Audeze is a well-known company in the headphones world. Today I will test one of their’s best models in a new Audeze LCD-X Review article.
Audeze LCD-X appeared on the world market in 2009. It is worth noting that Audeze LLC is a strictly American company (USA) – it is located in Fountain Valley, California. The word “Audeze” is the phonetic spelling of the English word “Oddysey”. The Odyssey is one of the Greek myths, later adapted by Homer into the epic of the same title. It describes Odysseus’ long and convoluted journey home to Ithaca after the end of the Trojan War.
Coming back to the topic – Audeze was founded in 2009 by headphone enthusiasts – today the crew consists of a dozen or so people. All design and technical work is carried out in California, and the production and assembly of the headphones are done manually – also on-site. The first models were LCD-1, presented in 2009 by Alexander Rosson and Sankar Thiagasamudram at an industry exhibition. In 2010, the LCD-2 debuted (with a shell finish in rosewood or bamboo), and then the LCD-3; the latest are LCD-XC (closed type) and LCD-X (open type). Importantly, in addition to headphones, Audeze also maintains all replacement and tuning elements for all headphones models. Hence, there are accessories such as headphone cables, adapters, earcups, pads, screws, and headphone cleaners. As you can see, the company has a highly professional approach to business and customers. full service.
- 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 Uniforce™
- Transducer size: 106 mm
- Maximum SPL: >130dB
- Frequency response: 10Hz – 50kHz
- THD: <0.1% @ 100 dB SPL
- Sensitivity: 103 dB/1mW (at Drum Reference Point)
- Impedance: 20 ohms
- Max power handling: 5W RMS
- Min recommended power: > 100mW
- Recommended power level: >250mW
- Cable: 1.9m (6.2ft) length, Single-ended 1/4″ (6.3mm) termination
- Wire material: 20 AWG high-purity OCC audio-grade copper
- Weight: 612g
You can download the manual here->Audeze LCD-X Manual
Planar Magnetic Headphones – The Principle of Operation
Magnetoelectric or magnetostatic headphones are also called planar (planar means flat) – they can also be called magneto planar, but this is a name reserved by Magnepan (by the way, the wealth of synonyms to describe only one type of headphones is amazing). The “ortho-dynamic” formula, on the other hand, was created by Yamaha in 1976 to describe its planar headphones; it is a pure marketing name, which was later adopted on the market for a whole group of magnetoelectric headphones. The term isodynamic headphones refers to the phrase “having equal force” and is derived from the zones of even distribution of magnetic force in the driver where the electrical wires are embedded. The most optimal name is planar (i.e. flat) magnetic headphones.
Planar magnetic headphones are in fact something between dynamic and electrostatic headphones because they have common features with both – you can say that they are hybrids. As with traditional dynamic headphones, planar headphones use a magnetic field around the driver that drives the diaphragms, which are excited by an electrical current. On the other hand, just like in electrostatic headphones, the driver of isodynamic headphones is a sheet of thin flexible foil, which vibrates and produces acoustic waves – however, this foil (unlike electrostatics) has embedded very thin, flat electrical wires.
General Impressions and Construction
The headphones are delivered in a large cardboard box, in which there is a large transport trunk made of black, hard plastic with the Audeze logo. Inside, among a finely cut gray sponge in the shape of a shell and a headband, the LCD-X is placed. On them lies a letter from Audeze sealed with a golden round sticker – the company thanks you for buying the headphones, and assures you that it has taken the greatest care to ensure that the customer is 100% satisfied. In the envelope, there is also a user manual, warranty and … two stickers. The set (apart from the headphones themselves) also includes two high-quality headphone cables: the first ended with a 6.3 mm jack plug, and the second with an XLR plug. Both, on the other hand, have mini-XLR plugs that plug into sockets in the earcups. The set also includes an adapter large jack of 6.3 mm to 3.5 mm.
The LCD-X is visually very different from other branded headphones. And this is because it is the only copy in the offer, for which no wood was used to build the shells. Yes, wood is ecological, but it may (but does not have to) give the optical impression of heaviness or sometimes even a DIY product. The LCD-X is different – the shells are made of black anodized aluminum, from which the openwork overlays on the outer part of the shells are formed. This openwork overlay is cut as if with the capital letter “A”, which is a kind of Audeze logo integrated into the structural element. It looks fascinating. The aluminum grills are screwed to the shell with four screws. Inside, there are thin foils of the ultra-thin film stretched with large magnets – specially developed for this model to improve the speed and accuracy of vibrations. By the way, it is worth noting that the LCD-X has a higher efficiency than the other models, as much as 103 dB (LCD-2 and LCD-3 – 93 dB each).
The metal headband is trimmed with soft (natural) leather, just like the pads. These are thick, formed in the shape of wedges – from front to back increasing the thickness. This procedure allows the headphones to fit more precisely on the bones of the skull around the ears, which provides greater comfort. Headphone cables are connected to the ear cups via mini-XLR sockets.
In general, the design, the quality of the materials used, and the precise and meticulous assembly are of the highest order. It’s premium class. The headphones look very good – in my opinion, they are just nice.
The ergonomics of Planar magnetic headphones is usually their biggest flaw because they are heavier than dynamic ones – due to the need to place massive magnets in the earcups. The Audeze LCD-X has a lot of weight, as much as 600 grams, so there is no need to hide it – they are heavy. For example, the dynamic Sennheiser HD650 has only 260 grams, which is more than two times less, and the Beyerdynamic DT880 – 295 (twice less). However, this is not a special problem, because the LCD-X has a properly shaped headband and pads. As I have already mentioned, the large, thick, and soft pads are cut like wedges, so they gently sit on the bones of the skull around the auricles (they are completely contained in the pads). The second point of support is a headband trimmed with soft leather with cushions. The pressure forces of the headphones are therefore evenly distributed over the cranial vault and its two temporal fragments. In turn, the degree of pressure of the pads on the ears can be additionally adjusted by more or less deflection of the steel of the headband.
To sum up, Audeze is convenient and comfortable to use, although there are also more ergonomic headphones in the world. Without tiring the head and ears, you can listen to the LCD-X for up to 60 minutes – then a short break is recommended. In addition, thick leather pads warm the ears quite strongly – on hot days it can be severe.
As I wrote in the introduction – a music lover, who has dealt with modern planar magnetic headphones, may have great difficulties with re-adapting to the sound of classic dynamic ones. Because their ease of building a real listening space is much greater than those based on dynamic transducers. They also surpass them with the naturalness of the sound and the freedom and momentum of the sound, or excellent harmony. In short – the Audeze LCD-X has a sound unsurpassed by classic headphones (I will expand on this thesis in a moment). Or in other words – these are some of the best headphones I’ve ever heard. Perhaps their rival can be hybrid constructions from the Japanese company Final Audio Works, such as Pandora Hope or electrostatic (also Japanese) Stax, but not dynamic ones.
The latter may possibly surpass planar headphones in the category of selectivity, refined timbre or bass extension, as well as comfort of use (ergonomics), but I do not think that they can beat them in the area of vivid and saturated sound, freedom of sound, massiveness and naturalness of the transmission, and at the same time subtlety and harmony. The “sine qua non” condition is, of course, also the optimal headphone amplifier. It is likely that I am a bit exalted, but as you can probably guess – the Audeze LCD-X made an excellent listening experience for me
Audeze LCD-X is, above all, a perfect sense of sound tangibility, mass, and power. The music is presented to a high degree – you have the feeling of being part of a real spectacle. What’s more, the headphones do not play completely “in the head”, and they spread quite freely in a wide semicircle in front of the listener’s head. This playing inside the head is the most common problem of dynamic headphones (except for a few models – including Grado).
The great advantage of the LCD-X is the ability to reproduce fast and agile sound – the frequency response is instant, thanks to which all instruments have a very high level of impact. The resonance and sound distribution are fantastically convincing. Whether it’s a snare drum, a guitar, or a piano – the sound is full, euphonic and highly saturated, and also excellently selective. The highs are detailed and well weighted, but at the same time delicate and pastel – they do not have an irritating metallic sheen. Headphones go further and deeper than many others – revealing a whole host of nuances, details, and tonal intricacies. Selectivity is at a high level. At the same time, the headphones have the rare feature of having a smooth and pastel sound, without loss of resolution.
The stage is clearly outlined, the contours of virtual sources are precisely and unambiguously defined, there is a lot of air and breath around, the depth is present, the background – is vivid and transparent, and the gradation of the planes – is proportional and coherent. Space, however, prefers depth to breadth, although its dimension is still correct. Less well-produced headphones give a bit more color to the recordings, but those with strictly audiophile production do not flatten them, on the contrary – they bring out the maximum sound potential from them. The LCD-X likes both acoustic and rock or electronic repertoire. They do not differentiate it, they play at full throttle with each type of music, accelerating individual tones for the sake of the final message and building a clear and legible listening space.
Low tones require a separate paragraph because high-quality bass reproduction is a big attribute of Audeze. The bass is corpulent and springy, massive, but well-controlled. The LCD-X shoots the bass like a sniper – precisely, to the point, and extremely effective, but not when it is not needed. Always on time and right. Piercing, you might say. Low tones are believable and perfectly proportioned. You can feel their multilayeredness and power. It’s been a long time since I heard bass with such an aristocratic character, such a good drive with perfect timing. Just elegant power and culture.
It is worth writing a few words about what is the best way to drive the described headphones. Although they have extremely low resistance (and shockingly low for magnetostatic), only 22 Ohm, and an efficiency of 103 dB, it does not mean that they are not hungry for electricity, because they are. It is true that, as the manufacturer writes, they can be properly controlled with iPods, iPhones, or other players, and they sound good and quite efficient in such a combination, but when connected to a full-fledged amplifier only then they start to sing with full voice. No, they don’t always have to be huge stationary amplifiers – many people are satisfied (to some extent) with high-performance portable players like the HiFiMan HM-802 (read the review HERE). However, to reveal its full sonic potential, the LCD-X is best connected to classic headphone amplifiers. A good solution will be the iFi iCAN amplifier, then Ming Da MC66-AE or Musical Fidelity X-Can v.3. However, what I liked the most was the presentation offered by the Bakoon HPA-21 amplifier – the richness of the sound was the most, the palpability of the sources was the best, and the depth of the stage – reference. It is worth going in this direction, i.e. toward a high-end headphone amplifier.
Audeze LCD-X Video Review
To Buy or Not?
Audeze LCD-X is the latest company design, the most refined – one can write. The design is a bit technical but aesthetic and attractive. The quality of the materials used, workmanship, and assembly of the premium class. Two headphone cables are included – “normal” and symmetrical. The whole thing is enclosed in a bulletproof (?) suitcase.
Ergonomics are at the correct level, despite the fact that the headphones are not light – 600 grams of weight. The comfort is ensured by thick and wide wedge-shaped pads, as well as a soft leather-lined headband. Thanks to this, the Audeze evenly distributes the weight on three different points of the skull.
LCD-X provides a full and euphonic sound with high energy, beautiful harmony, and high culture. They are exceptionally selective and detailed, although they do not tire with sharpened treble. The consistency of the message, its directness, and saturation are phenomenal. Difficult to describe in words.
The Audeze will play properly with “just anything”, i.e. with an iPhone or an Apple iPod, but for a better sound experience, it is worth connecting them to better sources. These can be high-performance portable digital players in the style of the FiiO X5 or (better) the HiFiMan HM-802. However, they optimally match classic headphone amplifiers. Then they reveal their full sonic potential, and this one is colossal. In the above test, the headphones sounded best with the solid-state Bakoon HPA-21 and the tube Audion Silver Night Anniversary 300 BH/W.
Audeze LCD-X Pro & Cons
- Wide frequency range
- Sounds neutral and revealing
- Precise imaging
- Sturdy build quality
- High price
- Difficult to wear for more than an hour – they warm the ears