Audeze LCD-X - Open-Back, Planar Magnetic, Headphone Review

Review written by Tyler Manuel (@DarthPool)

Introduction

I want to thank The Headphone Community and Headphone.com/Headphones.com for the opportunity to preview/review the Audeze LCD-X from their Community Preview Program. The forum and its members provide an open dialogue about our hobby, that is both accepting of its members as individuals on different audio paths, and of our unique experiences and what that brings to the conversation. Additionally, it is a great place to have good dialogue, and learn you some knowledge, from the fine folks there.

A little about me, I’m a Dad, husband, gamer, hobbyist, collector…. I like things, you could say. I will tend to write these reviews/previews from my perspective as a hobbyist and do not really dive too much into the technical, and more into how it feels for me personally, as a piece of gear.

I had a desire to get my ears “in” some Audeze planars and requested the Audeze LCD-X when it became available from the Preview Program. I wanted to get a better understanding of the Audeze “house” sound as they say. I will start off with saying I was not expecting what the LCD-X provided though, I should have done some homework on them. The sound that comes out from them is unique, from what I recall hearing in other LCD series (LCD-2/C). So, let us get into it, shall we?

The Spectacle…no that isn’t right… The Specs!!!

First off, these things are built like tanks…and they feel like it! Both heavy and solid in the hand. Made to withstand some real-world use in studios is how I would describe it, aka they can take a beating and keep on ticking. Now I wouldn’t go throwing them around or anything but, I think that based on how these are being marketed to audio engineers, for years of use with its industrial design, is key in how one should probably approach these.

They are built of almost entirely of metal, with a Steel and leather suspension headband. With your choice of leather or leather-free earpads.

These are HEAVY! Coming in at 612g, and if you have a sensitivity to that sort of thing be aware of it. Now the headband and earpads do a very good job at taking some of that weight and spreading it out, they are still heavy.

Direct Specs from Audeze in regards to the LCD-X:

Style

Over-ear, open-back

Transducer type

Planar magnetic

Magnetic structure

Proprietary magnet array

Phase management

FAZOR

Magnet type

Neodymium N50

Diaphragm type

Ultra-thin

Transducer size

106 mm

Maximum power handling

5W RMS

Maximum SPL

>130dB

Frequency response

10Hz – 50kHz

THD

<0.1% @ 100dB

Impedance

20 ohms

Sensitivity

103dB/1mw (at Drum Reference Point)

Minimum power requirement

>100mW

Recommended power level

>250mW

 

Tackle used to listen

RME ADI-2 DAC, SPL Phonitor XE, Bottlehead Crack 1.1 and Cayin HA-1A MKII.

I also compared them directly against the Focal Clear, HD800(SDRmod, and Dekoni hybrid pads). I spent most of the time exclusively with just listening to the LCD-X and only briefly did comparisons between the other headphones. It took me a while to acclimate to the LCD-X as I have had brain burn in pretty hard with the Focal Elegia and Clears as my primary listening headphones over the past couple months.

Music was a mix of Spotify Premium, Qobuz studio, and FLAC files. I will say I tend to bounce around a lot with my music and don’t have one primary genre but will go through trends in my preference. But when comparing against other headphones I’ll pick a track and go over it, multiple times with each headphone to try and pick out the differences in performance, at least at my ability to do so. If you are curious to listen to some of the tracks, I use you can visit my Spotify playlist that I try and keep updated with new tracks as I find them here:

Music for Forum.Headphones, a playlist by ninjan3rd on Spotify

How a thing feels in the hand, aka the build of a thing

Like I mentioned above, these are built like tanks, all metal, and industrial feeling. Very solid in the hand and heavy on the head.

The materials even feel industrial, well except for the pads, which are nice leather pads with a nice softness to them. A curious thing I found is that the pads when cold can be stiff, but after collecting some body heat they become very supple and comfortable.

The only issues I’ve had with these in the build area:

  • They are heavy and can get a little tiresome after being on your head for a bit. Not the end of the world but something to be aware of if one is sensitive to such things.
  • The adjustments “slip” and will drop down a notch or two on the adjustment, and cause a metallic twang when listening to music. It can be rather irritating to maintain my preferred settings on the notches… (a good thing a fellow forum member alerted me to not trying to fix this as it would void any warranty, rather silly as this was quite an irritating thing, and would rear its ugly head during every listening session).
  • Driver flex/Membrane flex? So due to the seal being pretty good, when the cups would slip a notch, or I had to adjust the headphone, I would get a loud “wobble” sound, or suction type feeling from the membrane. Now, this wasn’t an issue during normal use and only occurred when adjusting the headphones on my head. I think it is the pressure pushing against the membrane and causing the sound.

Now, these are not deal breakers and I’m sure if I contacted Audeze they would work with me on getting the notch issue resolved. The other issues I think are just niggles and are things to just be aware of but aren’t true “issues”.


Side note: Audeze in my experience has one of the better customers supports I’ve experienced for what it is worth.

What is deployed in the box to the customer

Well, the version I received is the baseline model without the travel box. So you get the SE cable and … a USB with a user guide PDF and a signed card of authenticity along with the headphones. That is it, folks, nothing else to see here let’s move it along!

Comfort

I touched on this earlier, but these are heavy and can be a factor in comfort for some. But that being said they are comfortable, pads feel nice against the head, and the headband spreads the weight without any hotspots for me at least.

I don’t think these are anything to write home about in the comfort department though, nor are there any glaring issues with them outside of the weight.

I wasn’t blown away nor was I disappointed in the comfort department…NEXT!

Sound

Here is where I had to adjust my brain and ears, I was expecting a V-shaped fun headphone… I got a neutral extremely detailed headphone…I wasn’t ready for it. I was actually mildly disappointed initially, but once I got acclimated to what was being put on display, I actually appreciated what was done with these more.

They more or less just get out of the way of the music, which is what they were designed for. Detailed, immersive, neutral, and accurate.

Dynamics and Detail Retrieval

I found these to compete very well in this department, very discernable transitions, from quiet to loud dynamics. With impressive detail presentation, I would put these up against other mid-top range headphones and expect many to prefer these. They don’t wow with it, but they are accurate.

Imaging and Stage

I wouldn’t call these “wide” by any stretch but I also don’t feel claustrophobic while listening to them. I would say a mid-level stage, better than the Focal Clears, but not as good as say the HD800.

Imaging is good but also not something that will wow most people that have experienced better imaging. Coming from a lower end headphone these can easily be given a wow factor though. I would say they put sounds where they belong, but won’t be overly holographic in the presentation.

I listened to Leon Bridges “Beyond” live, and could pick out the individual instruments, crowd and general location of them. It felt like the track was playing at a local fair stage and less so a stadium as far as staging.

11:11 by Rodrigo y Gabriela live in France, the stage was very intimate until the crowd kicked in, and you get the larger stage. Otherwise feels more intimate which honestly is how I would expect it to be with this type of music. I like the way the imaging comes across in this track.

Sound Summary

I would put these as a great neutral headphone, they just work and get out of the way of the music. They aren’t tone deaf, nor bass heavy. I Could easily recommend these as a quality everyday listening headphone, they don’t pierce with the treble, nor do they have any particularly glaring issue with any of the Highs, Mids, or Lows.
They present well and I couldn’t find any specific fault with them overall. Which is kind of the problem, well not having a fault, but more in that they didn’t have anything that gave me a “wow” moment listening to them. They are kind of the “Just right” headphones. For me, this means they are kind of…well for lack of better words…boring.
They get it right, but for me, they just don’t excite me. I think the reason is due to having other headphones on hand that do what they do, but for me with just slightly better oomph.

Comparisons

Focal Clears vs the LCD-X, this is where I think the LCD-X falls short for me, but not necessarily in a bad way, they just aren’t my preference. The LCD-X is very comparable to the Focal Clears, and probably if I didn’t have the Clears on hand the LCD-X would be my daily driver headphone. The difference is the Clears just

  1. Are more comfortable, and have a nicer quality feel to them with way more bang for the buck (extra cables, carry case is very quality)
  2. Have a “je ne sais quoi” about them, I find myself automatically grabbing the Clears over the LCD-X, and I have to stop myself and grab the LCD-X.

Overall if I’m honest they both are very close in Sound/tone/detail/imaging/ etc. But the Clears just ever so much beat the LCD-X for me, which is interesting as it is comparing a dynamic driver vs a Planar. Also, YMMV as we are all different, and this is just my take on it.

HD800(SDR mod, Dekoni hybrid pads) vs the LCD-X is unfair, plain and simple, as the HD800 is an imaging and staging beast, and that alone will give you such a wow factor that you can get lost in listening and forget the LCD-X and it becomes an unfair fight. But once you start A/B testing they do get close in other departments but overall the HD800 beats the LCD-X for me again…but full disclosure I am an HD800 sound signature fan, so this is kind of an unfair fight.

Sum of a thing

Overall, I find the LCD-X a fun neutral listen. It gets everything just right in the sound department, but at the cost for me, at least, of being boring, and not excelling at any one of them. It is a Jack of all headphone and for that reason alone would be high praise and recommendation. I threw all of my eclectic music likes at it and I wasn’t disappointed in any of them.

If you are looking for a great catch-all headphone this, in my opinion, is one of the better ones out there. I just personally have, other headphones on hand that for me, make the LCD-X redundant or unnecessary.

Taking myself out of the equation (to some degree) I would put these as an easy recommendation for anyone that isn’t looking to have multiple headphones on hand and wants to just have one or two really great headphones that can do it all.

I think Audeze did a tremendous job getting these to the sound signature that they are and when you take into account who the target market is; studio types, or sound engineering plus enthusiasts, and it becomes very apparent how good these are. They encompass a lot of different groups and get it right. They deserve the praise that they get on the internet.

- Tyler Manuel (@DarthPool)

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