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Audeze LCD-X Review – Blast from the Past

The Pitch –

The LCD-X is the former flagship of Audeze’s reference range targeting audio professionals and a neutral tonality. It now sits below the MX-4 but remains the company’s most popular headphone. The LCD-X retails for $1199 USD for the creator package with the standard package featuring hard carry case being $1699 USD.

Pros –

Bulletproof Build, Comfortable headband and earpads, Smooth sound with top-tier coherence, Technically impressive throughout, eQ presets provided by Audeze themselves tastefully introduce greater engagement

Cons –

Weight is still felt by the wearer, Laid-back sub-bass can sap dynamics, Lacks energy in general, Reveal+ adds cost

Verdict –

The LCD-X is an invaluable tool for those prioritising balance and authenticity – a headphone that doesn’t draw attention but rather places a spotlight on the style and colouration of elements surrounding it.


Introduction –

We all know Audeze by now – the legendary US-based company has been making full-size headphones for years, with their LCD-line up really leading the charge. When I was first introduced to the hobby over a decade ago, I salivated over the glorious images of their wooden-clad that I knew I couldn’t afford. Flash forward and my heightened immersion in this hobby means my financial sensibilities have only grown… stranger, to the point that these headphones now seem accessible. And, where the rich, dark and smooth LCD’s besmirched many, I found myself instead enchanted by the LCD-X that was somewhat of a dark horse in their line-up. This headphone features technology filtered down from their flagship LCD-4 yet a completely different tuning modality than their former models. It is marketed under their reference line with a sensible black aesthetic that suggests it is intended for professional applications. And yet, the LCD-X doesn’t trace a single conventional headphone tuning curve. This has made is a hugely divisive model online. Over the years, the company has addressed the LCD-X with several small revisions that offer a refinement of the same faux-reference formula. As we’ll see, the LCD-X is a very interesting beast indeed.

You can read all about the LCD-X on Audeze’s website here and treat yourself to a set here (affiliate).

Disclaimer –

I would like to thank Ari and Audeze very much for their quick communication and for providing me with the LCD-X for the purpose of review. All words are my own and there is no monetary incentive for a positive review. Despite receiving the headphones free of cost, I will attempt to be as objective as possible in my evaluation.

Contents –

Specifications –

  • Transducer: 106mm Planar Magnetic
  • Phase Managements: Fazor
  • Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 50 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 103 dB
  • Impedance: 20 ohms
  • Weight: 635g

Behind the Design –

Fazor Waveguide

Audeze implement waveguides to avoid unwanted resonances and destructive interference. This enables greater high-frequency extension and resolution in addition to increasing efficiency. Audeze also promise greater phase coherence resulting in better resolution and sharper imaging. Furthermore, the waveguides can help reduce turbulence and enhance damping enabling higher driver control and a more agile transient response. You can read Audeze’s description here.

Ultra-thin Diaphragm

Audeze headphones use an ultra-lightweight diaphragm just 0.5 microns thick – 1/10th of the thickness of a red blood cell. In turn, the diaphragm is very lightweight which permits quicker acceleration and deceleration – a quicker and cleaner transient response. Alongside the more uniform force application with Audeze’s fluxor magnet array, their drivers offer high resolution and low distortion at high frequencies due to the reduced inertia. You can read Audeze’s description here.

2020 Revisions

Unbeknownst to me, the LCD-X underwent several revisions over its lifetime and continues to be revisited by the company. This was apparent to me when reading older reviews where the headband had not yet assumed a suspension design. Though Audeze were unable to clarify every change, the 2020 variant does have revised earpad stuffing for optimal comfort and sound. Measurements have revealed that the earpad width is integral to maintaining a solid bass response on the LCD-X so this is a very well-considered change that users will appreciate. Of course, compared to the very first revisions, we can also observe a new headband design that is far more comfortable over long listening sessions. Audeze have mentioned changes to the internal wiring as well though this could simply be for long term reliability.

Unboxing –

Immediately, the LCD-X is cemented as a professional-leaning product with its unboxing experience. The headphones come within a large pelican-style hard case with acoustic foam lining and laser-cut inlet that snugly secures the headphones. The case feels tremendously premium, all-black with metal edge and corner reinforcement. It has a study metal latch and reverse lock hinges that can keep the lid propped open. Just below the headphones is a cut-out containing the 1.9m cable, user guide and warranty card. Of note, the case is not included on the Creator package but this also comes with a hefty $500 discount for those that simply want the headphones and cable.

Design –

The iconic Audeze design makes a return with the LCD-X in a clean, svelte black colour scheme. This is a hefty headphone, weighing in at 635g, but with that also comes the sensation of great quality. I cannot fault the build here, the entire construction being metal with even finish and very tight tolerances – I’m told each unit is hand-assembled to order and I have no doubt Audeze’s techs have spent their time perfecting each one. Every joint glides with even tension and smooth articulation. The hand-stitched leather is free of imperfections and feels delightfully soft, if not especially breathable, on the skin. The finish is highly tactile, an alternating mix between satin anodization and sand-blasted steel, the overall construction leaves nothing to be wanted.

The faceplates impress especially with even seam across its circumference, very clean cutouts and rounded edges that are surely not cheap to produce to this quality. Despite lacking the wood-grain allure of its siblings, the LCD-X still oozes style and character in a way that remains distinctly Audeze. They feel built to last years and years even with daily use and abuse. I also appreciate the modularity here, with standard Philips head screws securing structural elements and torque grub screws allowing for fine-tuning of the tension of each joint. As we’ve seen in mod threads and teardowns, Audeze’s headphones are simple to disassemble and reassemble should something go wrong. This is a huge plus for professional applications where reliable and long-lasting gear is imperative.

At the bottom are 4-pin mini-XLR connectors that feel high-quality and secure with a tactile click. The cable exits at an angle to minimise microphonic noise and reduce chance of contact with the shoulders. The cable itself is of pleasing quality and employs a similarly hefty build to the headphones themselves. It’s a 4-wire square braid unit with smooth, supple jacket that coils easily for storage. It has minimal memory and doesn’t transmit much noise nor weigh down the headphones. Each termination employs two levels of strain relief; some extrusion moulded plastic in addition to heat shrink which should translate to greater longevity. Though I wish a balanced cable was also included in the box, the factory experience here remains very good.

Fit & Comfort –

Weight & Comfort

With such a robust build, the LCD-X is not a light and portable headphone. At 635g, its heft is surely felt by the wearer. However, the wearing experience is still much more orthodox than the recently reviewed HEDDphone despite being almost as heavy. I feel the weight is well-managed through combination of to its lower profile earcups and wide suspension headband that spreads the weight over a larger surface area – thereby, alleviating a lot of hotspot formation. In turn, I found the LCD-X to be just as comfortable as my other full-size headphones such as the substantially lighter Focal Clear, and I was able to wear them all day with only mild discomfort at the top of my head requiring small adjustments every few hours. For a full-size headphone, this is a good result to me.

Headband & Earpads

Much of the comfort offered by the LCD-X I would attribute to the headband and earpad design, and we can actually observe that both have received small changes over the years – of course, my comments here are with regards to the latest 2020 revision.

I adore the hand-stitched leather pads. The buyer is instantly greeted with a poignant leather scent upon unboxing, a reminder that these are 100% authentic leather – though artificial leather is available too. The construction is super soft with a smooth grain that doesn’t wear on the skin over time. And yet, it doesn’t feel delicate or prone to tears. I have personally found natural leather to age far better than faux products; they don’t peel and can last decades if properly cared for. The earpads are angled with heaps of internal space even for large ears, and they’re adorned with ultra-plush heat activated memory foam padding. My only complaint is that they aren’t breathable at all and can get a quite stuffy on warm days, though the large internal volume does help to retain a little air for a more comfortable listening environment.

The headband is also leather and it has been fenestrated to aid breathability. It’s wide and soft, conforming well to individual head shape. I do prefer suspension bands like this over traditional headphone headbands personally as I find them to fit my head better than most pre-formed bands. I found Audeze’s implementation here to be especially outstanding, being perfectly shaped for my head shape for a comfortable and low profile fit. Clamp force is on the lower side which further aids comfort. Though fit stability is not the best with the smooth ear pads, given its dimensions, this is evidently a headphone designed for stationary listening.

Sliders

The headphones articulate in 2 axes with tough metal stoppers to limit range of motion. The joints feel very sturdy and don’t look to be points of failure. The slider mechanism is typical Audeze, with metal posts that click through 7-notches of height adjustment. When under lateral pressure, they lock the setting into place and cannot be slid, so accidental adjustments are minimised. I found them to offer plenty of adjustment for both small and large head sizes. The LCD-X does not fold for storage in any way.

Next Page: Sound Breakdown

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