Audeze’s latest headphones make Manny Marroquin’s signature sound more affordable than ever.
As Head of Professional Products at Audeze, producer Manny Marroquin’s role has extended well beyond simply lending his name. His signature MM‑500 open‑backed headphones built on the strengths of existing Audeze models — superb dynamics, endless bass response, low distortion — whilst trimming the size and weight that their planar magnetic design would usually entail. They are also voiced differently from Audeze’s LCD models, with a more prominent upper midrange.
Another of the celebrated mix engineer’s goals was to bring Audeze’s technology to a wider audience, but, at not far short of £$2000, the MM‑500 isn’t exactly a budget model. It turns out, though, that it was only the first step along this particular road. The second Manny Marroquin model retails at less than one quarter of that price.
A sticker proudly advertises that the MM‑100 is manufactured in the USA, and there are no obvious corners cut in build quality. Whereas the MM‑500 comes with a hardcase, the MM‑100 includes only a soft bag, and in place of the MM‑500’s Y‑shaped cable, the MM‑100 has a more conventional cord that connects to the phones using a mini‑jack. Both earcups have jack sockets, so this can be plugged into either side at your convenience. The other end of the cable terminates in a fixed quarter‑inch jack, with no mini‑jack adaptor supplied.
Colour and connectors aside, the earcups seem identical with those in the MM‑500, and they are mounted on similar Y‑shaped metal yokes, permitting both up/down and forward/aft rotation. However, the system for adjusting their height has been simplified. The effective length of the inner part of the headband can be varied by selecting which of the three pairs of holes at either end should mate with the pegs on the outer part. It’s a more basic version of the arrangement used in HEDD Audio’s HEDDphone TWO, and in both cases, what looks on paper like a rather limited set of stepped positions offers plenty of adjustment in practice. All of these changes shave off another 20 grams compared with the MM‑500, bringing the weight down to a very comfortable 475g.
They’re open, clear, detailed and punchy...
Many of the MM‑100’s specs are identical to those of the MM‑500, thanks to the use of a very similar 90mm planar magnetic driver. Frequency response is quoted as 20Hz to 25kHz, as against the MM‑500’s 5Hz to 45kHz, but since no tolerances are quoted, there’s not much that can be inferred about how they sound. Both models present an 18Ω impedance, and are specified for less than 0.1% THD at 1kHz when producing 100dB SPL. On paper, the MM‑100 is 2dB less sensitive than the MM‑500, though in my tests they seemed very close in this respect.
The biggest difference in specified performance between the two models concerns maximum SPL, which is 120dB for the MM‑100 and 130dB for the MM‑500. Even 120dBSPL is less a valid monitoring level and more a form of self‑harm, so if this is a significant issue for you, you might want to rethink your life choices.
The most important thing, of course, is how they sound, and to my ears the MM‑100 get impressively close to the subjective performance of the MM‑500. That means they’re open, clear, detailed and punchy, with a subtly forward upper midrange; if they were a pair of loudspeakers, you might say they have a slightly ‘American’ voicing. On some material, the MM‑100 and MM‑500 sounded pretty much indistinguishable. Where I could hear a difference, I felt that the latter were smoother in the 3kHz area, and perhaps a little richer below 250Hz or so. But they are close enough that someone used to mixing on the MM‑500 could pick up a pair of MM‑100 and carry on where they’d left off, without it affecting their judgement.
...the MM‑100s deliver at least 90 percent of the sound of the MM‑500s, for less than 25 percent of the cost...
In short, then, the MM‑100s deliver at least 90 percent of the sound of the MM‑500s, for less than 25 percent of the cost, which makes them a pretty compelling proposition. It also brings them into direct competiition with some popular moving‑coil models. If you’re considering the likes of the beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, Sony MDR‑MV1, Neumann NDH 30 or Sennheiser HD660S2 headphones, you’ll regret not auditioning the MM‑100 too.
The MM‑100s bring Audeze’s and Manny Marroquin’s signature sound to the masses at an extremely competitive price.