Audeze LCD-X Review: Overview
Audeze LCD-X (2021 Version)
(out of 5)
- Impedance: 20 Ω
- Drivers: Planar Magnetic, Ultra-thin Uniforce with Fazor Waveguide Technology
- Frequency range: 10 Hz – 50 kHz
- Sensitivity: 103 dB
- Weight: 612 grams
- Cable length: 1.9 meters (straight)
- Tuned very well, require no EQ for mixing
- Superb transient response
- Full, clear bass response
- Very easy to drive
- Premium build quality
- Some might find that the climactic moments in tracks are still a bit more exciting with good moving-coil drivers
Audeze got it right this time. With a well-tuned frequency response, lightning-fast transient response, and expert dynamic control, these cans are a joy to listen to and can be trusted for critical listening.
Introducing the Audeze LCD-X
The Audeze LCD-X are part of the company’s reference series headphones advertised to have ‘neutral, accurate’ drivers that allow you to mix and master without the need for expensive monitors and acoustically treated rooms.
After some sad reports on the initial release of these headphones, the company made some major retuning adjustments, revamped the ergonomics, removed a few magnets, and dropped the overall weight of the headphones in their 2021 update of the LCD-X.
For this review, we thoroughly tested the 2021 version and carefully considered how they hold up to the competition. See here for all of our reviews of headphones, microphones, and other audio gear.
Who are the Audeze LCD-X Headphones for?
These headphones are for audiophiles, enthusiasts, and critical listeners.
We found these well-suited for mixing, mastering, and hi-fi listening in all genres of music.
They have an open-back design which allows the sound to travel past the earcup, resulting in a more natural resonance.
Who are the Audeze LCD-X Headphones NOT for?
Due to an open-back design, the Audeze LCD-X headphones are NOT suited for anyone in the market for a pair of headphones with good sound isolation or active noise-canceling.
The open-back design allows sound in and out. In noisy environments or for applications where you cannot tolerate sound leakage (such as tracking), these are not your cans.
Alternatives to the Audeze LCD-X
Hifiman Arya Stealth
Close competitors to the LCD-X. Excellent technically, with neutral, detailed response.
Focal Clear MG
Dynamic driver headphones that deliver an energetic, exciting listen. Beloved by audiophiles.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Some of our favorite reference cans. Detail, Punch, and the best soundstage.
Audeze LCD-2 Classic
The most affordable of the LCD line. Tuning is not as neutral as the LCD-X
What’s in the Box?
- Audeze LCD-X Headphones
- Hardshell, lockable case
- Braided 1.9-meter 1/4-inch to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable
The sturdy headphones are constructed primarily of metal, pleather, and leather, weighing in at 612 grams.
With the entire Audeze LCD line, from the most affordable LCD-2 Classics up to the LCD-5, you’re getting the same premium build quality. In fact, these are the same exact build as the LCD-2 Classics, the only difference being the leather earpads have a glossy finish on the LCD-X while the LCD-2 Classics have a matte finish.
That includes the accessories as well. Unlike many of the Hifiman stock cables, the stock cables for the Audeze headphones are premium quality, shielded, non-microphonic, and tangle resistant.
The plush pleather earcups are nearly two inches thick, separating the driver a nice distance away from your ear. This distance gives a nice natural boost to the bass frequencies.
Although the cups are perfect circles, they are big enough not to touch any of the outer edges of my (medium-to-large size) ears.
The LCD-X have my preferred headband build. It is a leather headband (they also have a no-leather version) with a dual-layer weight-dispersing design.
Audeze’s ‘fazor waveguide technology’ along with more magnets have added a bit of weight compared to the LCD-2 Classic. With this headband design, however, you barely feel the 612 grams on your head.
The large earpads make a fantastic seal with my head. Their large size should make them more likely to seal to most heads and ears. The clamping force of the headband gives enough pressure for a good seal and the giant earpads absorb any excess pressure.
On the whole, they are a very comfortable set of headphones and can be worn for long sessions. As they are essentially tight-sealing pleather ear muffs, they could get a bit warm in the summer.
These are some of the most efficient headphones in the LCD line. They require very little power to drive. Audeze lists the impedance of these headphones at 20 Ω with 103 dB sensitivity.
The headphones work without an amp but battery-powered sound sources are not recommended. For best results, a dedicated amplifier or an audio interface with an integrated amp is recommended.
These headphones scale well with the source equipment used. For example, we tried them with an SMSL SP200 amp, a Rupert Neve RNHP amp, and a Benchmark AHB2 amp. The results were progressively more impressive.
Audeze LCD-X Frequency Response Graph
What is immediately apparent on first listen to these is a relatively balanced, natural-sounding frequency response. The transient response is as fast as you could ever want or imagine. And they have dynamic punch (especially noticeable in the bass) that is unusual for planar magnetic drivers.
For critical listening, there is some warmth in the upper mids and treble regions (3.5-5 kHz and marginally at 7-8 kHz) to be aware of. On the whole, this warmth is pleasing to the ears and not too problematic for mixing purposes.
These could definitely be trusted for mixing and EQ adjustments wouldn’t be necessary.
The high frequencies of the LCD-X headphones are on the warm side with a lot of air at the very top. They have a slight attenuation around 7-8 kHz that is very friendly to sibilant ’S’ sounds and cymbals that maybe weren’t recorded so well.
The midrange in the previous versions of these headphones (models with serial numbers below 7527600 released before 2021) and in the LCD-2 Classics required a bit of EQ to correct a strange dip in the upper mids.
Thankfully, the 2021 release of the LCD-X has no such problems. Overall the mids have a pleasing natural sound. Electric guitars and vocals are smoothed out a bit in the 3.5-5 kHz range, taking the harsher edges off.
When used for critical listening, this is the frequency range to be aware of with the LCD-X. Personally, I would add a slight EQ boost from 3.5-5 kHz to keep my ears honest in this range.
The bass is an area where these headphones show their stuff. There is a dynamic punch that shows its face in the bass that is unlike anything you hear in standard dynamic driver headphones.
And as you turn up the volume, or if you give them a little sub-bass shelf boost in EQ, the bass doesn’t overwhelm you, it just becomes more clear.
Another area where these outdo the competition is in their subtle, precise gradations of quieter dynamics.
It is absolutely exceptional how well these quiet details are brought out. For example, I can hear particulars like a violist resting the bow on the strings or the clicking of the harpsichord as the player releases her fingers from the keyboard.
In Wilco’s Remember Our Mountain Bed, every pluck of the acoustic guitar solo can be felt.
The capacity of the drivers to deliver this kind of subtlety in the dynamics also means that the different layers in tracks are more discernable. Each layer has a different decibel level, but with the LCD-X you can hear different weights as well.
On the subject of dynamic punch, these have it more than any other planar magnetic headphones in their class. It’s a unique kind of punch, unlike the slam you get from dynamic drivers.
That said, for climactic moments in music, these still don’t blow your socks off as good dynamic drivers do.
For most of us, our ears are accustomed to hearing moving coils in all the amplified sound we hear in speakers and most headphones. Perhaps, for this reason, the climaxes lack something with planar magnetic drivers.
Soundstage and Imaging
The imaging out of the box is very much lateral left and right without much of a center channel in front of the listener. My ears adjust to this image quite quickly but I found it a bit odd at first.
These are technically more capable of making adjustments to the soundstage than most of their rivals. Using the Audeze Reveal + plugin, it is possible to give these headphones a wider or tighter soundstage as you see fit.
Without any adjustments, the LCD-X have a relatively compact soundstage, not quite the size of something like the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro.
Audeze has convinced me this time. The price tag is high for these, but after testing these out extensively, I feel like I need to find a way to add these to my personal studio.
They tick all the boxes. For hi-fi listening, these bring full bass, fantastic resolution, and an overall satisfying listen. With their excellent tuning, they can be trusted for mixing. Additionally, they bring new tools to mixing and mastering with what they can accomplish technically: layering detail, micro-dynamics, and superb transient response.
How We Tested the Audeze LCD-X
As a reminder, we test everything on this site ourselves.
These headphones were tested under controlled conditions in a sound-treated room and also in a noisy household environment.
Don’t believe any ‘objective’ measurements you see about headphones! The shape of your head and ears alone will have a significant effect on frequency response and other factors. Therefore, all headphone reviews are subjective, this one being no exception.
Our comparisons for the Audeze LCD-X headphones were limited primarily to other open-back planar magnetic and dynamic driver headphones in the same class. Although we did directly compare a few closed-back and consumer headphones just to keep our ears honest.
In addition to testing these headphones on music of all styles, we conduct extensive clinical tests on frequency response, dynamic range, driver matching, harmonic distortion, binaural tests, wiring, and stereo imaging.
Our rating assumes that you value sound quality above all other factors, followed by comfort/build, then price.
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