Alex Rosson and headphones are like two peas in a pod when it comes to this hobby and my exposure to planar magnetic dating back maybe 10 years. I remember speaking to both he and Sankar just before they launched the original LCD-2 almost 10 years ago. Boy did they grow, and fast!
One of my all-time favorite versions of the LCD-2 is still the pre-Fazor edition and it hangs here in our office to this day getting plenty of use. Since then we have reviewed various Audeze headphones right up to today’s Mobius and the LCDi4.
Meanwhile, Alex surprisingly left Audeze in 2015, heading to Shinola for a while before, in what seems like a bolt from the blue, officially announcing the RAD-0 just before CanJam Global’sCanJam Singapore 2019. More than that he decided to go there in person bringing a few units with him to allow us (and Jude!) to test them first hand with a kick-ass Matrix Element X balanced DAC/amp.
Since receiving one we have done an initial First Contact and we remained no less excited than before our initial impressions. This is a great planar headphone and it solves one of the big tuning issues I have had with a lot of other competing units – a balanced sounding treble performance.
The RAD-0 uses an open-back circumaural 66mm planar magnetic driver design with a proprietary array of 11 N52 magnets in a dual-sided configuration. That is a little bigger than the Abyss Diana Phi by 3mm and the excellent 50mm Final D8000 but much smaller than the 106mm driver inside the LCD-4. Mind you, driver size is no indication of capability given our reviews of all three.
Whilst the current first edition design is a double magnet build there may well be more variations in the diaphragm design on subsequent new releases based on my discussions with Alex.
The SPL rating is very welcome 98dB which does mean it shouldn’t pose too much of a demand on amps and you will not need a massive nuclear reactor to power them like the HE6 or the older LCD-2 first editions. This sits closer to the Empyrean and the Final D8000 for sensitivity and more efficient than the Abyss Diana Phi.
I will say this though; a good quality balanced 4-pin XLR cable will tease out the scaling potential of the RAD-0 more than the stock 3.5mm terminated cable.
Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I really like the RAD-0 design. It had a traditional rounded shape to it but that’s the background noise. The big focus is on those cool dyed cups designs which I am told can be done to spec or off the shelf. They present a funky, streetwise type feel to an otherwise tried and tested headphone form factor.
But even off the shelf, they are all completely unique and there will never be exact duplicates. The one we have here is a subtle blend of ambers and some blue and its not the loudest in their collection by a long shot.
The front grille is an aluminum plate with a nice Fibonacci-type pattern to it and the RAD logo right in the middle. It is more subtle than garish and not too heavy looking either. Pads and headbands are a protein leather with the pads a mix of velour and leather in a wedged finish. The gimbals are a solid aluminum in a matte black finish and offer plenty of lateral and vertical movement for fitting.
Cables & Connectors
I am told there will be an XLR option available soon but for now, the RAD-0 comes with a nylon-jacketed 1.8m 22AWG OFC cable terminated with a 3.5mm connector. This is a dual-entry system so the top of the cable is finished with dual-mono 3.5mm connectors and some solid but narrow alloy chrome finished barrels.
The cable is dead quiet, no perceptible microphonics that I can detect as well as being fairly tangle-free. I do wish it came with a quarter jack adaptor since I think these really do belong with a good desktop system. Even a 2.5mm or 4.4mm might have been better for changing to a balanced output on higher-powered DAP outputs such as the iBasso DX200 AMP1 MKII or the Lotoo PAW Gold Touch.
Comfort & Fit
The RAD-0 weighs in at 650g though it does look smaller than the LCD-4 and the Final D8000. For now, suffice to say it is not the lightest planar on the market but entirely in keeping with its double-magnet build. For example, the new Final D8000 is 523g and also uses a double magnet build and the LCD-4 tops out much higher at 735g. 650g sounds big but the design negates the feeling that this is too heavy to wear with comfort.
In fact, my enduring impression of the comfort level is still positive since receiving them a few months ago. A couple of reasons for that. The single headband design has a good level of protein leather-wrapped foam to dissipate pressure spots from any downward pressure. The thick plush wedged pads also mitigate the fairly sizeable sideways clamping force on the RAD-0.
So, overall this feels like a well-balanced headphone on my head given that the weight makes it one of the heaviest out there. It also does not have any of the little fitting quirks like the D8000 which tended to pull down on my ears after an hour or two. I actually sat with the RAD-0 on for about 2-3 hours on average before I felt like I needed a break and that was more to do with my chair comfort than the headphones.
Accessories & Packaging
Like Audeze the RAD-0 comes in a very tough and durable weather-sealed travel case. Perhaps this was something Alex brought in during his stint as CEO at Audeze. These are the type of cases I really appreciate for headphone protection, especially in dusty hot climes we have here. They make storage and transportation so much more bearable.
The new case is rock solid with some nice red accents on the handlebar and locking mechanisms. Inside, there is some excellent internal foam insulation designed for knocks and bumps. There is literally no way the RAD-0 will move with the new foam shaping.
There are also a few additional pockets inside the foam case for the cable and one that came empty. I asked Alex, “Hey what’s up with the empty one?” and he responded, “a little something to stick in your portable amp and DAP to carry around.”
Me personally, I will be throwing the supplied 3.5mm TRS cable into the additional pocket to leave room for an XLR cable since currently, the RAD-0 does not come with one. If you are putting an amp or DAP in the pocket you are talking HiBy R3 sized or one of the excellent but sadly discontinued Cypher Labs Piccolo amps. Yup, it is kind of small though I appreciate its potential usefulness.
What else could be in there? Maybe a soft cleaning cloth would be useful and if were up to me I would have a stock 4-PIN XLR in there with a set of adapter piggy-tail terminations for 6.35mm and 4.4mm.
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