Planar Magnetic Comparison – HE-500 vs LCD-2

Most headphones on the market use a “traditional” driver technology referred to as dynamic drivers. These are much the same as the speakers you see in your stereo system or car with a cone of some sort driven by a coil of wire inside a magnet structure. In the past, planar magnetic technology was a fringe product in the headphone world, but over recent years this technology that was once nearly abandoned has enjoyed a resurgence to create some of the finest headphones on the planet. I’m going to talk about 2 of them here…

Audeze LCD-2

SAM_0151-4The LCD-2 was first released around 2010 and marked the first headphone from Audeze and the first really well-known planar magnetic headphone of the current generation. The LCD-2 has since undergone multiple revisions to tweak and improve on the sound and comfort. My pair are a December 2013 model which were made shortly before the most recent upgrade known as the Fazor. For the sake of comparisons to your tastes in music, the December 2013 version of the LCD-2 brings more treble energy and detail than its predecessors, but it’s still a warm / smooth sounding headphone compared with similarities to the HD650 (although I believe the LCD-2 is noticeably better than the HD650).

To read the rest of this review, please head over to the new Passion for Sound site – it’s sexier and will have more great content coming very soon!

8 comments on “Planar Magnetic Comparison – HE-500 vs LCD-2

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  2. Today I went to a local Hi-Fi shop and I was in for a double-shocker.

    First all, I tried the Grado GS1000 (Statement Series, at 1000$ a pop). I couldn’t hear any palpable difference vs my 200 bucks SR225i. Either powered by the FiiO X3, or by their professional equipment (Heed amplifier, which didn’t feel that very impressive to me compared to the X3 + FiiO E12).

    But my second shocker came in after sampling the Audeze LCD-2: it simply humbles the Grados, whether SR225i or GS1000. The sound output was heavenly. Prior to this I held the Grados to high esteem (and maybe they do hold their own with some equipment and in certain ranges), but it felt that the Audeze was in a league of its own.

    Unfortunately I’m not in for a 1000$ shopping spree, and I couldn’t find any LCD-2 on Ebay at anything close to reasonable. So what would you suggest as lower-cost planar magnetic alternative? From what I see FiiO hasn’t (yet) launched any headphones of their own. The Hifiman HE-500s can still be bought on Ebay, but at $600 still feel quite pricey. And the HE-560 is, well, expensive. The HE-400 are more in the affordable zone, but how well do they actually fare?

    • Unfortunately I can’t comment on the HE-400s, but I know from others that they have very enjoyable bass, but are not as neutral sounding as the LCD-2s or HE-500s. I have some Mad Dogs coming this week that might be a good option if you’re OK with closed headphones. I’ll post a review soon.

      I can highly recommend looking for secondhand LCD-2s on the Head-Fi forums ( as they come up from time to time at around $700-$900 and are worth every cent!

      • In the review you mention about the HE-500 that “You like your treble as much or more than your bass”. Do you suggest that the HE-500 diverge too much from “realism” when reproducing sound?

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  4. Thank you for such an awesome and detailed review without excessive article length. I am in the market for a planer headphone this winter and both of these were my top “rookie” choices. I will be investing in a decent headphone amp too. Probably 500 bucks or so. Any suggestions?

    • Hi James,
      For $500 there are some great options out there, but depending on where you’re located might change my recommendations. If you’re in the US, some of the Schiit amps get good reviews with the planars. If you’re in Australia, you might want to look at some of the options from or – just make sure whatever you buy has plenty of power (around 600mW to 1W minimum). Of course, if you’re able to build your own, it’s very hard to be the Bottlehead S.E.X. amplifier for bang for buck performance – it’s what I use with my LCD2s because it’s just a match made in heaven!
      Good luck deciding!!

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