Just had a cool round table discussion about the new Orthodynamic headphone designs here at HeadRoom. We included the HiFiMAN HE5, HE5-LE, HE6, Audeze LCD2, and for good measure, used the HD800 in our comparisons. Seems that the HE6 may become another HeadRoom favorite. Its soundstage depth was very impressive and it seemed to have a noticeably smoother sound than the HE5 or HE5-LE. The HE5 probably got our lowest rating due to its excessively bright tone and flat, uninspiring dynamics. Not such a good contender for the rather steep $599 price tag. For another $100 up, the HE5 LE is a significantly better choice. Still lacking some of the depth found in the top-of-the-line HE6, but solid value and performance for this price range. Keep in mind that all the HiFiMAN headphones are very low-sensitivity designs -- especially the HE6 -- and are extremely difficult to drive. So warm up your best headphone amp and enjoy some Orthodynamic goodness from Dr.Fang Bian's HiFIMAN audiophile cans.
The Audeze LCD2 showcases what is possible with some chutzpah and a big love of headphones. This can has recently grabbed the attention of many a headphone audiophile, making a big splash last summer when it debuted at CanJam - Chicago. A true, home-grown can from a start-up company in Las Vegas, the LCD2 is an extremely 'flat' measuring headphone with outstanding audio specs. For the $1,000 price, the design is a bit ergonomically unwieldy and, to our ears, the midrange response can be slightly strident around 1K, as confirmed by dedicated EQ testing. Although the soundstage is deeply expansive, we feel the LCD2 can't offer much more than the HE6 or the Sennheiser HD800. However, they do have a fun and full-toned bass response with more low-end heft than the others. This new headphone may suit certain listeners very nicely, but to us it didn't sound quite as organic and galvanizing as other cans in this group. No doubt, if their first offering is any indication of what's to come, expect great things from Audeze in the future.
Even though the Sennheiser HD800 is a standard dynamic driver design, we included it in these comparisons. The HD800 may not have the bass impact of the HE6 or the LCD2, but in our estimation the HD800 remains king for accurate tonal reproduction and transient precision. It is also unrivaled for a naturally pure acoustic tone. The HD800 does not sound overly analytical to us, just "real," as if you are in the recording studio during play-back.
All headphones were compared employing our high-power reference HeadRoom Balanced Max headphone amp in single-ended mode. Sources were Lossless files via Apple iPod and uncompressed CDs via our Wadia 861 Special Edition component CD player with our own Joe W. hot-rodded HeadRoom transport installed inside.