The Audeze LCD-X Open-Back Headphones bring a lot to the table.
Audeze has long been one of the pioneers of planar magnetic headphones. In short, planar magnetic headphones use a different driver than typical headphones. Typical headphones use what’s known as a “dynamic” driver, which is a cone diaphragm with a voice coil (think speaker drivers) whereas planar magnetic drivers use a conductive diaphragm sheet that’s sandwiched between magnet arrays. The advantages of planar magnetic drivers are speed and resistance to distortion.
The LCD-X is a refinement of Audeze’s planar magnetic drivers over many years, and it shows with incredible sound quality and refinement in usability. Gone are the days of hooking up planar magnetic headphones directly into a speaker amp to be able to drive them. The LCD-X goes toe to toe with some of the best dynamic driver headphones on the market without breaking a sweat.
Price and availability
The LCD-X is available worldwide for $1,199 (£1,299, AU$1,899). This puts the LCD-X somewhere in the middle of Audeze’s headphone line up with the new Penrose gaming headset being the most affordable and the range-topping LCD-5 costing four times as much.
If you’ve been following Audeze, the LCD-X doesn’t stray far from the company’s iconic look and build quality. The LCD-X is an open-back headphone, which means it lets sound pass inside and out to give sound a better sense of space and imaging.
The headphone is built like a tank and pays for it with its 612g weight. This isn’t completely surprising as planar magnetic headphones must house a lot of magnets. For reference the venerable Sennheiser HD 800S, a dynamic driver headphone, weighs just 330g, which is nearly half the weight of the Audeze.
While heavy on the head, the headband and ear cup design help distribute the weight evenly across the head so there are no hotspots.
We found the headphone to be relatively comfortable over long listening sessions, but we were always aware we were wearing headphones. The ear cups are large, fitting around our ears with ample space. Clamping pressure is mild but the headphone sat securely on our head.
The headband is made of metal with a leather support underneath, which we found very comfortable. The ear cups are leather and breathe relatively well as we never felt steamy even listening on a hot summer day. Connecting the ear cups to the head band are solid metal pieces that feel like they can withstand some serious abuse. It’s also nice to see that there are user accessible screws so parts can be replaced, adding to the longevity of the headphone.
As if the tank-like build wasn’t enough, Audeze includes a hard plastic case for travel. It’s enormous but the headphones can literally be kicked across a room and still be fine in the foam-lined case.
Included in the box is a 1.9m Single-ended 1/4” to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable. If you opt for the more expensive $1,699 ( £1,699, about AU$2291) “Premium Package,” you get an additional 1.9m Balanced 4-pin XLR to dual 4-pin mini-XLR cable, a 1/4″ to 1/8″ stereo adapter, and a nicer Pelican travel case. Since the LCD-X uses mini-XLR jacks, it’s easy to fit the headphone with aftermarket cables and users can enjoy a balanced setup, which reduces interference and allows the headphones to accept more power.
Audeze also sells the Reveal+ plug-in on their website for $199 or bundled with headphones for only $99. The Reveal+ plug-in allows you to basically EQ the headphones to sound like various famous studios across the world. It’s extremely cool but ultimately only really useful for music producers who want to ensure they’re mixing for a specific space and sound.
For music lovers, Reveal+ is mostly a novelty, allowing you to feel like you’re in the recording studio, but the deviation from the final mix is quite significant.
The Audeze LCD-X never wowed us with its sound quality… but in this case that’s a good thing. Its tonal balance is exceptionally neutral and we can see why it’s marketed as a headphone for music producers. Bass is extremely tight and fast, and there’s a nice sub bass rumble. Mids are incredibly detailed and vocals sound incredible through the LCD-X. Highs have great extension and are never sibilant. We do wish there was a tiny bit more treble sparkle but treble-sensitive listeners will find the LCD-X’s frequency response just about perfect.
What did impress us immediately was the LCD-X’s resolution and ability to separate instruments and place them with pin-point accuracy within the sound stage. Imaging is spectacular, allowing sounds and instruments to sound like they’re coming from behind you. In terms of soundstage, it’s not the widest, but it’s more than adequate and has great height. There is so much detail across the entire frequency range that you’ll be able to pick up the most subtle flaws and details that lesser headphones would otherwise miss.
Compared to the similarly priced Focal Clear Mg, the Focals win in terms of listening fun, as it has slightly elevated bass and highs that sparkle. The Focals also beat the Audeze in terms of dynamics, which is the ability of a headphone to render soft and loud sounds quickly and accurately. However, the neutrality of the Audeze LCD-X is enticing, and it responds extremely well to EQ so you can tailor the sound to your liking if you wish. It’s that neutrality that also makes the LCD-X better suited as a studio monitor than the Focal Clear Mg (though Focal has a studio version called the Clear Mg Pro).
Overall, get the Audeze LCD-X if you want something neutral, laid back, and slightly dark and get the Focal Clear MG if you want something exciting, dynamic, and in your face.
Should you buy the Audeze LCD-X Headphones?
Buy them if…
You want a balanced and neutral sound
The Audeze LCD-X is remarkably neutral, making it the perfect candidate for music mixing and mastering.
You want a headphone to last forever
While the design of the LCD-X may be utilitarian, its build quality is astonishing. Its serviceability also makes it a headphone that can stand the test of time.
You want an open back headphone experience
The LCD-X is an open back headphone, which means sound will leak in and out. The advantage of this is spacious sound and imaging, which the Audeze does impeccably.
Don’t buy them if…
You don’t already have a good headphone system
The LCD-X requires a lot of current to sound its best. While entry-level headphone amps and DAC/amps can drive the LCD-X just fine in terms of volume, these headphones like having more current to maximize sound quality.
Heavy headphones bother you
The LCD-X is quite heavy compared to the competition. While we found it very comfortable overall, we were always aware of the headphone’s weight.
You’re looking for value
The LCD-X is an investment and could likely be the last headphone you’ll ever buy. However, other headphones like the Beyerdynamic DT1990 Pro are a better value at half the price.