Written by @Chrono
The LCD-X , which is available at $1199 as part of a “Creator Package” or $1699 in its “Premium” bundle, is a full-size, LCD-series, planar-magnetic headphone from Audeze that was designed for professional, mastering engineer use and for high-end listening.
Originally, this was a headphone that I meant to review a few months ago. However, as rumors started going around that there would be significant pad revisions and other changes to the LCD-X and other Audeze headphones, I decided to hold off on covering the LCD-X until I was able to get my hands on one of the newer models.
In this article I’ll primarily be sharing my personal listening experience with the 2021 LCD-X, which is identifiable by its serial number being greater than 7527600. If you would like to learn more specifically about the changes made by Audeze in the 2021 LCD-series, I highly encourage you to check out Resolve’s Video on The Headphone Show comparing the current LCD-X, and LCD-XC to prior versions.
Audeze LCD-X - Product Summary
- Reasons to buy
- Outstanding technical performance
- Generally pleasant tuning
- Low THD and can handle lots of EQ
- Reasons not to buy
- On the heavy and bulky side
- Some minor tonality quirks in the upper mids and treble
|Get the Audeze LCD-X for the best available price at headphones.com.|
Sources and Music Used in Listening Tests
The Amplifier/DACs used in this review were the SPL Phonitor XE (with built-in DAC), Grace Design SDAC + A90 , and the JDS Labs Element II connected via USB to my desktop computer. For the listening tests I used music from a wide variety of genres including Rock, Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Hip-Hop, and latin. I played tracks from my own FLAC library as well as from Qobuz streaming service played via Roon (exclusive mode).
Accessories included with the LCD-X will vary depending on which bundle you opt for. With the $1199 creator’s package, you’ll be receiving a 1.9m ¼” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR connector cable, as well as an “economy” travel case. On the other hand, if you go with the premium bundle, you’ll get the same cable mentioned earlier, but you’ll also receive a 4-pin, balanced version of the same cable alongside a ¼” to 3.5mm adapter, and a more robust, professional travel case.
Regardless of which package you choose, I think that they each include a very good selection of accessories that will give you just about all you need to get going and to keep your headphones safe. Additionally, I have to mention that the included stock cables from Audeze are the best I’ve seen on any headphone; they feel premium, are tangle-free, are of comfortable length, and are non-microphonic--you won’t be having to replace these any time soon.
Build & Comfort
As we’ve come to expect from LCD-series headphones, the build on the LCD-X is simply top-notch. The LCD-X is composed almost entirely out of metal, which gives it a dense, solid, sturdy feel that—when paired with its precise craftsmanship—really sets the standard for how high-end headphones should look and feel. It’s worth pointing out that, unlike other LCD-series headphones, it’s not using wooden rings; though I really do like the look of the black metal rings used instead, as they give the LCD-X a more professional, industrial look when compared with some of its peers—undoubtedly something you’ll appreciate if you like clean, matte-black aesthetics.
Comfort hasn’t always been a forté of Audeze’s full-size headphones, but I personally haven’t had any issues when wearing the LCD-X. At 612g, they’re still a very heavy headphone, and that will definitely be an issue for some users. However, in my experience I found that the suspension headband (which was introduced by Audeze back in 2018), and the new, better-compressing pads did a good job at evenly distributing the weight and keeping the headphones stable when wearing. Overall, I’d rate them as being very comfortable to wear, with only the individual user’s weight tolerance being the challenge they must overcome.
For its driver configuration, the LCD-X is still utilizing Audeze’s Ultra-thin Uniforce diaphragm alongside its usual 106mm planar-magnetic transducer. Now, one thing that has changed, however, is that whilst it still uses Audeze’s Fazor technology, it seems as though the arrangement of the Fazor waveguides has been updated. How or if this actually affects the LCD-X’s acoustic performance, I can’t say, though it is something worth noting.
Just like the pre-update version I heard not too long ago, the LCD-X immediately enamoured me with its technical capabilities; It’s snappy, controlled, resolving, and even punchy. However what really impressed me this time around, was that its tonality was good, in fact, it was great! It’s still a touch warm, but gone was the shroud that veiled the mids on the LCD-X I tried a few months ago with this new edition instead presenting a more vivid, and realistic tonal balance.
The bass response on the LCD-X is excellent. For extension it delivers great performance, as it easily reaches down to 20hz with no roll-off to be heard. It’s adept at surfacing the rumble from the lowest of bass tones, and for me it just gives the bass region a depth that not even ultra high-end dynamic driver headphones I’ve tried--like the Focal Utopia--can reproduce. Now, this isn’t really a surprise as it’s a common trait amongst most planar-magnetic headphones, but the bass is really tight, and precise on the LCD-X. Needless to say, then, the LCD-X is truly outstanding when it comes to reproducing the nuance and texture of low tones.
The only comment I have, really, is that under 100hz, the LCD-X doesn’t have much of a bass shelf. If you are a fan of warmer low-ends, or just want your subbass to have that bit more presence, then you might be left wanting when listening to the LCD-X. That being said, though, this will not be an issue if you are ok with using EQ to add a bass shelf, or if your DAC/AMP have a bass boost toggle.
The midrange is undoubtedly where this LCD-X deviates the most from my previous experiences with not just older revisions of the LCD-X, but just other full-size LCD-series headphones in general. Whilst prior headphones from this range I’ve tried have had unusually dark midranges, and more specifically low, upper-midrange harmonic presence, that is not the case with this revised LCD-X.
It’s still not perfect, as there is a mild recession at around 4Khz that softens up or slightly takes some of the bit away from things like vocals or electric guitars, but it is by far the most organic and authentic-sounding midrange I’ve heard in a full-size LCD-series headphone. Even when compared to other headphones around this price range, like the Focal Clear , or HD800S , the LCD-X now holds its own with its stock tuning for the mids; it really is very good, and I’m happy to see the change.
This version of the LCD-X has what is probably one of my favorite treble responses. It leans, perhaps, ever-so-slightly in the warmer side for treble ranges, but it doesn’t sacrifice any of the intricate overtones that I expect to hear, whilst delivering a really smooth response that is never fatiguing. Additionally, it has exceptional upper treble extension, with very good air qualities above 10Khz that lend vocals a natural glisten, and cymbals an accurate splash and sizzle.
For detail retrieval, the LCD-X delivers top-tier performance. Throughout the entire frequency range, it conveys a well-textured, stable image of the music. This was always the case with the LCD-X, but the tuning on previous versions really didn’t let this resolving quality shine, since it masked the headphone’s capabilities. Now that it has a much more balanced stock tuning, though, it really shows just how well this headphone performs when it comes to presenting all the tonal intricacies in music--matching the internal resolution of headphones like the HD800S and Arya whilst getting dangerously close to something like my Vérité Closed at a much lower price.
Soundstage, Imaging, and Layering
Whilst it’s not the most impressive I’ve heard (it’s not really on the same plane as the HD800S or Arya, in this regard), the LCD-X does have a very good and spacious soundstage presentation. Its soundstage width it’s about on par with the DT1990 Pro, and it does convey a good sense of distance. For Imaging I’m not usually a fan of the way planar-magnetic headphones image, but I actually found the LCD-X to be quite precise in it’s left-right localization as it gave no problems discerning the directionality of sound when, for example, playing FPS games online. Then, as for its layering, it performs really well, with all vocal and instrument lines being distinct from each other and allowing you “peer” into the music.
Dynamics is where, again, the LCD-X (and most full-size LCD-series headphones I’ve tried, really) performs quite a bit differently from other planar-magnetic headphones I’ve listened to because it actually delivers a good sense of punch and slam. Low tones are accompanied by a satisfying impact, whilst the upper register reproduces the tactility of things like the pluck of acoustic guitar strings or the strike of a snare drum.
As I’ve mentioned previously and in other reviews I’ve written, my best experiences with Audeze headphones have usually been after using some EQ. However, I don’t really feel like that’s necessary with this revised LCD-X because it’s tuning out-of-the-box is very good. That being said, though, I am an EQ enthusiast, and I always like to add some EQ just to bring the headphones a little bit closer to my preference. If you’d like to try out my preset, these are the settings I used:
- Low Shelf at 80hz, +3dB Q of 0.7
- Peak at 4000hz, +2dB Q of 1.41
Well, at this point it’s probably no surprise, but I’m sincerely impressed with what Audeze has done with the LCD-X. For those of us who didn’t shy away from EQ, the LCD-X was already a very good headphone since it offered exceptional technical performance at a much lower price than its competitors. With this revision, though, Audeze has really taken the LCD-X to the next level with what I think is one of the most enjoyable, and comfortable stock tunings in a high-end headphone.
If the weight is something you don’t mind, then I highly encourage you to check out the LCD-X. At the price of $1199 for the creator’s package, it’s an unbelievable and nearly unparalleled value in the high-end personal audio market. Audeze really nailed it with this update to the LCD-X, and I look forward to listening to similar benefits on their other full-size LCD headphones.