very helpful in understanding our users’ perspectives, and we hope you will continue to use our product and provide feedback in the future.

Roon Ready Writeups: Audeze LCD-4z and LCD-5 Review

Roon Ready Writeups is back with part two of our profile on Audeze Headphones; and man, let me tell you, this is exciting stuff! In part one, we focused on the LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X and also included a how-to on using Roon’s Audeze plug-ins to take them to the next level for optimal performance and enhanced listening enjoyment.

In this segment, we’ll ascend the loftiest summits of Headphonia with two untouchables from Audeze’s flagship lineup, the LCD-4z, and LCD-5. We’ll explain the groundbreaking engineering behind their technical evolution, lighter weight, and near-indescribable sonic supremacy. Or we’ll try anyway… if we can pull ourselves away from searching for hidden audio jewels in our favorite music. But first… we should tell you that once you’ve heard these headphones, it may be impossible to get their sound out of your head.

Warning, the music produced by these headphones may be habit forming.

your friends at The Roon Store.

Audeze has commanded a unique position among headphone and audio manufacturers since they released the original LCD-2 in 2009. They’re in that rarified space of being their own fiercest competitor in the race to reach audiophile Olympus. Audeze frequently exhibits a tendency for upsetting their own R&D apple cart by further iterating on prior achievements. They’re not the least bit hesitant to reimagine past perfection by releasing variations on models or dialing back changes to recapture the signature traits of a revered headphone. The LCD-4z and LCD-5 embody that boundary-pushing fearlessness in its purest form.

Audeze LCD-4z review

Technical Overview

Our previous article featured a brief summary of the advantages planar magnetic designs have over dynamic drivers and how those qualities benefit performance and sound quality. Audeze has what must be the most consistent and overtly successful track record of any headphone maker where planar magnetic driver development is concerned.

The future of headphone audio regularly makes its first appearance in Audeze’s Southern California factory, popping out of hardshell travel cases like a genie released from a bottle…

Audio Genie: Audeze, you have freed me from this headphone case… wow, nice case by the way! You may have three wishes; what is your command…?

Audeze: Hmmm, what can you help us with this time…? Oh, yes… Nano-scale diaphragms, Parallel Uniforce voice coils, and Fluxor magnet arrays, please!

It’s a silly trope, obviously. Audeze doesn’t really have an audio genie that magically helps with audio breakthroughs. (…or maybe they do) But their Flagship headphones certainly push tech to its limits with what feels like magic, and they’ve packed a lot of it into the LCD-4z and LCD-5’s eye-catching enclosures.

Headphones use two main components to make sound, the magnet, and the diaphragm. Three of Audeze’s most impressive audio advancements, Nano-scale diaphragms, Parallel Uniforce voice coils, and Fluxor magnet arrays, converge on those two areas. Here’s a brief rundown of what they do and how it translates to their performance and tonal signature.

A peek inside the LCD-5’s planar magnetic driver assembly

The LCD-4z and LCD-5 feature the lightest and fastest diaphragms Audeze has ever engineered! They’re made of flat sheets of strong, ultra-thin, lightweight, flexible film that’s ten times thinner than a red blood cell. The diaphragm actually weighs less than the air volume it’s able to move!

Audeze’s Parallel Uniforce voice coil is fused to the film and works in tandem with the ultra-powerful Fluxor Magnet array, producing more fluid, piston-like movement. The Uniforce voice coil is thinner in places where the magnetic field exerts greater force – because less internal current is required to activate the voice coil when the magnetic field is stronger. That triple shot of tech fuels the critical quicksilver speed, roughly around 20,000 diaphragm vibrations a second, needed for producing high frequencies and precise sound reproduction.

The diaphragm’s high elasticity more easily converts the electrical impulses moving through the voice coil into sound waves. The symbiotic partnership provides better control of diaphragm motion, higher efficiency, and heightened performance from the driver array. Once the drivers are assembled, they’re electronically matched to create better performance synergy within the headphone.

Pairing those advancements with ongoing Fazor waveguide and contoured earpad improvements culminates in the LCD-4z and LCD-5’s unsurpassed ability to bring music to life with breathtaking clarity, resolution, and accuracy. Improved efficiency results in unparalleled transient response and virtually distortion-free listening, producing the smooth precision, vivid realism, and tonal reproduction Audeze’s flagship headphones are known for.

The LCD-4z and LCD-5 result from Audeze’s alchemistic mashups of existing models and their willingness to revisit perfection to squeak more performance out of previous achievements.

LCD-4z

The LCD-4z is extremely popular with audio professionals for its incisive technical ability, musicality, and finesse in revealing every detail in the mix. The LCD-4z’s low impedance makes it a perfect grab-and-go reference headphone. It can be driven with any portable device, but Audeze recommends at least 250 milliwatts of source output power for the best LCD-4z performance.  The LCD-4z was born by blending the LCD-X’s low impedance flexibility with the original LCD-4’s driver technology for faster transient and impulse response, more precise imaging, and deep, accurate bass with low distortion.

LCD-5

The newer LCD-5, introduced in 2021, was designed entirely from scratch. Audeze assembled its best in-house technology and gathered feedback on previous models when conceiving the LCD-5. According to Sankar Thiagasamudram, Audeze’s CEO, none of the LCD-5’s parts are used with other LCD models.

Their goal was to reduce weight and modernize the Audeze look while preserving and besting the sonic signature of prior Flagship models. For that, it trades the LCD-4’s double-sided 106mm magnet array in favor of a single-sided, 90mm Fluxor magnet array paired with Audeze’s updated Fazor waveguides. The LCD-5 rates at just 14 ohms impedance. It’s powerable with the headphone out of just about any device, but device output power level of at least 500mW (1/2 a watt) will produce ideal results. Clean, ample power always delivers sonic advantages.

Aesthetics and Design

The LCD-4z and LCD-5 plug right into Audeze’s familiar profile, but there are plenty of new traits to explore. Audeze are masters of subtlety; their enthusiasm to eke out even the most fractional improvements in audio technology and sound also carries over to aesthetic and cable design. These folks strive for improvement and perfection in every aspect of the development, build, and assembly process. Every pair of Audeze headphones is hand-made for better quality control in their So-Cal HQ.

Audeze LCD-4z for review

LCD-4z

The LCD-4z’s design ingredients list includes the following:

  • High-grade aluminum.
  • New lighter-weight magnesium earcup rings and grill cover.
  • A tasty carbon fiber headband with a perforated genuine leather strap.
  • Soft black lambskin earpads filled with plump comfy memory foam.

The weight distribution and comfort of the LCD-4z are excellent, with only minimal downward and clamping pressure. An elegant splash of gold adorns the yoke logo, extension rods, gimbal lettering, and wire mesh under the grill. The earcup uses standard dual 4-pin mini-XLR connectors. Everything comes packed in a rugged, foam-padded professional travel case.

Audeze LCD-5 review

LCD-5

As previously mentioned, the LCD-5 was designed entirely from scratch. The grill cover, gimbal, and underlying design elements are featherweight magnesium. LCD-5 completes the redesign with a new carbon fiber headband, strap design, elegant tortoiseshell acetate earcups, and subdued black mesh inserts. The new extension rods have deeper notches for more precise sizing. A small knurled tip on the rod makes those adjustments more tactile.

LCD-5 also includes Audeze’s latest and greatest sculpted earpad design. The new pad slopes downward toward the driver in a near-triangular shape that minimizes contact with the listener’s head creating a better seal on more surfaces. The design optimizes the acoustic chamber inside the earpad, reduces resonance, improves air control, smooths frequency response, and enhances definition across all frequencies. The seal, clamp, and design benefits are most evident in the tight, controlled low-end. We’ll cover sound quality in more detail soon.

The new pads aren’t as plush as those of other LCD models, but they’re a noticeable improvement and no less comfortable. The pads are glued on. And boy, do some internet folks have stuff to say about that! Audeze explains that gluing is still the best way to attach the pads for uncompromised sound quality and promises they’ll modify their process if they find something that works better.

I’ll happily take their word on that. They’ve built many more amazing headphones models than I ever have. The score is something like 30 to zip in favor of Audeze. So we’ll stick to the “they’ll make them, and I’ll write about them” arrangement, given that’s what we’re both best at.

It’s my assessment that Audeze nailed its vision for the LCD-5 on all fronts. The design strategy execution is flawless, especially concerning comfort. It weighs in at under 15 ounces for their lightest headphone yet. These are easily as comfortable as the Meze 109 PRO and Meze 99 Classic/NEO, the previous occupants of the top spots in my “most comfortable headphones ever” shortlist.

As I write this, someone somewhere on the internet is moaning as if the LCD-5 has the gravitational pull of a black hole. Before you let random weight complaints from people you don’t know shape your thinking, please try them first. Anyone whose focus is on the comfort and clamping force of the LCD-5 instead of how rapturous they sound is paying too much attention to the wrong stuff. Not to put down folks’ opinions, but really… it’s the sound, man.

Sound Impressions

I’ll begin this section by saying that I may struggle to adequately convey what these headphones sound like. There are certain times when words utterly fail to capture the emotional impact of our experiences with music. And the LCD-4z and LCD-5 exude musical qualities that are simply beyond the reach of written language. But I’ll still give it the old college try.

Both models are cited as reference headphones by audio professionals. Listening to either instantly reveals why; they deliver transparency, accuracy, resolution, and the joy of music in a way that has to be heard to be properly understood. Detail retrieval and responsiveness are taken to previously unheard levels.

Transients and instrumental decays resolve thoroughly. The leading edges of notes are crisp, and dynamics are preternaturally agile. Imaging is hyper-precise; the staging width is natural with a slight foreground and good depth but varies depending on the production characteristics of the source track. Instrumental layering is excellent, and sheer technical performance is outstanding. Audio detail can be reductionist if required for forensically examining mixes.

If you’re a listener who yearns for a deep connection with lyrical poetry and vocals when listening to music, you should definitely audition the LCD-4z and LCD-5. There’s an incandescent immediacy, intimacy, and expressiveness to both that I’ve only heard in recording studios, live performances, and these headphones. It’s almost as if you’re part of the music, inside it in some way.

Their phenomenal presentation of vocals reminds me of the first time I experienced an Aphex Aural Exciter in person during a recording session. It sounded like the engineer had sprinkled pixie dust on the vocal track. It was infused with sparkle, life, and a near three-dimensional realism. But it somehow didn’t sound the least bit like we had patched in an outboard effect. I was blown away. The LCD-4z and LCD-5 produce similarly captivating vocal excitement while feeling entirely neutral and transparent.

Audeze LCD-4z review

LCD-4z

The LCD-4z has a very linear tonal presentation across the entire frequency spectrum. It may measure otherwise, so I’ll clarify that I’m simply describing what the headphone sounds like to me – because I listen to music with my ears, not measurement tools. I’m not knocking measurement graphs, though, if you dig that stuff. They can be interesting, but equally deceptive.

The bass is rich, round, yummy – and natural. I credit that to driver design’s technical abilities more than tuning trickery. Bass extension is generous with great heft and no discernible sub-bass roll-off. Hearing a Hammond B3 organ cat dig in with proper drawbar chops is gloriously ASMR-inducing through the LCD-4z!

The Mids are truly decadent, with unmatched richness, verve, and presence that’s free of all artificiality. Instrumentation and vocals exude in-the-room-immediacy, yet don’t feel unnaturally pushed.

The Treble is exceptionally sweet and linear to the ear. The perceived volume of treble frequencies can fool chart readers. The LCD-4z has excellent air and brilliance, lively abundant detail retrieval, resolution, and clarity are all appropriately measured out and don’t feel fiddled with.

For my personal tastes, the LCD-4z is now my favored headphone for listening to music.

LCD-5

The descriptive power of words rather gives up the ghost when attempting to capture how transcendent music sounds when heard through the LCD-5. I’ll start by saying their technical abilities are genuinely startling when you first listen to them. I thought there might be marginal sound quality gains over the LCD-4z, but there’s much more going on than I initially expected. Despite that, the LCD-5 doesn’t exude an overly clinical nature. Far from it, in fact, yet gazing into mixes for detail retrieval, accuracy, and error checking is effortless when required.

The LCD-5 has an exceptionally linear perceived tonal cohesion. I’ve seen measurement charts and read reviews that say otherwise. But I’ll emphasize again that measurements and how we actually perceive frequency loudness when listening to headphones don’t always jive. That’s why it’s essential to actually listen and form your own sound-quality opinions. We all hear things differently; our ears are the ultimate authority.

Audeze LCD-5 review

The LCD-5s have natural, full-bodied, wonderfully rounded, meaty bass that’s capable of astonishing depth. There’s slightly less warmth when compared to the LCD-4z, but bass energy is abundant, tight, and nimble, thanks to the compounded audio tech that’s packed into the driver design. Bass texture and character are unquestionably the best I’ve ever heard. There’s subtle skin grain to hand percussion and congas. Full kit drum voices are more substantial, especially on toms and kick drums. The legends of Jazz drumming are a revelation when heard through these. Some critics have dismissed the LCD-5’s bass chops, but my take is that they never stoop to shoveling artificially EQ’d bass gunk down our ear holes, and I’m absolutely cool with that.

Mids are positively amazing, exuding in-the-room resolution, dynamics, and tonal color that exceeds anything else I’ve ever heard in a headphone. There’s simply unbelievable life-like music energy on display here that I’ve only previously experienced in the studio or live performance. The LCD-5 is especially stunning when delivering classic rock, heavy soul, live albums, jazz, classical pieces, and acoustic singer-songwriters. Piano tracks are incredibly commanding. The LCD-5 delivers the finest piano reproduction I’ve heard. Chordal resonance and decay within the body resolve fully with thoroughly organic character.

Where the LCD-5 delivers pure, unadulterated, sonic gold is with voices. Vocal intimacy and nuance are three-dimensional, magnificently vivid, strikingly true-to-life, and unrivaled by any other headphones I’ve reviewed or heard previously.

Upper mid-range energy is a bit pronounced in the LCD-5 initially. It settles down nicely as the headphones break in, however. I’ve seen a few reviewers call the LCD-5’s upper mids shouty. I didn’t experience that personally and suspect those remarks could have been prompted by the production values of the source material rather than shortcomings with the LCD-5’s upper mids/treble border management. The LCD-5’s DSP preset in Roon smoothed the upper mids handily when I applied it, even before the LCD-5s had thoroughly broken in.

The perceived volume of treble frequencies can deceive measurement chart adherents. Audeze really nailed the treble tuning in my assessment. There’s nothing missing here, to my ears. Air and brilliance feel natural and blend seamlessly with upper mids. Treble representation is sensed more than heard in some frequency ranges. Much of what we’re listening for is a thin layer of sweetening to the mids and upper mids that adds sparkle to instrumentation and vocals.

In some cases, that comes from delicate shading in timbre, texture, and grain. One of the most conspicuous differences between the LCD-4z and LCD-5 is in their treatment of these subtitles. Vocal overtones, snare spring sizzle, and cymbal decay tails are the best I’ve heard anywhere. Vocal harmonies give way to more clearly discernable individual voice attributes.

All told transparency, accuracy, and detail surpass anything I’ve heard before. Instrumental and vocal realism is supernatural. Listening to music through the LCD-5 is transformative; I don’t know what else to say.

Listening Notes

For close listening, I drove the LCD-4z and LCD-5 with the Roon Ready iFi NEO Stream feeding a Mytek THX AAA HPA amp using Audeze’s stock premium single-ended cable plugged into the HPA’s unbalanced input. Tracks were sourced from Qobuz and TIDAL and rendered at their native sample rates, indicated below. 

The Turtles – Elenore from The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands  (24-bit/96 kHz PCM)

The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands was released to showcase the band’s songwriting and artistic versatility. The album playfully masquerades as a various artists’ “Battle of the Bands” record, with The Turtles performing under different names for each musical style. Elenore, a perfect specimen of chamber pop and the band’s talent, was initially conceived as a throw-away parody. It was written in under an hour and designed to quiet their record label’s constant demands for a sequel to their smash hit “Happy Together.” Despite vocalist and writer Howard Kaylan’s heavy use of saccharine lyrical clichés, the song became a surprise Top 10 single. Thanks in no small part to its divine harmonies, lush arrangement, and radiant production – all of which shine beautifully when heard with the LCD-4z and LCD-5.

LCD-4z

Plenty has been said about the LCD-4z’s prowess for letting audio professionals and listeners peer deep into dense mixes, and this track highlights that strength. Elenore gets underway with punchy propulsive piano chords, hand percussion, bass guitar, and the lovely lead vocal. The full kit, guitar, and a luminescent wall of harmony vocals join in for the chorus. One of the earliest pop music appearances of a Moog synthesizer sneaks into the second verse, adding an additional whimsical motif and unexpected tonal color.  

The LCD-4z’s tonal balance and cohesion are superb. The presentation overall is very full, smooth, and linear. The track’s production has loads of mid-range energy, but the layering of instrumentation remains uncluttered even when we’re hit with that enormous glistening vocal chorus. Elenore is a dainty pop stunner without a heavy bottom end, so there’s not much bass chat for this particular track. Highs are perfectly dialed in and lifelike. The multitracked harmonies are wonderfully airy and articulate. Snare snaps and cymbal shimmer are crisp and vivid.

A lot is going on in the mix, but detail retrieval is effortless and highly satisfying. The soundstage is realistic and natural, with excellent depth. Imaging is laser precise; every instrumental element in the mix has plenty of space to breathe and contribute. Resolution is exceptional; reverb tails and instrumental decay resolve completely. The LCD-4z’s vocal presentation is intimate and wonderfully expressive. The multitracked lead vocal and layered harmonies are breathtakingly vivid, with incredible presence and excitement. The reverb decay at the end of the track is a thumbnail portrait of the LCD-4’s technical performance capabilities. 

LCD-5

As I said earlier in our sound impressions summary, the technical abilities of the LCD-5 are truly startling when first experienced. I thought there might be a marginal difference between it and the LCD-4z, but Elenore has a lot more to survey than I expected. 

Transparency, accuracy, and detail transcend anything I’ve heard before, and realism is extraordinary. Vocal intimacy is unmatched, very close sounding, and exceptionally clear. With minimal effort, vocals can be examined as if they were isolated tracks. The same can be said of all the instrumentation. At the same time, the LCD-5 isn’t overly clinical and doesn’t reduce songs to their component parts.

The remarkable difference in texture delivery between the models is clearly highlighted. The shimmer of the snare spring and cymbal splash has a more crisply defined nature. The layered harmonies reveal individual voice timbres more clearly. The lively mid-range energy in this track comes through like a technicolor cannon. It’s genuinely incredible.

Neil Young – Heart of Gold from Harvest 50th Anniversary Edition (24-bit/192 kHz PCM)

Chances are good that neither the artist, track, nor album requires any introduction. If they do, a selection of gifted music writers have taken the fact-finding plunge on this album and surfaced with pearls. I picked up the 50th Anniversary box set of Harvest to have the physical book, even if I find streaming the music from Roon easier and more enjoyable. I was eager to hear what Audeze’s flagship would do with Neil’s most popular album. 

LCD-4z

Neil’s classic comes through the LCD-4z like molten honey. This track explains why people call this a warm, rich tuning. Heart of Gold is perfect for these headphones. I’m sure the same could be said for most classic or live-album rock. 

This is an overly familiar track, the kind we almost soft-tune and listen to passively because we’ve heard it so frequently. But the LCD-4z opens up the mix revealing hidden veins of diamonds in the lush, dense acoustic arrangement.

The tonal saturation of the guitars is sweet and shimmering. The bass is warm and close, locking up snuggly with the spare drumming. The air from the harmonica, acoustics, and steel guitar slide through the upper register smoothly. The snare has a crisp snap. Reverb tails are abundant and fun to chase.

Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor’s backing vocals provide a wonderful vocal contrast with Neil’s lead in the final chorus. The balance between instrumentation and vocals is perfect. The mix sounds incredible in these headphones and has more foreground and overall depth than the previous track.

Carefully chosen reference tracks help demonstrate that the LCD-4z gives you precisely what’s in the final mix and presents it with better sound quality than you’ve ever heard.

LCD-5

..until you put on the LCD-5! Similar to Elenore, this is another step up in detail and resolution. A significant difference here, though, is that Heart of Gold has a great bass line, a lopping drum shuffle, and more layered guitars to work with, and it makes the absolute most of all of it. The LCD-5’s driver advancements step forward confidently. The tonal presentation is so balanced and natural but has wonderful fullness and radiates live music energy. This is the most detailed, rich, and nuanced presentation I expect to ever hear of Neil’s intoxicating early 70s classic. 

Charles Mingus – Better Git Hit in Your Soul from Mingus at Antibes (16-bit/44.1 kHz PCM)

Charles Mingus was a volatile larger-than-life jazz composer, bassist, personality, and legend. He’s often credited with helping anchor hard bop as one of jazz’s most popular hybrid strains. Mingus routinely drew inspiration from gospel, blues, and R&B feeding it all through a funky, deep-swinging, rollicking jazz engine that all his own. Mingus once said that the best jazz performances should feel like a Black gospel tent revival and claimed that this live 1960 Jazz à Juan Festival was one occasion when his Jazz Workshop bottled lightning.

LCD-4z

The track opens with light applause and audience chatter as Mingus propels the piece forward with a peppy bass intro before the Dolphy, Ervin, and Curson horn trifecta jump in with a jubilant motif that channels Mingus’s lat 50s pantomime The Clown. Spirited vocal call-and-response erupts among the Workshop cats who are laying out during solo breaks. It’s a tour de force display that swings with euphoric intensity.

The band and audience provide handclaps when members first lay in for their solo helpings. Curson leads with sweet and peppery trumpet choruses. Booker Ervin cuts a huge bluesy trench through the track’s sonic tapestry. The always transcendent Eric Dolphy twists himself into driving stream-of-consciousness soulful riffs than come straight out of jazz Shambala. Dannie Richmond cranks his kit up to crackling tempos punctuated with break-neck stop-on-a-dime rumbling tom rolls as counterpoint. Richmond is a criminally underrated jazz drummer whose name should be heard mentioned among the greats.

The full ensemble leans in on the follow-up solo choruses, stoking the rhythmic coals beneath each soloist, eliciting soaring ecstatic bursts of impassioned riffs from each member in turn. Mingus unexpectedly decamps from the upright bass to pound the defenseless piano during the melee, further provoking the kinetic instrumental frenzy.

I’ll never forget my first experiences with this track. I’ve enjoyed it tremendously over the years and used to spin it regularly on a jazz radio show. The imaging, detail, and staging are better on this recording than any other I’ve demoed thus far. It showcases the LCD-4z’s jazz presentation chops wonderfully. You gotta hear it.

LCD-5

The same “better everything and more of it” treatment we’ve gotten thus far is ladled on Better Git Hit in Your Soul – as if answering the call to action in the track title! Transparency and detail are of much finer granularity revealing macro details. A previously unnoticed listener near Mingus’ recorder can be heard saying “cool bass” at about twelve seconds in.

Textural subtleties are more distinct. The voice-like approach of each of the horn cats shines through with greater sass and funk now. Mingus’ outbursts are even more comically beatific. I’m wiped out from the sheer joy of listening and feel like I’ve just witnessed the performance from the festival orchestra pit – four times in a row!

Conclusion

The LCD-4z and LCD-5 exude musical qualities that are simply beyond the reach of written language.

Audeze’s LCD-4z and LCD-5 represent the apex of headphone audio technology and sound quality -and they come with a price that speaks for the astounding innovation and sensory euphoria they deliver.

They pull the listener into a sonic wonderland that is nearly impossible to leave. I was able to hear detail and texture I’d never heard previously in music I’d listened to for my entire life. And not from tomfoolery or trickery – but from audio technology, innovation, and passion that delivers the most vivid, natural, transparent, thrilling, and soul-stirring headphone experience currently available. 

Listening to these headphones is just about the best experience I’ve ever had with recorded music. That’s a profound statement because music is a daily staple of my life and has been for decades. If you’re searching for headphones that will transport you to the heart and soul of music. The LCD-4z and LCD-5 will take you there.

Click here to check out the Roon Store’s full line of Audeze headphones.

Additional Observations

  • The LCD-5s push a lot of mid-range energy than generally heard from Audeze headphones initially. It naturally dissipates as they break in and the diaphragm is exercised. The Audeze DSP plug-in for the The LCD-5 in Roon also smooths it out very nicely.
  • There may have been an issue with the sizing rods on our review model of the LCD-4z. They were too relaxed for my taste. Several times during wear, they suddenly extended a notch or two, even with very slight head movement. It was a distraction that occasionally detracted from my listening enjoyment. The LCD-2C, LCD-X, and LCD-5 didn’t have that problem.
  • Both models ship with Audeze’s premium black and white crystal-infused 2.5m OCC copper cable. It’s a high-quality, flexible, tangle-free cable with a non-microphonic jacket. Many headphone buyers like to swap cables. Audeze’s premium cable wouldn’t need an upgrade.
  • 60s Chamber Pop tracks with layered harmonies sounded unbelievable through these headphones. The Beach Boys, Rascals, Lovin’ Spoonful, Byrds, The Association, and Simon & Garfunkel were hugely satisfying when heard through either the LCD-4z or LCD-5.
  • If you’re into classic or live album rock, give these headphones a try. They have incredible synergy with those genres.

Tech Specs:

LCD-4z

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Double Fluxor™ magnet array
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Fazor
  • Transducer Size: 106mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 98 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 15 Ω
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1 ounce
  • Materials: Steel, magnesium, aluminum, carbon fiber, leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years

LCD-5

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Magnetic structure: Double Fluxor™ magnet array
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Fazor
  • Transducer Size: 90mm
  • Frequency Response: 5Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 90 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 14 Ω
  • Weight: 14.8 ounces
  • Materials: Steel, magnesium, aluminum, acetate, carbon fiber, leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years

What comes in the box:

LCD-4z

  • LCD-4z headphones
  • Audeze premium travel case
  • Premium 1.9m 1/4″ to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
  • Product paperwork

LCD-5

  • LCD-5 headphones
  • Premium aluminum travel case 
  • Premium braided 2.5m Cable 4-Pin XLR Balanced cable
  • 4-Pin XLR to 1/4″ adapter
  • White cotton gloves
  • Product paperwork
  • 2 keys

Click here to check out the Roon Store’s full line of Audeze headphones.

Roon Partner Update: December 2022

A bumper round up of new Roon Ready products in this month’s partner update – from compact streaming speakers to elite level DACs. Check it!

Just in time for the holidays, we have a huge month of partner updates this December. We welcome two beautiful Volumio products to the Roon family, and reveal a new Roon Tested Astell&Kern DAC – the perfect hardware to take advantage of Roon ARC’s new Android USB driver. Let’s dive in and take a look.

ASTELL&KERN AK HC3

Astell & Kern AK HC3 Roon tested

Audio giant Astell&Kern’s brand new portable DAC, the AK HC3, represents a seriously exciting addition to the vibrant portable DAC scene. This compact little USB-C DAC lets you experience high performance audio wherever they’re listening – a plug and play solution that levels up your mobile listening experience. 

The AK HC3 comes Roon Tested and fully compatible with Android devices, making it a great product choice for Roon ARC users looking to experience bit-perfect playback with ARC’s USB driver. But it’s not just mobile listening where the HC3 shines. It’s fully compatible with Windows and Mac computers with a USB-C port, making the HC3 an easy, compact solution for elevated home listening, too.

BLUESOUND POWERNODE EDGE

Bluesound Powernode Edge Roon Ready

The POWERNODE EDGE is the new entry-level streaming amplifier from audio heavyweights, Bluesound. It’s the easiest way to add streaming to a pair of speakers you already own and combines streaming sources (including high-res streaming with Roon Ready!) control and amplification in a sleek and affordable package.

HiFi ROSE RS520

HiFi Rose RS520 Roon Ready

If, like us, you’re a sucker for beautifully designed gear that does it all – you’re going to love the HiFi ROSE RS520. South Korean audio specialists HiFi ROSE have cultivated a reputation for their ‘lifestyle-led’ approach to audio. They specialize in high quality products that put the user experience first, and the RS520 comfortably continues this trend. 

The RS520 is an all-in-one, audiophile approved streaming solution that takes a no-compromise approach to power and sound quality. By pairing top of the line ESS DAC technology with a cutting-edge GaN based class AD amplifier, the RS520 achieves pure, low-noise, ultra-high-res sound whilst outputting up to 250W. Control is where this really streamer comes into its own. The full-front-panel 12.6inch LCD touch screen gives you Roon Ready functionality through a beautifully designed, easy-to-use display. It all adds up to make the HiFi ROSE RS520 a seriously smart addition to your audio set up.

Rotel S14

Rotel S14 Roon Ready

The Rotel S14 is something of a game-changer in the high performance audio market. It represents Rotel’s first integrated amplifier with built-in streaming technology – making this a ‘just add speakers’ system that builds amplification, streaming services, wireless playback and connectivity into a single chassis. 

Under the hood, a 150W AB class amplifier offers plenty of drive, and a large toroidal transformer demonstrates Rotel’s time-tested engineering and design practices. The Rotel S14 utilizes a Texas Instruments 32-bit/384kHz DAC with exhaustive tuning and hand selection of all critical components delivering a fuller, richer and more balanced presentation of your music. With Roon Ready tech built-in, the Rotel S14 is a near-perfect all-in-one HiFi solution.

VOLUMIO INTEGRO, RIVO

We’re delighted to welcome Italian audio specialists ‘Volumio’ to the Roon Ready family – with two of their flagship products now officially certified Roon Ready. Here, we’ll take a look at both of Volumio’s Roon Ready products in a little more detail.

VOLUMIO INTEGRO

Volumio Integro Roon Ready

The Volumio INTEGRO is a high performance, slimline, all-in-one integrated amplifier solution. Despite its compact size, the INTEGRO packs quite a punch – boasting a powerful speaker amplifier (70w RMS / 4 ohm), a dedicated dual-mono headphone amplifier, and dedicated subwoofer output. It features Coaxial and Optical S/PDIF inputs, an RCA analog input, and plenty of playback compatibility – supporting Roon Ready, Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Bluetooth and USB drive playback. 

The INTEGRO has been designed in collaboration with Red Dot award winners Design Narratives, and is the first Volumio product to be 100% built in Florence, Italy. null

VOLUMIO RIVO

Volumio Rivo Roon Ready

The Volumio RIVO is a highly flexible ‘digital bridge’ – designed for optimized performance while adding audio streaming to your existing setup. The focus of the RIVO’s architecture is simplicity – its digital signal path is built as clean as possible without any unnecessary stages. There are plenty of connection options with AES/EBU, Coaxial S/PDIF, and USB outputs all available. To ensure the lowest possible noise floor, The RIVO utilizes isolated power supplies for each function block and multiple power filtering 1:1 OFC copper grain oriented transformers – ensuring full galvanic isolation of the AES/EBU, coaxial, and USB outputs.


Roon Ready Writeups: Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X Headphones Review

These are a few of my favorite things

We’re back and super excited to get right down to business because, this time, we get to knock out three of our favorite things in a single article.   

  1. Answer your questions.
  2. Discuss the two legends of head-fi from a Roon partner, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X headphones.
  3. And, share a how-to for a great Roon feature that helps any Audeze headphones sound their very best.

If you’re thinking, “more headphones? How can headphones be that different… ?” You’re not alone. Many Roon subscribers have returned to headphones or explored them for the first time, thanks to Roon ARC. They’ve also asked why anyone would have multiple pairs of headphones and wondered why not get one pair that works for everything?

Audeze lcd 2 classic review

Well, if I were to reveal secrets, the real reason why many of us own multiple pairs of headphones is that they’re an exotic gear landscape custom-made for audio obsessives. The chase for that magic sound is reinforced and enabled by everyone involved. It’s incredible, you should try it!

A slightly more reserved answer is that headphones help us play to the strengths of our favorite music and listening environment. They can satisfy multiple listening experiences, from laid-back immersive listening to focused detail exploration and anything in between. They’re perfect for creating an ideal personalized listening space immune to room coloration, one that can be transformed tonally just by swapping out headphones and is mobile by design.

They’re unquestionably the easiest way to do all that… unless you’re willing to change or add an entire system to your listening room whenever you have the inkling to experiment with sound. And, with the release of Roon ARC, many listeners have realized that headphones are ideal complements to any Roon system. All perfect reasons to discuss and listen to two head-fi legends that just landed in the Roon Store, the Audeze LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X.

And as a bonus, we’ll show you how to use the Audeze headphone DSP plug-ins, included free in Roon, to get the best sound from any pair of Audeze monitors you decide on or already own.

audeze lcd 2 classic review

LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X: the legend and the gold standard

Technical overview

The LCD-2 is the headphone that established Audeze’s bona fides when it was released in 2009. Since then, it has evolved and benefitted from numerous advancements in audio technology. But in doing so, some felt it had traded one type of sonic magic for another. And being the music listeners we are, many of us wished we could have both – the classic and the new LCD-2 sound. So Audeze, being the gracious folks they are, kindly obliged us. The result is the LCD-2 Classic which dials the LCD-2 back to its original tuning by adding a dash of additional sweetening and removing the Fazor phase management technology of the current LCD-2.

The LCD-X is Audeze’s studio workhorse and their most popular headphone among audio recording, mixing, and mastering professionals. Its accurate presentation provides realistic transparent playback that closely resembles the neutrality of an acoustically treated studio. The LCD-X was updated slightly in 2021, lending enhanced mid-range linearity, a restructured magnetic array, reduced weight, and fit improvements, making it an even more attractive contender in Audeze’s model lineup. 

Both models are open-back planar magnetic designs that feature 106mm diaphragms! That’s a glorious four inches plus of bookshelf speaker-sized driver for each side of your head! Both models are exceptionally easy to drive. The LCD-2C has an impedance rating of 70 ohms. The LCD-X is rated at just 20 ohms and can be powered by any portable device.

Planar magnetic designs have a lot of advantages over dynamic dome drivers. They’re much more efficient and push larger volumes of air with a more fluid range of motion. Planar magnetic transducers use an ultra-thin polymer film for a highly flexible driver assembly, and the voice coil is printed directly upon it. The entire mechanism is then sandwiched between two staggered magnet arrays. Resulting in nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, and better sound – free of distortion and other driver-introduced artifacts. Which translates roughly to “all good and nothing bad” We’ll dig into their sound signatures more in just a moment.

Bomb-proof design and build quality

At first glance, the LCD-2C and LCD-X appear nearly identical; but upon closer examination, slight differences emerge. Both models feature an overbuilt modern black industrial design with a flash of chrome courtesy of the yokes and screw heads. 

audeze lcd x review

The LCD-2C utilizes crystal-infused nylon for a nearly indestructible earcup. LCD-X features understated polished black aluminum rings. Audeze logo grill guards, the standard textured matte black spring steel headband, and synthetic leather head strap are employed on both.

Audeze’s improved contoured earpads provide a perfect seal around the ear for better sound and comfort. The plush molded memory foam is covered in soft vegan leather on the Classic. The LCD-X offers buyers a choice of vegan or genuine leather.

Regarding comfort, the LCD-2C and LCD-X aren’t lightweight headphones; they’re both over a pound. But they’re not uncomfortable. The headband and strap balance the weight nicely, and the clamping pressure is reasonable. I’ve worn them for several hours over many days without any discomfort. Aside from that, it kinda feels rude to complain about headphones that sound this good being uncomfortable. They weren’t such a problem that they distracted me from enjoying the music, not for an instant. If clamping pressure and weight are a concern, give them a chance, their sound is absolutely worth it! Speaking of…

Audeze lcd x review

Sound impressions

As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.

Ancient Audio Texts

LCD-2 Classic

Reviewing the LCD-2 Classic’s sound is somewhat challenging because they’re cleverly hypnotizing! They’re headphones for disappearing inside the music, not so much for analyzing it. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s an attractive praise-worthy trait that some reviewers have puzzlingly chosen to fault rather than recognize.

The LCD-2C shines in its balance of frequencies and classic hi-fi presentation. Bass is wonderfully rich, full-bodied, natural, and energetic. These kick plenty large on bass-heavy tracks with exceptional, smooth extension. And lows ease effortlessly into the mids like honey. My classic roots rock reggae tracks sound like they were made for these headphones.  

Audeze lcd 2 classic review

Mids are balanced but wonderfully full and warm, enveloping the listener. Acoustic instruments are rendered with sumptuously saturated tonal color. Male and female vocals are intimate, vivid, and lifelike. Allegedly some frequency response charts say the LCD-2 Classic lacks vocal presence, but I never felt them insufficient in that area. Presence is subtle when unaltered, and the LCD-2C feels natural in this range to me. Further proving that the best measurement tool is our ears. As the ancient audio texts advise: Listen ye first, then charts read.

The LCD-2 Classic’s upper mids and treble are slightly rounded and softer sounding by design. The original LCD-2 was a warm, pleasing, laid-back headphone – and that’s the LCD-2C’s tuning target. Listeners who admire an audiophile presentation with crisp detail and abundant air may not initially gel with the LCD-2 Classic. But for relaxed immersive listening, it’s a beautiful match for most musical styles and unbeatable for some. 

The soundstage is wide, close, and enveloping but with less distinct imaging. That results from LCD-2C’s ability to place the listener inside the music. It’s a supremely enjoyable headphone that hung well with my review tracks and was perfect for casual listening.      

LCD-X

Coming from Audeze’s Reference Series, LCD-X sits at the other side of the tuning spectrum and welcomes more technical detailed inspection. As the preferred reference headphone of audio engineers and musicians, it provides the neutral yet wonderfully musical presentation necessary for creating accurate recordings. Mastering and mixing engineers rely on LCD-X to ensure tracks translate transparently to the real world. Their ability to mimic a perfectly acoustically treated studio gives recording professionals a reliable mobile reference tool and rewards close listening enthusiasts with music delivery that reflects the artist’s original creative intent.

Here again, we’re treated to decadent bass response. Some planar magnetic, open-back cans are a bit bass anemic, but Audeze isn’t your typical headphone. LCD-X delivers remarkable slam and weighty body that approaches full-size dynamic speaker drivers. It’s immense and rich but well-controlled – never flabby or bloated. Bass energy is punchy, and extension is excellent, effortlessly plumming sub-bass. This is, without question, the most satisfying bass I’ve heard from a planar magnetic design for the price.

The LCD-X’s midrange underwent mild precision adjustments in the 2021 version making it one of the most neutral and natural-sounding Audeze models to date. The re-tuning corrected mild shortcomings in the previous version but didn’t undo any of its musicality or flair. There’s still lush mids saturation, but the changes deliver better definition and balance overall with an expressive vocal presentation that doesn’t resort to excessive artificiality. Instruments are vivid, detail reproduction is precise, and resolution is pristine. Overall, the mids are shamelessly beautiful, balanced, and fully enjoyable, leaving nothing wanting.

The treble of the LCD-X is exceptional and technically capable – exhibiting a silky organic quality. Air and detail are dialed in impeccably. Sizzle and brilliance are spot-on. Some reviews I’ve seen call the LCD-X’s highs “soft.” Soft certainly wouldn’t have been the first adjective that sprung to my mind. I’d call them not overdone. That’s not a fault; they’re faithful and realistic to my ears. Pushing a tuning to create qualities in music that aren’t there doesn’t jive with the transparency needed in a reference tool like the LCD-X.

Sadly, one of the most unfortunate lasting side effects of “audiophile” tuning is its disdain for natural treble balance. This may be one of the most assiduous afflictions to assail recorded music after over-compression. The LCD-X avoids it by pegging its highs perfectly, delivering lifelike treble that’s dynamic, snappy, and articulate. Subtle details like reverb tails and natural instrument decay are wonderfully displayed and true to form.

This could be one of the best headphone treble presentations out there. It certainly is at this price point. It’s authentic and detailed with outstanding resolution and texture, yet never grainy, exaggerated, or strident. LCD-X is entirely capable of providing forensic insight into mixes or fulfilling engaged listening sessions for detail junkies. 

The soundstage of the LCD-X is narrower when compared to the LCD-2C, as we’d expect from a reference headphone. The rendering is decidedly less forward. It’s still close and intimate, but where the LCD-2C places the listener directly inside the music with hard center, left, and right staging, LCD-X evokes the optimized listening depth provided by near-field desk monitors – a more convincing and true-to-life presentation. The professional capabilities of the LCD-X are overtly baked into every aspect of its character. Stereo imaging and separation are vivid and pinpoint accurate, communicating its studio pedigree and reference dependability. Those traits also mean that it suits pure detailed listening enjoyment exceptionally well. 

The LCD-X easily outshines headphones several times their cost and leaves nothing wanting for listeners who admire accuracy, rich presentation, natural detail, and musical realism that perfectly balances professional applications with incisive music appreciation. They assume either role effortlessly.  I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.

Listening notes

For close listening, I drove the LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X with the Roon Ready iFi NEO Stream feeding a Mytek THX AAA HPA amp with tracks from Qobuz and TIDAL. 

All tracks were rendered at their native sample rates, indicated for each track below. We’ve chosen one of them for a before and after using Audeze’s integrated DSP presets in Roon – including a step-by-step so you can try them out. 

Arthur Rubenstein – Chopin: Nocturne No. 19 in E Minor from Chopin: The Nocturnes on RCA Red Seal (24-bit/96 kHz PCM)

Our selection of later-era Rubenstein doesn’t coyly indicate taking a side in the quiet war over which of his periods is definitive. This performance is so utterly lyrical, assured, relaxed yet percussive and absurdly enjoyable through these headphones that the decision was essentially made for us.

LCD-2 Classic

Duke Ellington once said, “The piano is an orchestra…” This performance illuminates Duke’s statement brilliantly. Rubenstein’s performance of Chopin’s Nocturnes in later life is decidedly less technical but more romantic and truer to their essence of longing and melancholy. 

The LCD-2 Classic delivers this piece with intoxicating luxurious beauty. Its’ lows and mid-range, combined with the staging intimacy, impart Rubenstein’s percussive left-hand attack deep in the chest as delicate right-hand motifs dance fluidly inside the body of the instrument. 

When his reading of the high register becomes more insistent, the notes are crisp and textured yet sublimely controlled and passionate. This piece proves that the LCD-2C retains technical listening capabilities; notes and piano body resonance resolve distinctly, but the LCD-2C truly shines at immersive listening. Rubenstein’s performance is beguiling and effortlessly draws the listener deep inside its embrace.

LCD-X

Inviting the performance to inhabit the LCD-X reveals even greater spirit and ardor tucked within Rubenstein’s interpretation. The performance is no less beautiful with the added detail and transparency. It retains all its romanticism while bringing crisper resolution to subtleties. 

The highs command an evener balance with the low-end and mid-frequency ranges. This piece singlehandedly dismisses claims of LCD-X being marred by soft highs. This is an exceptionally refined yet fervent listening experience. Hearing Nocturne No. 19’s final notes fade inside the body vibration of the piano is a treat. The LCD-X’s treatment of classical solo piano is simply lovely and not to be missed. 

Fred Neil – I’ve Got a Secret (Didn’t We Shake Sugaree) from Fred Neil (16-bit/44 kHz PCM)

Fred Neil was an eccentric troubadour that gregariously reigned over the late 50s/early 60s Greenwich Village scene with a near-mystical presence, taking young arrivals like Bob Dylan and David Crosby under his wing. His second album Fred Neil is a stone classic containing two of his most prolific compositions, The Dolphins and Everybody’s Talkin’, but it’s his incredibly soulful revision of this Elizabeth Cotton folky that knocks us sideways and exhibits all of Neil’s most majestic superpowers.

LCD-2 Classic

Neil’s reverb-laden guitar, a submerged acoustic, and looping jazz bass kick the song off and are quickly joined by a silky whistled melody line. Fred’s vocals drop right into the pocket, cradled in the mother of all reverb. The others lay out reverently until Fred’s through the buttery opening chorus. A second electric leans in, pulling rubbery tremolo behind it. The snare picks up, and another acoustic guitar slides in. The track floats along on rich mids and bass with a softened but lovely high end. 

The star player is Fred’s vocal, and LCD-2C’s staging pulls the listener completely inside it as he massages the plate reverb and plums bass notes from a well of smokey vibrato. It feels like we’re hearing his heavenly polished mahogany baritone from inside his head. The instrumental layering is dense and somewhat amorphous, which may not be to every taste. But the track was born for the tonal capabilities of the LCD-2C. 

Its hypnotic quality meshes brilliantly with these headphones, and it’s challenging to pull away from immersive enjoyment into technical listening. Those who relish airy separation may feel they’re trading detail for the lush presentation. 

LCD-X

Immediately we’re treated to finer details when switching to the LCD-X. The recessed acoustic hiding in the previous intro has shimmer, space, and greater clarity. The upright bass is full and rounded. Reverb tails in Fred’s vocals are clear and resolve smoothly. The effortless rhythmic flow produces a shiver when the full band drops in. 

The track still presents a warming organic quality with layered richness, but everything is more distinct. The nicotine tar on Fred’s voice peeks through in places, and the guitars exhibit more nuance. Slight subtle variations on the pulsing rhythm break the surface conspicuously. The vast reverb adds excellent top end, and the snare, while still laid back, has light snap and spring resonance. The overall presentation is detailed, tonally balanced, and yet moderately classic hi-fi, probably from the outstanding mid and bass performance. 

My pick between the LCD-2C and LCD-X for this one is the LCD-X. Everything I liked about the LCD-2C is still here, but the added transparency lends clarity for hearing further into the track without diminishing its captivating allure.   

Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-in feature

The plug-ins from Audeze’s Reveal+ headphone software are included with Roon free of charge and are super easy to use. Our video below contains an easy step-by-step on finding and applying them in Roon. We’ll discuss their audible difference and see if they affect an artifact heard in this track. 

We should clarify that the plug-ins aren’t intended to be audio correction tools. But, by using the plug-in to optimize the EQ curve of the headphones, it will reveal whether it’s caused by the LCD-2C’s default tuning. 

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ from Moanin’ (24-bit/192 kHZ PCM)

Art Blakey’s 1958 return to Blue Note Records resulted in one hard bop’s archetypal classics, Moanin’. Its title track embodies the sub-genre’s funky, back-to-the-roots embrace of blues, gospel, and R&B fueled by a driving modern jazz engine room. Despite being recorded by what may be the shortest-lived Jazz Messengers lineup, the album epitomizes the form and remains essential listening for the telepathic musical interplay and soulful intensity on display from the entire ensemble. 

LCD-2 Classic

Without the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:

Moanin’ bolts from the gate, setting up a classic hybrid gospel/blues call-and-response groove from writer Bobby Timmons’s percussive piano figures and the Morgan/Golson horn team. Benny Golson’s sax reed sizzles with fuzzy warmth as The Messengers lock in underneath the swinging motif. 

Lee Morgan’s trumpet bars crackle with brash energy, half-valve slurs, and peppery staccato riffs, but the plosive power at the leading edge of his breaks literally pops the LCD-2C’s planar magnetic element detracting from the piece’s renowned perfection. Golson’s two choruses add strut, shuffle, and sass with a rounded body over the rhythm sections’ foundational groove. Jymie Merrit’s bass bops along with Blakey’s effortless swing as he adds tight press rolls and crash cymbal punctuation between solo choruses. 

When Timmons takes his helpings, Merritt digs in on the stand-up, offering up lovely interplay. The piano is a delight, expansive with nice heft, depth, and punchy bite with someone, likely Blakey, grunting approval in the background. The bass leans in with voice-like huskiness as the rhythm section saunters with Swiss precision. The piece closes with that classic call-and-response motif, building in power before ending in a flourish of rolling piano figures. It’s an unimpeachable masterpiece that’s mildly blemished by Lee Morgan’s atomic trumpet leads. 

With the LCD-2C DSP preset plug-in:

To apply Audeze’s custom presets in Roon, press the volume icon in the footer of Roon, then click DSP. Toggle on the Audeze presets on the DSP page and select the corresponding headphone model. It’s that easy; see our video below for a step-by-step. 

From the go, there’s more clarity, detail, and air in the mix. Jymie Merritt’s finger can be heard tracing a bass string before playing. The rafters of Rudy Van Gelder’s studio carcasses the music with airy goodness and natural room ambiance. The plug-in opens the mix noticeably but not excessively. The staging doesn’t feel more expansive, but the foreground seems deeper – set back a few feet for more detailed study. 

When Lee Morgan takes his break, the blistering lead ruffles the element again. There’s perhaps the slightest bit less grain but not much. And that’s reassuring to observe. Using the optimized plug-in adjustments tells us that the LCD-2C’s default tuning isn’t what’s causing the pop and grain. 

What’s even more impressive though, is the lively top end that’s on display with the addition of the Audeze LCD-2 plug-in. Subtle details break the surface everywhere. There’s more nuance, richness, and character throughout the song. It lends the hard bop classic additional deference. Everything feels more lively and musical but not in the least bit exaggerated. 

It’s a remarkable difference. The LCD-2C doesn’t suddenly become the LCD-X by adding the preset, but they’re much closer to them now. The signature warmth and mid-range richness get a resolving dash of high-end for surprisingly transformative resolution. Roon’s Audeze DSP plug-ins make these classic headphones sound even sweeter. It’s like buying the next better model just by using the DSP feature. 

To conclude the artifact test, I ran another set of headphones using the same setup to demo the track. The dynamic driver phones I tested also broke up but sounded harsher with more abrasive distortion. That tells me that Audeze’s planar magnetic design’s swift responsiveness and dynamics grab the transient so quickly that it catches the lead plosive and resolves it smoothly without the crunching distortion heard in the dynamic driver design. That’s genuinely astounding.

Conclusion

I’m confident in naming the LCD-X the most musically enjoyable and technically capable headphones available at this price point.

The LCD-2 Classic and LCD-X are stunning headphones that cover the waterfront sonically and balance each other’s strengths perfectly: LCD-2C for immersive relaxed listening, LCD-X for hunting audio easter eggs, detail exploration, or professional transparency. Owning them both would immediately satisfy most listening desires. 

Both models feature exceptional build quality, thoroughly beautiful sound, and impressive technical performance – especially at their respective price points, making them excellent choices for first-time high-end headphone buyers or those wanting to upgrade. 

Audeze lcd x review

Additionally, Audeze is the undisputed champion of planar magnetic headphone manufacturers. Their headphones spoil listeners with nimble dynamics, wide frequency response, lightning-fast transients, greater transparency, excellent control, immersive detail, more realistic imaging, lifelike musicality, better sound, and lovely tonal balance. 

They’re equally perfect for music enthusiasts and audio professionals. Their easy compatibility with reference tracks and casual listening sessions earns them my unreserved and entirely enthusiastic recommendation. The LCD-X commands a spot in my best headphones list for its all-encompassing musicality and performance. 

And, if you already own a pair of Audeze headphones but don’t subscribe to Roon, trust me on this… do a free 14-day trial. Roon’s seamless integration of Audeze’s headphone presets are audio icing on top of all their other winning qualities. 

The LCD-2 Classic was impressively transformed with a few mouse clicks. As a fellow music lover, I encourage you to hear what you’re missing. Roon + Audeze + all your favorite music, free for two weeks. It’s risk-free; why pass it up?! 

Click here to check out the Roon Store’s full line of Audeze headphones.

And click here for a free 14-day Roon Trial!

Additional observations

  • If you’re into classic rock or soul, pop, live recordings, singer-songwriters, or reggae, hear me when I say try these headphones. They have incredible synergy with those genres. You will thank me.
  • The included stock cables are lovely, tangle-free, flexible, comfortable, and sturdy. They don’t transmit noise into the earcup, which is more than I can say for some premium cables I’ve demoed. 
  • The LCD-X provided for the review was the Creator Package with the standard case and cable. Both are of fine quality. Buyers concerned about the standard case and cable can put those worries away. I don’t see a risk of disappointment. 
  • Before letting concerns about the weight of the LCD-2C or LCD-X, please give them a listen. Given what I had read, I expected them to be very uncomfortable, but both models were totally agreeable when worn, even for long hours.

Tech Specs:

LCD-2C

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Non-fazor
  • Transducer Size: 106mm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 101 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 70 Ω
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 ounces
  • Materials: Steel, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years

LCD-X

  • Driver Type: Planar magnetic
  • Ear Cup Design: Open back
  • Phase Management: Fazor
  • Transducer Size: 106mm
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 50kHz
  • THD: <0.1% @ 100dB
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB/1mW
  • Impedance: 20 Ω
  • Weight: 1 lb, 3 ounces
  • Materials: Steel, aluminum, nylon, synthetic leather, memory foam 
  • Warranty period: 1-3 years

What comes in the box:

LCD-2C

  • LCD-2C headphones
  • Audeze LCD hard carrying case
  • 1.9m 1/4″ to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
  • Product paperwork
  • 2 keys

LCD-X (varies based on Creator or Premium package type)

Creator edition

  • LCD-X headphones
  • Audeze hard carrying case
  • Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
  • Product paperwork
  • 2 keys

Premium edition

  • LCD-X headphones
  • Premium travel case
  • 4-pin balanced XLR cable
  • Single-ended 1/4″ braided OCC Copper cable
  • 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter