I felt it most apt to compare the LCD-X to some of the main players in the modern market to see how it stacks up as an option for current buyers. On hand, I have the Focal Clear ($1499), one of Tyll’s favourite headphones and a very close representation of the Harman headphone target. I will also be comparing the X to the Fostex TH909 ($1799) and HEDD Audio HEDDphone ($1799), an innovative and technically outstanding new model with AMT driver. Finally, I will introduce the LCD-1 here as I feel the LCD-X is the most immediate upgrade to the 1 within Audeze’s lineup and vice versa.
Design & Comfort
The TH909, Clear and LCD-1 are immediately the most conventional in terms of wearing experience, the HEDDphone being larger, heavier and wider, the LCD-X simply heavier and the only model with a suspension headband. Build quality is an easy win for the LCD-X, it feels the sturdiest of the bunch. The TH909 is surely a gorgeous design, but with faux leather headband and earpads. The Clear impresses greatly too albeit the mesh is prone to stains and denting and the Alcantara does wear notably over time though it is also the most breathable design. The HEDDphone and LCD-1 both appear sturdy but employ mostly plastic builds as that simply don’t feel as premium in the hand. The LCD-1 is the only model that folds down in any way for transportation. The LCD-1 is also, by far the lightest, though all except for the HEDDphone I was able to wear for hours on end, the LCD-X having the widest headband that essentially alleviates all weight concerns.
All headphones pursue a sound tuning that may be considered balanced in isolation, the TH909 being the most obviously coloured to my ears with a bigger bass than its competitors. The Clear is most traditional balanced, slightly higher contrast and likely the most widely appealing. The LCD-1 is a close second, being very linear and balanced, only laid-back in the upper-midrange but much less so than most Audeze models. The LCD-X then follows up with the most coherent sound to my ears, its bass isn’t as punchy as the Clear, its midrange not as open, it’s treble not as crisp. However, it is the most even sounding headphone in listening. The HEDDphone is also very balanced, a little roomy and with a notable upper-treble bump, it is the most revealing of the bunch and has the widest dynamic range. The TH909 finally has the most inviting tonality with the most warmth, it has big sub-bass and a crisp treble response but with a natural midrange between.
The TH909 has the best depth, slam and power of the bunch followed by the HEDDphone and Clear that are roughly on par to my ears. The LCD-X’s laid-back sub-bass means it is less physical in its approach despite having similarly strong extension though it also has the highest separation. The LCD-1 simply doesn’t have the extension to compete, though it is flat with great tonality and good definition. The LCD-X is a natural step up from the 1, with much higher definition and speed. The HEDDphone compounds on this, boasting similar speed and control but with more sub-bass power on top.
The TH909 is slower and more traditional DD in sound. In return, it has more texture and heaps of rumble, and does so without overwhelming the rest of its sound. The Clear sits in the middle with nice sub-bass slam and good definition. It isn’t as dynamic as the Fostex but also is more balanced and a bit more defined. However, it is bested in speed and control by the HEDDphone and LCD-X which are the most technically impressive of the bunch to me.
None of these headphones are unnatural and all represent very mature tunings. The LCD-X has the most coherent voicing of the bunch and sounds reasonably similar to the LCD-1, albeit the LCD-1 has a bit more warmth and lower definition. The LCD-X also has the smoothest voicing and the least clarity so, as with all things, priorities must be in order as there are always trade-offs. The HEDDphone is the roomiest with the most lower-mid presence however, due to its unique note presentation, it still has the highest definition. I would say it is the most revealing despite not having the highest clarity. It has large, forward vocals and, somewhat similar to the LCD-X, is quite smooth due to its articulation that makes it sound nicely coherent too. Albeit, its note presentation is not as conventional as on the LCD-X.
The Clear has the highest clarity and contrast and probably again the widest appeal. It also has the thinnest body that is only partially counterbalanced by its slight bass warmth. In turn, I feel it still sounds a touch bright with slightly smaller vocal size that is not to my preference but has still surely found fans. The TH909 is the most laid-back if not especially so in isolation. It has the warmest voicing with an uptick of fullness and my favourite tonality of the bunch, it is also the most articulate whilst avoiding sibilance. The LCD-X and HEDDphone have the most neutral tonalities, the LCD especially. The LCD-X has the most complete note structure and subjectively has the best timbre to my ears though popular opinion will likely contradict this. At the very least, it is the most even-handed representation.
I was very enamoured here with both the HEDDphone and LCD-X, though do note that all of these models are excellent performers. The Clear comes across to me as a sort of jack of all trades, master of none. Its tuning is the most innocuous but that also means it doesn’t have the flare of its competitors. Perhaps that is not giving it fair credit, for the Clear is an articulate and well-detailed performer in the treble. It does have a chief focus in the foreground with a small 6k emphasis in-line with its generally clear and crisp voicing. The TH909 follows suite, being a bit more aggressive in lieu of its more laid-back midrange. Both of these headphones showcase good amounts of air and headroom but not too much micro-detail and sparkle in the upper-treble.
The HEDDphone is the smoothest here and also the thinnest with the least conventional note presentation. Despite this, it is the most detailed and extended with the highest resolution by a fair degree. The LCD-X comes in second to my ears, also implementing a nice upper-treble sparkle with better extension and micro-detail retrieval than the DD models. It is the most even across the treble with the most accurate timbre here, albeit not quite as resolving as the HEDDphone nor as engaging as the crisper TH909 and Clear. This can make it hard to appreciate despite it being a very resolving performer.
The Clear and the LCD-X have the widest soundstages, the Clear with its higher-contrast sound appears more obviously spacious than the LCD most of the time as it has better separation. The TH909 has the least width but the most depth. The HEDDphone and Clear have the most rounded stages, the HEDD is more intimate but also deliver the sharpest and most holographic imaging. The LCD-X is second in terms of localisation and acuity with the Clear and TH909 being roughly on par just below. The TH909 has slightly better layering than the Clear but cannot compare to the LCD-X and HEDDphone that really excel in this regard. The HEDDphone and clear have the highest separation followed by the TH909. Though the LCD-X is the most neutral in tone, its highly coherent style of tuning means it doesn’t have the same space between elements as these models.
When testing premium products like this, it’s always a grounding experience to get the opinion of non-audiophile friends and relatives. Among them, one impression cemented itself in my mind, “nothing stands out” – and I would say that, at a glance, this is a fair assessment. True to its cause, the LCD-X epitomises an achromatic listening experience, in fact, it goes one step further with its dense and smooth voicing almost standardising coherence between tracks of differing mastering styles. And, like many of its kind, this is truly a double-edged sword. It isn’t hyper-revealing like the HEDDphone, as instantly charming as the Focal Clear or as fun as the TH909. The LCD-X swings in the other direction, perhaps even drawing attention away from its own musical performance yet doing so with great technical prowess. What this means is that the LCD-X is still an invaluable tool for those prioritising balance and authenticity; a headphone that places a spotlight on the style and colouration of elements surrounding it. Whether that to you is a virtue or a con will be hearty justification for your purchase decision. For my personal preferences, I cannot deny how much I enjoy my time with this headphone as a lover of a coherent, even-handed midrange, especially give how rare it is to find this alongside such strong in-class technical performance.
The LCD-X is available from Amazon (International) for $1199 USD at the time of writing. Please see my affiliate link for the most updated pricing, availability and configurations.
Track List –
Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Archive – Controlling Crows (Parts I – III)
AKMU – SAILING
Bob Segar – Night Moves
Courtney Barnett – Tell Me How Your Really Feel
Eric Clapton – Unplugged
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Fleetwood Mac – Greatest Hits
John Legend – Once Again
MAMAMOO – reality in BLACK
MGMT – Oracular Spectacular
Modest House – Good News For People Who Love Bad News
NIKI – lowkey
Nirvana – Nervermind
Radiohead – OK Computer
Social House – Haunt You
suggi – cheer up!
TOTO – Toto IV
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
Vaundy – strobo